7. The Arrangement

Mrs. Kemp stepped from the bedroom,
Shut the door.
“She’s got friends?”
This was aimed at Thomas.
“She’s got a bunch of friends?”
Tom sat straight up,
Hands gripped on his knees.
He nodded.
“You go tell them to drop by,
Come morning.
Go round ’em up.
She can’t do no cooking,
Cleaning, nothing for awhile.”
At the door, he paused.
She snapped: “And you–
Keep your hands off her.
A month.”
The doctor winced,
But Tom was gone.

Sighing, Mrs. Kemp
Walked to the window.
Idling there,
She nudged a curtain by.
Winter, that’s for sure–
Fields were stripped.
Pitch black,
And the sky, so wide,
Was all.
Only stars tonight–
So bright, whole,
At peace, she made a face:
Time to go home soon.
Goddamn.
I’d like to burn this house down,
I’d like to burn the stars’ house down
And send them screaming,
Tumbling to the ground.

The doctor mopped his face,
Then crossed his arms.
Her very walk is insolent,
He thought. Say, what’s that–
Furrow on her throat,
Purple, foul,
A puckered sore?
He squinted. Lord, she’s tried
Another time, I do believe,
To suture her own self.
Brazen know-it-all,
Gets a needle, steals
The gut from me. So,
Her husband’s riled again.
Likely scared her with a knife.
Lord knows,
She must drive the man insane.

She had only half a face to him,
Dark against the glass.
Her voice, out of nowhere–
“Just one minute.”
He was packing vials.
“Just one minute.”
He did not reply.
She turned to him,
With her loose, slow smile:
“Leave one of them round things.”
He stuffed at his bag:
“I’m sure that I can’t think
What you mean.”
She laughed.
“Oh, I’m sure you can.
I know that you got them,
For a fact.
You’d sell right quick
If she crossed your palm.
This one’s bad off,
As you doubtless know.
Give her one”–feeling oddly
Reckless, her smile broadened–
“Or I quit.”

“Well.
That threat, Mrs. Kemp”–
His offended doctor tone–
“Is one, happily,
That I could risk.”
Heading outward,
He tried talking sense:
“I might, surely,
Leave a couple items,
Prophylactic, for her husband’s use.”
“No. The other kind,
For her.
Where’d you hide it?
You’ve got some there, sure.”
He cut in. “Mrs. Kemp–you’ve not
Asked for favors–you merely
Steal. Please do not
Begin. I won’t oblige.”
He walked off: “Dear lady,
Childbirth in God’s plan–”
“Leave her one,” said Mrs. Kemp,
“Or I tell the next soul
I set eyes on,
Who it is that owns
The Dechter Building.”

Halfway out,
His hand froze on the door.
His eyes narrowed.
He faced her at last.
“How do you know
What you know?” he asked.
She smiled.
He scoffed: “Who’s this
Patient? What’s this
Touching, kind concern?”
She shrugged.
“Is this just to irk me,
Is that it?”
“Good enough,” she said.

He sighed,
Dropped his arm:
“What will you tell her?”
“Oh, her,” Mrs. Kemp said airily,
“Got her figured as a person
Who won’t ask.”
She slumped in an armchair;
She had won. “Maybe
By her pillow,” she suggested.
The doctor shook his head.
She drew out a cigarette.
“Got a light?
By her pillow, yes.
I can tell her
The tooth fairy come.”

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One Response to “7. The Arrangement”

  1. loretta davis Says:

    She is so smart and has the doctor figured out. Really don’t like the guy but pregnant women have no choice in those parts, did they? (Do they now?) You have this loving, tough, seen it all Mrs. Kemp down. She is one of those backyard pillars in every community and we NEED her. She is not afraid to speak her mind out loud to herself or anyone else. Smart too. The perception of people in these poems, this stories is remarkable.

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