I hurry through the morning's chores;
today is special as I am to pick up my daughter
at the bus stop, she'll be home from college up north
for a week to plan her wedding.
We have a lot to do we say after
we hug in the car once she's jumped in and we
stop at a craft store to look at tea lights
for the tables at the reception. She's so glad
to be home she doesn't mind that the next stop
is a protest in Hudson. The governor is visiting
a local business to tout his budget and I disagree
with it, a lot of us do, and we gather to say so,
holding our signs and stamping our feet against
cold. I know a lot of these folks, greet a few friends
here and there, neighbors, and we catch up. They
are happy to see Marian, ask about the wedding
plans, we tell a few jokes, read each others' signs,
wish it were warmer, and and join in a chant
when the governor arrives—ignoring us—
to rush inside.
Then we're off to Home Depot, where we see
some other wind-chapped, familiar faces from
the protest, all of us looking for cat litter or nails,
some kind of paint. Grocery store next, then home
to make up a guest list, pet the cat, start a load of
laundry, do the chores, make dinner. On the radio
we hear about the protest in Hudson, what the governor
said about us, a bunch of out-of-state extremists.
The windows, lit already this early
morning, say the clerk has been here
to light the stove around which we'll
start our work clustered tight as petals
to the heat and then blossom out
as warmth vines around the room.
Election Day in our town smells
of coffee; Janet brought a thermos
We take our stations as headlights flip,
window to window, across the building.
People are coming to vote before work.
This building was a school
for sixty years and has been our
town hall for forty-some more. There's
a cloak room, this big room, and two
outhouses, Ma and Pa.
The door opens, shuts, cold hitches in
on the jackets of our citizens. They
take their paper ballots behind the curtains,
make their marks, slip the little squares
into the boxes Marcella guards with
her coffee in hand.
When my feet, even in these warm boots,
get too cold I find the thickest
books in the room—Wisconsin
Statutes and Annotations—and rest my dogs
on 102-247, away from
the icy linoleum. Lou takes 250-710
for her feet. We are careful and mean no
disrespect, it's just so chilly
and the stove's heat goes mostly up.
Late tonight votes will be counted.
People will take office far away
from this old building in our country
town. I know Marcella's vote nearly
always cancels mine. What Janet thinks
she isn't saying. Whatever the outcome we'll
clean this place together, turn off the lights
and make sure the stove is cold. We don't want
to burn down something
so useful to the people.
—Maureen Ash, River Falls, WI