Emissions, Sneers, and Robert Frost

Dear Reader,

When I stepped into the waiting room at the emissions testing center, the couple’s hatred blindsided me. “Look at him,” the man said, sneering through a window at the employee revving up the woman’s muscle car. “He should be on ‘America’s Biggest Loser’ He’s gotta weigh at least 350.” The woman whined, “He’ll rip my leather.”

I stomach ached for that employee. He was fat, and these awful people hated him for it.

“This is a fiasco,” the man started. “Why can’t he pull the car up to the next station then walk back to get the next car? I mean, why does someone have to drive it away from him? Can’t he move that far?”

I wanted to say, “Why don’t you shut up. You’re making me sick.” But I didn’t have the nerve. Instead, I pulled from my bag the only book I had with me, A Pocket Book of Robert Frost’s Poems, and began to read the first poem to which I opened: “Two Tramps in Mud Time.”

Out of the mud two strangers came

And caught me splitting wood in the yard.

And one of them put me off my aim

By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”

I knew pretty well why he dropped behind

And let the other go on a way.

I knew pretty well what he had in mind:

He wanted to take my job for pay….

The couple’s voices pressed for my attention. “An inefficient fiasco,” the man said. “This is typical, typical government waste.” And I again wanted to speak: “This place is privately owned, idiot.” But I continued to read.

Nothing on either side was said.

They knew they had but to stay their stay

And all their logic would fill my head:

As that I had no right to play

With what was another man’s work for gain

[they were probably out-of-work lumberjacks].

My right might be love but theirs was need.

And where the two exist in twain

Theirs was the better right―agreed.

Frost’s poem became my “human” shield, and the couple’s spurned hatred was sucked away with the exhaust fumes.

But yield who will to their separation,

My object in living is to unite

My avocation and vocation

As my two eyes make one sight.

Only where love and need are one,

And the work is play for mortal stakes,

Is the deed ever really done

For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

Out of the mud two strangers came.


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January 2009
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Photo Credits: Header - Barbara McNichol, Author - Bernadette Garcia

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