Young Marrieds at Play
The Word: Charm
Vivian shook the ice in her highball glass, and waited for someone to notice she needed a refresher. Her charm bracelet jingled luxuriously. And there was Dan Trower, their host, reaching for the glass, elegantly patterned in gold compasses. “Ready for number three?”
“Who’s counting, baby?” she said, handing him her glass. The gold of the bracelet catching her eye as their hands touched. Noticing how well the new pimento-colored polish, Hace Tante Calor, set off her tan. Someone put a Shirley Bassey record on the hi fi, “Kiss Me, Honey, Honey,” and Jimmy Grossman pulled her to him for a cha cha. She and Len had taken lessons at Arthur Murray, Len so studiously practicing the steps, counting under his breath… one two cha cha cha! Jimmy wasn’t anywhere near as handsome as Len, but he was a real dancer, he didn’t have to count. Poor Missy, pregnant in all this heat, out on the patio under the blowfish lamps talking mommy talk with Anne Weiss. Jimmy clearly suffering the lack of consortium.
His arm in the small of her back, she felt the current flow from him to her, and she could feel herself warming to him. Well, no harm in a little flirtation, they were all married people. Imagining Jimmy’s lips on her breasts. She’d heard there were Hollywood parties where people traded spouses for the night. Not that Len would do anything like that, not in a million years, he was such a square. Dan found her dancing and slipped the highball into her hand, the other hand for an instant landing on her bottom. Cha cha cha. She swatted him amiably.
There was no harm in it. Their circle of young marrieds was like that, they flirted, they got bombed–she felt reckless and Len was safely ensconced in the kitchen, talking, no doubt, about HUAC and the blacklist or racial relations. So serious, he could never just make small talk, he’d always end up buttonholing someone and spend a party talking about Tolstoy when all people wanted to do was get drunk and wrestle a bit in the pantry with someone else’s wife.
After a couple of dances, Jimmy was getting a little too familiar. Hands sliding down her hips, grabbing her. She decided she really didn’t like him all that much. She went to cool off on the couch, drank down her highball, pressing the glass against her forehead. Now Jimmy was dancing with Amy Kantor, her little rear twitching provocatively.
“What a slut,” Gloria Davies plopped herself down next to Vivian.
“I thought you were friends,” Vivian said.
“I didn’t say we weren’t,” Gloria said. She reached out and began examining Vivian’s bracelet, all the charms, Niagara Falls and the children’s profiles, a cowboy from New Mexico, a heart with a lock, the little telephone with a dial that turned, the two sets of shoes in an Arthur Murray pattern. “Oh by the way, Marcy Horowitz is in the kitchen, licking Len’s face.”
“She wishes.” Vivian rattled her ice.
“You better watch him. He’s a babe in those woods. She’s got him going on Charlie Parker.”
Vivian could imagine. She loved Len but God, get him started on Charlie Parker or the Bomb or current Turko-Soviet relations and you might as well have taken a Miltown. Well, she should go do her wifely duty.
She stopped in the doorway of the Trowers’ tiny kitchen. Len leaned against the counter, slim and tanned from working in the field on the Glen Ellen subdivision, and Marcy, one hip cocked, listening more closely than a girl really would if she were just listening to a man go on about bebop. Marcy with her limp draggly hair–she boasted she never went to a beauty parlor in her life, her eyes dark-rimmed, beatnik style. Their spiraling smoke twining together. Then Marcy was talking and Len listened, intently, looking down at the confetti linoleum. They reminded Vivian of two doctors standing in a hospital hallway, conferring on a difficult case. What on earth did they have to talk about like that? She didn’t like it. She didn’t mind when it was Tod Verner, but Marcy Horowitz… she wasn’t licking his face, it was worse than that. They were like two people listening to the same radio station.
She moved in, jingling her bracelet, a wide smile plastered on her coral lips. “Hey kids, is the patient going to live?” Marcy turned away, on the pretext of stubbing out her cigarette in a saucer, as Vivian took her husband by the arm. “Come on, Doctor Casey, let’s have a cha cha.” And she pulled him back into the party, as if from the edge of a cliff.
Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”
Next week’s word is: COUNT