15. Meeting

“You got something in your hair.”
Louise whirled around.
Who spoke?

Her first thought: a trick!
Joke by someone in the store.
Shopping, to Louise,
Meant laying hands
On what she couldn’t have,
While the others sauntered by,
Spies, laughing–
Not out loud, of course.
Not that they were Vanderbilts,
She thought, with their thin
Flour-sack frocks.

Sometimes on the sly
Louise smeared a tad of lipstick
On a bolt of cloth or ribbon
In the store. Just to ruin it
A tiny bit.
Let some dumb soul buy it!
Other times she stole
A sourball, from the candy crate
While no one watched.
Sitting home alone,
She loudly sucked it,
Sweet revenge.
Oh, they all despised–
Despised!–her red hair
That just would not lie right.
She’d tried pins, oils, creams….
More, they wouldn’t
Have her in their homes,
Just for business.
Biddies! Louise scanned:
If a brat of theirs had
Shot a spit-wad in her hair,
She’d pull off his little–
She glanced sharp about.

Why, the brown-haired woman–
One she’d nursed,
No spit-wads, no boys.
It was surely her–
With hair bound in back,
Louise observed. She recalled
How strangely long it was.
Her dress, faded, gray.
Made her drab.
She looked pleasant, in a mild,
Keeps-her-counsel way.
Now the woman reached for her–
Her ear, her hair.
Louise felt fingers there.
The hand withdrew.
The woman showed her palm:
“Dead bee.”

The bee lay rigid,
Bristly but still soft.
All at once it shuddered.
It buzzed, stirred, flew off.
They looked at each other,
Then down at the empty hand.
Louise said, at last,
“Yep. That henna rinse–
Just knocks their breath away.”

The woman almost smiled.
She liked Louise’s hair:
She liked bright things.
Bolder, Louise asked,
“You know what that means,
Don’t you?  That bee?”
The other listened.
“Means–you’re about
To run into some luck,
Find money, like as not.
Next place you go,
Look close!”

The woman nodded,
Then excused herself:
“I got to go
And clean my chicken coop.”
She didn’t understand
Why Louise laughed.

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