248. To Louise’s

Had always been her friend.
But it had failed,
This time.
Patty, Tom,
The preacher….

Throw it to the winds!
She pressed the gas, and
Riah’s truck roared down
The road. Throw it
To the winds, and
See Louise.
Bo is home by now.
I’ve got to be there,
Riah thought–I’ve
Got to. And
That was all there was.

“Where’s the turn?”
Above the humming wheels,
She called to James.
Too bad he had to come: but
She ‘d not been.
He knew the way.
She’d get him out, though, safe.
“It’s yonder there”–he
Winced. His voice, so high!
He tried again: “You see
That patch, mesquite?
Here, take a left! This
Dirt path in the brush.
Leads clear on up”–
What’s wrong, was Mama crazy?
Mr. Kemp!

There it was, at last.
Louise’s house.
She pulled up, cut the engine,
Let it die.
Can’t go back now. No!–
Don’t even think–
She turned to James.
“You can drive the truck.”
He had before,
Though not alone–
“If you hear a sound,
Sounds like a–”
Gun. He stared, aghast.
“–Any funny sound,
You start the truck,
And you get out!
You hear me plain?”
James nodded.
“Don’t stay. Go get help.
If you disobey, I’ll
Beat you, black and blue.
I swear I will.
This ain’t no movie–
You can’t help me none.
Get out and go for help.
I want your promise.”
“I promise.”
She jumped out,
Slammed the door.

That door slam
Broke in jangles in
Her ears: for a moment,
She heard breaking,
Nothing more.
Then Riah was alone.
She moved out slowly
Toward the house
One step, the next–not
In a straight line, firm, but
Weaving, reeling–
He would kill Louise.
He surely would.
Riah’s mind raced–then
He’ll aim at me.
How would it feel?
Louise is dead
Already, lying
Bleeding, and I’ll
Always be too late, just
Like I was–can’t hear–
Where? Where is she?

Her scream cracked black silence
In her head, voice
Burst like daggers,
Split her ears: I’m
A mark! I’m nothing
But an easy mark,
As big as day–
What’s that?
There at that curtain,
Had it moved?
A shack, a sty, Louise
Lives in this shed,
When she goes home–
Why did I come?
Now everything said No,
Danger, Mistake,
Mistake, Mistake, that’s all
I make–
“Louise! Louise Kemp!

From the car, James
Spied the curtain.
Now he heard a creak–
Inside the house.
Did Mama hear it? Yes!–
A bolt slid–
Front door, inching open.
Squeaking. Just a crack–
Mama, duck!
James cringed. Look
There–a slim round object–
Rifle barrel?–poked its way out
Through the door–James’
Pants were wet, he
Didn’t care, foot was moving
Toward the pedal, but
His fingers toward
The handle, the car door.
What’s that?
Mama saw!
Her body swayed.
James: “Duck!”

The door swung wide,
Its rending squeal
Ripping the sky–
James screamed–
The object, flying,
Hurtled out, and
Hit the ground.
The door crashed shut.

James gaped.
It was a brush.

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