34. Breakfast

“You know well as I do,
Handbuilt windmill’s not worth
Spit to stick it all together.”
Tom rarely spoke in anger.
She slid the biscuits from pan
To the plate.
Riah stole a look at James,
Eyes cast down on his food,
His ears pricked up.
She said, “It’s too bad
The windmill’s down.”

“Down? It’s blowed away!
And who’s to say
It won’t be wrecked again?”
Riah sat; picked up
Her fork and knife.
“Any way,” she asked, “to pad
Those vanes? For next time.
Wrap them round with leather,
Heavy cover, some kind,
That would break the wind?”
“No!” Tom said, stabbing bacon.
“Wouldn’t work.”

Riah cut a piece of egg,
Browned on edges, burned a bit.
“I wonder,” she said, frowning,
“Our mill can’t be
Only one that broke.
You could drive by,
See how Trents or Wilsons
Will fix theirs.”
“Why, they’ll buy one new!”
Tom mashed his yolk. Gold
Oozed up through the tines.
“I’m not so sure,” she said,
Then saw she mustn’t say it,
At least now.
She wiped her mouth:
“I hear tell some folks
By the riverbed, build
Windmills out of cars.
Wonder could we do that, get
Old parts, find out how?”
“It’s your plan to move us
To a white-trash pigsty
By the riverbed?” Tom asked.
Not polite.
“Nope.” She scraped her plate.
After awhile she said, “Sure’s
Hard when windmills bust.”
He let it pass.

She turned to James:
“You never ate this slow
Since that calf-liver.
You’re not sick?”
“No ma’am,” said James,
“Sure do like these eggs.”
“You do,” she said. “Well.
Let’s talk about today.
Tell your daddy what you’ll do
In school.”
“Same old thing,” said James.
“Tell him,” Riah said, emphatic.
James glanced, and obeyed.
“Well, let’s see, we’ll study–Holland,
Where they have those”–he paused,
“Shoes, wood shoes. And–yes.
Main export of Holland,
Think it’s tulips. Also flax.”
“How about that, Daddy?” Riah said–
“What’s flax, James?”

“Flax–
Main export from Holland.”
Riah heard the answer,
And restrained a smile.
“But what is it?” she repeated.
“Oh, what is it?”
James was taken back:
“What is it?”
His fork dangled. Riah looked at
Tom, who wouldn’t look.
“Well, flax, flax. You don’t
Know?” James stalled for time.
She shook her head.
“Well then,” he said,
“It’s a little like–
Well, like red-beans,
And they eat it there.
Or–no, it’s more like wheat!”
James seemed inspired.
“Yes, they make it into
Flour, and they eat it, and they
Have so much then left,
It makes flax
The main export of Holland.”
Triumphant, he took a bite.

“I thought flax made cloth,” said Riah.
“Oh?” said James, alarmed–
“Oh yes. Yes! That’s so!
The other kind of flax.
From–West Holland.
They don’t eat that.
They gin it like cotton, and–”
“Export it.”
“Right.”

Tom finished off his egg.
He said,
“Never knew a body
Hated so not knowing
What he doesn’t know.”
James could not figure that,
But said, “Thank you,”
And smiled, modest.
He resolved to look up flax.

Riah heard the change
In Thomas’ voice.
Relieved, she rose to go,
And turn to matters
Other than the mill.
The windmill would get built.
She cleared the table.
Won’t blow bad again.

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