The Long Sweet Slide: Free Fiction

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long sweet slide - cover

 

Big John Nelson squinted in the Los Angeles sun. Even behind his dark, heavy rimmed sunglasses, the light bouncing off the concrete was almost blinding.

He stood under the burgundy and rust striped awning, in front of the field-stone-set-on-whitewashed-concrete front of the restaurant and sipped a bottle of Mexican Coke.

The taste of real sugar and cola washed down the tacos al pastor that had made up his lunch.

Sticking a Camel between his lips, John flicked open his pinup girl lighter. Yeah. He was one of the few Angelenos left who still smoked.

And one of the only ones who still wore bowling shirts and creepers with his jeans, and had slicked back black hair with a slight pompadour lift in front. John’s sideburns were square cut and sharp against the incipient jowls softening his jawline.

The tattoos mottling his white arms were all old fashioned flash. A panther head wreathed in roses. The good old snake and dagger. A red haired girl jackknifed in a martini glass. “Love Conquers All” in a red ribbon near his wrist.

John still hoped that one was true, though some days it felt like time was running out.

The smog was thick today, coating his skin with a stinging sheen of dirt and sweat. It hovered in the sky, a haze of brown that blocked his view of the mountain that should have loomed, just a few miles away. Los Angeles didn’t want anything looming but freeways, cars, and the industry of entertaining people. It blocked everything else out.

The focus in LA was on the ground, concrete and tarmac, or in the cool, hushed, air conditioned spaces that ran the town.

John was a gaffer. One of the people whose sweat made the air conditioned decisions a reality.

He made sure the Klieg lights and cameras had continuous electricity, whether in an L.A. studio, or on the streets of Vancouver, or out turning the Mojave into whatever foreign country they were supposed to be filming in that week.

Not this week, though. He was between jobs without enough time to get anywhere interesting. So John was kicking around L.A. He’d driven his orange ’59 Chevy from his Silverlake apartment to his favorite lunch place in Boyle Heights –El Tepeyac.

Next stop was Melrose for some thrifting. He would’ve eaten lunch down there, but Melrose, like everywhere, was changing. There were fake-ass Mexican restaurants down there now.

John shook his head. Fake-ass Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles California. Practically on the border, and white people still wanted sanitized, fake food. Go figure.

Flicking his cigarette to the concrete, he ground out the glowing butt with the toe of his creeper, before picking it up carefully and placing it in a baggie he kept in his front pocket. There wasn’t always a trash can around, and the one rule John kept for himself was to leave a place at least as good as when you arrived.

Even the sidewalks of L.A.

 

***

 

The heavy glass door opened onto a wonderland.

James Brown wailed from the jukebox stuffed in the corner behind a long glass counter, half hidden by a rotating rack of vintage glasses. The place was huge, the size of two of John’s apartments, it felt like. Expensive coats, jackets, and dresses hung high on the walls. Stiff faced mannequins modeled the latest fashions from 1940 to 1963.

“Hey, Kevin!” John greeted the portly black man thumbing through the L.A. Weekly behind the crowded counter. He was dressed just like John, but in different colors. Where John’s bowling shirt was solid black today, with some red trim around the pocket, yoke, and collar, Kevin’s was goldenrod with white piping.

As the man came from around the glass front counter to shake John’s hand, John could see that Kevin’s kicks were black and white suede Demonia creepers, with black leather stitching. Boss.

A long chain connected the wallet in Kevin’s back pocket with the keychain in the front. He smelled like Old Spice.

“John, my man! No work today?”

“Off for the whole week.”

John looked around the shop. Racks of vintage bowling shirts, Hawaiian shirts, classic 1950s back vent jackets. Hat racks filled with straw trilbies, felt pork pies, and fedoras.

The women’s section was on the other side, filled with racks of poofy dresses and skirt suits with padded shoulders and nipped in waists. A couple of tattooed girls, one white, one Latina, were going through the racks, holding up dresses for approval or dismissal.

“Good on you, man. You joining us at Viva next month?”

Viva. Viva Las Vegas. The rockabilly Lollapalooza. Hundreds of rockabilly holdouts gathered to listen to music ranging from Big Band to New Jack Swing, show off their cars, sun their tattoos and curves in cherry red, vintage high-waist swimsuits, and mostly, for people like John, to dance their favorite dances. The lindy. The jitterbug. The bop.

“I’m gonna try to make it. Booked a room and all. But if I get a big job, I gotta take it, man.”

