This is the first few chapters of my novel of “The Dance”, based in Romulus, NY. my home town.
Seniors, high school sweethearts on the verge of adulthood, and destined to grow old together as husband and wife. They find that life is getting in the way. They become separated, then reunite, only to have trails and tribulation of life getting in the way of making their plans a reality.
I would love to hear from you, tell me what you think.
The Dance – Chapter 1
Lyle hesitated at the threshold of his back door, with slowed anticipation he crossed into the mudroom. Wood slammed against the wood, banging the silence to the forefront of his thoughts. What was he expecting? No one would be anticipating his return or waiting for him to walk through the door. He had never experienced the splendid sounds of an infant, the pitter-patter of little feet or even the rebellious conversations from a teenager. It wasn’t for the lack of wanting or trying. He had spent too many years trying to make a living, hoping all his investments in black gold would pan out. He could count his relationships on one hand. Two resulting in marriage and divorce, love in all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons.
What Lyle expected, what he wanted, was what he heard every time he walked into or around his home for the past fifteen years, his wife singing or humming her favorite songs by Pasty Cline, Tammy Wynette, Reba, or Tanya Tucker. His small-town country girl, singing weekends with her band, “The Kendell Sisters and the Country Squires”. He felt ashamed to admit he was glad she never decided to pursue her passion past the local clubs, jamborees or charity benefits. She seemed fulfilled singing when she could and content with the simple pleasures of family.
Lyle slipped off his work boots and walked over to the sink, turned on the small clock radio sitting on the kitchen windowsill, he needed something to fill the disturbing silence. He began to wash his hands, scrubbing harder and harder adding more soap, scrubbing, hoping to scrub away his pain. His head pounded with regret. His thoughts swirled around in his head as if water circling the drain, being pulled and sucked down into darkness. The one-day that can’t be forgotten, and each cumulated decision thereafter added to the sediment of this very day, every year. Breaking away from reality and bringing back into focus that his decisions had consequences. Disoriented Lyle stood with the water running over his hands. He froze in those moments listening to Ray Charles croon, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”
Sometime during Ray Charles’s 1962 rendition, Lyle had shut off the running water, dried his hands and walked to the refrigerator, grabbed a Budweiser long neck and took a long pull. Leaning against the closed refrigerator door, his thoughts flashed to memories of his past. A past of lonely days and nights when he couldn’t get her off his mind. When he felt desperate and frustrated from the choices, he had made mostly about her. Many times, wishing he could stop thinking about another time and another life that should have been.
His thoughts converted back to the present and that morning’s events played back like a scratched 45. Had he done enough, could he have handled it differently?
“Honey, what’s wrong? You look pale, are you sick?” Lyle inquired softly touching his hand to her forehead and then her cheek before sitting down in the kitchen chair next to his wife.
“You have no fever, but you seem clammy”
“I just need to sit for a minute I’m feeling a little lightheaded and nauseous.”
“Do you have any other pain, in your chest, arm, or neck?”
“My shoulder a little, but I think it’s just bursitis acting up” “Maybe a little tea and toast would make me feel better.”
“Sit right there, I will get it for you.” Lyle grabbed the teakettle adding water and igniting the stove. He walked back over to the table, leaning down kissing her cheek, whispering in her ear.
“I’ll be right back I’m going to get a cool cloth.”
“That’s not necessary Lyle” “I probably caught a bug or the flu from one of the children.”
“It can’t hurt,” “Let me take care of you for a change; can I be in charge now?”
“Oh, you’re funny,”
With Lyle’s training and years with the Romulus Volunteer First Responders, he knew this didn’t just sound like a bug or the flu. Placing the cool cloth on her neck, holding it in place with his left hand he gently rubbed her back. Behind him, the whistling kettle brought him back to his original task of tea and toast. Within three steps he was at the stove, turning off the burner, popping the bread down in the toaster, and grabbing the tea bag from the cabinet above the counter all in one constant synchronized motion.
Placing the cup of tea, with the plate of toast and the honey bottle down on the table, he sat back down at the table.
“Some honey for my honey”
“Lyle this isn’t getting any better; I’m feeling heaviness in my chest now.”
The worry in her voice made his throat constrict and heart race. He quickly rose from the chair and headed for the mudroom.
“I’m grabbing your shoes and jacket we are going to the hospital right now.”
“No, I can’t, I haven’t showered or changed out of my pajamas yet”
Lyle knelt to assist her with her shoes, slipping one foot in the appropriate matching black clog.
