Looking for Something
I have one more day of community service to complete and this place will see my ass for the last time. Not that missions are a bad thing when you need them. But when the urine scent from the curb outside seeps in and mixes with the smell of boiling cabbage…need I say more?
I’m sweeping up before the lunch crowd stampedes in. They’re impatiently mooing and pawing at the pavement, eager to graze on today’s pile of tasteless starch and mushy veggie.
One of the guys in front, pressing his nose into the glass door, has an old boom box balanced on his shoulder. As the lunch commander flips the latch, turns the knob, and opens the pasture gate, I hear the classic Eurythmics song, “…everybody is looking for something…”
The herd breaks up, dispersing to their favorite tables. Beneath the screeching of metal chair legs on worn linoleum, a steady rhythm taps. When the dust clears, a woman pauses in the middle of the floor, her cane still clicking out her discontinued steps. Her gaze darts back and forth about the room, searching for something.
She is old. The carrot red of her hair stops a good two inches from her scalp, exposing the real steel gray. A wrinkled, faded, formerly electric blue dress hangs on her skinny body. Bony wrinkled arms protrude from the narrow straps. Gold house shoes peek out from under the hem. Somebody probably wore that dress to their disco prom thirty years ago and I’ll bet the old lady liberated it from the bins at the Goodwill.
Her wandering gaze finally falls on me and she smiles with the biggest, straightest, yellowest set of false teeth I’ve ever seen. Cane thumping, she strolls up to me. I’m paralyzed, gripping my boom handle so hard my knuckles hurt.
She nods at me. “You’re my date.”
You know how you see people in movies who are so dumbstruck that when they open their mouths to speak no sound comes out? Well, that was me.
“A little under-dressed for the prom, aren’t you?” Her voice is kinda low and throaty. Her teeth click like her cane.
“Ah.” That’s all I get out.
“Hold your head up.” She looks me up and down. “You’re a little on the scrawny side, but you have pretty eyes. You’ll do.”
“Nice dress.” Did I say that? I must have because she smiles, dreamily, into my pretty eyes.
“Thank you. I got it special for the dance.” She tries a twirl, but her cane twists in the long dress.
I catch her before she falls and steady her back on her feet. “Okay?”
“You do a graceful dip. That last song will be better to dance to.” She winks at the boom box guy and he restarts “Sweet Dreams.”
Somebody hands me a ragged sport coat. I slip it on grateful for no smell, hoping for no bugs.
I don’t know why I do it, but I take her gnarled fingers in my right hand, slide my left arm about what I guess is her waist, and pray I remember how.
Annie Lennox sings “…who am I to disagree…” And we dance.
Copyright 2010 R. L. Kelstrom
To see other stories in the Sweet Dreams challenge go to http://pattinase.blogspot.com
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