63. The Permanent Begins

When Tom drove off,
Riah paced the house.
Yesterday was wash day.
This should be ironing day.
Yet she’d stayed up last night
Beyond midnight,
Flatiron on the stove,
And pressed clothes.
Tom shot such a stare
It flushed her skin.
She knew what he didn’t:
That Louise was coming,
Soon, this morning, for
A permanent. Riah,
Her assistant. Now
She startled–Louise
At the door.

“Look out, world–here is,
The magic box!” Louise’s entrance.
“Close your eyes!” she bowed.
“Wear your shaded glasses!
In a few mere hours–
More or less”–Riah, tensed
With second thoughts–
“Steps from this house
Such a gorgeous, crimped-up,
Cork-screwed beauty,
You’ll be blinded
On a temporary basis.”
Louise presented her
A cardboard box:
“We begin.”

All apprehension,
Riah held it tight.
At the table
Where she cooked and ate,
They took seats.
The iron stove lurked
Close enough to touch,
And the sink with
Pipe that drained outside.
Louise glimpsed, then paused
At Riah’s face.
“Oh, no. No, don’t
Tell me. Never gave a permanent
Before today?” Louise
Found this past belief.
“Guess not”: Riah.
Louise rolled her eyes.
“Well–you will now.
I’ll show you how.
I can’t go out like this!”
Pleading, earnestly,
“I’ll lose my customers!
You’ll do fine.
Read good enough
To learn the diagram?”
She produced a folded paper.

Riah peered: directions–she read
Slow–and a chart
Of someone’s head.
Showed you how to comb a part,
Wrap rollers,
Bend papers at ends.
Step One, Step Two, Three….
“Any way to do it wrong?” 
Riah asked, brow drawn.

Louise crossed her legs
And settled back.
She seemed less on show,
On edge. A soft pleasure
Played the corners of her mouth.
Chin in hand, she smiled,
Gazed on Riah.
“Thousand ways to do it
Wrong,” she said.
“Don’t you worry. I’ll
Watch out for you.”

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