Mrs. Vegan

"Mrs. Vegan"

Spying its maroon and gold coloration wedged fortuitously between the gumball machine and Erxdman’s partition, and smiling his best Bank smile as she edged timidly past, Mac Furlong deftly snatched the fletching from the Uptown Bank carpet as would a heron snatch a minnow from a stream, his long right leg swept behind him as counterbalance, his long left arm and fingers stretched beyond his camouflage shirt cuffs, just as frail Lillian Vegan, from Wanasaka, Minnesota’s longest-serving rural community elementary school teacher, cautiously exited the Bank near the ATM machine.

Furlong’s off-set leg, protruding out as he had thrust it, the heavy-lugged sole of his Merrell® hiking boot, fairly snarling as it was, punctuated poor Mrs. Vegan’s cane with whose owner he had just previously shared an animated conversation about a grammatical error he had made in one of his deer hunting stories, that was to be published in a wonderfully-wrought local magazine called The Raven: Northwest Minnesota’s Original Art, History & Humor Journal©.

"It should read,” Mrs. Vegan had said, weeping a little, holding the text in her tiny be-gloved hand, her cane leaning against the length of her aged mink coat with all its tiny brown glass eyes in the sewn-in mink heads staring ruefully across the Bank lobby, “Kirby, Jeff, Stephanie, Hunter and me in the stands, not 'I'.”

Sniffing, she wiped her nose with the sleeve of fur, some of the loosened reddish hairs sticking to her cheek where it was still wet, then continued, “It hurts me to know you made that error in grammar. I had high hopes that you, of all the five kids in your class, would make something of your life instead of spending day and night, fishing or hunting. Now it seems you are my only failure of all my teaching career. Your father, Max... Now, he had promise.”

Mrs. Vegan had taught literally generations of Wanasakanites, including all of Mac’s family, Mac’s mother, ‘Millie’ and his two younger brothers, ‘Milo,’ and ‘Merle.’ She remembered all her students names and where they had sat in the classroom. Carrying a Rollodex® in her purse, she could cite grade point averages, absences, tardies, Valentines and Christmas presents from whom for each year down to the color of ribbon (or absence thereof) or whether the gift was handmade or purchased (and by whom, parent or student.) Local politicians shuddered when she approached them on the campaign trail.

“Hoohah! Mrs. Vegan!” Furlong wheezed, offering his florescent-orange Uptown Bank hankerchief to Mrs. Vegan, “I just left that in there to see if you’d catch it. I know you proof-read issues of The Raven: Northwest Minnesota’s Original Art, History & Humor Journal, a wonderfully wrought local magazine. As a member of the Reed River School Bus Maintenance Board, I’d hardly make a grammatical error like that!

“Well, I guess a PR job at the Uptown Bank is better than nothing, though for the life of me I can’t figure out what you do. Have any of you ever seen him really do anything?” She continued plaintively, looking about, “Mac could’ve served on the school board had he been somebody. Oh, I’ve failed him!”

As her cane screeded the antimicrobial treatment from the Bank carpet, it parted company from her tiny gloved hands to crash against the glass partition wall of Mr. Postal, the Bank’s insurance liason, thus jolting him from his afternoon nap. (Wearing a neck-brace the next day, he filed a work-related injury claim for workman’s comp.)

Her principle support gone, frail Mrs. Vegan tipped forward in slow motion, as was her nature in all things. Her eyes and facial expression slowly hinted at surprise behind the flipped-up sun-shades of her gold wire-framed glasses, her 100-year old body tentatively crashing toward the foyer’s span of cold, snow-laced marble tiles and the door frame’s aluminum threshold below the sign that reads, “Across This Threshold Arrive All Our Wonderful Customers!--Welcome to Reed River Uptown Bank.”  And arrive she did. Mrs. Vegan’s body hadn’t been nigh-near parallel to terra-firma since 1948, the year she and her husband Lenny were married, when her Paintabian gelding, JiRoScope, had thrown her as they rode their horses along the slippery-slope of the river bank south of Wanasaka. The memory of that fall caught up to her just as her veiled hat pitched forward over her eyes, and in descending sequence followed her nose, lips, glasses, and forehead as she kissed the floor of the Bank, followed by her purse, shoulders, abdomen and knees. Oofdah.

“YOU TRIPPED HER!!” yelled the receptionist vaulting from her cushy chair in the lobby and pointing her finger toward the alleged perpetrator, looking side to side, “YOU TRIPPED FRAIL MRS. VEGAN!!” Her shrill nasally voice reverberating through the Bank causing momentary work-stoppages at all the drive-up windows.
“I DID NOT!” shouted Mac Furlong, the height of his eyebrows fairly exceeding the bill of his camouflage-patterned cap.
“DID!!” sang the chorus of pointing-finger Bank tellers peering over the tops of their stalls, choreographed so perfectly you’d think it was a Hollywood production.

