She is lying on her side, propped up on one elbow
(Her visits are infrequent, always unannounced,
But welcome all the same, more or less)
Affecting a smile which is as adorable as it is inscrutable,
Abed with but not quite next to me,
As she insists on a bundling board between us
(Not due to any chaste modesty on her part, God knows,
But, as she says in her best Blossom Dearie sing-song,
I don’t bestow my favors on just anyone.)
She floats back to this plane of consciousness
From some reverie, some flight of fancy
Though her gestures and expressions
Are the practiced repertoire of the veteran actress.
Tell me a story, she exhorts
(I have asked her in the past why she never regales me with a tale,
To which she fixes me with a nearly benign and wholly silent smile.)
And so, having received my marching orders, I proceed.
We knew these guys, I began
(Thus signaling yet another tale
Residing firmly in the once-upon-a-time camp)
Who moved off campus to an old house near Analomink.
A shambling old thing that had been added-to and cobbled-together
To the point of an adequate habitability,
(Not that the code inspector could find the place, let alone bother with it)
Providing shelter from the elements
As well as the occasionally inconvenient in loco parentis of Residential Life,
Leaving them to certain extra-legal proclivities
In terms of the consumption and manufacture of sundry consumables
(The back yard was a warren of copper kettles, tubing, and wire
And the word was they made their own acid in a back bathroom)
Their weekend excursions from campus to liquor store to homestead,
Made in various states of impairment
And general disrepair of the central nervous system,
Were the stuff of legends and let-me-tell-you this tales,
As these were heady, open-ended days,
Mortality being a thing for hundred-level classes
In Norse mythology and cellular biology,
But one time the boys came to one of those Saturday night decisions
To combine microdots and cross-country skiing,
And one of them, known to all and sundry as Mad Jack
(Georgia-bred and majoring in academic probation,
His undergraduate career a reverse Sherman’s march northward
From one undistinguished institution to another;
He’d left us shortly for some state school just below the Canadian border)
Had failed to show back at the house.
There was frantic, perplexed debate what to do next;
Surely the authorities should be notified,
But that would require an on-site presence of the gendarmerie,
With the subsequent prospect of dismissal and possible confinement.
Sunday afternoon came, all whistling freezing rain and wind,
And, just as we were ready to lift the receiver and gravely dial,
Jack burst in the doorway, grinning and chirping madly
About how he’d hooked up with a townie divorcee in Stroudsburg
Dude, you’re full of shit and covered in mud, one of his roomies stammered,
But Mad Jack simply chattered on, saying that her boyfriend
Had showed up unexpectedly, and that he’d had to beat it through a window
Standing half-dressed in the cold for a couple of hours
While they’d argued loudly and then equally loudly made up.
Hell of a night, huh boys, and then Jack laughed the laugh of the living,
Damnit, isn’t someone gonna get me a beer?
So whatever became of all your friends, my companion asks me
I shrug my shoulders, empty palms extending upward
As if expecting someone to toss a quarter my way.
Don’t know more the most part. Jobs, marriages, life its ownself.
She fixes me with the better part of a pout,
Not much of an answer, is it?
I have very little to say for myself at this point,
Save to offer up another little shrug,
Second verse same as the first and all that,
And she says Well, we do what we can with what we have,
And before I can ask her what she means by that,
She has turned away from me and burrowed into the sheets,
All but indistinguishable from the covers themselves.