“That doesn’t matter right now; we need to make sure you’re ok.”
“Well it matters to me”
Guiding one arm in her black jacket than the other, sweeping her hair up and over the collar and coming around to stand in front of her.
“I understand that dear, but the doctors and nurses have seen people in their pajamas before.”
“Okay fine, I’m not leaving here without my purse.” grabbing her purse from the table next to the back door, as Lyle gently guided her through the door closing it behind him.
Running through the morning’s events and their conversation didn’t ease his mind or his guilt. Wondering if his personal feelings had gotten in the way of his training? Did he respond fast enough? Did he react to the signs with his usual professionalism?
Lyle walked around the kitchen table heading for his favorite spot, the front porch and to the matching oversized rockers. Walking through the doorway of the kitchen into the hall he caught a glimpse of his grainy reflection. He paused briefly, he wasn’t much on his own vanity, he’d always said, I am who I am, nothing special just a man. He looked at himself, ironically in a mirror that was twice his age. Like the mirror his age was noticeable, wrinkled in all the distinguishing ways, lines around his mouth and eyes, his eyes dark from lack of sleep and worry from the past 12 hours. No signs of the black wavy hair that drove him crazy in his youth, now a full head of wiry gray.
Bringing his finger up to his receding hairline, shaking his head with regret, he felt the small scar on his forehead that resembles a backward 7, when he thought he could head butt a Ford pick-up. Never challenge a devoted Chevy man that had spent most of his afternoon with a bottle of Yukon Jack. Softly slapping his face, “oh well can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.”
In the mirror he had noticed some blood on the knuckle of his pinkie finger, trying to recollect as to how he had hurt his finger. Lyle walked toward the front door, wiping the blood from his finger. Looking at his callused hands, he mused. Lyle referred to those years of “youth went stupid”. He owned his own land now, “Preston Pines”. Nothing as ostentatious nor strenuous as the work he did from age eighteen, working ranches and oil fields in the sunny, humid but mostly dry weather of Texas and Oklahoma. That life was filled with demanding work, frustration, and disappointment.
He wasn’t one that lived by a motto he decided early on not to dwell on regret. Laughing and a sense of humor went further than anger. He had adventures and he was happy to share those tales with anyone that would listen.
He would start his anecdote with, either one night in the summer of… or down on the range… and by the end of his embellishment, he would have taken the bull by the horns or survived a tornado in 1972 that was just about to touch down. As he yarned, the funnel it was from here to, and point to some distance outside, to that lean-to there. The other guys never knew if he was bluffing, which made poker night even more of a challenge because his facial expression never changed. A consistent man drenched in country swagger filled with determination, strength but always a southern gentleman at heart. There was nothing more he could do but deal with the consequences of the choices he had made in the past fifty years. Choices that he would like to change if it were possible. He had no idea that at seventeen, he would begin the descent of wrong turns and destruction of his future with Kay.
He was leaning on the pillar of his front porch, amazed by the spectacular October sunset. The sunset on the horizon. A colossal bright red ball sat visibly on the skyline, showing off its vastness, falsely representing its distance from the earth. Within twenty minutes the sun no longer visible. Throughout the sky were sprays of gray streaked in radiating red, yellow, and orange. The serenity of this spectacular sunset flowed through his senses, intensifying his appreciation of God’s blessings. Lyle overcomes angelic feelings, sat down in his rocker, a feeling of peace and tranquility washed away the despair and the helplessness he had felt all day, watching from the corner of her hospital room.
Twilight wafted in. The cool air had spun up meandering through the porch railing. The light breeze made the sweet scent of fruit flounced through the spindles. The aroma twisted and sifted through his body, drawing his attention and thoughts to the wooden arbor at the gated entrance from the driveway. He recalled the memory as if it were just yesterday. He remembered her excitement when she planted the roses. They’re the first year together in this house.
“Sky’s the Limit”, she said was their name, there will be scads of beautiful buttery yellow clusters blooming all season long. “I knew this was the climber I wanted, it was what I thought our new life together would hold for us, the sky’s the limit, for us to baby”.
She grabbed him around the waist and pulled him into her, her body fit easily into his as he wrapped his arms around her, and met her soft lips to his.
When he parted from their embrace, their passion billowing, he scooped her up in his arms “Well in that case, we have some christening to finish”, and walked up the porch steps and through the blue-screened door.
