227. Driving Into Town

At once she saw:
The bodies were all wrong.
A foot propped on a fender–
Boot scuffed in the dirt–
The eager way the women
Clutched their purses, with
Both hands–too eager.
People ganged in clusters,
Leaning, on the street,
As if they all shared
A whispered secret.
“Don’t know what’s up,
But folks ain’t talking dust,”
Tom said. They drove past,
Toward the store–“And
Lord, I’m glad.”

He was curious,
But she was not.
Some strange event had
Happened, she suspected, and was
Turning common knowledge.
She squirmed against
The rough seat, stuck her elbow
Out the window, “Well,
It’s hot”–fanning
Warm air down her neck.
Her skin pricked. “Something
Bit me.” Chigger, or mosquito–
She scratched her face, it
Only itched the more. Murmured:
“My nails aren’t clean. ” Never
Would come clean, the grease….
Tom glanced at her, askance–
Why the chatter?
“Guess I’m not myself today.”
She felt his gaze, displeased.
The gears ground, parked.

What is it
That we’ll hear? What
Do I care? she thought–
Panting with the heat–What’s
Wrong with me?
Some new hill of beans,
More idle gossip–
So what? I don’t have
Time for that,
To fool around.
She reached down for the handle.

Those folks along the street, though….
They had trailed her path in,
Had they not? Didn’t
Their eyes follow her,
As she rode by?

I imagine things, thought Riah.
That’s my trouble.

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