282. Encouragement

With her thumb,
Louise shut Riah’s lids.
“Rest,” she muttered. “Rest might
Help. Aren’t your eyes
Parched? They don’t work, but
Still can hurt.”

Louise began a rub-down.
Starting in with Riah’s
Neck, she kneaded, to and fro, arms
Swaying with her task.

“Tom’s gone out to find him.
He sure has. Reckon
He’ll be back here,
In a couple hours,
Kid in tow.”
Tell her, tell her
Anything, Louise thought:
These shoulders are lifeless,
These arms limp.
“Yep.
Bet you Tom’s got up
Some kind of posse
Spreading out, to cover ground.
A bunch like that, well hell,
They’re bound to find–”
Wind shrieked, dust in
Whirlwinds in the room,
Louise coughed–“Stop it,
Damn it! Shut up!” at
The storm, waving her
Arm, as if to ward off
Stinging swarms.

She fell back to work,
To legs and feet:
“You never mind.
Don’t mind that.
You mind me.
They’ll be here soon.”

Tell her, tell her
Any–the eyes
Opened. Blank. Louise
Produced a smile:
“How’s that feel?”
Well, first I’ll tell her
They’ve sent droves to find him,
Though I’m sure it’s Tom
Alone. When he comes back
Empty-handed,
Then I’ll tell her
There’s still time.
That the boy is out there,
Somewhere. I’ll say,
Field is big,
The world, and
He’s there, hid
In someone’s barn.

You got to trick folks
To stay alive. Otherwise,
Nobody would.
And that will
Work, until they come in
With his body–Lord! These
Legs of hers, they’ve
Hardly got a pulse, I’ll
Squeeze them good–
And then I’ll say,
He might revive, and
We’ll work over him.
That lasts a couple minutes,
They think, sure, it’s
Okay, got to be
Okay….

With any luck, then,
Tom will be
Nearby, since when it’s
Plain, and truth is out,
It’s just the two of them–
Or really, one
And one.
The boy–
Bend this knee–
Then last, I’ll say to her,
You know,
He fell asleep.
He’d fallen fast asleep
Before it happened.
I can tell he did, from
How the eyes–
Oh yes, I’m sure, I’m sure.
He fell asleep. Before.
So tired, remember,
Walking in the storm–
He slept, sure did.
So peaceful. Got to be
The case–
Never knew
What hit him.

Shit. That’s what they
Crave to hear:
Asleep.
The last ace
In the hole.

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