His memory had rejuvenated him, he smiled mischievously, and he took another pull of his beer. When the phone rang, he paused, not expecting to hear from anyone. He got up from his rocker to retrieve the phone from inside.
“Hello?” Lyle said after he pressed the talk button.
“Mr. Preston, this is nurse Goodbody,” the voice echoed through the speakerphone.
“Yes, this is Lyle, what’s wrong.”
“There is no emergency. The doctor needs you to come back to the hospital.”
“Of course, but I just left an hour ago.” “What, what isss wrong?”
‘It’s your wife…she’s upset and calling out for you. Asking to see Kaylee.
“I’ll be there in thirty minutes” Lyle pushed the talk button trying to end the connection but in his agitated state, he was pushing other buttons. “There are zero messages” the computerized voice of the answering machine sounded out, and then another recorded voice echoed, “If you would like to make a call please hang up.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” he slammed the handset on the cradle of the answering machine.
Lyle pulled on his boots, shrugged into his duster and donned his Stetson. Running toward his vehicles, not realizing, only knowing he needed to get to her quickly, he angled into his old Chevy, turned the engine over and it roared to life. He didn’t give the Chevy any time to idle, dropped it into low and spewed gravel as he raced out the driveway onto Route 96.
This old girl wasn’t used to this type of abuse. Lyle had always treated her like a fine wine, dusted her off, let to breathe, and slowly driven down the least bumpy of highways. This Chevy was referred to as his Sunday love, and he was a classic car connoisseur.
He accelerated, clutched, and shifted up the column pushing slight zigzag past neutral, into second gear. Accelerating clutched, and shifted down the column into third gear, in one smooth motion. He’d slid through all the gears slicker than grease on a doorknob. It was a straight shot to the hospital until he reached Waterloo. He was thinking of his wife now, not paying much attention to where he was going or how fast he was moving. He looked down at the speedometer, 70 mph, he didn’t let off the accelerator. This was faster than he had “lady” as he called his 1957 Chevy 3100 sidestep.
A classic, unique now, with a 235 straight-six, three on the tree, a rare find with a Saginaw manual transmission and a single two-barrel Rochester carburetor, which aren’t even heard of these days. He knew every inch of her; he had brought her back to life. He was meticulous with every part. He stripped down the engine. He took one piece at a time, the carburetor, distributor, wires, spark plugs, head cover, removing each piston from the block. Examining, repairing, and polishing, returning each original part to its designated position with patients and respect. He admired the vast beauty that once was, and remained still. Now good as new and as shinny as when she rolled off the assembly line. She shined and sparkled, turquoise surrounded by glass and chrome. He had named her “Lady”, he had said that she had resembled a sleek and sexy lady he once knew. Lyle valued all the time finding out what made her tick, exploring the vastness of her past, wiping away the neglect and establishing admiration and respect. “Isn’t that what every Lady deserves at the end of the day?”
It was dark now, he didn’t enjoy driving this late anymore, and he had trouble with his eyesight. He wasn’t concentrating on the road or the on-coming cars. He was watching the white line on the shoulder of the road. His mind was drifting between his wife in the hospital and to the memories of the past. A past that he would rather keep buried, a past that continually intertwined with his present. He couldn’t lose her.
When he broke his line of sight to adjust his rearview mirror from the infractions of the fast-approaching high beams from the idiot behind him, he swerved toward the shoulder. He returned his hands to the “10 and 2” position and his line of sight back to the white line. Reflection of red and white flashing lights shined above the vehicle now directly behind him. Anxiety and frustration clustered in his throat like a raw un-chewed cheap piece of beef.
Lyle slammed the palm of his hand on the top of the steering wheel.
“Seriously,” Taking his foot off the accelerator, signaling to the right. Lyle shifted through the gears with each downshift slowing to a stop. Te Hhhhurning off the engine and Lyle stared ahead at the white line.
The Dance – Chapter 2
The constant white line from Interstate 40 reflected through the window of the Greyhound bus. Lyle watched the white line as he sat in the dark, fusty, humid, overcrowded bus. Exhaustion pulled heavily at his eyelids, but sleep would not come easily. His mind would not relent long enough for his body to surrender to its need for rest. He sat in the uncomfortable seat fighting against his feelings of remorse. Along with the occasional snores, restless movement of fellow passengers, and the hum of the six wheels against the pavement made it difficult to concede to either.
