She got the moves

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short play about an elderly man who has a chance meeting with his teenage sweetheart and realises she is rather formidable.

Submitted: December 29, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 29, 2018





Opening music She got the moves by The Beat Daddies

Speaker enters carrying 2 Starbucks mugs. Sits on sofa chair and places one mug in front of him and one on the other side of the table. Takes a sip. Starts speaking to (non-existent) companion.

To this day I can’t quite work out how she did it. Got my email address, I mean. After all it had been a generation, maybe two, since we last communicated.

I was just sitting at my Apple trying to work out if I had enough money to quit my ghastly job. It was right after the crash and it wasn’t looking any too good. When, ping! There she was. Susan Dean. Actually she first introduced herself by her married name then by her name back then. And she wrote - Do you remember me?

Do I remember her? How could I possibly forget? How do you forget the beehive hairdo, the smile, the rustle of petticoats under the frou-frou dress, the prettiness, the kiss.... But above all else how do you forget those moves on the dance floor. She was a natural. Had some pretty cute moves off the dance floor too. You’ll see.

I was fifteen. Living at home, awkward, sullen. Convinced myself my loving, tolerant parents were actually repressive and harsh. I needed to get out of the house and, now that i think of it, they were probably pretty keen on the idea too. They suggested I go to dance classes at the local youth club. So I did. Twice a week. Scottish Country Dancing and what we called jive. Kind of jitterbugging to early rock n’ roll.

And there she was! Among the pimples, and the testosterone, and the sweat, and the giggling girls rushing in phalanxes to the loo. A shade older than the rest of us; better dressed, more poised, a more accomplished dancer. A real peacock on the dung hill. Couldn’t keep my eyes off her.

I never asked her to dance, of course. She was well out of my league. But there were compensations. In certain Scottish dances, eight-some reel, Dashing White Sargent for example, you’d end up dancing with every girl on the floor. So for a few blissful seconds she was in my arms and then she’d be off to the next boy. She would always look at me with what I took to be regret as she left. That felt pretty good till I noticed she gave all the boys the same look.

And then in the jive sessions; she would whirl and whirl until her skirts were parallel to the floor. We all got a glimpse of the tops of her stocking and I wondered, poor deluded fool that I was, if she realised the affect she was having. One day her Dad came in early to pick her up but she just carried right on twirling. I saw them walking to the car, he lecturing her crossly, she looking pertly defiant.

One dance class I was just standing talking to my mates when I noticed they were sort of looking behind me. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I spun around and there she was. Feminises voice “Hi, Ian” (how did she even know my name?) “I’m wondering if you’d like to dance with me. I’ve been watching you” (she’s been watching me?) “and I think we could work up some cute moves together.”

Well, I felt as though I’d been injected with concrete. I attempted speech but nothing happened, both because I couldn’t think of anything to say and because no sound would come out of my mouth if i did. I just stood there very conscious of how silent my mates had become.

Susan to the rescue. She grabbed my sweaty paw and lead me to the floor. And off we went. She twirling under my arm, spinning, feinting to left and right, and then rolling up my arm, her back into my chest and smiling over her shoulder at me. I was in heaven. I was also delusional. At the time I thought I was leading, but now I’m quite sure she was. And she was right. We were good together. Very good. People would stop dancing and watch us. Which forced us to develop even more exotic moves. And of course when I spun her I saw every boy in the room gazing fixedly. But that was fine with me. They were welcome because I was the one that was actually dancing with her!

For the next six weeks we were inseparable. On and off the dance floor. We were never alone together. Both sets of parents saw to that. But we fumbled in doorways as best we could. I was extremely proud that I was squiring an “older woman”. God alone knows what she thought!

And then there was the golf club dance. I went with my parents: she with hers. She and I danced every dance to the point where I was sure my Dad would disapprove. None of it. “You’ve done well for yourself there, lad!”

