306. Follows Him Home

“Riah!” Tom’s voice
Entered, sounding
Rueful–“Guess who’s here–”
Answer from the kitchen:
“Heard two trucks.”
She came, dish in hand.
“Well, well. Jack.
Sit down.”

Jack stared briefly:
She’s so thin. “Well,
Mrs. McKenna–
May I call you Riah?”
She kept her face straight.
Jack would ask that
Every time they met.

Tom’s looking hot and
Bothered, like a tired coon,
Hound-dog on its tail–
Treed, she thought.
What’s this about?”

Mrs. McKenna–
Riah–could I ask
One question?”
“Any time.”
“Here it is, then.”
Jack leaned forward, eager.
Tom was looming.
“How do you like
Barley? As a crop?”

Riah paused. Then,
I like it fine.”
Jack beamed. Thomas
Hung back in the door.

“Like it fine, Jack.”
She wiped at the plate.
“And so do the chinch bugs.
Grain mites, too.”
Jack blanched;
Tom near-laughed.
“And the wheat mites.
And the army worms,” she said.
“And who really craves it
Was the greenbugs,
You recall, in ’23.
Liked it breakfast, supper,

Jack slumped.
Glum, he launched
His explanation: substation,
The hybrid, the new
Dryness of the plain
Discouraged insects,
“And cuts mildew too,
And spot blotch!”–
He shot off at Tom.

“Glad you said that,”
Tom said. “Calls to mind–
What’s your crop require,
Way of rain?”
At the word,
Jack jumped up,
Fairly glowed.
Riah, though against
Her better judgment,
Felt a stir–a liking–
For the man.

“That’s the beauty of it.
Just one rain!
Needs one rain,
That’s all!
One good rain,
Late May,
When seeding’s done.
Crop gets by,
On sprinkles,
After that.”

Thomas shook his head.
“One rain.”

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