What will she think? Had he left in haste? He didn’t have time to call her. It was late. No time could be wasted. Lyle tried to rationalize all his thoughts and feelings. Looking at his watch, which was still on New York time, it’s been over 24 hours since he saw her last. She must be concerned. They have not spoken since Halloween night. He had kissed her good-night, thanked her for being part of his best birthday and drove home. When he arrived home, his parents were waiting up for him.
He stepped into the living room and sat on the couch on the opposite end of his mother. His father in his usual spot, deep brown cloth Lazy-boy recliner sat angled to the couch and console television set.
“Hey mom and dad I just wanted to thank you for a great birthday, best”
“You’re welcome son, glad you enjoyed yourself,” his mother replied.
“Let me know when you want to go look at some cars”
‘No problem, Mr. Kendell has a couple I wouldn’t mind checking out a little more, not quite sure how much he wants yet, but I will let you know, thanks, dad.
Lyle started to get up from the couch.
“Before you go can we talk?” asked his mother.
“You received a call about an hour ago. We were surprised by the women on the other end asking us to pass along a birthday wish to you”
“Who was it?”
“Really, that was nice”
“We’re confused Lyle, how did she get our number?”
“I asked my biological Grandmother to call her and ask if she would contact me, I wanted to talk to her, I wanted answers, you guys don’t know.”
“Don’t you think you should have asked us if it was okay?”
“Sorry mom, I just didn’t think it through”
“I need to talk to her, I wanted to know more”
“How long have you felt this way?”
“Soon after you told me I was adopted”
“We don’t think this is a good idea right now”
“I need to know now”
“Now, isn’t the right time?”
“You need to get finish school after you graduate” his father spoke up with a stern voice.
“I can’t wait that long, I have questions” Lyle raised his voice.
“Don’t raise your voice to me young man”
“Okay, let’s calm down,” his mother said trying to get back to a calm conversation
“Can we agree to disagree on timing? Maybe for now you could talk on the phone.
“That works for me.”
His mother rose and sat next to him. She embraced Lyle in her arms.
“Son, there was nothing wrong with you, you were perfect.” “You were not a problem.”
“I just want to know more, and I would like to call her back tonight before it gets much later.”
“I understand, we love you very much just the way you are.”
His mother stepped back over to her end of the couch and put her knitting away.
“Stanley, I’m pretty tired”
His father un-reclined his chair and stood, stretched out his arms.
“Love you, son,” rubbing his hair from its well-groomed positioning.
“Really dad” Lyle attempted to put his hair back in place.
Lyle sat in the silence of the dark living room asking and answering, talking about insignificant questions. When he asked personal questions, he received no real answers. She would prefer to sit down face to face, so he could truly understand the events that led to his adoption. Against his own frustration of needing the answers now, he agreed that it would be best to meet and talk in person and get to know each other. He expressed that he was getting a car and that he might be able to drive down on summer break before he headed off to college.
Lyle sat closer to the open window, wanting to inhale some fresh air. Nausea crept up from the pit of his stomach to the back of his throat. He sat motionless with his head in his hands waiting for the queasiness to subside. His somber expression made his jaw square and brooding. Lyle caught his reflection in the glass, he thought to himself. Call her, she’ll understand, she knows how important this is. Lyle raked his hands through his black hair, leaving them to rest behind his head.
He wanted to find the answers. He just wanted to know more about who he really was. After he spoke to his biological mother he lay in bed tossing and turning unable to stop the noise in his head. Too many questions, not enough answers, the thought of waiting longer made him upset and frustrated. After this conversation, he knew he couldn’t wait. He didn’t want to disobey or disappoint his parents, but he felt he had no other choice. Finally, he would have some answers, no more wondering and doubting. What was wrong with me? What did I do? What was more important than raising your young child, experiencing him growing up into a man? What could a three-year-old have done to make a mother give him up for adoption? He riffled through all his clean clothes from the laundry basket and shoved them into a duffle bag. He wrote a note telling his parents he was getting the answers he deserved, that he would be back in a week.