Her dad was quite a different matter. He saw her as of quasi-marriageable age and couldn’t quite work out what she was doing with a pimply, penniless, scallywag like me. (Come to think of it, neither could I!). She was turning down guys in their twenties to head straight for me and her pop was well pissed off. She said to me mid waltz “Dad is cross with me for dancing with you all night. But I’ll dance with who I want to!” And that was pretty much that.

Then a couple of weeks later came the thunderbolt. “Ian, I’ve got some bad news. The family is moving away.” I chill crept over me. “Where to?” I croaked. “London.” London! It might as well have been the moon. “Will you write?” A bit of straw-clutching. “Of course I’ll write.” And she did. Page after page of tiny little writing. I can still remember the uniquely heavy thud the post made when one of her letters arrived. Sixteen pages one of them was. Then they stopped. Six, eight months maybe. I wrote a couple of times but got no answer. Then I got the message.

But back to the emails. When? Oh, a few weeks ago. The exchange went like this.

Me - Do I remember you? Of course I remember you! How are you these days? Indeed, where are you these days?

Susan - I’m well. I live in the West Country; how about you?

Me - London.

Susan - London? I go up there regularly to visit my brother, Jonathan. Do you remember him?

I did. A ghastly little excrescence, now doubtless bald and stooped, who plagued me when I was - ahem - courting his sister. My answer was circumspect.

Me - Yes I do remember him. Give him my best. When are you next up in town?

Susan - Next week!

Me - Good. Then let’s have lunch. I know a nice little Greek place where the leg of lamb is to die for. Right near Paddington Station where you’ll come in

She then said something a trifle odd. - This is going way too fast.

Me - I’m asking you to have lunch with me; not marry me.

So that was settled. To my shame I was a trifle late. I wondered if I would recognise her. Would she be shapeless, formless, swollen-ankled? None of it. Elegant in tailored coat, court shoes, foulard and leather bag with a clasp. Still pretty, still poised. We hugged. We sat. We ordered. I told Alexander, the head waiter and an old chum, that we had been teenage sweethearts and hadn’t met for 50 years. He presented us a glass of his ghastly fizzy each on the strength of that.

I jumped right in. You’re looking great, I said. How has your life batted out?

Well, she started, it’s a bit of a saga, I’m afraid. (Voice feminised slightly)A few months after we got to London I got my first real boyfriend. That’s when I stopped writing to you. He was gorgeous. Long blond hair, six foot two, well connected, nice job in the city. I discovered in no time flat that I had this really passionate nature. (Male voice I thought well I missed out there, didn’t I?)

Well the inevitable happened and I got pregnant a few months later. Still only seventeen and one of those brides holding a big bouquet over her tummy. I muttered - Oh dear and she said - It gets worse. Twins! I totally loved it. Jacob, not so much. I tried, Ian, I really did. I tried so hard to pay as much attention to him as before the twins came along, but it just wasn’t possible. Emotionally and physically the twins took so much of me. And this man, Jacob, whom I barely knew, beneath his comfortable public schoolboy manners was actually a bit of a shit. (The only time I ever heard her swear). At first it was snide little cracks, then it was shouting, then he started to knock me about.

I knew it would go on escalating. I was beginning to be really afraid. The last time it happened as I curled up on the ground, apart from the pain, I thought - What’ll happen to the twins without their mother. So I ran. No bank account, no job, no home, no credit card, no car, no nothing. I couldn’t take the twins, not homeless, jobless, moneyless. And I knew the courts would give them back to me after what he did to me.

Got myself a sympathetic and competent lady lawyer; but we both seriously underestimated what a malignant and poisonous man can do if he knows the right people. Witnesses, top silks, lies, I didn’t stand a chance. I wouldn’t have given the twins to me if I’d heard what they said in court. Promiscuous, drunken, druggy, unstable, child abusing. The lot. Ended up in the High Court and the tabloids. I lost.

For the next two years I was a heart-broken zombie. Limited and supervised access. No chance to be a mother. I could earn my living, but I couldn’t live. Then I met husband number two.

