251. April 1, The Red and White: Decision

They ought to go in,
But they would not.
Sick of storms: the wind
Shoved at them now–
Snatched hats, stung their
Slit-eyes. They sat,
Still and sullen,
Sickened by the smoky half-light
Waiting for them
If they filed inside the store.
Stand around in that?
They stayed outside.

Engine roar: Roy
Drove up, in a rush.
He jumped down from his truck,
Breath coming hard.
“Odell says there’s a plane!”
They squinted calmly
Through a gust of dirt.
“What say?”

Roy went red–he’d
Known they wouldn’t believe him.
He plunged on:
“I say, Odell says
That there’s a plane.”
“An air-plane?
He pointed up.
“It’s there, above the duster.
Circling. Needs to come down,
Till the wind slacks off–
But it can’t see.”
They took this in,
His nervous face, as well.
“How the heck does Odell know?”

“That set, that radio
Inside his shed”–
Roy’s courage mounted
As they listened–
“A receiver–there’s some
Kind of box there–dang!”
Words deserted him:
That bird, Odell, rigged up
The damnedest gadgets,
Wires hanging from the rafters
Thick as webs–switches
Clicking at his fingers,
And antennae, silver, poking
Left and right, and
Best of all, to Roy, who stayed
The night there when he could:
A microphone!
“It’s on the wireless, I guess.
He talked to a woman, and
A man. She gave him the–
Told him where they was, and–”

“I swan, Roy!”
“Odell Wermer! Born
Crazy, had a relapse!”
Darker: “Something always
Funny ’bout that boy.”
“That Odell,
He don’t know how many beans
Make five!”
“Don’t know to pull his head in
When he shuts the window.
Now, you know that, Roy!”

Roy blushed up to his hair-roots.
Well, this was the risk he’d run:
True, Odell’d turned funny,
Like they said. The bank
Took his land, he’d
Sat and drank, then one day
Threw the bottles out,
Took up those gizmos–
Headsets, earphones–
Pieced from piles of scrap,
Built all alone….
But he had seemed so urgent,
When Roy came by,
So assured!

A ragged bonnet
Popped out of the truck.
Velma Wermer:
The men flinched.
“I see,” she said,
“Young men, you’re all
So busy! Goodness!”–
Her voice crackled–
“So much fat to chew!
More plugs to spit,
I bet! No, you can’t
Spare a minute! With some
Fliers coming down!”

They gazed hard at their shoes.
Here was a witness–
Mean, but not insane–
To Roy’s wild tale. That
Meant they might be fools then,
Either way–go,
Or not go.
At last, one asked: “What’s
He want us to do?”
Velma bobbed: “Head
Right straight out of town, now,
To the west, about a mile.
Then put your headlights on,
And line the road.
The plane will land.”

They paused.
“You all got some
Afternoon appointments?”
Some truth in that:
The sand snapped at their cheeks.
Things gone so bad so long,
Each day seems it got harder
Just to stir. Anything
You did, could make you
Shamed. And what was worse
Than that?

This. Stifling air. Dust devil
Whipped and fell. Then
Someone grabbed his hat–
“Oh, hell–excuse me–
Let’s do it.”

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