by Sarah Holly Bryant

The name Nole confuses people. Nole Wilson doesn’t like his name because it’s a conversation piece, and Nole Wilson hates conversation. Noel lives alone in a one-bedroom garden apartment at the Woodland View. His unit is #219.

Is it Noel? No.

Is it short for something? No could be short for Nole.

Like the animal? No, that’s a Mole.

You sure it’s not Noel? Yes.

There are things that Nole Wilson does like. One is his job. In the thirteen days he’s worked at the Marsh County Department of Motor Vehicles, he has identified only one problem: the nametag requirement.

Nole has long red hair. It’s past his shoulders. He thinks that if he stays at this job long enough, his hair will eventually cover his nametag like a red velvet curtain. Because his hair is red, everyone thinks he must have had a nickname as a kid. Carrot Top and Fire Crotch are the usual guesses. But Nole Wilson was homeschooled, so the only person who could have given him a nickname was his mother. The closest thing to a nickname he’d had came from Rita Reddy. Long ago, the Woodland Library’s children’s librarian called Nole Spitfire. Spitfire, which Nole liked, never stuck because there was no one to stick with it.

Nole’s work at the DMV pleases him for three reasons. The first is that everyone hates the DMV.

How much longer? Have a seat.

The soda machine ate my money! Fill this out.

Is everyone who works here an idiot? Yes.

Is the parking always this bad? It’s ironic.

Nole works as a generalist. He wears many hats. He is not permitted to wear one at work, nor is anyone posing for a government-issued driver’s license. Nole conducts eye exams. He works window #3. He reminds people about organ donation. He is a photographer. If the bathrooms don’t have enough toilet paper, he pages the facilities department and asks them to refill it. This wide range of responsibilities is the second reason Nole likes working at the DMV.

The third reason Nole likes his work at the DMV is that it gives him access to stalk people.

Not many people have the information at their fingertips that I’ve got. When I meet a stranger, I know exactly how tall they are or claim to be. I know if they require corrective lenses. Where they live and their zodiac sign. Knowledge is just one of the perks of working at the DMV.

Another benefit is that there’s an extraordinary level of rigidity here. We’re rule-oriented types. Maybe some would say we’re too set in our ways. That we’re incapable of offering any new ideas on how to better our service level. I’ll tell you what I think. From what I’ve seen over the last thirteen days, the staff at The Department are not lazy. Reliable is what we are.

Here at The Department, as I like to call it, when we say we’re going to close at 4:30 p.m., we close at 4:30 p.m. You either pass your driving test, or you don’t. No smiling in your picture. No frowning, either. Are you giving away your organs if your time comes while you’re behind the wheel, or are you taking everything with you? I love working here. It’s all so refreshingly straightforward.

“Nole? I need you on VP Desk. Claire’s taking a personal,” my boss Edgar Olsen says on day fourteen at The Department.

“Didn’t she just take a day last week?” Taking an unscheduled day off and coming back with a suntan, as Claire did, doesn’t sit right with me.

“She’s allotted two personals a year, and if she wants to take them back-to-back, that’s none of your business.” People dislike the boss. But not me. And I don’t care who knows it either. Edgar Olsen has been more of a role model to me than anyone else ever has. Teachers and ex-girlfriends included.

“Right, boss.”

“Don’t worry, new guy; Peter will be with you.”

The VP Desk is where vanity plates are either issued or denied. Edgar Olsen says the state designed the position to be shared. You need an extra set of eyes on the VP Desk. One of us would surely notice something that the other thought was harmless.

Applicants for vanity license plates can write up to three selections. First, we check to see which ones, if any, are available. Next, we make sure they’re not inappropriate. You’d be surprised.

Called-out Claire infamously overlooked a request for PLS STFU. It should have been refused and sent back with a big red stamp: REJECTED. But Claire missed it. And her backup, who got fired, missed it too. Peter told me the story on my second day here at The Department. Basically, I will hate Claire forever and never forgive her for nearly letting PLS STFU out onto the streets, and I bet Peter agrees with me.

Not every request is nefarious. I’ve been on VP Desk once before. That time, there was a particularly safe ask from a man named Billy Schwartz. OLDCAR and NEWCAR. A way to differentiate his Buicks, I guess. Another was from a baseball mom. She wanted 3STRIKES. Most were that kind of thing. Initials. Sports fans. Animal lovers. Still, cases of wickedness are bound to come cruising through our doors, like an unseen note passed right beneath the teacher’s eyes. There are drivers out there sharing the road with us who are dirtier than The Department’s break room refrigerator.

The day that Claire called out and I took over her responsibilities, a request came in from a woman who claimed to be 5’10” and to be named Leslie Leslie. She had brown eyes. With a name like hers, I thought Leslie Leslie’s vanity wishes might be LESLES or L2 or even LLCOOL.