“I feel you,” Kevin nodded. “If I wasn’t vending, I couldn’t afford to go myself.”

As a hobby, loving the 1950s wasn’t as weird as some, but it cost. And it could be a little strange and lonely, now that the official rockabilly revival was over. There were smaller and smaller pockets of dedicated fans. The Goth crossovers. The gearheads.

“Got to make the cash. I’m just gonna look around today.”

“Help yourself, man.”

John flicked through a rack of soft, plaid flannel shirts with snap pockets. The hangers clicked as he made his way from the yellows and oranges, to the reds, to the blues and greens. Nah.

A new bowling shirt? Maybe. There was a pretty cool one, actually new, made-to-look-vintage. It was another black with red piping, but had big white dice with red dots on the back and printed on the breast pocket. He grabbed it.

Then he turned to look at the shoes. Like the clothes, Kevin carried some real vintage and some new classics. Like Doc Martens and Demonia. John usually shopped from those. But today? Something drew him to the old shoes for some reason. They usually didn’t fit him right. His feet were kind of wide.

James Brown had segued into the amazing Ruth Brown. No relation. She had a swinging voice and a swinging band. Ruth was singing about this man treating your daughter mean. It was one of John’s favorite dance songs.

Sometimes customers would complain to Kevin that the jukebox didn’t have their favorite bands. It usually took folks a few visits to figure out the jukebox only held black bands.

“Black people invented this shit, man. You think rock n’ roll’s a white thing? Get out of my store with that.”

God help the casual tourist to Melrose who wandered in, asking about the Stray Cats. That never went well at all.

“Later, Kevin!” John heard one of the girls call out, as the shop door opened and closed.

Then John saw them. Burgundy crocodile dress shoes. The kind John could never afford new. He picked them up. The black soles were smooth leather, perfect for dancing. There was only one long scratch down the middle, like someone had gone into a long, sweet slide, scraping a line of leather on a wood dance floor somewhere.

Otherwise the shoes were perfect. They looked new. The heels weren’t worn down at all. And yep. They were John’s size. 10 B.

“Hey Kevin!”

“Yeah man?”

John walked toward the counter, holding the shoes in one hand, shirt in the other.

“I don’t see a price on these shoes.”

“That’s strange. Tag must’ve fallen off. Let me see.” Kevin motioned him closer.

Then he whistled. “Oh, yeah. Those shoes. I’m surprised they didn’t sell a long time ago. Got them from this old Black dude. He was sharp man. Had to be 80 if he was a day. Still all tricked out though. His granddaughter, who was fine, by the way, brought him in with stacks of stuff.”

John felt a flash of annoyance.

“Yeah, but, how much are the shoes?”

Kevin shot him a look. “Hold your horses, man. Let me see them.”

John reluctantly put them on the counter, then realized where his fingers had been gripping the shoe backs, he was sweating.

Kevin turned them over in his hands. “These are worth a hundred bucks, man. They’re rare. Practically brand new.”

John nodded and set the shirt down on the counter. Ready to reach for his wallet.

“But for you, man? I’ll give them up for fifty.”

John fumbled for his wallet. There was a crisp fifty-dollar bill tucked underneath a small stack of twenties. His stay-cation money.

“Here,” he handed out the bill.

“Don’t you want the shirt, man? Plus, there’s tax.”

“Right. Sure. I’ll take them both.”

Kevin gave him another look.

“Let me ring this up for you, man.”

Etta James started in, crooning “At Last.” John mouthed the words along with Etta, as he watched Kevin ring up the shirt and shoes, and slip them into a white paper sack, “Vintage Soul” printed on the side.

John handed Kevin the fifty and two twenties and grabbed the rustling sack, heavy with the shoes.

“Hey man, here’s your change.”

“Oh yeah. Uh. Thanks, man. See you around.”

Etta crooned behind John as the glass door shushed itself closed.

He was blinking in the Los Angeles sun once more.

 

 

***

 

As soon as John rumbled his Chevy home, as soon as he unlocked the door to his upstairs Silverlake apartment, he sat on the blue woven cushions of his vintage Danish modern sofa, under two framed vintage sci-fi movie posters –Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Man from Planet X– and set the white sack on the teak coffee table.

Shoving aside the bowling shirt, he felt the hard leather of the shoes, and dragged them, rustling, out of the bag.

Light slanted through his open green curtains, slicing across the bare, gold oak floors, climbing up the coffee table, and hit the shoes. The yellow light caressed the leather, highlighting the raised spaces before dipping down into the darker seams where the nubbled skin formed itself into rough squares in a repeating pattern.

