47. Conversation: The Red and White

Men lined the railing
At the Red and White.
Tom sat on the stoop.
Their black, dust-thick shoes
Had big round toes,
Laced to ankles with black
String. Bud regarded
His pop bottle. “One storm
In January,” he said, musing.
“How many, February?”
Vern said twelve.
Carl said ten.
“No, twelve,” Bud judged,
“How many of them bad?”
Some said five,
Some, eight.
Tom said eight.
“It’s this way,” said Bud.
“A bad one–no sun
Two hours, at least.
There was five bad”–
This to Tom, severely.
Tom glanced down.
A cat crouched by the step,
Lowering its head,
And lapped spilt Coke.
Tom stroked her
With his hand.

“Still and all,” said Vernon,
“Five bad dusters, that’s not
Any sort of month.”
Tom stirred: “Can’t recall
So many storms,” not saying five.
Someone offered,
“More than this in ’93.”
“There was just this many,
My dad told me, in ’19.”
The men tipped their Cokes.
Tom felt Bud’s eyes.
“Riah, guess she worries,”
Bud said, “all about these
Storms. So Patty says.
Women are that way.
Set her straight,
Hey, Tom?
They’ve been before, you know,
They’ll come again.”
Tom said nothing.
Then he said, “I’ll do that,”
At the cat.

The little group broke up.
But Tom stayed put.
He banished every thought,
But now recalled the mouse
That fouled his flour.
That made him plenty mad.
He’d kill that mouse.
He’d sling it by its tail
Onto the trash.

The pleased cat, purring,
Paused beneath his hand.
I’m good with farm animals,
Tom thought.

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