271. Deductions

“She’s been outside.
Searching for the boy.”
Louise wiped her palms,
And pointed:
“See this sand?
It’s coarse. See? It’s
Beneath her clothes, too much–
It’s from outside.
Her shoe–”
She pulled it,
Dumped a mound of dirt.
“Hell. Well, I’d
Hoped she didn’t know.
But Patty knew.”

“Know–?”
Tom’s ragged voice,
A blade scraped raw.
Louise glanced up,
Soothing: “Only
That he’s out. That’s
All. That he’s outside.”
But Tom repeated:
“What?”

Louise shook her head,
Impatient. “If she didn’t
Know the boy was out there,
Then she could hope for–
Something. Could make something
Up. She could think
He’s playing,
Hitched a ride to town,
And now he’s safe
Inside a store,
Or barn. Or she could
Think some car or truck,
They took him in,
Before the storm….”

It seemed to Tom
Louise began to drift.
“I’ve seen it, time again.
When they’re real sick
When things look bad,
They make it up!”
Louise laughed shortly.
“Why, dying folks, they
Spin such pretty yarns out,
You can’t picture–it’s all
How they’re doing better,
Bought some snake-oil,
Swear they’re cured–
Preacher prays with them,
And bam! Oh, it’s no
Matter, then, that they’ve
Collapsed a lung.
No matter, blood–
Sawed legs, restored!
Just use your mind,
And make it up!
You can be healed!
Of course! She could
Fancy, this girl
Here”–her voice
Broke off–“Why, that
Christ hisself, with diamond
Bracelets, rode by
On a mule, and
Brung her son to town–”

Tom’s hand was on her shoulder:
“I’m going out.
Not thinking straight–I
Should have went before. That
Will help more, if
I find….And she’s
Safe with you.”
Louise looked up, as
From a daze–as if she’d
Heard a thing she’d never
Heard before:
“Yes. Sure.”
“You don’t need me here?”
“No. Fine.”

She glimpsed his face
As he backed toward
The door. “Hey,
Don’t look at me like that!
No, sir! Any minute,
I’ll snap to.
All this ranting,
It will pass–just
If you do this, got to
Get straight about
Hope. Gets in the way
Of work. We’ll do
Fine alone. I’ll
Tend my little patient.
You go on.
I do better–”

The door slammed.
“I do better
Alone.”

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