John ran his fingers over the bumpy burgundy crocodile skin. The shoes were the best find he’d ever made, in all his years of thrifting. He’d never seen anything this good.

He set them gingerly onto the coffee table and took off his creepers.

His socks were too thick for the crocodile shoes, so he stripped them off.

Not bothering to go to his bedroom to get some thinner socks, he slipped the shoes directly on his feet, cool leather sliding smoothly on. John bent to tighten the waxed laces, then wiggled his toes. The shoes fit perfectly. That old man must have been exactly his size.

Ruth Brown was already set up on his turntable on the teak shelves across the room. He dropped the needle onto “Oh What a Dream,” and began to dance.

He swayed a little at first, to get a feel for the shoes. Then a little shuffle. A rock. A step-ball-change. Side step. Front step. Swing around. Twirl the girl. Reel her in again.

The shoes felt amazing. Smooth. Supple. Like they’d been made for him.

Like they’d been made to dance. Their own purpose in life was to carry a dancer smooth across the floor.

John’s movements grew looser. He forgot about swinging the imaginary woman, and just danced for the floor, the shoes, for Ruth Brown’s voice filling his apartment.

And for himself.

John’s limbs swung out and retracted. His hips rotated like they’d never felt a stiff moment in their lives. His feet shuffled, stomped, and swept across the floor.

And then went into a long, sweet slide.

 

***

 

The band was hot. Full section of brass. Trumpet. Saxaphone. Trombone. Kit drums, with a woman on the traps, and wasn’t that a surprise. Bass guitar. Lead guitar. Honky Tonk piano. And a black man with high pompadour, tight black slacks, red, vent back jacket buttoned at the waist over a crisp black shirt.

The club was jammed. Tiny tables hugged the walls, crowded with couples, foursomes, and groups of friends piled around, squeezing chairs in whether they really fit or not.

But the dance floor. Oh, the dance floor.

John’s heart thumped in his chest.

One hundred square feet of heaven. Women’s skirts a swirl of taffeta and heavy cotton in blue, green, orange, red, and gold. Crinolines flashed light, contrasting colors, as the skirts snapped up, then fell again as they crushed against the men’s sharp creased trousers.

Most of the faces in the room were black, with a few white faces sprinkled through, mostly in the crushes of the tables. Watching. Listening. Laughing. Drinking bourbon and soda. Clear gin. Amber bottles of beer.

The scent of sweat, pomade and liquor.

John’s eyes grew hot with tears. He took in a shuddering breath.

“Am I even here?” he whispered.

A man shoved past him, apologizing. “Sorry cat, but you’re kind of in the way.”

The man had red-brown skin. Sharkskin suit shimmering between blue and grey under the nightclub lights.

“Sorry.” John looked around for a place to stand.

Turns out he was really here after all. Wherever here was.

Seeing a slice of black fabric-covered wall open to his left, John squeezed his way there, making a pathway with his left shoulder.

Easing himself up against the wall, his eyes scanned the shimmying, swinging, sweating, dancers before turning to the band.

In the burgundy crocodile shoes, his right foot tapped out the rhythm of the drums. The drummer’s sticks rose and fell, crashing on the cymbal, punching on the tom toms, and rolling on the snare. Her feet thumped on the pedal to the big bass drum as the horns rose and fell in skirling unison.

The singer wailed, some unfamiliar song about the danger of being caught out walking before dawn.

John’s left foot began a little sideways slide, moving with the grace notes from the lead guitar.

He leaned forward, seeking out the dancers once again. They moved like one thousand insects around a porch light in summer. Each moved on its own, but together, they became a single film of movement.

Then he saw her. A redheaded white woman in a blindingly white dress. She was drenched in sweat, and the bright red of her lips were open in a wide, tooth baring smile. Her red hair drooped from whatever shape it had started the evening with, flinging itself outward before twining back around her face.

He’d never seen a woman dance like that, so hard, so full on, so completely, that she drenched herself with sweat. The women he danced with were good, and might get a little glow, but not like this.

She was giving it her all.

The woman danced with a skinny black man who was seriously the best dancer John had ever seen. He all of a sudden wished the other dancers would move out of the way so John could study the man’s feet.

The woman though. She was…the one he had been hoping existed.

He had to dance with her.

John had been brought to this place to dance with her.

He pushed up off the wall, knocking into a man he hadn’t even seen.

“Hey, cat! You in my way again?”

