170. Persuasion

“Lois says: ‘My
dears! Helen
promised me she’d come,
but I had to
coax her. Says when
we talk husbands, babies,
she’s left out.’
Bea says: ‘Lloyd still
comes to see her.
Wonder why he
never has proposed.’
Nora: ‘Helen
is a dear,
but you may have
noticed–that she’s
careless with….’
‘Yes–men simply
won’t excuse B.O.’
‘When she gets here,
let’s all talk up
Lifebuoy! She might
take the hint.’

“Next scene:
‘When The Party
Breaks Up.’ Bea:
‘Loved the party,
Lois! Girls, I
think I’ll stop off
and pick up some
Lifebuoy.’
Lois: ‘You are
right. One simply
can’t take chances
with B.O.’

“Next day. Helen:
‘Lifebuoy for me
now. I’ll be
careful as
the girls are of B.O.’

“‘Three Months Later.’
Helen: ‘Yes, I’ll
come tomorrow.
Got a big
announcement for you girls.
Lloyd and I are….’
‘That’s no surprise,
darling! We’ve seen
how he’s rushed you
these last weeks!’
Lloyd: ‘Can’t help
kissing a smooth
skin like yours!’
Her: ‘Then I
owe these kisses
all to Lifebuoy,
which gave me
soft skin.'”

Louise was
Admiring the page.
“That is what I
Love!”–said eagerly–
“True-life stories!
They’re my favorite ads. My
Company sent this: it
Encourages strapped folks
To buy.”
She tapped Riah’s
Table. “You don’t
Even have to read good!
Words are short,
And the pictures
Tell.” Louise
Flourished her thick magazine.
“How come you won’t
Pick up one of these?
This has poems
And all kind of crap.
Advice you might
Need in the wide world.” Louise
Pointed: “See this ad?
Man who lost his
Job, then got it
Back when he switched
Coffee brands?
Who’d think!”

No reply from
Riah, on her
Knees, sudsing the floor.
“All these ads for
Nerves! Drink coffee
For your nerves! Smoke
Cigarettes!–
‘Quaker Oats takes
Care of Morning
Nerves!’–to get to
Sleep, just rub
Absorbine Junior
On your neck!
Folks must not be
Sleeping! Gee, folks
Must be worried!
Can’t think why!”
Louise laughed. Paused:
“Do you? Sleep?”

Riah reared up,
Sitting on her
Haunches. She’d not
Slept all night. Had
Given James her
Dinner, and not
Eaten since lunch
Yesterday….
To herself,
Riah’d sworn to
March to the Relief.
But she’d
Put it off.

Louise dropped eyes
To her magazine. Coolly
Browsed, spoke as if
To herself: “I’m
Hungry. Aren’t you?”
“Yes!” said Riah,
Startled by the word,
At once feeling
Stupid, like a child.
But Louise seemed
Scarcely to have heard. She
Flipped a page.
“Hmm. ‘Toothbrush bristles
Found in Girl’s
Appendix.’ Toothbrush!
Well, I never
Trusted them fool things.”
Riah watched, then
Bent back to the floor.

“Flour ad–” Louise observed,
Scanned the picture
As she mulled it over:
“Shoot. Should pick up
All my grocery order
From Relief. It’s due
In. You sign up?”
Silence.
“Oh well,” Louise sighed. “That
Dame who runs that
Office, not so bad. I’ve seen
Worse.” Riah
Wrung her brush.
Louise, skimming:
“In the car I
Got some new colognes”–
Turned a page–
“Want to see them?
Ride to town with
Me? We could drive
Around, you know it’s
Probably closed, but
Drop by the Relief.”

Riah: “Busy.”
Louise shrugged:
“Sure.”
Riah scrubbing
Harder, faster,
Feeling that she
Wanted some damn
Food! Too much to
Ask?

“Oh!” Louise said, ripped
The page. “Here’s
What I need:
Recipes for
Prunes! Them Relief
Bosses, they’re all
Wild for prunes–they
Study prunes in
College, and prescribe them
For the poor: Prunes Of Gold.
I’ll get Relief prunes and
Relief flour.
Make a nice prune
Pie.” Riah, scrubbing,
Mute. “Nice and
Brown and hot. Smell
Fills the house.
Tad of sugar
On warm Relief
Crust!” Here Riah
Slammed her brush–
Splashed Louise,
Who did not look
Up, but read in
Calm repose.
Riah bent down,
Scrubbing with a will.

“Speaking about
Prunes,” Louise mused, “Look!
This ad says ‘Strange
Facts on Toilet Tissue.’ Ten
Million people
In the U.S.A., who don’t use
Toilet tissue.
Here’s a drawing
Of them lined all up.It’s
Risky not to
Use it! You can die!” Riah
Had no comment.
“Whoa–” Louise–
“What’s tucked here in
Back? Teeny
Send-off ad. What
Can this be?
‘Rubber! Thinnest,
Strongest, Livest.
Fancy Boxes.
Speeded. Best Is
Cheapest!'”

Louise chuckled:
“‘Speeded.'” Riah:
“Rubber what?”
“Riah! Jesus
Christ!”

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