18. Saturday

She sat in the Ford,
Drinking a Coke.
Earlier, as they’d walked
In the store, Hank’s boy
On the street called “Tractor lady!
Tractor lady!” at her,
Laughed, and ran away.
Made no sense to Riah.
Other wives drove tractors,
Now and then.
Not, perhaps, as often….
But the taunt, for her.
Folks think nothing of it,
Riah told herself–
A kid.
Tom’d seemed not to hear.

Saturday, the families came
To town, riding their black cars,
To shop and chat.
Front seats, friends talked.
Back seats, children played.
No one had rushed over
To her truck today, she thought:
Had they heard?
I’m just being silly.
Riah rubbed her thumb
Across the rough glass words
Of her Coke bottle.
Moisture hung
Inside the c’s and o’s.
Parked cars filled the road.

“Hey lady.”
Riah looked up. There,
The red-haired woman,
Leaning on her truck , as bold
As brass. “Say! This
The tractor lady, to who
I am speaking?”
Riah watched her, steady:
“How’s that?”
“All morning
I been walking by these cars,
And I heard
About this tractor-lady.
What man you got, don’t
Whomp you down from that?”
Riah held her Coke.
Her color rose.

“One good wallop,
That’s what we all need.”
The woman leaned in close,
Taking her time.
Her arms, white
And freckled underneath,
One with a blue bruise,
Size of a plum.
From waist up, she hung big
In her dress, but pressed
Tight, like trying not
To show. Her thin flowered
Print did not lay easy:
Shoulders, broad across.
She seemed always
Watching, Riah noticed–watching
Cautious, from behind her eyes.
Riah’d heard her talk nice,
Once before. Now, though, mean.
The bank clock showed time–
Just four o’clock. Riah wanted
Someone in that car.
She reached for the door.
“Won’t you come in?”

And the red-haired woman’s face
Just fell.
She stood, staring.
Cat had got her tongue.
Looking plain,
Her arms fell to her side,
Face colorless and shocked.
She hiked up her purse,
And frowned, and paused.
In a stiff voice said:
“How do you do?”

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