Monday, July 23, 2012

A Trial Run

I wrote a short story and decided to test the market with all of you.  I normally wouldn't (and haven't) run any fiction here and even if this proves to be readable, would only run one maybe every six months.  This column is meant to educate, inform or amuse.  Is the very occasional short fiction a good idea?  A bad idea?  What?! (in my best New York accent.)

Lou and Bernie

We've seen this couple for years at the jazz club.  I initially noticed her clothes because they were very often out on the dance floor.  She often wears little flared culottes and she also has a great-looking black dress with scarlet buttons from neckline to hemline.  It reminds me (vaguely) of a Catholic bishop's robe.

He wears a dress shirt, tucked into belted khakis and well-polished loafers, a very preppy look that suits him.  He dances very '50s cool, sliding his feet instead of stepping out briskly.  Very smooth-looking.

She is an energetic little thing who clearly loves to dance.  He always seems happy to accomodate, but I've never seen him formally ask her to dance.  An exchanged glance; up and off they would go.  One minute they're sitting; the next glissading across the floor.  Some 60 years of marriage gives a couple intuition. 

As the years have passed, so has his energy.  When once he stepped lightly and confidently, now she struggles to get him up from his chair.  Once up, he is able to shuffle onto the dance floor and "dance" by shifting his weight from side to side while she twirls and cavorts. 

His physical bounce has steadily declined.  At the last meeting, we happened to be at the same table and I saw her grasp his left arm tightly, just above the elbow, and pull upward while his right-hand fingers scrabbled for purchase on the table top. 

She was smiling away, but he was expressionless.  He has the frozen face of someone with Parkinson's disease.  His expression rarely changes from a thousand yard stare to the faint tracings of a smile.  He used to grin while dancing with her...

They danced two dances and returned to the table.  Later Lou again began to haul him up for the dance floor, but Richie quickly stepped in and helped him instead.  Off they went, he shuffling; her prancing.

The afternoon passed, the raffle was called and the musicians settled into their usual closing jam session.  Lou had danced several times with other men - with never a word of warning to Bernie.  She was there and then she was gone, whirling enthusiastically across the dance floor.  His expression never changed.

Now, Lou looked around at the dwindling audience and handed Bernie his came.  Before she could do it, I stepped forard, bent my right elbow and extended my forearm for him to use as a stair rail.  He used it to pull himself to his feet.

She handed him the cane and I took a tight grip on her upper arm and said, "It's a good way to let someone help themselves - just give them something to hang onto rather than hanging on to them..." and she thanked me profusely - she hadn't thought of that!  And they left.

Yes, grasping her arm was an evil act, but I couldn't bear to think of him always being pulled from pillar to post, so to speak. 

Normally, I'm not an emotional person, but every time she hauled him up and off to the dance floor, tears spurted into my eyes and I had to blow my nose.  Bernie is 86, Lou is 84.  I thought it was imensely touching that Lou's man, who had once been young and strong, was now old and ill, still gallantly doing his best to make her happy. 

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