124 Swiftly Flow the Days

R.M. decided to take a walk. Actually, his wife had decided. He lived on a corner where a succession of dog walkers, coupled with baleful looks from his dog and his wife, served as a constant reproach. He preferred to leave them to their regular rambles though she often prevailed and dragged him along for his health, as she persisted in explaining. As to walk was easier than to listen and as the evening was a fine one, this sunset excursion might be less death-like and dog-doo bearing than the humdrum, daytime trudge. She had earlier made that round trip, so the dog might be empty of further offerings.

R.M. led his pack over to the lake. The thirty minutes gave him time to think, unless of course his walking companions or encounters with neighbors distracted him along the route. His wife rarely pushed conversation, even for these public appearances. He was walking and that was concession enough. He thought about business, reviewing points – mostly fine – that he’d stashed away in the heat of the customer-centric moment for his further consideration. The Shells had decided to write an offer on a unit they’d seen two weeks ago at the POPS. As promised, he’d taken them out to view other buildings that offered a morning lake view, their priority. Apples to apples, there were other units they liked the layout of somewhat better, but for the price and building to building, they preferred the POPS.

It never surprised him anymore what people thought was important. For some, like the Shells, it was a certain view. For another buyer, it was the soundness of the finances of the association, those able to follow or able to pay for the services of an attorney or accountant to follow the chain of minutes and budgets back to a faint certainty that few surprises would meet them at the door when they moved in. For others, the concern was their dog. They’d had a terrible experience in their previous rental, felt like pariahs every time it barked. Or, somebody else had to know if their SUV would fit in the assigned garage space, and could the doors open once it was parked? Little things meant a lot; they were just different little things, each to each.

A three-way view from a Milwaukee Gold Coast condo, encompassing both lake and city views to the east, south, and west.

A three-way view from a Milwaukee Gold Coast condo, encompassing both lake and city views to the east, south, and west.

R.M. advised the Shells that it was possible sometime out into the hereafter, or even perhaps next week and at the whim of an owner, that an entirely east-facing unit might come on the market. But they had resolved to buy in this market not the one over the rainbow, and this was music to his attuned, realtor ears. They’d thrashed out their original wish list, decided together what they should do and R.M. felt on surer ground with them. There came a time when a buyer knew that of all the potential units this was the one to buy, that for now this was as good a deal as it could be.

After all the conversation about sedately welcoming in the dawn, the Shells had been misled by their dream of sunny mornings gazing eastward. Turned out it was too hard to look at, and anyway, they had little time for gazing. If they could grab a few minutes of sparkling sunshine when the weather offered it before they headed out each morning, that would suffice. Retreating from their original stance and opting for a place offering a wider variety of exposures to the east, south, and west in a range of seasons, they could command longer, and less blinding views.

That, plus they appreciated that this unit was in move-in condition. They had zero time for home improvement; no matter the clarion call of articles reinforcing that without a home improvement agenda, and new wallpaper – preferably of their own design – they could not find happiness. They had to get up and go to work, re-pay their student loans. He was pleased that they had seen it through, and that the color of the granite counters was now immaterial.

R.M. and company crossed Lake Drive. It was too late to run the dog down on the beach but they could enjoy the view of Lake Michigan from the grassy top of the bluff, where there were benches for those requiring a rest before the return leg of a jaunt. And the panorama was a remarkable one. Even at this time of the year, nearing midsummer, as the light faded to twilight on the eastern shore below the bluffs, obscuring the strand at the shoreline, the sun still shone out over the lake, far out to its Adam blue rim.Chapter 123 Swiftly Flow the Days

Balanced against the blue, a triumvirate of white boats skirted this horizon, riding the altar cloth that split the heights from the depths. As the hulls rested below this edge, mast fingers prayerfully lifted skyward, their illuminated sails like hands folded in supplication, revealing a sunset-gilt triptych. R.M. recollected himself as an altar boy at St. Agnes, schooled to revere such beauty but easily distracted. A swallow, another watcher, churred from its twisted, cliff-side perch; R.M.’s eyes tracked its dart as it swooped towards the scene playing out in the bay below. He’d observed events of many kinds in the bay; weddings by the score, family photo sessions, even a bounding chorus of teenage boys whooping out a show tune, oblivious to onlookers, spurred to a quick run-through by the chilly waves from which their circle sprang.

But a more puzzling drama now unfolded upon a single boat anchored just offshore. He absently took it in through the thickening dusk. A cluster manned the deck. A woman hailed an unseen ‘Sister’, a megaphoned demand.Ā  A golden head surfaced near the boat, followed by a black body; some new variant of otter, perhaps. No, it joined the line-up on deck. Voices rose, the resonance hostile, not mechanical. The action reached the denouement on the crowded, miniature stage, something heaving at the far side before an irregular splash. It grew too dark to see even as he squinted, waiting for more. He gave up and stood to go.

“The train of Oberon.” said Mrs. R.M.


“The train of Oberon, remember, from a Midsummer Night’s dream?”

“Um…oh that train.”

“Really R.M. Do you just pretend to be awake when we watch old movies?”

“Remind me, then.”

“At dusk, Oberon, the King of the Fairies, lets loose all his folk from his vast, black, trailing cape as night falls behind him, until dark surrenders to dawn and he gathers them in again. It’s magnificent, and set to Mendelssohn.”

“I remember the Mendelssohn.” R.M. fancied himself a devotee of classical music but devotion did not extend to fairies. His wife was more fanciful than he. His ‘ocean-front’ buyers imagined a deep sea before them, not a shallow, benign lake. Condo dwellers lived above the fray of creatures of the deep, and perhaps of evil lurking in those depths.

The newly installed sign at the top of the walk insisted that the park was closed at 10 p.m. He supposed it was always too dark by then for anyone to see the sign but in any case the rule was typically overlooked.

His wife piped in, “Morning comes early, especially at mid-summer, and we should head back. But I’d like to walk up the park, take the other way home.” Resistance being futile, they took to the sidewalk again, heading north.