Hard Scrabble Life

Hard Scabble Life



The first thing he thought of when he got the money

Was to get a gift for Sarah.

Something to make up – at least a little bit

For their hard-scrabble life.

That was his true intention and no other thought

Was in his mind as he entered the store and went

To the counter where they sold

the women’s things.

That is where he first saw


Silky hair that shone like gold

And a smile that made his breath catch

In his throat and his hands

Tremble.  He tried not to look

At her and to think only of Sarah.

But when he left the store with the pure silk scarf

Wrapped neatly he could not remember buying it.

He could only remember Annie’s eyes and

her smooth white hands,

Her sweet red lips and

her soft laugh.

He tried not to think of her but somehow

He found himself day-dreaming of

Her silky softness at the oddest times.

While he was shaving or walking to the

Mailbox or watching

the sun set.

He had time now to watch

 the sunset and read the mail.

The lottery money had freed him

from the need to

Work, as he had done for thirty years,

from dawn

To dark.  Struggling to make a living

for Sarah and himself.

It wasn’t that he had stopped

loving Sarah.  She was a

Part of his life – all threaded through it.

Had worked beside him during hard times.

Her hands rough with rough work,

 her face etched with

Lines put there by worry and

the sun.

But, God help him, he could not

forget the girl.

Finally sick with shame and longing

he went back

To the store.   He bought something

and stayed longer this time.

Making her laugh with silly jokes

And drinking in the way

her body moved as she bent

Over the counter picking up

and putting down

The scarves and gloves he pretended

to be looking at.

A month went by.  If Sarah

noticed anything odd

she never spoke of it.

It become a habit – dropping by

the store in the evening

And walking Annie home.

He had never touched her

although he dreamed of it

Until one day by intent or accident

he could not say.

He turned to her at the same

moment she turned to him

And his arms went round her and his mouth

was kissing hers.

He was twenty five years older than she.

It was a crazy thing but

When he asked her – would she go

with him – she said yes.

And on Annie’s part it was not

the money, or not that alone.

With him she felt safe, felt a queen.

Saw the

Worship in his eyes.

 She had never  seen a look

Like that in the eyes of the boys

who pawed at her

Breasts and tried to run their hands up under

Her dress.

He made her laugh and knew wise things.

He listened to

Her.  He was gentle and kind.  And

loved her.  So

She went with him to Las Vegas.

He got a divorce and

Married her the same day.

For the next six months he was happier

than he ever thought

Possible.  Perhaps he had died

and this was heaven.  It could

Have been.   He could not get enough

of her, her smell, the silky skin

of her breasts and thighs.  He wished

She was an ocean so he could

drown in her.

He left Sarah half the money.   He

Didn’t need so much – he had Annie.

He bought Annie a big diamond ring

as a wedding present

But when he gave

It to her.  She

Blushed and turned away.

When she turned toward him

There were tears in her eyes.

Sometimes she would get moody,

quiet and irritable.

He would buy her flowers

Joke with her until she smiled again

and take her out dancing.

He didn’t dance himself.

He was content to see Annie whirling

About with any one of the many

young men eager to take

Her in their arms.  He wasn’t jealous.

Why should he be?  He was the one who would

Take her home.

So much pleasure, perhaps he always knew

it wouldn’t last.

On the day he came home and found

her closet and dresser

Drawers empty he wasn’t really

surprised although

The pain of losing her cut him like knives.

She left a note wrapped around the diamond.

It said she was sorry.   That he

Was too good and please forgive her.

He did.

He wandered around

Las Vegas like a lost puppy.   He

Gave up the suite he had shared

with Annie and

Moved into a furnished room.

He tried drinking but

It didn’t ease the pain and gave him

sick headaches.

One day on impulse he walked into a little café

and asked for a job as a


The cook felt sorry for him

he looked so lonely.   The waitresses

Too did their best to make him part of their

Family.   One large red-headed waitress

named Irma seemed

To take a particular interest.

She had been a show girl in her

Younger days.   Now that she had

stopped dancing

She let her body fill out, grow soft and pliant.

He felt a strange guilt

He had never divorced Annie.

But he accepted Irma’s

 Soft comfortable self.

Sank into her  and found refuge

from the

Pain of loss.

Irma never appeared concerned

about marriage.  She had

Been around the block

several times she said

And laughed.

He cried when a

constable found him and presented

Annie’s divorce papers.

Irma rocked him in her

Arms like a child.  Now there,

Now there she crooned in his ear.

So winter became spring and then summer.  He

Washed dishes, helped with the cooking

Sometimes.  He and Irma would

Take in a show or just hang around with

The other café workers playing cards.

It started, he thought, as fall came on.

She caught a cold, or maybe the flu.  But

Instead of getting over it

It took hold.

Gradually the flesh of her soft body melted away

She coughed too much.  He worried but

She laughed at him and joked about

Starting a new career as one of those

Anorexic New York models.

She died just after the New Year.

He stood with the others beside the grave

and when  his

Tears came they burned him

Like acid.

He had no plan.  He loaded his things into the

Car and headed east.  When he arrived

At the house he sat for awhile in the car.

He saw the old Toyota parked behind

The barn so he knew she was at


She came to the door before

He knocked.  She looked at him and

Didn’t speak.  Nor did she lock and

Bolt the door.  She simply held it open

And he came in.

They sat in the darkening house and talked softly.

She told him how she and a friend had

Taken some of the money and

Gone to New York.  She bought a silk

Dress and went to a show.

But she was glad to come back to the farm

When it was time.

He didn’t tell her about Annie or Irma either.

She didn’t ask although she must have known

About Annie.  It was a small town after all.


They fell silent as the night slid in and wrapped

 itself about

Them.  In the dark he put out

his hand


Was accepted.