314. May 20, 3 o’clock

Now they swam like fishes,
Jumped like frogs, wriggled
Slick as darting tadpoles
In the tank
Beside the battered windmill,
Its paltry depth of water that
The mill, grinding, groaning
Night and day, pumped
From way below the ground.

Tom’s idea:
He’d glanced at James and Barker,
Who were quarreling,
And pestering, and hitting–
He’d almost shouted, “Run on!
Scat!” But then, they looked
Haggard in the heat,
Tired and thin….
Have to boil it anyhow,
He’d thought.
Said they could swim.

They dropped their clothes
Like lightning. “Dad!
Tell me when it’s three,”
James yelled and dived.
“Why ask me?” Tom called,
“I got no watch!”
James, he did not hear
Or care: Dad would know
The right time,
He was sure.

Splashing with abandon,
Pounding up a spray
That soaked them both the same,
They drenched and squealed.
“Stop!” James shrieked,
Splashing twice as fast,
Then gasped for breath.
Flailing, when the water
Blinded Barker, James would
Wait a minute, till
He wiped his eyes:
“King’s X!”
He’s a good boy,
Thomas thought.

But Tom marked with
Shame, bones jutting out
From Barker’s ghostlike body.
Well, thought Tom, if
This damn barley makes–
Which it won’t–
There’s a tad of money, then
The boy can eat here,
Couple weeks, at least….

“James! I said
You, James! Why’d you say
Three?”
“We get our report cards,
For the year!”
James kicked madly,
In a glistening blur.
“Close to three now.”
“Huh?”
Hair flat, plastered,
Winking from the sun,
James cocked his ear.
“Nearly three!”
“Huh?”
Tom shook his head.
James, more loudly:
“Huh?”
“Just said,
Blame it all, it’s
Darn near three!”

Barker sneaked up, soundless.
He dunked James.

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