It was sharkskin suit. Oh great. Just great.

“Are you seriously trying to mess with me?” Sharkskin shouted over the rising trumpet line and the drums, leaning toward John’s ear. “I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, man. But a strange white boy in here, bumping me twice?”

John felt paralyzed. He had no idea what was going to happen. And there was no way he was going to remind the man that John hadn’t crashed into him, first time. It was the other way around.

“I’m sorry. I really didn’t see you.” John said. “Um…can I buy you a drink?”

The man’s face relaxed into an easy grin. He smacked John on the shoulder.

“Alright, cat. We cool. Order me a bourbon and water, and a highball for my lady. Then come sit at our table. We got room.”

John almost sagged with relief, but just nodded and headed toward the long, mahogany bar.

“Where the hell am I?” he whispered to himself.

He ordered a bourbon and water for himself, too, and grabbed his wallet, grateful he still had two more twenties left tucked into the leather. Luckily, drinks in whatever time or place he was in were cheap.

Stabilizing the three glasses against each other, he “excused” himself back to one of the tiny tables near the wall, where Sharkskin sat with a beautiful, dark skinned woman, with a face round like the moon, full red lips set under eyes so dark they looked almost black. She wore a turquoise shift dress that complimented Sharkskin’s suit. A silver and blue stone necklace hugged her collarbones.

Sharkskin saw John and waved him over.

“Have a seat,” he said, pulling out one of the black padded chairs out from the tiny round glass-topped wood table.

“My name’s Earl,” Sharkskin said. “And this is my lady, Angelique.”

John set the drinks down and wiped his right hand on his jeans before holding it out. “My name’s John. It’s good to meet you both.”

Angelique smiled, and looked John up and down.

“You just get off work?” she asked, in a low contralto.

“Um…yeah. I did. I was heading home and saw this place had music. So I decided to come in.”

“Pretty nice shoes to wear to work,” Sharkskin –Earl– said.

Shit. How was John going to get through this conversation?

“I just bought them today. Couldn’t wait to try them out.” John said.

Earl took a sip of his bourbon and water. John thought that looked like a good idea.

The bourbon was actually good. Just a little hint of toast. A lot of caramel to it.

“It’s funny,” Earl said. “My old friend Leroy had a pair of shoes just like those.”

“What happened to them?” John asked.

Earl glanced up toward the ceiling, a thoughtful look on his face. Then he lowered his eyes to look at John.

“You know, I don’t know what became of those shoes. My friend Leroy only wore them once, I know of. Right here. Then he up and moved to California. Got some job in the shipyards down near Los Angeles, is what he said.”

Ice crawled down John’s back and heat rose from his feet. He cleared his throat and took another drink.

“Did you stay in touch?” John asked.

“For a little bit, but you know how things go,” said Earl. “A grown man gets on with life.”

He set his drink down on the table and pushed his chair back.

“Want to dance, babygirl?”

“With you?” Angelique asked. “Always.”

John sipped at his drink some more, and watched Earl and Angelique make their way to the floor.

The redhead wasn’t out there anymore. He looked across the room. There she was, coming from behind a thick velvet curtain, heading toward him?

No. She was heading toward…a table near him. Alone. She must have been in the Ladies Room because her face was blotted and her hair was a little less damp. Fresh red lipstick, too.

John froze in confusion for a moment. He was in who knows where and frankly, who knows when. These weren’t a bunch of rockabilly fans, these were real, actual rock and roll, blues, big band, whatever people. These were jitterbuggers and swing dancers, for real.

He shouldn’t be talking to anyone until he figured himself out.

But that redhead was the woman he’d been waiting for his whole life. John just knew it.

But he wasn’t dressed right for this place. And he certainly wasn’t dressed right for a woman like her.

But he did have the shoes. The burgundy crocodile shoes that must be some sort of magic, to have brought him here.

Maybe the shoes brought him here to meet her? What then? Shouldn’t he meet her?

Downing the rest of his bourbon and water, John suddenly found himself on his feet, walking toward her table.

Her shoulders were almost as white as her dress. An orange spray of freckles wrapped around her shoulders to her chest. She looked up at him and John saw that her eyes were crystalline blue. Blue like the waters of Los Angeles never were. Blue like some tropical island sea kind of blue. A tiny smile played around the edges of her lips.

“Excuse me miss,” John said. “Would you care to dance?”

“Shouldn’t you introduce yourself, first?” she asked.

John hoped he wasn’t blushing. What an idiot.

