60. Storm, April 26

“Five days.”
Beside her heavy drapes,
Back to Riah, Patty stood,
Parting them.
Sky was brown.
“Never seen a five-day storm.
Lets up mornings.”
Patty, careful with her speech,
Was not today.
“Ain’t never,” gloomily.

“Was one,” Riah said,
“Year past, April.”
Having said this,
She let her eyes wander.
Patty’s furniture looked so
Well-fed. Sofa, plump.
Gleaming, stocky, bowed legs
On the tables. Chunky
Curves of plush and wood.
“Not this,” Patty said.
“Last year I’d see the sun.
These storms, gone entire.
Ridiculous! It’s three–
The lights are on.”
She had electric lights.
They cast a bald brightness
On the walls,
Against the dark outside.
Air thickened, churning
When they sat or stood. Wind
Outside: they strained to be heard.
A cinnamon-brown crust
Scabbed the white
In Patty’s sugar bowl.

Bud walked in.
Patty started–“Dear,
I’m not expecting you.
Is something wrong?”
“Nothing.”
Headed for the kitchen:
“Any lunch? Hi, Riah.”
“Let me get it for you,” Patty called.
“No.”
If he wouldn’t let her,
He was mad.
She heard the Frigidaire.
“How’s business?” Patty tried.
“Zero, nil,” he said,
“All week.
I told you that.
They hole up, in this mess.
The streets are bare.”
He clattered down a dish.
“Then the merchants come by
Whining: farmers won’t buy, shops
Are scared, since they can’t sell.
Suppliers ax their credit.
That answer your question?”
He poured coffee.
“Oh,” said Patty, sitting,
Anxious to reply–
“The storm may clear tomorrow.”
“So what? Just as bad.”
Scrape of silverware.

“Bud,” said Riah,
“We’re in town for feed,
But I hear rumors–
Listers coming in.”
“Oh, yeah?” Bud at the doorway:
“Where’d you hear?”
“Tom said Jack Hance told him.
Jack’s told the Government,
You know, trying since last
Winter, we need listers
To plow ridges,
Cut down blow.
Well, looks like
They might can help us out–
No one can buy–
Jack showed that petition
We signed Christmas–
Guess you, too.”
“Sure did.” Pondering,
Bud rubbed his nose.
“Tom with Jack now?”
“Likely.”
‘Tell him, would you–Jack–
To stop on by.
Grants or loans, those
Might come through the bank.”
“I will. Be good to get it
Early,” Riah said–
“I guess.”
“If we know it’s coming in”–
Bud paused, considering–“we might
Advance the funds. I’ll
Talk to Macklehouse.”
“Have Jack talk to him, too,” she said.
“Have Tom. If you think
That would help.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I see.”
He waved his napkin.
“Well, I stopped your coffeeklatch.
Got to leave soon.”
He kept eating.

Riah took a sip, and Patty did,
Both long ones, from their cups.
Patty spoke at last.
“Lister,” she said, with
A sort of smile:
“Something strapped
Back of a tractor.”
The look they gave each other,
Strange.

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