His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the bus driver announce the next stop was Little Rock in thirty minutes, there would be a forty-five-minute meal break and they would be headed for Dallas. He looked at his watch again. He thought it’s Monday seven a.m. she would be preparing for school. She also had music composition with Mr. Hammond at two forty-five. She would then walk to her father’s business to work. Lyle knew he needed to call her tonight. He would after he arrived at his mother’s house. He wanted and needed to explain everything to her, make sure she understood, let her know he loved her and would be back in a week, two weeks tops. He sat there thinking of how he would explain it to her. He knew it should be easy to say, but all his rehearsed explanations seemed lame. “I didn’t want to wake you. I wasn’t going to leave until I saw you in the morning, but I lay in bed tossing and turning, thinking about how I would finally meet my mother”. He knew she would understand, she always was supportive when they discussed his thoughts and feelings about his biological mother. He took care of everything else. He left a note for his parents explaining his actions, he stopped by work and taped a message to the overhead door, explaining that he had an emergency out of state that he would be back in a week or two. Lyle leaned his head back daydreaming, about what-ifs. What if she hadn’t given me away, I’d be in Texas now. I’d know my brothers and sisters. Having other siblings to play with, to share secrets, build a fort and talk about girls. Suddenly he pulled his head from the seat, his face pale, his eyebrows furrowed, and tears pulled at his eyes. He felt a loss. To not have her in his life would be unbearable and unimaginable. He rested his head in his hands, raking his hands up and down his face and running his fingers through his hair. Lyle tried to erase away the terrifying thoughts that he might not have ever met or to have loved Kay. It had been about a year ago he was knocked over by the sweet, beautiful blue-eyed, brunet, ball of fire, Kaylee Kendell. Lyle smiled as he recalled the memory.
He wanted to earn his own money, enough to buy his first car. The opportunities for a sixteen-year-old were slim. His choices were the dairy farm a mile down the road, the farmer on Yerkes Road or the service station, on Main St. In the fall and winter, the service station made the most sense, a small walk from school and back home. Now he had to convince his parents to let him get a job.
The calendar flipped a page into November, tagging along were cold brisk winds, beginning the slippery slope toward winter. Lyle just celebrated his sixteenth birthday and with his parent’s permission, he decided to talk to Mr. Kendell for a job pumping gas. He walked into the front door of Reds. The small bell overhead jiggled acknowledging a patron had arrived. Lyle stood at the counter and waited. He waited longer, and then he started to wander toward the door to the rear. The mechanic service bays were visible through the glass. Seeing only legs covered in the dark blue work pants on a wooden creeper protruding from under a car in the bay he surmised the mechanic was unable to hear he had entered the business. As he stepped to the door to announce himself, he met the wooden doorframe with his head. He was slammed to the ground. He opened his eyes. All he could see was a bright light. Slowly a face came into focus, the angelic pale beauty that knocked him off his feet.
“Are you all right?”
“I think so, just a little confused. Is this heaven?”
“Not the heaven that I imagine”
Lyle pulled himself up and stood, putting his hand out to help the dark-haired beauty to her feet as well. She was dressed in greased stained coveralls a size too big, her hair pulled back into pigtails. Her face had smudged motor oil across her forehead.
“Would you like some ice for your head?”
“No, that’s not necessary but thank you,”
“What can I help you with?”
“Your name to start,”
“Lyle you know me. You sit behind me in English.”
“You look so different and besides most of the time, I’m looking at the back of your pretty little head.
“Obviously you have cracked your head harder than we thought. Trying to change the subject, she was not comfortable talking about herself.
“So, what brings you in here on such a beautiful afternoon?”
“Right, I wanted to ask Mr. Kendell for a job pumping gas?”
“Oh well that is usually my job,” “I know Kaylyn would be willing to give up her hours here, I just don’t know if he can afford to hire someone right now. He is out in the service bay. I will go get him, wait here and stay away from the door.”
“Oh yeah, funny,”
Kaylee walked out the door to the service bay. Lyle had no problem waiting and watching her walk away. How could someone be that gorgeous in a pair of baggy overalls and pigtails? He had been infatuated with her for the past two years. He just wasn’t quite sure how to approach her about asking her on a date. He always did his best to be in the seat behind her in whatever class they shared, which was most of them. He admired her body language that radiated a warm invitation for anyone to come up and talk to her. Her smile and eyes brightened any room she entered. Her spirit was serene and innocent, but she was no shrinking violet. Things have a way of working out. Now he was head over heels in love with Kaylee.
“Little Rock in five minutes” the driver announced.
The sudden announcement broke Lyle’s pleasant thoughts. He turned his attention to the window again and kept watching the white line along Route 40. His thoughts and anxieties drifted between New York and Texas. With the anticipation of finally meeting his mother, getting the answers, he wanted. Mixing with his desire for her head on his shoulder, and her hand cupped in his played havoc in his head. To have one he hoped he didn’t have to give up the other.
