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Another Story


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When we are one, I'm not afraid
—Eddie Jefferson
Spencer said, "This is going to make you very angry, but you need to go the bathroom right now and smile into the mirror. Just remember I'm doing this because I love you very much. Don't talk to or look at anybody until you do that."

They stood facing each other, Spencer and Diane, very close together, in the sprawling kitchen of her parent's ranch house overlooking the choppy rain and wind-swept waters of Lake Martin. Across the white porcelain counter from the kitchen, the living room buzzed quietly with the crackling fireplace competing with the Magnavox stereo for the attention of a dozen or so dancing couples, LSU students, adventurous classmates who had happily braved the thunderstorm to drive over in boisterous groups from Baton Rouge to Diane's place in Breaux Bridge to celebrate in style.

Spencer had been at the sink cracking ice cubes over a lowball glass with the back of a teaspoon, getting it ready for a double Maker's Mark, when Diane, for no reason at all except for maybe just an unexpected burst of joy, flew into the kitchen, ran over and threw her arms around him from behind. He had turned around to embrace her, looking into those smoke-colored eyes.

Now she stepped back from him, alarmed, and opened her mouth to ask what he was talking about, but he held his hand up to stop her and said, "Just go. Go now."

In the bathroom she stood before the full-length mirror and saw the small dark green chunk of spinach between her two front teeth, otherwise white and healthy. She stifled a scream, then with her tongue forced air between those culpable incisors to free the offending aberration. She watched aghast as the piece of spinach dip detritus flew out of her mouth and stuck a perfect landing on the reflected décolletage of her white cocktail dress.

She collapsed onto the toilet seat, mortified, hurt, tears welling, temper lost, furiously angry with Spencer. Several minutes went by before she was able to compose herself, wipe off the mirror and fix her eyeliner. She opened the door, walked down the long hallway to her bedroom and through a sliding glass door onto a small open patio and an expanse of lawn sloping down to the lake. She walked down the stone path leading to their rowboat dock, careful not to step off the flagstones and sink her heels into the soft turf. The rain had stopped by then, but she could still see the lightning, jagged streaks across the storm clouds far across the lake. She stood shivering, arms crossed, at the foot of the dock. After a few minutes thinking about nothing, gazing out at nothing, a deafening clap of thunder startled her and she announced to the air, "OK, that happened..." and walked back up to the house.

Spencer was across the living room leaning against the stone cladding around the fireplace with his drink and an anxious but hopeful lopsided grin when Diane reemerged into the small crowd of their friends, chatting and dancing to "Earth Angel."

Spencer caught her eye, shaking his head, with a slightly furrowed brow and a look of "hope you can forgive me." If he knew Diane, and he knew her well, things could go very bad tonight, or maybe not so bad, hard to predict. He had realized regretfully after her puzzled departure that this latest exchange with Diane was yet another of his unplanned, impulsive little jabs pointing out that she was a human being, notwithstanding her cool, striking looks and athletic grace, as well as family wealth and position in the social strata around St. Martin Parish that separated her world from his.

But she glided, poise fully recovered, over to Spencer, took the drink from his hand, finished it in a single pull, the ice cubes clicking on those renewed front teeth, placed the glass on the mantle, put her arms around his neck, and backed up with him onto the dance floor as the vibraphone from "Daddy's Home" started languidly on the Magnavox. After a couple of minutes of slow dancing she said, "That's the first time you ever said you loved me like that," and held him tighter.

Spencer expelled his held breath over her shoulder. Thank you Jesus. When the record ended, "Moody's Mood for Love" dropped from the stack of 45's and started up: there I go, there I go, there I go, there...I go, some party hipster's joke on the squares in the crowd. They continued to sway together more than dance as King Pleasure crooned the genius lyrics.

"Some smart aleck seems to have slipped in some jive," Diane whispered, her lips brushing Spencer's ear. "I wonder who that could have been?"

A couple of beats before Spencer said, "Hmmm." The 45 had been burning a hole in the wide, flapped pocket of his herringbone jacket before he had slipped it into the stack of records waiting their turn. He had uncovered this little prize a couple of days ago browsing through Lagniappe Records on Jefferson Street in Lafayette. He knew Diane would get a kick out of it when he arrived early at her house that afternoon and parked his weathered '48 Dodge truck in her parent's circular driveway behind her '57 Bel Air. And she was delighted. As their courtship had progressed, they had happily discovered a shared passion for laughably crappy movies, bass fishing, baked tripe, Robert Johnson, and, yes, James Moody, passions that seemed arcane, boring, disgusting and obscure to their contemporaries.

As King Pleasure stepped aside to let Blossom Dearie sing the bridge, Diane snuggled closer. "I'm never, ever going to let you go."

Of course, there came a time when she did have to let him go.

But that's another story.

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