Ike Dollings sat in the folding chair, his hat balanced on his knee, his face, a worked over canvas, sun washed and crevassed by sixty-five years under sun and weather, a face that showed among its cracks and weathering, evidence of wrong broncs mounted and other accidents any working rancher might find on almost any day of his life. Usually Ike’s face was a bit more expressive than it was now, a ready grin shining past the bronc busted nose, his eyes, a-twinkle with some joke or wit coming to his tongue, but as yet unexpressed. He had already come to the wit of this event, but of course, you don’t say things like that regarding the wedding while the festivities are in progress and the groom and bride are still at the altar. And so, although his eyes twinkled, and his lips twitched, he kept his face rock solid neutral.
At the altar was his grandson, Johnny, AKA “Brick” because from the day he was born he was short, stout and, as Ike had noted, “built like a brick shithouse.” Brick’s mother, Ike’s daughter-in-law, had not appreciated the analogy for her boy; but the name had attached itself to him and he wore it with humor and pride, mostly Ike thought, because nobody hade ever told him just how he came by the nick-name. When, at the age of nine, he asked why everybody called him Brick when his name was John Henry Dollings, Ike had softened the analogy he had made nine years earlier.
“Well, Brick,” he said, “Everybody’s a “Johnny,” or a “Henry,” and you’re a brick, built hard, square and low to the ground. Lots of things get built by bricks.” This is pretty much what everybody had come to believe anyway, so it wasn’t a lie. “That kid sits a horse like a brick, solid and unbreakable,” they would say. And, the boy was happy.
And of course, he set out to prove them all right in their description. He was on the high school football team, on the rodeo team and threw the shot and discus for high school track and field. In Football he played center, and the backs loved it when the play call was in a lane where Brick was blocking. In basketball, he held down the bench—this was a game that did not appreciate bricks. He went to state three years running in saddle bronc and bareback, and took first in one or the other each of the three years; he tried roping, and he could catch almost any calf and knock it down, but his brickness slowed him on the run to knock the calf over and tie it down. He did just as well with discus and shotput. He had a Rodeo Scholarship to State, and had worked that four years to a degree in Range Management. Brick was one solid kid with a solid frame of mind.
He looked solid and pretty happy up at the altar, despite the penguin suit—as he called it. The bride facing him looked less solid, but very happy as well. Ike was thinking, How do people get themselves into these things. Some would say it’s urges, raw and simple. But that wasn’t it. “Urges” was too simple. It had something to do with it, but that wasn’t it entirely. “Urges” is bulls and cows out in the pasture, whim-wham, job’s done, on to the next. And, Ike thought, there are people out there like that, justify their youthful pleasures by invoking natural urges. Brick wasn’t one of them, so far as Ike knew. And as far as he knew the bride, DeLain, wasn’t either.
The thing about DeLain, who everyone who knew her called “Lou,” was her lack of brickness. She was willowy and lithe waisted and stood within a short inch of Ike’s 5’9” and in heels, looked down on anyone that was only 5’9”. It wasn’t a moral look-down as far as Ike knew; just a physical one. She was a town girl, two years after Brick in high school. She had golfed in high school; had been pretty good, but not exceptional. She was also a dancer and last Christmas, had been lead dancer with the Bozeman Ballet in the Nut Cracker, which Ike had gone to see because it never hurt to see something besides the tail of a cow. And it never hurt to support a local kid with what they were doing. Also, Brick bought him tickets.
After the show Brick had a stack of flowers, two or three bouquets, for DeLain. He handed one of the bouquets to Ike, “To show Lou appreciation,” he said. “She’ll like getting one from you.”
Of course, at the alter she was not wearing heels, and Ike had not seen her in heels for a long time now. Brick was wearing riding boots, but even so, if there hadn’t been a block of bricks under the rug where he stood, he would have been looking up and she looking down up there at the altar. DeLain was the one who arranged for the bricks under the rug at the rehearsal. Brick had shrugged, but said, “I ain’t marrying you for the long and short of it, Lou. What is, is.”
“Me Neither,” she said. “But at least for a while, maybe the ladder jokes should be held at bay.”
“Probly,” Brick had acknowledged.
It hadn’t been urges that made DeLain stop wearing heels. “Urges” you can do with your shoes on. And it wasn’t urges that got Brick into a tux and cummerbund, which you do not need for urges. He was a jeans and denim shirt kid. Even for church Brick wore jeans, a wrinkled shirt, with a windbreaker and maybe a tie, conceding enough to convention so that the elders didn’t frown too much. And even those church clothes often had machine and barnyard stains and barbwire snags in them. Brick was not a cummerbund sort of young man. DeLain, on the other hand was a clothes horse. She shined, up there in her white gold and muted blue dress, with lightly spangled train. Brick was just a brick in a cummerbund that seemed to creak and stretch to hold him in. DeLain would probably see he got a suit for church; and he would almost certainly wear it. Just as he would bring bouquets of sweet clover, daisies, lilacs, and wild lilies from the fields, and she would most certainly arrange them to fit what ever they needed fitting to.
The wit behind Ike’s weathered old lips that he probably would never say—at least not for a week or two—had a complexity that incorporated urges, bricks, upstairs/downstairs, ballet/rodeo and even the tall and short of it. He hadn’t quite put into words yet, but it was there, playing at the back of his mind as he sat watching the two young people making vows to love, protect and cherish forever. As they sealed their vows with a kiss, he was thinking, “her in toe shoes and him on a horse, and maybe. . . .” But then he thought, that didn’t say it all either. That didn’t account for the bricks under the rug holding Brick almost level with DeLain.
He’d have to work on it. Whatever it would be, urges might be part of it, but it wouldn’t be the whole story, not for these two.