31. February 17: Driving Home

James sat between them,
Not in back. Riah had been
Glad to see his cap,
Not lost in wind, but
Clamped in his small grasp.
The Ford rolled slowly–
Headlamps little use–
Shouldered by the weather,
Batted, shoved, trembling,
Shying off the road
With each new yank
And lash of sand.
The wheel jerked in Tom’s hands.
Sand spurted up their noses.
They pursed lips.

James hunched forward, tensed.
He thought: should I tell
About “Eclipse?”
In his science book, the word
“Eclipse” stood by a drawing
Of three balls:
Earth. Sun. Moon.
Somehow–Dad and Mama
Might not know–these three
Could run amok.
Then the sun, big as it was,
Held back.
The earth was dark and cold,
Looking on the yellowed page
Like a round hole.
Like now: James could not
See the roadside brush.
Tom and Riah sat so straight,
Eyes fixed ahead,
James feared for his life
If he said boo.

Wind hammered at the car.
“I wonder,” Riah called
Above the din,
“If we couldn’t turn in
At the Blacks’.
Opal’s home by now.”
She pulled out a kerchief, wiped
Her mouth, and handed it
To James.
No answer.
“You know,” she said, “Just till
The worst blows by. No use
Being out in this
All way home.”
“Let’s go on,” said Tom.
James sneezed: she left
The handkerchief with him.
“You know, I mentioned to you,
Opal’s got that magazine.
The one I need.
Over in the store
She said she’s through.”

The truck veered
And lurched into a field.
Tom leaned in the wheel
And steered it back.
The wind had not died down:
No sign of light.
The Blacks were nearby, if
The Ford would last. Riah
Frowned. She’d never seen this,
Or heard tell of this–
She could hardly hear
Her thoughts. But–
Nothing to be out in,
Nor to play with–
Lay low.
“What do you think?” she asked.
Tom: “Let’s go home.”

The car rolled into blankness.
He tried the high beam,
But it did no good.

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