“I suppose you’re right about that.” He fought down the urge to run a hand across his face. “My name is John.”

She smiled big at that, for some reason.

“Well John, you’re a very big boy and I’m very glad to meet you. My name is Lily Marsh.” She held out one white hand. He took it in his own.

“And I’d be delighted to dance.”

He pulled her up and led her to the floor.

The piano started pounding as the band swung into “Please Don’t Leave Me,” by Fats Domino. John led Lily onto the floor. The white dress floated around her legs. He saw now that she had on red, t-strap shoes, and that the dress itself had a spray of red roses at the waist. The top came to a softly gathered vee, framing her freckled white skin, unadorned by any jewelry.

John started easy, letting his feet and hers find the rhythm. Letting their bodies get used to taking up space together. He carved them both a place on dance floor, among the other couples. L’heur Bleu met Old Spice, met Chanel No 5, met sweat and bourbon and cigarettes.

One hand on her waist, the other in her hand, John did a shuffle step, pressing their chests close to one another, before angling his shoulders back again. She matched him, skirt swirling and swaying, that small smile back along her lips.

Lily Marsh was magnificent. And if John didn’t know better, he would say he was already in love.

They sped up with the music, one small misstep, when John moved left and Lily shifted left at the same time, instead of right. But then they were in synch again. Her smile grew wider. John knew that his did, too.

The trumpet and bass washed through his chest and the drums lit up his feet. The other dancers, the stage lights, it all became a wash of color, movement, and sound.

John stayed with Lily and the rhythm. His feet couldn’t let go of the drumbeat slamming through the floor. Here it was. The moment. The moment was coming. Here it was. Almost there. Here it was. His hands were smooth on her back and in her hand and in the air. His eyes never left her gorgeous face.

John went into a long, sweet slide.

 

***

He came to onto the wooden floor of his Los Angeles apartment. The shaft of sun was gone. The strange light of a Los Angeles sunset cast half the room in blue gray, bathing the spaces near the windows in salmon.

“No.” John said. “No.”

His legs were splayed, half under the coffee table, half in the middle of the living room floor. He smelled like bourbon.

But he didn’t keep bourbon in the apartment. He never drank at home, not after a bad patch when his last girlfriend, Kelly, broke up with him. He’d stumbled through a month, sober enough to work, but not much else. Kevin and a couple of guys from work finally came by and poured it all down the drain.

He thought Kelly had broken his heart. And maybe she had. But that felt nothing like the wrenching, burning sensation setting his breastbone on fire right now.

John crawled himself up into a sitting position. And looked down at the shoes. His perfect shoes. The burgundy crocodile still looked pristine. But he could see, on the left sole, there were two black marks now. Straight down the smooth leather, from the toe to the arch.

“The long, sweet slide,” he said.

 

***

 

John laced up those shoes and danced, every single day.

He tried all the records in his collection, until they lay in stacks on the coffee table, the couch, and heading toward the hallway. The only space in the living room that was clear was the space he needed as his dance floor.

He kept going back to Ruth Brown. Nothing. He went out to every vinyl store in Los Angeles, until he finally found a copy of “Please Don’t Leave Me.” He tried dancing to that, too. Fats Domino did nothing to the shoes.

Finally, his new job started, an easy gig in Hollywood. He was busy twelve hours a day, and knew that fourteen hour days were coming up. No Viva Las Vegas. No time for dancing in the living room.

He only even had time for a quick beer with a couple of guys from work once or twice.

But he made time to polish the shoes. He rubbed beeswax into the crocodile leather with his fingers, and then buffed it off with a ripped up old T-shirt until they shone. He set them out on the teak coffee table, once he put the stacks of records away. They became a talisman. John touched them every morning when he stumbled out the door, and every night when he came back in, before collapsing into bed.

The redheaded woman haunted his break time, when he shoved down sandwiches at craft services. Sometimes, when he was focusing the lights, he thought he saw a glint of a white dress.

Finally, the job was done. He slept through the night until noon. Took a long shower, got dressed. Then he took himself out for a giant plate of chilaquiles and stopped in to see Kevin.

“Hey, Big John! My man! You’re back.” Kevin grinned as soon as John walked through the heavy glass door of Vintage Soul.

Chuck Berry was on the juke box. No one else was in the store.

“Yeah,” John grinned back. “Job’s over. Got another lined up in a week or so.”

“How’re those shoes working out? I expected to see you out in those.”

