216. In The Car

“Funny thing was, Riah,
Right before that storm–
Not today’s, the other–what a
Duster, don’t you think?–
I saw all signs of rain!
Hens preening like the dickens.
In the clouds, why it was
Drawing water–you know,
Where the sun pokes through,
And there’s a beam, from
Sky to earth, looks like
A ladder? Fact is,
That’s its other name:
‘Drawing Water,’ or called
‘Jacob’s Ladder.’ Sure
Sign of rain.
But no.”
A pause for breath.

Riah’s eyes were on her lap.
Her mouth was taut.
Her hair, tied back,
Cut tight across an ear.
Louise leaned in,
Chin against her fist:
She would try harder.
“Jacob, sure. Jacob–
You heard of him?”–
Riah always liked to learn–
“Now there’s a man!–
No thorns, no
Crosses for this guy.
First of all, he pulls
A fast one on his father–
Old bird screwed him bad
On a land deal–gave it
All to his brother.
So he tricks him–Jacob–
What a trick! He knows
His dad is blind. So Jacob
Fixes him some chili, with
The brother’s secret recipe,
And so! The father
Eats it, and thinks
Jacob is the brother, and he
Signs it all away, the farm,
To him–” Louise
Laughed heartily, with
Half an eye on Riah.
It was like the old days:
No response.
Louise stopped, and sighed.

She switched to a new tack.
“He’s the one who
Wrestled with the angel,
Jacob did. God had
Sent it down to snoop–
Angels are spies, mainly,
If you’ll notice. They’re just
Pinkerton men, plainclothes
Private eyes–but
This one, Jacob
Took him to the mat.
Made him tell him, ‘Bless you,’
Which for angels, is like ‘Uncle!’….”
It was useless.
Louise shut her mouth.

Dust lulled, splaying off
The windshield glass.
Lowering her tone,
Louise meant business:
“Riah.
Come, come, come.
Don’t sit there glumming
Like you got pellagra.
Same thing that you did
About the typhoid,
And that dead kid then.
Get wise, for Christ’s sake.
Why–” a bright idea–
“It’s just God’s Will.”

Riah turned away,
Face to the window.
“That’s what everybody says,”
She answered.
Louise frowned, surprised.
“No. That is what you say,”
She replied.

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