Clarke County. I am finally home after a long, long evening. The sputtering gasps of Spring’s premature arrival are interrupted by a dreary mist. Everything’s grayscale. Think: London with a twang… in crocs… and canvas grocery bags.
Earlier today, I foolishly answered the phone (what on earth was I thinking!) and received an offer that I could not refuse. I became the unwitting victim of a southern belle’s cajoling, playing on my dreams and fears, low-blows and the promise of a free meal. I agreed to join my sister-in-law, Kammie, for supper followed by a girls-night-out of salsa dancing. Family can be that way sometimes.
To lend moral support, Chance was to join me for the suppery part, however at the last minute he received a request to teach an emergency pottery class. Terra cotta comes first, and so I went stag.
Back Porch Music
On the back porch, after our “traditional Mexican supper” of chimichangas and mojitos, I enjoyed the relief of a little quiet time with my dear big brother, Elwood. He tuned his guitar as we rocked in our chairs. I could feel the Earth rotate, perhaps from one too many mojitos.
My thoughts turned, as always, to work and the colossal debacle of our state’s budget that had left my department without two pennies to rub together. It was as if we were treading water in the Titanic’s Jacuzzi, but I’ll save that part for another time.
“You know,” I said, “I remember when I used to get two or three phone calls a day from cloying AV reps beggin’ me to buy their stuff. Where are they now? Do we give off some kind of scent? Eau-de-austerity. I never thought I would miss hanging up on people, but I really do.”
A three-quarter doe and her brand-new fawn stood within spitting distance, browsing through the carrot and celery scraps Kammie tossed from the kitchen window. We were close enough to count Bambi’s spots, but Beauregard the wonder-dog only lay beside my rocker eyeing them with watery brown eyes accompanied by the occasional moan. A full day of squirrel-chasing left him with hardly the energy to lift his big ol’ head so he contented himself with eyeing the deer to the soundtrack of the big-dog fumbling through the opening chords of Sweet-home Alabama on his beat-up flat-top.
“Mmmrrrr…” grumbled Beauregard.
Big wheels keep a-turnin’
Kammie emerged with freshly curled hair and white cowgirl boots connected to blue-jean short-shorts by way of a good pair of legs, tanned and pilates-ized. Tanned in March?? Seriously?
“I like to go Tex-Mex,” Kammie explained between gum-pops to my inquiry as to whether we were going salsa-dancing or to a Big & Rich video shoot.
“Baby, you sure you don’t wanna come with me to my dance class tonight?” she chirped at Elwood, and flicked her mop of curls across her shoulder as she bent over and nuzzled his neck.
“Naw, these two left feet’ll only cramp your style, Darlin’.”
“I just don’t want you gettin’ all jealous,” she said adjusting the tension of the knot she’d fashioned with the bottom half of her red checkerboard blouse. For a moment I imagined I was seated at a table in an Italian restaurant where the waiter had absentmindedly spread a tablecloth over a brace of Valencia oranges.
“You know I am a very good dancer,” she teased, giving her shirttails one final tug. “All the fellas wanna dance with me.”
“I want you to go on and have yourself a good time, Puddin’, just try to save a little sumpin-sumpin’ for your old man when you get home, y’hear?”
“Ooh, my big ol’ grumpy bear,” she cooed, and wrapped her boney arms around his neck before turning her attention to me.
“I just need a sec to check my lip gloss and then I’m goin’ dancin’ with my Big Sis!” She planted a wet kiss square on my mouth leaving a minty trace of mojito with a Chicklets finish.
And then she vanished.
The tensile strength of a sheer cotton tablecloth, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet been measured. I was hopeful, nonetheless, that the ensuing gyrations of the evening would not exert sufficient force to result in, well, a wardrobe malfunction. And what’s with that whole “Big Sis” thing?
I glanced down at Beauregard who’d watched the whole thing out of the corner of his eye appearing to comprehend more than he let on.
I resigned myself to the fact that I was going out dancing tonight with a girl to whom I had to explain that Paul McCartney had actually been in another band before Wings. I knew that, in a couple hours I’d have my life back once I dropped her off back here smelling of Axe and the kind of flop-sweat found only on males who are slow to realize they haven’t got a chance.
“Maybe you just miss all the attention,” Elwood said finally, returning to our previous topic.
“Excuse me,” I said, as my head uncontrollably swayed side-to-side.
“I’m just sayin’ that maybe you kinda got used to all the attention you used to get from those vendors,” said Elwood, “when they thought y’all were sittin’ around lighting your cigars with hundred-dollar bills. They made you feel…”
“…special,” I said.
“They come a-courtin’ and tell you how they’ve heard so much about the great things you do,” he continued, “how you’re so smart.”
“Each promising that we’d be best friends forever,” I added.
“All those compliments and courtin’… couldn’t possibly been on account of you workin’ for a well-endowed institution?” he asked.
“Could it?” I said, “You think?”
“And here you’d convinced yourself it was all on account of you bein’ such a good dancer.”
||by Anita Vidwell|