“Life was a vigil and you had to know the precedents.”
’s treasury of stories, traditions, legends, humor and wisdom from 2000 through 2016.
—Diane Williams, editor
Milna smiled a sick look—Brenlan and she were home. He was going to be a man, depending on how he felt. And to doubt his patience he then formed a question, are women crazy? To be angry about that was understandable. If they were indeed then he wouldn’t need one. But it was Brenlan’s idea that women became offensive because money and power were involved.
Milna then looked a little better. They learned that life was a vigil and you had to know the precedents.
After this Brenlan and Milna walked past others in the street. They slipped and slided and they couldn’t quite see it. But they had noted the different complex things. They were going home.
Milna was placated. They were half up in the world.
Brenlan could see how to judge his own part. Too, Milna saw he didn’t need her so badly any longer. That was a mutual affair. They had no great amount of cash and there was no pressing question. Brenlan knew something that precluded much socializing. He put his textbook down one evening. He decided to put money on his lists. Then Milna looked a little better. The business was a fandango which he had all rolled into one. He knew to economize. Still Brenlan had taken no technical courses. He was not in it for a degree. Maybe he was mad, by then—the double-talk in class had mounted until he understood that half of it was beyond him—the life at the university was festive just the same until he figured he’d best light out to find what to make of it about work or about his blood. Milna and he were quiet together. He doubted his own heroic stuff of which the town looked to be full. He kept a notebook. But he could see that a steady job might be a godsend. He found after school had been out a long while a job as a clerk in a hotel.
He thought of Milna, who had her own work, and there was some of the grandeur of school, but he was good enough to handle all comers, at least there in the town of Hawkins. When autumn came he was not interested in any more school. His father had died a few years before. He never saw the body. He knew little enough of the mournful.
Milna was transported by their romance. She and Brenlan had found a rhyme and a reason both. She spoke perfunctorily to the delivery boy who handed over the package that contained books Brenlan had sent for. The boy was seventeen or eighteen and he made like a real innocent, or like a guy who led a charmed life. She gave the boy a ten-dollar bill and told him to go to the movies.
At the sales lot they looked at an auto. Brenlan said to Milna that cars were about acceleration and power steering, and she betrayed a disappointment. The salesman was a portly sort and he looked strong of body. He was some kind of authority they could see and they were humbled to be married in front of him. He seemed to have some respect. They talked a little about the different autos with the salesman. Brenlan was mystified by Milna’s mood. He said let’s decide on the price. She looked a little better then and she pointed out her favorite car. Brenlan and the salesman went into the office, which was a small room with three desks with papers on them. Milna was cheerful in the car and the idea that they were childless was not so important. In fact they had each other but they did not need each other. Later she complained that she hadn’t liked the experience of buying a car. Brenlan said maybe she was lonely to be home in the evening instead of going out to drink the way they had used to. She said in the car that she felt like a piece of meat. Why couldn’t they capitalize on their school years? What had happened?
That month Brenlan and Milna were invited to a party by Brenlan’s boss. Brenlan began to miss the good old days and he saw the mediocrity of his life with Milna. He had no real politics except to flatter and to humor some others with whom he was half-acquainted. He did not either like to visit. Talking on the phone was just a way to take care of what came up. One day he figured he was growing old. Too, he wondered if he was losing his mind that Milna was lonely. Some sorts believed in machination maybe of the television but he Brenlan was a booklover who seldom read anything. Milna was half-matronly and of that Brenlan was proud.
Brenlan had an immediate feeling for the woman bank teller behind the bullet-proof window. Right or wrong, the daily business went forward. Brenlan figured the others had a point, that they gave money to the women clerks. The woman was lively and good-looking and she seemed sensible to him. She was a beauty. He decided then that he wouldn’t follow through with his feelings. So he figured to leave Milna high and dry.
He watched the bank waiting for the teller to exit. When she exited the rear of the building it was a spooky thing to see. He would see her again on his next trip to the bank, which would be the same time of day the next week. Now he needed something to help him win out.
Brenlan wouldn’t flag. He had his own savings account with eighteen-hundred dollars in it. He took a day off, then. He figured he was flattered by his good luck of mood. The next week he went back to the bank. The woman wasn’t there and he did not ask about her. He walked to a nearby saloon and sat at the bar. He saw a man talking into a cell phone. Did that have anything to do with the bank teller? He knew it did, was about some biology of it. He tried to guess what the bank teller might know.
She might have friends. So did the man on the telephone. The telephone was another world to Brenlan. He had always been a moderate sort and the phone was perfunctory.
Where did this bank teller live? He figured she was part of an in-crowd and he knew they lived in a neighborhood to the west. Brenlan knew stuff about town, about the newspaper and the police. He tried to guess her name. It was maybe Pamela, or she looked like someone of that name. If Brenlan had gone mad, then he was a mystic, and the secret was how to escape or to get out of harm’s way, or he figured he would settle down for the drama.