141. The Matinee

Matt had his
Nonpareils.
In his palm, he
Poured them, and then
Held them,
Till the chocolate
Sweated and got soft.
Then he touched
The white dots to his
Tongue. The boys
Strolled the lobby,
Papered red, with
Musty patterned
Carpet of the Rex.
They eyed cowboy
Posters till the show.

Tom Mix! James thought,
Same name as my
Dad. James’
Next thought shamed him:
Tom Mix with his
Gorgeous charging steed,
Openhanded gestures, ready smile,
Easy leadership of little
Boys–James
Wished Tom was his
Father! Oh, but–
No, not really!
James glanced
Guiltily–had someone
Seen?–Just
Kidding. He liked
Dad just fine.
But if Tom would
Give him a whole dime!
For the show, five
Cents, and candy, five.
But one nickel,
All that Thomas gave.

Well, the Diggs twins,
They’re worse-off than
Me! One sat
On the sidewalk
Outside, one inside–came out
Intermission,
Told it to his
Brother what he’d
Seen. Next week
They’d trade place.
For days after
Features had left town,
Those two could
Recall to beat the band, each
Hero’s speech and
All his horse’s tricks–
Those twins wrote
The plots that they all played.
James thought: and it’s
Good I got one nickel,
Not none, like Tad Jakes.
Taddy had to
Tell a baldfaced lie, say
Movies were too
Nasty, Jesus said,
So we mustn’t
See them, said his ma….
There.
Riah had told
James to count his blessings.
Now he had:
Now he was
A good boy, loved his dad.

Matt’s dime clicked
Against the counter glass.
“Box of juju-bees. And
Raisinettes.”
Slipped them in his
Pockets, snug and deep.

James’ eyes
Tracked this closely.
Mr. Hines–not
Smarter than my dad.
And don’t work no
Harder. Well, he might–
Dad works when it
Rains. How come I
Got no dime?

Trailing Matt,
James thought he seemed
Moody. “Last night,”
Matt had proclaimed
Loudly, “my dad
Beat the crap clear
Out of me!
Whaled me one!”
James had looked
Askance at him. Now,
Sucking on his
Juju-bees, Matt
Asked: “So where’s that new
Pal of yours, that
Dog?”
“Barker’s home.”
“Can’t hear noway”–Diggs twins–
Both could stay
Inside until the show–
But James took
Offense: “Nossir!
He sees movies
When he wants!
Reads their lips!”: James,
Fibbing quickly, snapped.

Wordless answer:
Matthew opened up
His small mouth, wide.
Swimming there in
Sugar on his tongue,
Juju-bees, red, green.
The boys gazed.
“Read my lips,” Matt
Drooled, his chin strung
With bright juice. Then,
Sudden: “James–you
Care for juju-bees?”
James: “Sure!”
“Well then, here–”
Matt held out
The box–“I’m
Full”–he flipped it
Upside down. Two
Candies tumbled
To the dusty
Rug.
“Help yourself.”

James
Made no motion.
Both the Diggs boys
Froze.
Side to side these
Three stood, fixed as
Iron.
Tom Mix would shoot
Matthew someday. Soon.

“Show time!”
Matthew walked off,
Licking fingers
Clean.

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