“Nole, what do you suppose this means?” Peter asked me. “WLYBGR. Probably just initials?” He rubbed his forehead, which looked like a shar-pei’s.

“Applicant’s name is Leslie Leslie.”

“Maybe it’s an inherited car. You know, like from grandma or grandpa. She wants to honor them?”

“Does she have second and third choices?” I asked.

“You’re thinking it’s a sex thing?” Peter had an annoying habit of rubbing his face like he was removing dirt from it. Even so, I thought he was the kind of guy I might invite to a small barbeque someday if absolutely necessary.

I peeked over Peter’s shoulder and read Leslie Leslie’s second choice. And then her third. PTNYMPH and EWCADDS.

“I know what they all mean.” I said, “I know what they stand for.” I spun my trout stud earring round and round in my earlobe, making the sound of waves with my middle finger against my ear. Probably an annoying habit to Peter.

“Sex thing?”

Woolly Bugger, Pheasant Tail Nymph, and Elk Wing Caddis. Leslie Leslie, clearly a world-class fly fisher, wanted to show her love for the sport to the world. With her mysteriously simple name, Leslie Leslie surely could have picked less pedestrian flies to put on the front and back of her Beetle. But she chose ones that others like her—like me—would recognize. I spent the rest of my shift making up reasons not to feel the excitement that I did. Not to look up her pretty photo on the computer. Not to see that she lived in my complex.

The name Leslie Leslie confuses people. Leslie Leslie doesn’t like her name because it’s a conversation piece, and she hates conversation. She lives alone in a one-bedroom garden apartment at the Woodland View. Her unit is #506.

First name? Leslie.

Last name? Leslie.

I need your full name. I just gave it to you.

Wiseass! How so?

There are things that Leslie Leslie does like. One is fishing. Leslie went fly fishing for the first time ten years ago. A gift to herself for a milestone birthday. Someone, she doesn’t even know who anymore, introduced Leslie to their boyfriend: a guide.

Leslie has brown hair and brown eyes and is usually the tallest woman in any room. Because of her height, everyone thinks she must have had a nickname as a kid. Giraffe and Bean Pole are the usual guesses. But Leslie Leslie was so shy that even her height couldn’t make her be seen. The closest thing to a nickname she had came from Rita Reddy. The Woodland Library’s children’s librarian once called Leslie Spitfire. Spitfire, which Leslie liked, never stuck because there was no one to stick with it.

Fly fishing pleases her for three reasons. The first is that she loves a process.

Match the hatch.

Cast the fly.

Two steps downstream.


Two steps downstream.

Cast again.

See the take.

Set the hook.

Battle nature.

Worship nature.


Leslie has a limited repertoire of flies that she can tie. It’s sort of like the way that she cooks. Woolly Bugger. It’s the scrambled eggs of flies. Easy to tie. Her first. There’s a nostalgia there. Pheasant Tail Nymph. Also a classic, but she doesn’t nymph much. It’s the turkey meatloaf. Effective but nothing special. Elk Wing Caddis. The perfect dry, in her opinion. It’s a roast chicken. It takes a little longer to make, but satisfies.

Matt, who owns the fly shop in town, isn’t single, but Leslie wishes he were. He’d once said, anything deer can do, elk can do better. It has felt like an inside joke ever since then when she fishes with one. The flies are the second reason Leslie Leslie likes to fly fish.

The third reason Leslie likes to fly fish is that she thinks she might meet a boyfriend doing it.

Some days absolutely nothing happens, and other days, everything does. Today was an everything day. I called out sick. I wasn’t sick. But it’s a nice day, and Matt said there would be an early hatch going on. If my boss paid better attention, she’d realize that I call out a few times each spring. I hate my boss.

Not-single Matt at the fly shop sold me Hendricksons and a spool of 6x tippet. Everything else I had ready to go. Four-weight Orvis rod—the Helios one. Abel reel with brook trout pattern, another milestone birthday gift to myself.

I brought home from the shop a bunch of female versions of the Hendrickson with dull-brown bodies and legs lighter colored than their brothers and boyfriends. But this morning, I brought the Hendrickson girls down to the river.

It was early, but a couple of cars still beat me there. Two Toyotas were in the parking area. Ones that I see there a lot. Always together. I think they ought to carpool. There was also a Subaru low rider with tinted windows.

My home river isn’t the world’s most beautiful. Not by any stretch. There’s a Taco Bell just beyond one of the best pools. But it’s my home river, and it’s early in the season, and I called out sick from the hospital, and I could already feel my waders squeeze around my legs like a blood pressure machine, and I hadn’t even stepped in the cold water.

