Surprised by the high price of replacement windows we began to discuss the sales rep who wrote up the proposal. She'd told us at our appointment that at one time she'd lived down the street from us, at the end of the cul-de-sac, the house with the fancy back gate. What's her name lived there, I said to my wife, the one who used to be in the neighborhood Bunco group. Carol, my wife said, and the rep replied, That's the one. The rep claimed she'd liked living in the area and was giving us a "neighborhood discount." We could also get an extra 5% "quick-buy" discount if we agreed to buy the windows by the end of business the next day and another 4% off if we paid in full when we signed the contract. We told her that it was a lot of money and we'd have to think about it. We all shook hands and exchanged smiles, and she left. She'd been with us an hour and a half and we were tired of talking about windows and wearied by the thought of paying for them. So we agreed to sleep on it.

But as we made dinner my wife said: I knew she looked familiar. I remembered her when she stood up and leaned on her right leg. I used to look out the window and see her stand that way at the school-bus stop, weight on the right leg, right shoulder lower than the left, a paper cup in her hand as she waited with the other parents. Some people at Bunco thought white wine was in the cup and she looked a little drunk, but they didn't know for sure. They didn't like her being around their kids and for that reason didn't ask her to replace Carol.

The next afternoon rolled around and we sat on the couch in our den going over the proposal, trying to make up our minds before the quick-buy deadline. Certain aspects of the deal bothered us. We didn't like it that the proposal didn't itemize the price of each window but only had the total price at the end, and we didn't like being put in the position of paying 5% more if we didn't make up our minds that day. Also, we didn't want to pay in full before the work was done, but we didn't like losing an extra 4% for our prudence. We both said we couldn't see where the price came from and for such a lot of money we needed more information.

She was nice enough, my wife said, but I wonder.

Did she know she was blackballed?

I don't know, and I don't want to be unfair. She's a single mother, as far as I know, trying to make a living.

She could be giving us a higher price to get even.

I was thinking the same thing, my wife said.

You never know with sales people. They smile to your face and then they may get in their cars and curse you up and down.

I still remember seeing her with her paper cup. The group didn't want to even stand close to her because of their kids. She must have noticed it.

She didn't live here that long either.

And she comes in here, says what a nice neighborhood we live in and encourages us to buy their top-of-the-line windows.

Last night I woke up and imagined her sitting in her car, laughing at our gullibility and mocking us. But was the laughter only in my head?

Do you think she looked like a drinker?

Her skin could be a drinker's skin. Does she drink more than we do? It's hard to say. But we wouldn't drink at the school-bus stop.

We'd have no reason to stand there.

No, and you couldn't blame her for wanting to get even. That's just the way people are.

I didn't blackball her. They'd already decided by the time I heard about it.

We should get a proposal from another company.

It's too bad. I think she has three kids.

She's the one who took her paper cup to the bus stop.

What's that got to do with replacement windows?

In a person's mind, I answered, it can all be connected.