Note From The Editor: The writer of this very nice story sent it to me and asked to remain anonymous. However, I have his e-mail address, so if you want to tell him what you think about his story you can email me ([email protected]) and I will make sure he gets your comments.
School ended soon after that. Sally Ann graduated. I cried. She loved my present of the pearls. She kissed me. I loved it. I miss her.
I kept an eye open for Pretty Lady to be working in her garden every day as I rode past on my bike. She was out there often. I always stopped when I saw her there. I knew her time for going to Europe was fast approaching and she was meeting with the lucky students who were going with her. I still wished I was going, but I understood that I was too young and that I would be going next year, and the next, and the next. So I managed to bear up.
Knowing that she regretted my having to stay behind this year was as saddening for her as for me helped make it bearable. I knew she really was looking forward to having me travel with her as much as I was looking forward to it myself.
One day she slipped a question in that seemed to be out of the ordinary. "Jeremy, do you know how to dance?"
"No. Why?" why would she ask that?
"You need to learn." was her response. Not 'would you like to learn', but 'you need to learn'.
I had no reply to make.
"Gloria is coming home in a few days from college, and I bet she could teach you the newest dances that they're doing in college these days, if you want to learn. Y'all could do that while I'm gone." She had this planned for a while. I could see through her now, too. "Would you like that?"
"Yeah." I didn't know how to dance. I didn't have many social skills beyond the facades that I put up regularly As outgoing as I tried to act I usually really wanted to go off and get high and hide because all my class mates were so much more adept socially than I was.
"Do you mind if I ask her about that? She likes you, you know?"
"Yeah, I like her, too." I knew Gloria. She was 19 now, finishing her freshman year in college. A grown woman in my eyes. She looked like her mama must have looked 20 years ago. I could see in Gloria what really lit Mr. McConnal up about Mrs. McConnal. Hell, I could see in Mrs. McConnal what really lit him up about Mrs. McConnal. I would have wanted to marry her, too, given the right time and place.
"Jeremy, you need to get out more." she said. I know now that is a common expression, but I didn't then. "Darling I know you're two years younger than everyone else in your class, and that you'd be even more ahead of them if you were allowed to progress at your intellectual level. But, darling, I know that leaves you at such a disadvantage socially.
"Young man, sometimes I think you're a 40 year old trapped in a 12 year old body." I thought that was a fine compliment. She thinks I'm an adult. "Of course, then you'll do something that tells me you're 12 and in need of a tanning."
OK, Mrs. McConnal, I know you're the one who spanks me. You don't need to remind me of that.
"Darling, I don't know if you should be associating more with children your own age, or with people even older than your classmates." She was obviously concerned. "You evidently carried yourself quite well with Sally Ann the night of the cast party. I had not expected anything quite that prodigious of you."
I didn't know how prodigious it was, but it was the most fantastic moment of my life. Besides, what did she really know about what happened? Probably just conjecture.
"Gloria will be home in a couple of days." she finished up, "Stop by and let's talk about it."
So it was arranged that, while Pretty Lady was away in Europe, Pretty Lady's pretty daughter would teach me how to dance. Hay, that's OK. I can live with that.
A week before she left we were talking while she worked on her flowers. I had just arrived. "Gloria's home from college." She said. "Have you seen her yet?"
"No ma'am." I usually didn't call her "ma'am", there was something about special occasions.
"She should be getting back in a few minutes. I want you to be here to see her."
"OK." Don't show any excitement. Be cool. And just then Gloria came in from visiting with some of her friends. She was wearing skin tight short shorts and a halter top.
"Hay, Jeremy!" Gloria came over to join us. You could have knocked me over with a feather. So much skin showing. So smooth, so firm. I'm sure I had that goofy look on my face - probably the same look I still get on my face when confronted by such a beautiful sight.
Of course Gloria and I had known each other since I first met Pretty Lady. There was a touch of jealousy on my part whenever I thought that I wanted Mrs. McConnal to be MY mother and she was Gloria's instead, but I never let that feeling stay since it was so unfounded. Gloria and I were never real close, but she knew her Mom loved me and I loved her Mom, and I of course knew Mrs. McConnal loved her daughter, so all of that made for Gloria and I being on very good terms. We were extended family of sorts.
"Gloria," Mrs. McConnal told her, "Jeremy says he'd love for you to teach him to dance." I didn't say any such thing, but I sure was thinking it (how could she always know what I was thinking?).
"Great!" said Gloria, smiling so sweetly at me (I was melting), "why don't we spend a couple of afternoons a week working on that while Mama's gone and we can show her what we've learned when she gets back."
"OK." What WE'VE learned? She's talking like a teacher, but don't stop her, she's happy with it.
Then, to my astonishment, Mrs. McConnal added, "Spank him if he gets out of line."
"Mrs. McConnal." I caught myself whining like a child. "No. don't tell her that."
Gloria sided up to me, tousled my hair, and said to me, "Don't worry, we'll get along fine." Then she added, "This should be fun. We'll have a great time while Mama's gone." Then she ran inside.
Mrs. McConnal and I looked at each other straight faced for a moment. We both knew what was going on in both our minds. I knew she had arranged an activity where both the learning this summer and the practicing of it throughout school would help drag me out into some social activity. As well as arranging to give me some company, someone I could talk to, while she was gone.
The fact that I had no really close friends (except for her) concerned her. It didn't concern me at the time because having no close friends was all I knew. For most of my life I had little or no dealing with kids my own age, mostly with adults. When I first started school I remember thinking that the other kids must be pretending to be dumb. Soon enough I realized that they weren't. Adults told me that it was not polite to call them dumb, just as it was not polite to call people other bad words. That doesn't mean that the person is not " . . . " (fill in the blank). It just means that it's not polite to call them that. I also learned quickly enough that it was not smart to presume that you are the smartest person around.
She had undertaken a task with me long before I knew she existed. She loved me before we ever met. She had taken me under her wing before we ever spoke. That was the first moment I realized all that.
"Thank you." was all I could say.
She just smiled and said, "Sure."
And I rode off.
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