169. Beneath The Windmill

In the windmill,
Crow had built its
Nest: barbed wire
And dried grass.
She was staring
Down at them, eye
Bright.

          EGGS?
“Think so.
Can’t get at them,
Though. Good place she
Picked–” but Barker’d
Missed the words.
So James grimaced–
“Heck!”–and grabbed
A paper scrap–
Pockets, stuffed with
Papers from the trash–
And with his stub
Scrawled: “Place Good She
Picked.”

Barker shrugged.
          BIRD SMART. HEY–
          EATING TIME, YOU
          HUNGRY?
James glanced
Up at him,
Suspicious. In the past,
James had seen green
Stains on Barker’s mouth.
Where they sat right
Now, no food–just
Grass.

          FAVORITE YOUR?
James, blank.
          YOUR FAVORITE FOOD!
“Oh.” James pondered.
“Ham.”
          MINE, CORN.
Barker pulled out
Crumpled paper,
Wrote on one piece:
“Ham.” The other:
“Corn.” Rolled
“Corn” into
A ball and popped it
In his mouth, chewed,
Swallowed.

James, delighted,
Clapped–oh, what that
Barker wouldn’t
Do! –“Quick! Give me
Mine!” and took his
Scrap, and ate it.
Then they did
The same with Sweet
Potato, Pork Chops,
Pie–James scribbled
“Cherrie.” More scraps–
A whole meal was
Eaten with no harm.
Like their classmates,
They knew munching
Paper, glue and
Crayons, candle
Wax, erasers,
Never made you
Sick.

“Say,
Where’d you find this
Trick? I never
Saw it!” Barker
Did not see. James
Sighed. Then wrote:
“Where Did You”–Barker
Grabbed his pencil,
Threw it.
          YOU READ LIPS YOU?
          DO YOU? I SAY
          WORDS IN STRINGS, TEN,
          TWENTY, YOU SEE
          SOME, SOME NOT–
          YOU GUESS WHAT THEY
          MEAN FROM WORDS
          BETWEEN, AND WHILE YOU
          GUESS, NEW WORDS KEEP
          COMING, THESE YOU
          ADD ON, AND
          REMEMBER TOO ALL
          WORDS BEFORE–
          YOU WATCH ME,
          GUESS WHICH WORDS COME
          NEXT, AND THINK YOUR
          ANSWER? DO YOU?
          DO YOU?

“I don’t get you”:
James ducked at his
Anger. Lord! That
Barker got mad
Fast! “Write it
Down!”

          NO!
          YOU READ LIPS!
          YOU! YOU!
Barker stilled his
Hands and spoke in
Silence, doing
Rapid mouthing,
His eyes on James’
Face.

James watched,
Thunderstruck.
Not a single
Word could he
Make out! Not
Possible.
“Oh, okay. I get it.”
Signed to Barker,
SORRY.
Barker kept on,
Pouring words out,
Mute. James started
Squirming. Put one
Hand on Barker,
Signing:
STOP, FRIEND! HURTS MY
EYES. LET’S SMOKE
P-E-A-C-E
P-I-P-E–
James smiled.
MATCH HAVE I.
          DUMB JOKES! DUMB!
          SIGN FOR SMOKE YOU
          DO WRONG EVERY
          TIME!
          Barker looked
          Grim.

James pulled out
A match. “You want to
Hold it?”–he smiled:
WANT IT?
Not for nothing
He’d watched Louise Kemp,
Coaxing Riah
With her jokes and
Treats. It worked:
Barker, lured.
James signed, BIG MATCH.
LOOK–he held it
Out–YOU LIGHT IT YOU.

They rolled paper
Into two cigars, licked
Wet, and lit one, then
The next. The windmill
Overhead:
Crow took flight,
Cawing at
The bad smell, launching
Off. James sat back;
Barker seemed fine now.

Pestered by no
Grownups. James and
Barker let their
Cigars dwindle down, thrown
To the dirt.
Barker ground their
Ashes–second nature
Here, fear fire–James
Spat on them and
Watched the dwindling smoke.
Gathering their
Scraps, each headed
Home.

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