John leaned on the glass front counter. Crossed one foot over the other. He was back in his ordinary creepers again. The crocodile shoes remained on their teak coffee table shrine.

“Yeah. Haven’t had time to go out. You know how it is. But I wanted to ask you something.”

Kevin gave a nod. “Sure man. I’ve just got to keep going through the stock, here. You mind?”

“Not at all.”

Kevin picked up the tagging gun again, and started tagging clothes. The tagger shot a little piece of plastic, one end through the paper tag, and the other through the sleeve of the shirt or jacket. Kevin would hand write the prices on later, John guessed.

“So, those shoes…any chance the old guy is still around?”

Kevin kept pricing, shoving the long tagging needle through the cloth. Snap! Snap! Tagged. Then he picked up another shirt. Snap! Snap. Tagged.

“I don’t know, man. This was awhile ago. And the dude was pretty old.”

John looked around the store, not really taking in the leather jackets, the plaid shirts, the crinolines and hats. He’d seen them all a million times.

“Any chance you kept his granddaughter’s info?”

Kevin stopped tagging.

“Big John, what’s this about?”

“I can’t tell you.”

Putting the plastic tagging gun down on the counter, Kevin just looked at John’s face for a moment. Not saying anything.

“Yes you can. Buy me a beer. I’m closing shop.”

 

***

One beer led to three, which led to dinner, which was good, because no way John was driving before soaking up some of the alcohol. Then Kevin was convincing John that what they needed to do was get dressed up and go out dancing.

There just happened to be a swing band playing in Gardena. John didn’t want to go that far, but Kevin had insisted.

“Don’t you see, man? The key is that every time you got that long, sweet slide going, you were lost in the groove. You can’t do that if you’re trying so hard. You need to get out of yourself, man.”

“Don’t you think I’m crazy?”

Kevin slugged his shoulder. “Well, of course, man. But I also know that sometimes there’s shit we can’t explain. I just roll with it.”

“Roll with it, huh?”

And so John laced on his burgundy crocodile shoes, put on a black suit and a white shirt, with a burgundy silk pocket square, and here they were, in a dance hall in Gardena. The Hep Cats were on stage. A bunch of white guys getting ready to play.

“I don’t know, Kevin. Every single time this thing happened, it’s been to Black music. You really think a bunch of white guys are gonna bring on the slide?”

“Only one way to find out. Besides, we’re not gonna find any Black swing bands in L.A. anymore. You white folks took all that shit over. Once you steal stuff, most of us have the good sense to move on.”

“Except you,” John said.

Kevin just shrugged. “It’s a living.”

Most of the dancers here were white. In the sea of pale flesh, the few tattooed, cigarette-cuffed-jeaned black men, some black women in full skirted party dresses, and a handful of Mexicans, with the women in tight capris and winged eyeliner, folded scarves holding back their black hair stood out.

“I don’t think this is going to work,” John said. This place was nothing like the club in wherever-whenever-it-was. But the music was pretty good, he had to admit it.

So he danced. He danced with woman after woman. Short, tall, skinny, curvy, in jeans and dresses. It didn’t matter. He danced with Black girls and white girls. He drank another beer, and mopped the sweat off his face.

Big John danced some more.

It was almost closing. The singer stepped back from the mic and the piano started thumping out Ray Charles. “What’d I Say.” They were going to do it without vocals.

John asked a woman to dance. She was blond, big, sexy. Laughing, she pulled him onto the floor, green skirt swinging out as she twirled. John was half drunk, half exhausted. He thought, maybe life won’t be so bad, here in his burgundy shoes, out with his friend Kevin, dancing with a sexy woman to the music that he loved.

Worry uncoiled itself from his belly. He softened. Smiled.

Then he went into the long, sweet slide.

 

***

In the crush of the nightclub, there was a bourbon and water in his hand. The burgundy pocket square was still tucked firmly in his breast pocket. And the crocodile shoes were on his feet.

Across the table was a redheaded woman, with a spray of freckles across the pale skin of her chest. Her dress was white. With a roses at the waist. They matched the red lipstick on her mouth.

Lily Marsh.

“Did you go home and change, or something?” she asked.

He took a sip of bourbon. Caramel and toast. It slid down, warming his belly.

“I couldn’t keep dancing with someone as beautiful as you are, wearing a pair of jeans,” he said.

“Well, you cleaned up nicely.”

John put his bourbon and water down on the glass topped wooden table. Pushed back his chair and stood, holding out his right hand.

“Lily Marsh, may I have this dance?”

 

##

 

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