BENNY & EVELYN by K. Uffelman
Evelyn walked down the stairs. Click, click, click. A sheaf of piano music
tucked under her arm and her normally tidy hair blown across her face by
the wind. So incredibly gorgeous, Benny thought. He pinched himself and
crossed the street.
“Hey Ev, how’d it go?”
“Fine, I think. Good enough. I have four more hours of rehearsal scheduled
in the hall before the recital, and I’ve finally conquered that passage
that was giving me fits. Doc Ecklund’s happy, in any case.”
Dr. Ecklund was dean of the music school, and had taken a particular
interest in Evelyn. Benny wasn’t sure it was altogether professional, but
she was a prodigy, so then again, who knew? In any case, having Doc
Ecklund as your number one critic/fan was not without benefit. Evelyn had
her first choice of rehearsal time on the Steinway in the concert hall
while the rest of the piano majors suffered on their practice room
Prodigy was a word that had been used to describe Benny, too, but never by
Doc Ecklund. And apparently no benefit was conferred to the French
horn-playing boyfriend of his star student. Evelyn alone stood in the
bright light of his favor. Oh well – soon it would no longer matter.
“I brought you some coffee.”
“You are a mind reader, Benny Mack!”
Evelyn and Benny sat on the steps on the bottom of the stairway and Benny
pulled the thermos from his bag. The coffee was hot and black, like Evelyn
liked it. Benny was trying to learn to drink his black, too, and his
stomach revolted a little more each day.
The wind continued to blow and Evelyn wrapped her long fingers around the
small thermos cup. Benny put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her
toward him. She leaned into his chest. She smelled so good, like toast
mixed with daffodils. The heels on her shoes were slightly too high to be
sensible, but made the lines of her calves especially pleasing. Benny
cleared his throat.
“So, I got a letter from Mannes College in the mail today.”
Evelyn sat up.
“Was the envelope thick or thin?”
“Thin…” he couldn’t read her expression, “compared to a dictionary. But
compared to most envelopes…”
“Benny!” she slapped at his arm.
“It’s not a full ride, but pretty close. And no teaching requirement,”
Benny smiled in spite of himself.
“That’s terrific, Benny! Incredible!”
Evelyn seemed like she was genuinely excited for him. She kissed him on
“Congratulations, sir! We need a bottle of champagne or something!”
“What we need is to make some plans!”
Evelyn’s face darkened slightly, or did he imagine it?
“Yes…we should talk about plans. Of course.”
She kissed him again.
“I was thinking, when I move to the City in the fall I’ll just rent a room
somewhere and save money, and then, when you graduate and move down, we
can get something nicer.”
He knew he was making a mistake, saying all of this out loud, but he
wanted it so badly.
“It will be modest, of course, not big enough for kids yet, or anything.”
She smiled, as he knew she would, at the mention of kids.
“I love you very much, Benny Mack.”
His heart began to sink.
“We’ll see. And we’ll talk about it. I know this is an amazing opportunity
for you. And I’m so proud of you!”
“But there’s a lot for me here, at Eastman. I don’t know. Of course Mannes
College is incredible, and living in the City would be wonderful. But Doc
Ecklund has been talking to me about my plans, and he’s such an amazing
support for me.”
She looked down at the not-quite-sensible shoes that Benny found so
“Sure, of course. Nothing’s decided. We’ve got plenty of time. And I need
to find a job for the summer. The Rochester Philharmonic is hiring for
their summer season.”
“Speaking of,” Evelyn fished in her bag, “I also received a letter, today.
Not exciting like yours, but related to a job. My uncle needs some help
with his dental practice starting in June. His dental assistant is
leaving, and, you know, he mostly sees kids – it would be kind of fun. He
knows I’m doing the summer conservatory program, but thought you might be
interested. You probably want to play music this summer, but you’d make
way more money with my uncle…maybe help build a nest egg for that “modest”
apartment in the City you want me to share with you…”
The acid from the black coffee and the thought of spending his summer in a
dentist’s office was making Benny’s stomach churn. A dentist’s office full
of children, no less…he could taste the fear in the back of his throat.
But he focused on Evelyn’s shoes and her comment – no, her promise – about
the apartment in the City.
“Okay, I’ll talk to him.”