190. August 30, 1934: Home Visit

“What–a cigarette?”: Riah,
Amused. Louise
Sauntered through her
Door: “Right. Don’t
Ask me where I got it.
Cigarette–it
Gives that certain air–”
“Hear that
In an ad?”
Louise wore
A hat: “Air of
Well-being. Wealth.
Stylish smoker
Must be listened to, by
The lower orders–
By a lowly
Servant like Miss Flynn!” Riah
Turned away.

“Oh no–none of
That”: Louise quick
Touched her arm. “But
Say! How would you
Like….” her green eyes
Narrowed, voice in
Furtive tone:
“My pale princess,
How’d you like–
An orange!”
Riah stared.
“Yes, I said it!
Orange! Don’t that Miss
Flynn come here today?
Well,” Louise, intent,
“Just you wait.
I was up all
Night, with the doc’s
Book: I got
A plan. You wait and
See!”

Hours later, as they
Chattered on,
At their screen door
Miss Flynn stood
Unnoticed.
She could see them,
But they were
Engaged.
They must not have
Heard my car, she thought,
Pausing.
And the redhead’s
Got on some wild hat–that
Hair of hers looks
Like the burning bush–
That one’s always
On the make for food.
Miss Flynn smiled: that
Mrs. Kemp, her
Cigarette held
Unlit in her hand,
Leaning forward
To her brown-haired friend,
And her eyes don’t
Leave the other’s
Face, she follows
Every word,
Red brows working,
Smart cracks and
Wiseacre questions–
Sharp tongue there–but
Look at her face
Shining,
Mirroring the other’s
Every mood.

Mrs. McKenna:
Now there was
A person one could feel for–
That dark woman,
Buried in herself. Those
Sober eyes….
Despite need, that
Woman never asked. But
She was not–so
It seemed to Miss Flynn–not
Wholly there.
She sat by her
Friend now, mild, attentive–
But behind
A veil. She
Flickered dim, remote, instantly
Lost. Steeped
In their topic,
The two friends sat
Sharing cups of water.
Fine, Miss Flynn thought,
Gathering herself: one
Bummed smoke, but no
Coffee–hoarding here.
She knocked.

Typical home visit:
Checking food supplies
And checking clothes,
Forms left to be filled.
Work completed,
Miss Flynn rose to leave.
At this, Louise
Lit her cigarette–then,
Eyeing Riah
In abject surprise: “Riah!
You won’t tell her?–
Miss Flynn–about–James?”
Staring speechless,
Riah stood, amazed.
“James?” asked Riah
At last–“What on earth–”
“Whoops!” Louise shrilled,
“Cat’s out of the bag!”
“What’s this about
James, Mrs. McKenna?”
Miss Flynn frowned.”
“James, her son’s name,”
Louise put in coolly.
“I know that.”
Riah, her mouth
Open, but no
Sound. Louise jumped
In the breach. “She’s
Worried–he’s got
Symptoms!”
“Symptoms?”
“Well–”
Louise back-tracked
Quick to ignorance: “She means
Might be symptoms.
You’re no doctor,
Though, we understand.”
“What symptoms?”:
Miss Flynn, asking Riah.
Louise: “Why, his teeth! or really,
Gums. Blood.”
“Oh?”
“Yes, they bleed.
Between his teeth.
Last night out
The corner of his
Mouth. Saw it
Myself.”

Riah’s eyes grew
Wider. Louise pointed:
“See? She’s scared to
Death. You know she’s shy!”
“Any other–
Symptoms?” Miss Flynn asked.
Louise waved her
Smoke. “Well, there’s his
Weakness. That boy’s weak.
Fainted at his
Baseball game. And pale:
A ghost. And–”
Louise grimaced,
As if to recall–
“Ah! The swelling.
Ankles, something huge.
Wrists too. And he’s
Limp.” She went
Limp herself,
Demonstrating,
Slinking with
A shudder down her chair.
“Where is he now?”
“Oh–gone.”

“I see”: Miss Flynn,
Studying her gloves.
“Symptoms you’re
Describing, Mrs. kemp,
Sound like he’s deficient–
In Vitamin C, a nutrient.
In fact, sounds just
Like a textbook case.”
Scurvy?” Louise,
Slack-jawed.
Riah, too.
“Yes.” Miss Flynn paused,
Poker-faced. For a second
She seemed to
Consider. Then she
Glanced at Riah.
She turned to her
Briefcase, searched it,
Fetched some form. “I’ll
Change your grocery
Order–a few
Oranges–” Louise,
Collapsing in
A sudden coughing fit.
“Good day.”
Riah did not
Reach to take the paper.
Miss Flynn laid it,
Snapped her case, and left.

In her car with
Motor starting up,
Miss Flynn heard
Hysterical free
Laughter,
Coming from
The house–Kemp’s voice, she knew.
Shifting into
First gear, Miss Flynn
Smiled:
She’d repay
The kitty for the fruit.

Strange to tell, but
She felt awful
Thirsty. She wished
They had offered
Her a glass, as well.

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