A Swing Story

Rating: G

Summary: A young woman reflects on the new role she's found in a changing society. Written for an English class a few years ago, dug up now for your entertainment.

Disclaimer: none. It's an original, baby!

Dedication: to Nonni, 'cause I know I probably subconsciously based this character on you, and because I miss you.

    The sun has set on this sweltering July afternoon in downtown Buffalo, and the heat is finally beginning to loosen its grip. I'm to go dancing with friends tonight; I just learned to swing a few months ago at the prom, and I fell in love with it. Dancing, swinging, takes me away from the doldrums of the daytime. Down in the church basements and the clubs of downtown Buffalo, with the lights low and the music played loud, I can just leave it all behind.  

 Tidying my hair in a darkened shop window, I hasten my steps over to the stairs leading down to the club, hurry down them and rap on the door. They open the door, I hand the man 50 cents, and I'm in.

    It's smoky and dim in the basement of the cafe, and the mood is relaxed and exciting at the same time. It's early, and the band is still tuning up and warming up. There's a low murmur of people talking, and an occasional loud laugh. I walk up to the bar and lean over, waiting for the bartender.  Drinks for ladies are free tonight. I order a lemon soda, as always, and scan the room. I see a lot of familiar faces there, and wink and wave at everyone.

    Tossing my hair back, getting into the mood, I saunter over to a table where a handsome young swinger in a genuine zoot suit is sitting alone.

  "Hiya Charlie," I murmur in my most velvety voice.  I feel like a glamorous actress playing a role: the sexy, fun-loving, modern feminist who's not afraid to put herself out there and play the crowd.

    The man looks up and grins at me, taking the last drag of his cigarette. He stubs it out and stands slowly, then gives a slight gentlemanly bow. Just then the band gets in their places and the music starts. It's a risky beat, a dangerous sound, and I love it. Charlie offers me his hand, as he has before.

    "Would you like this dance?"

    I fold my hand over his.

    "Why, as a matter of fact, I would."

    He leads me out into the floor and we pause a second to catch the rhythm. Then, suddenly, his feet begin to move and I'm pulled along, dipping sideways on the third step, feet gleefully accentuating the crazy beat coming from the band onstage.

    Da-da-dat, da-da-dat, tap-STOMP da-da-dat!

    My body is no longer the controlled, polite and 'ladylike' figure it was just a few hours ago, sitting in the drawing room of my parents' home. I'm a flurry of rhythm and step, I'm a swinger. Charlie twirls me, then catches and dips me down, with a broad grin flashing across his face. We move it across the polished wood floor, and he picks me up over his head, throwing my weight around to the beat.

   Da-da-dat, da-da-dat, tap-STOMP da-da-dat, da-da-dat...

    The night wears on in that manner, me dancing with a cat- I laugh, thinking of my mother's confused look when I used that term for the first time- who's literally sweeping me off my feet. We have danced together almost every weekend of the summer, and have even become somewhat of an "item" in the jazz clubs in this part of town. I wonder what my mother would say if I brought him home. She'd probably overreact and holler that I was dating Al Capone. In the daytime, though, he was just another unemployed factory worker... a secret that nobody else knew but me, because nobody ever asks anyone else who they are during the daytime.     

    It doesn't matter in a swing club, anyway; nobody cares how much wealth you have, or whether you're a Jack or a Jill, or even if you're colored. Everyone's just having a good time together. Everybody's equal. It isn't laughable for a woman in a swing club to announce she wants to go to college; a lot of us in here do.

    The night is getting older, and people are starting to leave. With a little spark of sadness I hear the band leader announce the last dance of the night. I notice I'm beginning to feel tired. But no way I'm stopping until this last song is over...