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,
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
Pain of loss.
Irma never appeared concerned
about marriage. She had
Been around the block
several times she said
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
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
Them. In the dark he put out