The Toyota guys weren’t on the river—not that I could see. The Subaru driver may have gone out for a walk to get stoned. Maybe he wasn’t there to fish at all. Just a guess, not a judgment. I used to bring Lady to the area for hikes on weekends before she died. Once along the bank, she found a dead squirrel and growled at me when I told her to drop it. Lady could be primal like that.

Anyway, the windows on the Subaru were dark, but I could see a little dog in the back seat. He had the kind of eyes that made him appear to be pleading. If it were my Lady inside, I would have rolled down a window or all of them. But this person did not. The dog was sealed in. I decided to mind my business and go to the pools.

I walked to the river, not far from the parking lot, and tied one of Matt’s Hendricksons on with a clinch knot. Something I can do quickly and practice in front of the TV. Then I let her roll. My casts felt light. Empty, but in a good way. Kind of like when you take a bite of a profiterole. I took quiet steps downstream and slowly unzipped my vest’s pockets, looking for all the little things that make a big difference. I shook my Hendrickson in floatant. I’m thinking it’s a nice subtle kind of day on the water, and if I catch a big brown trout, that’s just a bonus.

But as I’ve said, some days nothing happens, and other days everything does. So far, nothing had happened. I didn’t catch any fish. I think I saw a few. I might have felt a few. Or rocks. Or shadows. Or nothing at all. I got on the river early, and by noon, I was thinking more about lunch than trout. Things typically get even slower around that time, especially if they’ve been slow all along. Reel up and take a seat, I thought.

I had a crunchy peanut-butter-and-strawberry-jelly sandwich for lunch on rye bread. I wished it were on something else, but rye is what I had. I also had a bag of Fritos, which, to me, smell like my beloved dog Lady’s paws did.

After the uneventful-but-better-than-being-at-work-day-on-the-river, I headed back to the parking lot. The low-rider Subaru with the tint was the only car left. And would you believe that the little dog was still in the car? He looked a little like if a butterfly and a chihuahua got together. It was not too hot out, but it was a little hot out, and dogs that look like this dog looked seem like the barking type. He was silent. The owner was most definitely off doing something illegal and immoral.

I’m no vigilante. Just like anyone else, I find it hard to sleep when I haven’t lived a day as ethically as I’d like. And so, there was only one thing to do. I tried the driver’s-side door. Open. What could I do next? The pup, like a creature from another realm, his little face pleading with me. He panted a little. Licked my hand a lot. There was no one around, hadn’t been for the hour I spent waiting for the owner to return. So, I picked up the dog by the scruff of his neck like his mother would, in case he was a biter, and removed him from the hot car. Just like that.

Before I left, I took a picture of the Subaru’s license plate. It might be good to know who owned the car, I thought. Maybe they’re dangerous. My cousin is a cop. I wondered if he would run the plates for me. More importantly, I needed to figure out what I had in the fridge that would be appropriate for my new dog, Hendrickson, on our first evening together.

We drove together like we had never not. I carried him home with no leash or collar. Hendrickson is not a biter. Here we are, I said to the pair of giant glasslike eyes when we reached unit #506. Dogs aren’t that different from people. When they get to a new place, they look around, spin a little, and say, Oh, this is nice. We may say, Where’s the bathroom? A dog may just tinkle right there on the floor. Or on an envelope that is lying just inside the entrance. What’s this? I asked Hendrickson.

Greetings Leslie Leslie,

I invite you to a spring barbeque at the Resident Outdoor Lounge. Sunday 1 p.m. Think you’d be able to bring a side dish?

You should know that we won’t be alone. I have also invited my colleague Peter from the Marsh County DMV. If you have a romantic or platonic roommate, feel free to bring them. If you have a pet, I love dogs, bring them. Just a reminder, only small dogs and cats are permitted in our complex.

I believe in honesty, so here is a generous dose. I came across your request for vanity plates. It’s not prohibited to look up who makes such requests. It’s not. If that’s what you’re thinking. When I saw your dedication to fly fishing and that we live in the same complex, I couldn’t let another day go by without an introduction. I, too, love to fish and though I prefer to go alone, would be open to having a companion—occasionally. You know, Leslie Leslie, most days nothing happens, and on other days everything does.

If this is all entirely inappropriate in your view, please do not tell The Department. I’ve only been working there for fourteen days, and I like it. Haven’t you ever done anything kinda-a-little-bit-illegal before that made sense to you?

Think about it, and I hope to see you Sunday. I have red hair. You can’t miss me.


Nole Wilson, aka Spitfire, unit #219

Sarah Holly Bryant lives in Southern Vermont with her husband Steve and their two mischievous dogs, Jacques and Kate Woofington. She has a BA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is pursuing her MFA in writing at Bennington College. Sarah volunteers with the Seeing Eye, Casting for Recovery, and as a mentor to incarcerated women.