His name was Joe and he was jolly and kind. At first I resisted even going out with him. I felt guilty. I should be loving the twins not him. But he won me over gently. And I did love him after a while. He lived near Chippenham and we had a good life. I threw myself into village affairs, made lots of friends, was on the church committee, we knew the regulars in the pub. In fact we were regulars in the pub. Perhaps I was still too much focused on the twins because I didn’t see the warning signs.

About three years in, the twins were about seven, I got a very strange phone call from hubby number one. He had discovered he was gay! He’d landed himself a cushy job in New York and intended to take everything that was on offer out there - financially and socially. It was no place for children, he said. You might think, the cheek of it after seven years of obstructing me every way he could, but all I could think of was being a proper mother again.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. Joe, I mean. He had never shown any sign of wanting kids of his own. And suddenly there he was was two disruptive lads in the house that he never learnt to tell apart - to their great amusement. He was always good with them - until the sauce really took him over. A litre of spirits a day, lost his job, in and out of rehab. He was killing himself and maybe it was my fault. Money was short and when he finally pegged out I felt nothing but relief. So there I was, 35 years old and two dead husbands.

I said - Two dead husbands? Did I miss something?

Oh, Jacob, he died of aids, didn’t I tell you? He landed in New York just as things got really dangerous.

I thought quietly to myself - Number three is going to have to be a brave man!

Well, Susan resumed, this time I was really careful. I looked around. Kind, good with kids, sober, hard working. Hans fitted perfectly. Austrian, no desire to go back there, could fix anything around the house. Older, quite a bit older actually. Tail end of the war. Never asked him about that. Did I love him? Not really. But I did what I could to make him happy. And we had twenty three contented years together. I never had to worry about being thumped, or opening a bottle of wine, or indeed the boiler going on the blink. It was bliss.

What happened to him? I asked cautiously.

Oh, he died a good age. Six months ago. (pause) So what about you? She looked at me intently.

(Pause) Of course! That was her game. She wasn’t looking for a casual lunch with an old chum: she was looking for number four. God I’m so stupid sometimes.

So I decided I was entitled to tease her a bit. I dwelt at some length on my career. Immunology. I can bang on about it for weeks if I want to. And how proud I was that my daughter was following in my footsteps and was even using certain protocols I had developed. I told Susan how I ended up as an NHS political hack and was keen to get back to my first love. (I’m not sure she picked up that irony!)

She got more and more impatient and eventually interrupted - Yes, but what about.....

Love, romance, family, that kind of thing. Me still teasing.

That kind of thing. There was a sudden softness in her voice.

Oh, well, not like you at all. Got married late, well late for those days. Good partnership. Got each others’ backs. I just know she’ll always be there for me and she knows the same. A bit of trouble bringing up kids, but nothing compared to some friends. We always presented a united front to them, our extended families, the world. Rock solid.

The energy went out of her. She hid her disappointment, of course, but I could give you a word of advice; if you want to look discretely at your watch to see if you can, with decency, be on your way don’t have one of those tiny ladies’ watches you can barely see. After two efforts to look at her minuscule timepiece without me noticing I had mercy on her. Let me walk you to the underground, I said. Her relief was palpable. I paid and we strolled the 200 yards to the tube station making small talk. We kissed goodbye and I watched her disappear. I found myself admiring her enormously while thinking without too much regret - That’s the last I’ll hear from her. In a small way I was wrong about that.

4 months later there I was. Sitting at my computer, still trying to work out if I had a cat’s chance in hell of retiring early when she pinged again.

Hi, Ian. I just wanted to email and say how much I enjoyed meeting you in London. And to tell you I’m getting married again. He’s called Julian and I want you to wish me luck.

Me - Of course I do. All the luck in the world.

She - I also want to say that I’ll always think of you with affection. And weren’t we good on the dance floor?

Me - Me too. All the best for the future. Really, from the bottom of my heart and it was you, you who made us fancy dancers. (Pause) I have to say Susan, there’s no doubt, you got all the moves!

As the lights go halfway down and the intro music comes in softly

(Slowly) Thing of it was, now I think about it, I wasn’t really talking about the dancing. Lights fade and music comes up full.

© Copyright 2020 hugh dow. All rights reserved.

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