The Dance – Chapter 3
Kaylee – age 17 – Romulus,
New York – November 2, 1963
The morning sun beamed
through the bedroom window directly into Kaylee’s face as she sat at the
dressing table. She reached up, grabbing the shade and pulled it lower to block
the brightness from her eyes. Her head miffed, her body comatose, she had a
very restless night sleep. Kaylee sat back brushing her light walnut brown
hair, daydreaming about her last conversation with Lyle.
She had just finished dinner
with him and his parents at Katie’s Hotel, in Hayts Corners. After Lyle’s
parents drove back to their house Lyle thanked his parents for the birthday
dinner and gift. He borrowed their car
and drove to her home.
Kaylee stuck her head inside the front door.
“Mamma we’re home, Lyle and
I are staying on the porch we can pass out candy”
They sat on the front porch
swing, talking between greeting the neighborhood ghosts, vampires, clowns and goblins.
The Indian summer day had surrendered to a seasonally cool October night. Lyle
had reached around Kaylee’s shoulder and encased her in his embrace, pulling
her closer into his body, warming them both. They talked about Lyle’s new car
he was planning on buying and the places they could go together. Like the
drive-inn come summer, Taughannock Falls, and their senior prom. They talked
about how special that night would be, dressing up, arriving together in a cool
car and celebrating for all the arduous work. A beginning of milestones, steps
of leaving behind childhood and starting the future as adults.
“Make sure you save the last
dance for me,” Lyle whispered in her ear.
“My dance card is already
“Yeah, with my name” he
reached over with his index finger to her chin and kissed her softly.
“Oh, you think you know.”
Kaylee playfully pushed against Lyle’s chest.
Kaylee’s sweet daydream was
interrupted by noises coming from the closet, scuffling movements and objects
hurling with a clank to the hardwood floor.
“Kaylyn what are you doing?”
Kaylee visibly saw her sister’s rear end protruding from the entrance of their
“I’m trying to find my penny
loafers” she hurled another shoe from the closet.
“Well, most of the shoes
you’re throwing are mine. You better put them back!”
“Yes, Princess Kay.”
Kaylyn had climbed out of
the closet, slipped on the shoes she’d been searching for and went to sit at
the dressing table next to Kaylee. The hand-crafted dressing table sat in front
of the east window, separated by individual mirrors. Kaylyn began to brush her
hair and looked over at Kaylee. Kaylee could sense her twin sister looking at
her as she kept looking at her reflection putting on some lip gloss.
“You better hurry we need to
leave for school soon. I hope your coupe dpoop starts this morning.”
“Wow, why so contemptible
this morning? Did you have a pea under your mattress?”
“Oh, aren’t you the funny
one this morning. I haven’t talked to Lyle since Halloween night, the night of
his birthday dinner.” I’m worried about him”.
“I’m sure he’s fine, he
probably got busy with his dad.”
“That could be, he said he
was going to start looking for a car right away. No, it just can’t be, he would
call me or come over.”
“You have a point there. He
doesn’t do much without telling you about it.”
“What’s that mean?”
“You have that boy under
your spell. He’d follow you anywhere.”
“I’d follow him too. He’s a
sweetheart, my true love. He’s kind, gentle, considerate, affectionate but
respectful of my feelings of waiting until marriage.”
“It sounds wonderful, your
fairy tale coming true. Can’t wait to help plan your wedding”
“That will be spled-i-dious”
“That isn’t a word”
Kaylyn got up from the
chair, walking toward their closed bedroom door.
“Come on we need to get
going, meet you in the car.”
The sisters rode in silence
the half-mile to the parking lot of their school.
Kaylee pulled the handle to
open the car door, angling herself out of the 1952 Chevy convertible Coupe. As
she closed the car door it made annoying squeal, crying out for oil on the
hinges. In her best Scarlet O’Hara impression, Kaylee spoke on behalf of the
door. She placed one hand to her forehead palm out.
“I beg of you Kaylyn, with a dramatic pause, please
oil me.” Her other hand on the car door she closed the car door so that the
combination of a squeak and screech added the distress to her performance.
“Stop knocking the ride,” said
her sister Kaylyn.
“I love our ride; dad will have
this baby back to new in no time.
“Grab your bag, Scarlet”
Kaylyn held the trunk open
waiting for Kaylee to grab her bag.
“It’s not a bag, it’s a
guitar. You should know this by now.”
“I know what it is, miss
smarty pants. If you’re done being dramatic let’s get out of this cold.”
