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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    Sarah's been nagged by a cold since that day
    she ran out into the snow.  She won't stay
    home tonight, though.  That's not her way.
    She wants to meet these Comp'ny men, to say:

    --    Thank you, sirs, for saving our town,
          for lifting us up when we were so far down
          we'd forgot there was an 'up' to reach for;
          for letting us keep what we built and not
          driving us out.  Oakies must've felt just
          the lowest, losing their homes like that;
          but thanks to you our fate was different.
          Bless you.  God bless all you fine gentlemen.

    To say that, she'll go to the pavilion.
    To say that, and to shake their hands,
    those ivory white hands with manicured nails,
    slender, with only a pencil callus
    showing wear and tear on the middle finger.
    She wants to clasp those hands and stare,
    stare at their tailored suits and fine silk ties,
    their cufflinks and gold framed spectacles.
    Do all that and maybe win a prize,
    she thinks, a door prize or the raffle.
    People got cash now for the tickets.
    She's got cash now.  The quilting bees
    have been all a'buzz, busy, busy
    like never before on the back porches,
    weaving winter quilts for the families
    of men moved to town to work in the oilfields.
    They've never slept through a Kansan squall,
    she thinks, through all the days of snow flurries
    and icy nights.  Can they drill through the ice?
    Maybe.  She wonders on that like she wonders if
    she'll win a cake -- not the same she's baked
    to donate for the walk -- or some pastries,
    maybe.  She sneezes.  Again.
    Her cough covers up Lana's knocking.
    The hack stops.  She hears the knock,
    grabs a wool cloak, and rushes
    into the teasing chill.  Her frock
    will be enough.  Maybe.

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