After dinner she wanted to go ask Dan Vannet to dance, but he was across the room and Mark was busy telling her how he had never learned to dance anything that involved steps or knowing where to put your feet. “I guess I’m just a rock-and-roll dancer when it comes down to it. I go out and let my arms and legs go whither they will.”
“I never learned any dances either, but if I’m dancing with someone who really knows what they’re doing, I don’t have much trouble following. There are some really good dancers here.” She said, “I always look forward to dancing with Jim Harrison and Dan Vannet.”
“Oh, well, it’s easy if you can follow,” said Mark. “It’s leading that’s difficult.”
It occurred to her that maybe she liked following because she did enough leading in other aspects of life. Following was splendid if you trusted the person leading, which of course was too rarely the case in either dance or life.
“I’m going to go incite Manka and her whole table into dancing.” Manka, being one of the prime dance sex goddesses of the group, struck her as a much safer bet than Dan. If an entire table-full of women went onto the dance floor en masse, it would encourage others. She went on bended knee to Manka.
“Oh girl, are you proposing marriage to me right here at the dinner table?” cried Manka with a wicked gleam in her eye.
“I just couldn’t restrain myself, you know how I adore you.”
“But this is so sudden, I’m just overcome!”
“Let’s get on out and boogie, then.”
Off they went, soon to be joined. Mark and George attached themselves to the circle of women and stuck like glue. If it hadn’t been for wanting to dance with Dan this would have been agreeable, but Dan was nowhere to be seen. Jim too had vanished. Oh, why politick at the Saturday night dance? At least why do it for hours. Doubtless Jim was campaigning for Mary Flaherty and neutral Dan was under fire by both sides while El Presidente kicked up his heels and Mary held audiences on a bench in the courtyard. There was an unusual paucity of dancers on the floor and a rare shortage of beer.
“I’ve discovered,” she said to Manka, “the advantages of gaining weight. Now I can jiggle my breasts when I dance.”
“You couldn’t before?”
“No, they were too flat. It’s very amusing. Kind of a belly-dancer trick. You get them oscillating up and down like shaking a rattle.”
The music was lamentably disco; there was a distinct neglect of other forms of music popular in the second half of the twentieth century, a period known for its multiplicity of styles. Where were the Stones, Buddy Holly, Van Morrison, Elvis Presley and Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, and Siouxsie and the Banshees? What of Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, and Otis Redding? What of all the salsa, cajun, and West African music that everyone played at home? Alas, the Village People were belting out “YMCA” yet again. Once was fun but no more.
Twice she saw Dan appear but soon vanish. No more than ten minutes per partner, then out the door and gone again. Perhaps he was tired; perhaps politics were more interesting than disco. She snagged a few minutes with Jim but he was being politically opportune and dancing from one person to the next. His technical skill had vastly increased and with it his wardrobe, but it seemed that now he was more fun to watch than to follow. If he was going to dance, he was evidently going to be flashy, not spend his time on women who couldn’t get their boyfriends to dance the whole rest of the year. El Presidente, on the other hand, grabbed her for a good long hop. Working on the undecided voter.
Toward the end of the evening she saw Dan, Russell, and Riva talking outside; she went out splashing icewater on her face, stopped and spoke to George for a moment.
“Let’s ask her,” said Russell as she approached.
“Ask me what? Sure, ask me.”
“What do you think,” Russell continued, “should we ask her?”
Nobody answered. Riva turned and walked off.
“All right, don’t ask me whatever it is.” She looked at Dan. “I’ll ask instead. Want to dance?”
They headed indoors to Russell’s plaint that no one ever asked to dance with him; everyone knew that Russell preferred talk to dancing.
Past the drinks table, they turned and looked at each other, smiled, and began. Hands on shoulders and palm to palm. In an instant they were closing in on each other, legs between thighs. But Riva promptly dragged Dan away to caucus. Damn.
Karla Huebner has appeared in such literary and genre venues as Northwest Review, Colorado State Review, Magic Realism, Fantasy Macabre, Ceilidh, Weave, and Opossum. She teaches at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio (where they went on a very long faculty strike last year) and her book Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic is now available for pre-order from University of Pittsburgh Press; her novel In Search of the Magic Theater is forthcoming from Regal House and her collection Heartwood was a finalist for the 2020 Raz-Shumaker award. Karla recommends the House Rabbit Society, Doctors Without Borders, and the Nature Conservancy.