The sisters were part of
their father’s band performances when time allowed, usually on weekends and
extraordinary events. Kaylee was usually vocal lead with Kaylyn and their dad,
Red harmonizing or sing a duet with Kaylee. Kaylee had real talent and an
ardent desire to be more than singing in the local bars, taverns, and
jamborees. She wanted to go to Nashville as soon as the graduation ceremony
concluded. Although she knew already what her parents thought. That a young
woman in the big city alone and naïve to that way of life, only get chewed up
and spit to the curb. The plan was already set in motion. She and Lyle were
going to Nashville together. She knew the road would be hard and the road
already well-traveled by other hopefuls, she had her mindset and there was no
changing now. Kaylee wasn’t afraid of a challenge or the demanding work, she
sought after more than this one-horse town could provide.
The cold fall morning
combined with rain showers chilled Kaylee to the bone. Her agitated,
expectations and anxieties influenced her mind to shut off to the surroundings.
The weather didn’t improve her damped spirits.
Kaylyn wrapped her arm
“He’s probably up there
standing next to your locker waiting for you.”
“I hope so,” Kaylee said
with exasperating feelings.
Arm in arm the sisters
walked through the front welcoming wide entrance. Maple walls climbed high to
meet the white ceilings, accented with wide ornate crown molding. The sisters
started up one flight to the main level of classrooms, auditorium, and
Climbing the first flight of
stairs to the second floor where students’ lockers were as well as more
classrooms. They rounded the landing to the second flight of stairs.
“Bet he will be waiting to
carry your books.”
They stopped at the first
alcove of lockers where most of the senior class was collecting whatever books
they needed for the first period.
Kaylee looked for Lyle, but
he wasn’t there.
Kaylyn reach for Kaylee
wrapping her intensely into her body, whispered in her ear
“Try to stop worrying” as
Kaylyn pulled back she wiped away a tear that had escaped from the corner of
Kaylee’s almond-shaped eyes.
“It wouldn’t be such a big
deal, but he’s been consumed with contacting his biological mother, he has
questions and he needs answers.”
“Who can blame him, anyone
in that situation would want answers too.”
“Come on we have to get back
downstairs for music” “I’m sure he will be here or calling you tonight”
“Yeah, yeah I know one day
this will just be a faded memory.”
The sisters’ arm in arm descended the necessary stairs to the basement to the band room.
The Dance – Chapter 4
Lyle – Dallas, Texas – November 2, 1963
The ten wheels of the greyhound grinded to a halt and sidled next to the yellow painted curb in front of the bus station. One by one passengers grabbed their belongings and followed the white lines down the center aisle of the bus. Lyle had been closer to the rear, he dawdled with his duffle, procrastinating. He picked up his duffle bag walking down the aisle feelings of apprehension and expectation flooded over his body, confusing him more than he wanted to be. Cautiously he stepped down the steps of the bus, disembarking into the unknown. He scanned widely over the side walk and building looking for some type of sign that someone was expecting him, wanted him. Standing on the concrete sidewalk, dropping his bag and coat, he lifted his face toward the sun. It was a little after eleven and the warmth of the morning sun comforted him. He had removed his winter jacket and flannel shirt in stages between Ohio and Arkansas, now down to a t-shirt, as if in summer again. Lyle twisted side to side from the hips up trying to relieve the stress on his back. As he picked up his gear, he saw a woman, as tall as she was wide standing with an inconspicuously plain stalwart young man at her side at the front window holding a sign “LYLE”. He walked through the doors and approached the women.
“Hi Lyle, I’m Barb, your mother,” The women stepped into him and gave him a loose hug.
“This is your brother Calvin.” Lyle reached out to shake his hand, but Calvin did not return in kind, Lyle lowered his hand awkwardly.
Calvin kept his hands in his pants pockets, in a simple raise of his eyebrows he spoke in a deep stern voice.
“It’s nice to meet you both.” Lyle said insincerely, Calvin left him feeling uneasy and intimidated.
“I would like to hear all about your life, let’s go back to our house and catch up.”
“We better hurry then, the bus back to the house picks up in five minutes,” Calvin explained.
Lyle grabbed his gear and followed behind the two strangers. The warmth of this beautiful November day couldn’t buster his feelings of regret for being an impatient bullheaded child. The streets were busy with people and business. Some people were walking fast and others sitting against buildings as if with no care of their surroundings. As an observer of the city he noticed that he was the only one in a short sleeve shirt and not donning an outer jacket. Now realizing that even his mother wore a long wool coat and his brother a long sleeve jacket.
