Margaret Brinton: Urgency
EVICTION NOTICE! THIS BUILDING WILL BE RAZED. DEMOLITION TO BEGIN ON APRIL 2, 1951.
With her toddler on her hip and the baby secured into a second-hand pram,
young Julia Darnell stared at the posted alert when she returned from a winter's jaunt to the neighborhood market.
She and Harold had heard rumors among other tenants regarding a bad foundation, cracked beyond salvation. Only a few days ago, Julia had accused Harold, "Didn't you hear our bedroom walls seem to shift in the night?"
In his determination to avoid unpleasant issues and in his preference to plow
ahead through life's vagaries, Harold had sullenly denied Julia's reference to any such alarm. His reluctance to address the urgency caused her to silently question his character, and not for the first time, either.
It was mid-February, a cold but windless day in Milwaukee. The absence of
any snow on the sidewalks had allowed Julia and her little girls a safe and happy outing, but now Julia's mind was filling with angst after viewing that ominous placard.
She reached her first-floor rooms and unzipped the children from their puffy snowsuits, forcing onto her face a maternal smile that would keep them in repose. Her thoughts whirled, however, as in vying to solve yet another housing dilemma. Discussion with Harold regarding their family's security would ensue shortly.
She glanced up at the cheap clock on the wall. Julia wrapped a faded baby quilt around each child and sang lullabies to induce their nap. That hour or so to herself before Harold's work shift ended would be used, she intended, for some deep retrospective. She sat, not in comfort, but in firm contemplation on a hard kitchen chair and recalled with a shudder of remorse the series of dumps they had known as "home" in just four years of marriage.
This vagabond life was so different from those beach-blanket promises made by Harold during that steamy summer of 1947.
When Julia heard his key jiggle the lock shortly after 4 pm, she struggled to withhold any immediate blame but greeted him with a slightly hesitant hug.
Although his buff and handsome appearance had always aroused her, a closer
notice of his character was now a perturbation.
"I saw what the management posted," Harold gruffly stated to his wife. "I'll search the classifieds right after supper and find us another apartment before this week is over. Nobody will get the best of us, Julia. I assure you of that."
But he had not always made the best decisions for her and the children. Did he think that he had when he moved them from place to place? Harold's stubborn determination disconcerted Julia. "He never thinks beyond himself and the moment," she thought with a chill.
Julia's emotions rose to the surface. "Enough is enough, Harold. I say NO to another apartment! It's time we had a small bungalow of our own. My life with you has been a continuous uprooting. You have the collection of German porcelain from your grandmother. You need to sell it and come back to me with the cash for a down payment on a mortgage. People say that the antique dealer next to Andrew's Jewelry Shop always pays a fair price," Julia implored.
"What are you telling me to do, Julia?" her husband protested, rebelling against anyone trying to dictate his ways. "When we married, I informed you of my pledge to Grandma Nell. Her porcelain will remain under my care. Don't ever mention selling it again, and don't wait supper on me!"
He stomped out the door, leaving Julia to weep in her worries while she fed and bathed their children. The future loomed in uncertainty.
She was standing restively at the kitchen counter, looking through the grocery ads in the local paper when Harold huffed in, saying, "A ground-floor apartment is for rent just ten blocks from here. We can sign a six-month lease tomorrow and move in the first of March."
His adamant insistence brought tears of concern to Julia. "You've ignored everything I said about our way of living, Harold. I need stability to raise our little girls, not one temporary dwelling after another. You make good wages at the auto shop, and the old porcelain is worth plenty enough for us to make a down payment,"she pleaded.
Tensions crackled like sparks of tinder through their long night. Julia tangled with the bed sheets while Harold was up and down with the late shows. Their babies whimpered restlessly in response.
The following day, Harold fried himself an egg and gulped day-old coffee and headed to his job. Lots of picture books and Mother Goose nursery rhymes got Julia and the girls through the morning. They had just finished lunch and were settling down to nap when Harold rushed in, hours ahead of schedule.
"I cut out from work mid-morning, feigning a bad migraine, " the newly humbled husband began. "I have been to the banker, talked with a realtor, and made a visit to Aunt Marlene. Through my sleepless night, I came to understand your need for domesticity, Julia. Aunt Marlene will take the porcelain as collateral and give us a loan. We are going to have a home of our own!" DSS
Margaret Brinton, of San Diego, Calif., has been a teacher with many publications to her credit. She writes that she is a current nominee for a Pushcart Prize for micro-fiction.
This story about a relationship between husband and wife reveals family dynamics taking place. To keep these good stories coming, donate here to Downstate Story.