181. Barker: Meeting a Deaf Peddler on the Road

          Are you deaf?
          I am. Don’t
          Look that surprised, Mister!
          Simple question.
          Give a simple
          Answer. Your car’s
          Broke, I see.

Signs!
Thank God, boy!
I am so damn
Tired of reading lips.
Other day I’m
Selling on some
Street. Lady
Comes up, and she
Says to me, I thought: “My
Husband needs
A pat.” I stare at
That, you may imagine!
She says–lips a-speeding,
Starting to get
Riled–“Neighbor
Said to ask you! You’re
The peddler, right?
This man needs
A pat!” Well,
I recalled my
Motto: Customer Is Always
Right! So I mouth,
Where?
She says, there: she’s
Pointing to his
Fly. I had
Second thoughts at
That, you may be certain.
Hesitated,
Then it hits me–
Pad! Man needs
A pad, a truss!
What a close call!
If I’d touched him,
They’d have strung me
Up! They’re vicious
Animals. More pity,
Had no truss.

          Yes! You’re right! They
          Would–They talk
          Mile a minute,
          Hide their mouths–Like
          We can read their
          Lips clear through their
          Hand! Teachers
          Here are bad. They
          Stink.

They let you in
School here? Count your
Blessings, boy.
Plenty towns that
Wouldn’t–they think
Deaf is catching,
Or just makes them
Squirm. How far to
Main Street, son? I’m
Only resting
Here. Say, you’re some
Right smart boy. Come
Hit the road with
Me! There’s plenty
Money in my
Trade–that’s pins and thread.

          I can’t. I got
          Kin. Got plans, besides.
          No one knows.
          But I’ll go to
          College, be
          A doctor. Take care
          Just of deaf when
          They get sick. Those
          Talkers can go
          Suck.

Sure, boy, sure.
What’s your marks in
School–just tell me
That!

          Well….I did
          Pass a math class
          Once or twice. Failed
          English, though.
          The teacher! It’s not
          Fair–

“Not fair!”–well, I
Never!
No one
Hears that whining, boy!
Mark my words, I’ve
Listened to such plans.
In the end they
All come back to
Pins. Pins, a good
Life.

          Pins–that
          What you sell?

Cards of pins,
Tins of pencils,
Spools. Buy in
Gross, and sell by
Dozens. Nifty
Profit.

          Charity.
          They feel sorry,
          Buy.

Charity! Why,
You’re a cheeky
Boy! Smart-aleck!
There’s no sympathy
Deep as a purse.
Five cards for one
Penny! That sound     
Fair? Fair price.

          Little high.

Top-grade
Merchandise? Look
In this box! No
Ordinary pins! Each
Head, a small glass
Ball. See?
Red and green and
Blue, and some are
Clear. I stick them
In these cards–
Do it myself!
Workman’s worth his
Hire. Here,
Grab a handful,
Help out–stick them in.

          Easy job.
          I’ll do five, that’s
          All.

God forbid you
Should do any more….Say,
You work quick!
By the way,
Partner, out here
In the sticks, it
Ever rain?

          No.

Thought as much.
Up north, know what
I saw? Saw new
Type of farm, new
Kind of grain–seems
Suited to these parts–
Some crop folks can’t
Eat, but cattle can.
Called Black something–
Wind can’t blow it
Down. Crops here?

          Dead. There,
          Take it: five cards,
          Done. Goodbye,    
          Mister! My ma’s
          Waiting.

Glad to meet you,
Boy. Wait!
This card, take it–
Take it! For your
Ma. Glad to
Meet you. Goodbye,
Boy, for now!
Goodbye!
Bye….

Well,
There he goes.
Too big for his
Britches, that one is.
Snotty little
Tow-head. Clever
Pup, all right.
But so rude!
Charity, he
Says! Well, boy,
Charity is
Best, the Bible teaches.
There be these three,
Faith, Hope, Charity. I
Knew a lady,
Dirt-poor–
From her stoop she’d
Call to passers-by: my
Name’s Hope, I have
Faith, and I take
Charity! She’d
Laugh to bust
A gut. Hey!
What is one free
Card for some boy’s
Mother? What’s that?
Charity, that’s
What!–And you
Took it, little
Rascal. Don’t we
All.

There, he’s gone.
Goodbye, boy!
And don’t be so
Smart!
Otherwise it’s
Only dollars
Talks: put your
Money where your
Mouth is, every
Time. No one’s that
Rich. You want
Reckoning?
Not one pin less,
Not one penny
Less, so no one
Owes? You are
Sure you always
Want to pay last
Dime? Well, it’s
Cash on the barrel,
Then! If
In the end, it’s
Each man for
Himself, then watch
Your step–you bet
Your life.

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