Three blocks later they came to a stop in front of a bench near a sign that read #15. Barbara and Calvin sat on the bench, hands still in pockets.
“Are you cold?” “It has to be near 55 degrees”.
“Yeah that is cold to us, we are used to 70’s and 80’s”
“That explains the hustle and bustle as well as everyone in long sleeves”.
“This is nothing, wait until we get downtown”.
The city bus weaved in and out of stops through the busy streets of Dallas. Lyle sat silently observing the people of Dallas and the city itself. The banners above businesses and streets depicting President Kennedy’s leadership and loyalty to Americans. The John Birch Society naming Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower as part of the communist party. There were protesters walking back and forth chanting, screaming out their disagreeing trepidations. He became uneasy listening to the venomous chatter of the other passengers. Lyle felt as if he were in another dimension, observing the interworking’s of just the city bus itself. He noticed the black patrons enter and exit in the rear of the bus. His discomfort increased when he offered his seat to an old black woman that he noticed standing behind him.
“Mam, here please sit.”
The old women just shook her head no and pointed to the sign above her head.
“COLORED ONLY” segregation enforced.
“I’m sorry,” lowered his head and retreated into his seat.
He had taken the last available seat designated for white passengers. As a native New Yorker this segregation policy was imprudent, superfluous and mostly a misguided prejudice by the older generations of the south. Separation of human beings left him perplexed, as if a white person would get black spots or cancer just by touching a seat a black person had sat in. He didn’t agree with it but followed the rules so not to cause trouble for himself. He was just a visitor in these strange unsettling volatile attitudes toward another human being.
He felt if everyone were angry and upset over political events that he did not understand. Fear was in the air. Fear of nuclear war, communist and of the Soviet Union. This atmosphere and attitude were not comprehensible, it was like night and day between Texas and New York. Lyle was fooled by his age, his own importance within his world and his small home town whom only spoke of admiration and respect for President Kennedy. Where there was wide range support for Kennedy’s mission plan to spark our lagging economy, lowering taxes, educational standards, equal pay for women, affordable housing and social security upgrades. In this he realized that the world was bigger than him and his minuet problems.
The bus pulled to the curb and stopped.
“This is our stop”
Lyle grabbed his bag again and followed down the steps and into the afternoon sun.
The bus drove away leaving in their wake a puff of black exhaust smoke.
“We are four blocks down and two across on Cranberry”
The landscape had changed. They were outside the city limits where the streets were lined with small white houses with small brown lawns. The neighborhood seemed to be a working lower class of blue-collar families. The area was solace, apart from a barking dog protecting his leashed perimeter. The only other person Lyle saw was a young man sitting on a bucket working on a car front passenger wheel. Lyle assumed brake work, he wanted to give the man a hand brakes could be a pain and he missed getting his hands dirty like he did at “Red’s”.
“Where is everyone? I would have thought more kids would be outside playing”.
“This is a good neighborhood, a little run down, but the kids will be out of school soon and you will hear the hootin’ and hollarin’ soon enough.”
Calvin was at least two houses ahead, walking at a much faster pace. Lyle lagged in conjoining step with Barbara, chatting casually about school, jobs and family.
“Were they good to you?”
“Mom and dad are great. What little I know of other parents, I was blessed.”
“You’ve had a good life then?”
“The best, I imagine, sure it would have been nice if my parents had been millionaires.”
“Yeah, money does the talking.”
“I would probably be a different man than I am now, no sense of responsibility, with little respect for the value of a dollar or keeping my word with a simple hand shake.”
“Those are important attributes. You’ll go a long way keeping them at your cuff.”
“Here we are.” Barbara walked the short cracked concrete pavement to the front enclosed porch.
Stepping inside behind Barbara, Lyle’s eyes started to water. A strong putrid ammonia infused with bleach instantly took over his sense of smell. Actually, he had no sense of sell left. The porch was small, half the width of the house and dark except one window next to the door. Cardboard boxes covered the floor and wall square footage. Black magic marker labeled the boxes with the contents, kitchen, bathroom, Cindy’s room, Patrick’s room. Two old metal kitchen chairs sat adjacent from one another each next to a door.
Barbara slipped off her loafers at the threshold before the main house door. Lyle wondered if they had just moved in as he followed suit with his sneakers leaving them to rest under the metal chair.
“Leave your pack here until we figure out sleeping arrangements.”
Lyle left his duffle bag and jacket on top of the same metal chair. Entering behind Barbara into the house apprehension and caution prickled at the base of his neck running the length of his spin.