"Son, you do not yet know, though your heart
is as shabby as mine, what it is like. I was awakened
as usual by the tingling chest and arm, and sprinted
by moonlight to the cabinet for my nitro. It was
so beautiful out, that I went and sat on the back steps,
while waiting to see if this would be my final hour,
because I thought the moon riding on the river's back
would be the finest sort of thing to visit last.
The neighbor's dog, a tall black pinscher,
came from the shadows, sat on his haunch and howled.
Now a dog, they say, will howl when a person's going
and as that was what I happened to be doing
just then, I was not surprised. But it made me mad,
for it to be so obvious, you know? I like my dying
private. so I said, You hush! Somebody might
be leaving here tonight, but it won't be me! He
gave me a real funny look, and went back and lay down quiet.
Suited me; I went back to watching the moon
do its moon-on-the-water thing. Went back
to bed, slept good, got up and had my coffee
in the morning, went out to the mailbox, and Gert --
you remember her -- said, Martha! did you know
your neighbor up and died last night? The one
with the big black dog?"
like stone. He later said: "My daddy liked
partying. To raise money for these events,
he would send his sons to clear land,
slash elderberries, cut pokeweed, and burn
poison ivy by the week, trying to keep
upwind. We would plant sweet potato slips,
hoe, hill, and weed, and carry summer water.
He'd watch from the cool pine's shade,
then chase us off and carry away the harvest
to trade for Early's whiskey in Powder Springs.
That crop would last one moonlit night.
He was strong enough to enforce such dealings,
yet she did one day set his bag by the open gate,
with his hat, his pipe, two dollars and a nickel change.
He knew right then he'd not be coming back."
One she kept stoppered with a cork-lined rose of brass,
for sprinkling water on the dough; the other she held
by the neck in a great red hand, then rolled the dough
out flat, flat enough for tortillas, if she known
what such things were. This was biscuit dough,
and she made work enough of it to last
an angry afternoon all through. Thumping down
the green glass, and rolling out, and reaching back
to thump the green glass down again, her arms
shook like wattles, and her naked elbows
cycled through their turns like piston rods.
There was noise enough in this work, from glass
on wood, drum noise, but what I remember
of her is silence, this silence of a woman
killing her bread instead of that man each day.
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