“SHE TRIPPED OVER HER OWN FEET! IF SHE HAD USED A WALKER, INSTEAD OF A CANE, NONE OF THIS WOULD’VE HAPPENED!!” Furlong moaned, cradling semi-conscious Mrs. Vegan in his arms, blood from her nose scattering across the waterproofing of his GoreTex shooting jacket like globs of mercury across a science classroom counter.
“MRS. VEGAN!!! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?? WE’VE CALLED AN EMT!” exclaimed Furlong loudly, straightening Mrs. Vegan’s hat atop her head and folding her glasses with their flip-up shades.

“There’s no need to shout, dearie.” Mrs. Vegan said, deliriously, sounding a bit Irish in the translation, “I just got me bell rung against the floor of the Bank ‘ere, and me ‘ead’s a ringin’ enough as it is wit’ out ye yellin’ your damn fool ‘ead off in me ear. Oofdah! I t’ink I busted me nose to boot... Did you kick me cane out from under me on purpose, laddie? Or t’was it an accident?”

“I think you tripped over your own feet, Mrs. Vegan.” Mac whispered, lowering his voice to a condescending tone, then whispered, “I did accidently kick your cane out from under you, but it was your own inability to maintain your balance that caused you to fall. Had you continued those free yoga and Zumba lessons the Bank awarded you last year for possessing the longest continual savings and checking account of Uptown Bank history, you could’ve not only maintained your footing, but pirouetted, back-flipped, summersaulted and cartwheeled all the way to your car. It’s all your fault...”

“Say what? IT’S ME OWN FAULT??” Mrs. Vegan hooted for all to hear. “YOU T’INK I TRIPT OVER ME OWN FEET??”  “ITS ME OWN FAULT I COULDN’T MAINTAIN ME BALANCE??? AND WIT’ ME POOR FRAIL LEGS A BUCKLIN’ AS THEY WERE BENEATH ME? AND ME POOR FRAIL ARMS BRACED LIKE, FOR A FALL, I’M LUCKY I DINT BREAK BOTH PAIRS OF ME BONES, YOU TOSSER!! Me nose is surely broken. I’m tastin’ me own blood ‘tween me teeth...”

“YOU TRIPPED HER! YOU TRIPPED HER! FURLONG YOU TRIPPED HER!!” taunted the receptionist, the Customer Service reps, auditors, and other associates pressing in close behind her taking up the chant. The Bank President stepped to the door of his office and queried the mortgage loan officer as to what was going on. Gesturing that it had something to do with Mac Furlong as his office appeared empty, the President pivoted into the adjoining VP’s office and asked him to see what Furlong was up to this time. Closing out of Craigslist, the VP immediately complied, knowing Furlong’s penchant for PR theatrics. Had someone doubted his hunting prowess?

The EMTs checked Mrs. Vegan over, and entered data on their iPads, the reflection of the ambulance strobe lights, parked outside the bank entrance, eerily ricochetting off the lobby walls. Determining the extent of her injuries were limited to her broken nose and self-esteem, (the mink coat had cushioned her knees)and weren’t life-threatening, they taped compresses to her nose.

“And then he had the gall to be tellin’ me ‘twas me own fault I lost me balance wit’ out me cane!” Mrs. Vegan told the EMT, sipping water from a paper cup. “And I should be jumpin’ around, an’ doing summersaults an’ all, at me age!” 

“Let’s get you to your feet, Mrs. Vegan. Harry, give us a hand here, won’t you?” Furlong asked the Bank VP. Harry Wattinsdalin had worked at the Bank since he was injured playing hockey in a NHL championship game back in 1968. (The event turned his hair white.) Harry’s office, like Mac Furlong’s, was bedecked with storied trophies, all conversation pieces of glory days gone by.

Easing Mrs. Vegan to her feet, an EMT and Harry standing on either side, Mac positioned a sturdy chair, on which she could sit and get her bearings. The EMT advised her to call for a ride home, rather than attempt to drive. Mrs. Vegan smiled.

“Are you sure you’re feelin’ up to drivin’ yourself, Mrs. Vegan? You’re lookin’ a bit daft, but maybe it’s your glasses makin’ you look that way, seein’ as they’re all bent up from your fall. Should I be callin’ your daughter, Colleen? Isn’t she still the superintendent at PHSS?” (Parents Home for Stubborn Seniors) She’d be givin’ me the dickens if I didn’t call her about you fallin’ in the Bank...”

“NO. No, no, for goodness sakes, no.” Mrs. Vegan pleaded. “Don’t be callin’ me daughter, Mac. She’s too busy. Oofdah. All her responsibilities. Oh my... You know, Mac, I’ll be writing the Bank about all the care and attention you provided me after I tripped over me own feet, hurting only me pride and so embarrassing myself. You were always me favorite student...”

  

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