Three Don't Dance

Don Shook

© Copyright 2020 by Don Shook

Photo of a sign for Mom's Diner.

Guilt consumed me. “My, God, she’s married!” I thought, the effects of the wine worn off. “You’re married!” I said aloud, jumping to my feet.

Toni looked perplexed, then scowled before saying, “So?”

“So, this was wrong. I’m so sorry.”

She viewed me critically for a moment, “Huh? Sorry?” Since she seemed genuinely flabbergasted, I immediately deduced she’d sung this song before. Then, quite matter-of-factly, she continued, “I won’t be married much longer. It’s been on the rocks for months now. He won’t talk, won’t touch me. He comes in from work, plops down on the sofa, lights a joint and in an hour he’s sound asleep. I won’t be married much longer.”

“Oh? Well, let me know when that happens.” I responded, feeling quite undone, but more than willing to leave the door open.

I had met Toni while holding a night class for Barbizon Modeling School. Introducing an acting course into the curriculum, I first saw the lithesome, blue-eyed blonde standing in the doorway of the class I was scheduled to teach. Classes were held in a building in downtown Dallas and I was late because of the absurd traffic. Huffing out of the elevator and into the room, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I stopped cold in my tracks when I saw her.

"Your class?" she asked, a smile forming around thin, perfectly-shaped lips.

"I think so. Is this the acting group?" I countered.

Her smile engulfed me. "Acting up, I'd say. I was baby-sitting 'til you arrived." There was just enough twang in her voice to indicate “country”, but her aura was sophistication personified. Obviously, her model training had smoothed all but a few grammatical rough edges.

"Tha...thaa...thanks," I stuttered. "I appreciate it."

"No problem. I'm Toni," she continued, offering a delicate hand. It was warm and extremely feminine, soft, slender fingers tapering into perfect symmetry. I wondered if some ladies’ magazine had featured them on occasion.

Such fingers always stirred romantic sensations in me. "Dan," I muttered, grasping her hand firmly, prolonging the touch as our eyes locked in mutual attraction. "You teach modeling I assume." As I withdrew my hand, I felt a moist palm…always a positive sign. She too was nervous.

"Yes, and you're the actor."

"Debatable, but true, I confess." False modesty seemed a good tactic.

"Well, it's time," she said, glancing at her watch. "I'll see you around."

She slid away as though floating down a runway, and I knew, savoring her delicate blondness, that I would indeed see her around.

The next time was a late lunch at a quaint little restaurant in the building where I shared a small, upstairs office with my business partner. The meal consisted mainly of Toni and I savoring longing looks over glasses of chardonnay, feasting on the excitement of desire, and digesting tidbits of information relative to the inevitable consummation for which we subliminally hungered.

I learned that she was unhappily married (surprise, surprise), and had a beautiful two-year-old daughter. She loathed her job and her life, except for the child, and could dance to country music all night. As she unloaded all this, my pulse rate soared. Desire could have been liberally sliced and served as an appetizer.

She learned that I was several years divorced, childless, extremely attracted to slender blue-eyed blondes, and wisely offered no commentary on country music,

After perhaps an hour of gathering such generalized details, she asked to see my office, a glimmer of suggestion in her smile. Suffering no delusions as to its meaning, I suggested that we drink up. In short order, we drained our glasses and went upstairs.

Less than ten seconds after I had unlocked the door and stepped into the sparse two-room suite, our heretofore suppressed passion erupted. I shut the door with a back- kick and not one word was spoken. I turned to her and we were in each other’s arms in a frantic frenzy of primitive urgency, an overwhelming emotional surge of blazing energy.

A short while later, both exhausted, I repeated, “I mean it, let me know.” She smiled suggestively, winked and walked out the door.

Three weeks later she called. The divorce was final. During the interim I had purposely avoided her at Barbizon. Arriving late and leaving early, I managed to skirt any real, but longed for, conversations. “How are you. Fine. I’m great.” was the extent of our communication. On occasion, however, our eyes met and my libido cart-wheeled into realms of raging fantasy. She seemed more than cool, staring only briefly before moving to her next assumed obligation. Doubts surfaced with thoughts that perhaps I had been only a “one-afternoon-stand” and future possibilities docked. Still, her call had launched an uncharted maelstrom of imagination. Our passion resumed on a level of intensity that rivaled Dante’s Inferno. Only now I had the kid to deal with…

Halfway through her “terrible twos”, Jennie had the face of Shirley Temple and the disposition of Ivan the Terrible. Like most toddlers, her favorite word was “No!” her favorite food-dog dish leftovers, her favorite activity- making my life miserable.

Jennie and I got along fabulously when separated by at least six furlongs. Undoubtedly, the little tyke subconsciously resented me replacing her father…albeit, in her mother’s eyes only…certainly not in mine. In fact, Toni seemed to scarcely notice the friction with what could only be described as a non-reactive reaction. Yet, in my mind’s eye, “How could she not notice?” The kid was incessant.

The moment I entered the room, screaming began. The instant Toni touched me, bawling ensued. Ten seconds before I tried soothing her with dulcet tones of understanding, Jennie hid behind her mother. It was less than an idyllic introduction that evolved into a worse relationship. Consequently, less than two weeks after Toni had moved Jennie and herself into my apartment …the romance began to flounder. What? How was that possible? The intensity of our love superseded any tiny tot’s tantrums. This could be dealt with.

I earnestly tried to bridge the chasm between myself and the miniature Lady Macbeth. Reeling in the distinct possibility that our burning passion could flame into an unwanted conflagration, I became desperate, willing to try anything.

So, I ventured with her to the field beside my apartment complex, thinking I could entertain her with the birds, insects and other flying, darting things inhabiting the place. Oh yes, a marvelous idea; I could educate her by showing and explaining some of Nature’s wonders. As a gesture of affection, I braved thorn bramble and dubious ivy to pick some wildflowers. After suffering only two mosquito bites, a bee sting, and multiple scratches, I handed her a pretty bouquet, assuming she’d be delighted and start to like me. “Surely,” I thought, “she’ll love the multi-colored floral arrangement” I’d handed her. In less than five seconds, she began chomping on it and, naturally, when I tried to keep her from swallowing, the screaming began – from both of us. When Toni returned from her modeling job, she was furious with me for trying to poison her child.

Of course, there were other problems. Toni ate too slowly. Not that I was a gobbler, quite the contrary. I was often criticized for lingering over dinner. I usually attributed it to my dazzling conversation…you couldn’t eat while you were talking. I was an entertaining raconteur who kept others waiting until I was through. However, compared to Toni, I was a ferret. She ate English Peas one at a time, and finishing an ear of corn-on-the-cob took a parsec. At first, it went unnoticed…in the throes of incipient love, myopia induces neglect. But, as time advanced, the cadence crumbled and, of course, the kid didn’t help. But the real friction developed over country music, yes, country music.

After several months of being subjected to my tape collection of operatic and classical selections, Toni was walking on hot coals of “I Gotta Feelin’ Called The Blues” blues. She didn’t understand nor like, much less appreciate, opera or symphonic masterpieces. To her, Beethoven and his music were equally dead. Wagner’s magic moments were dreadful half-hours. And she certainly couldn’t handle Handle’s majestic strains. You couldn’t two-step to them. And she had to two-step, to go dancin’. She missed dancin’. Dancin’ was in her blood…and she liked dancin’ to country music. My Queen of the Night preferred guitar-pluckin’ to The Magic Flute. Ah, ha! Familiarity did breed contempt because, in order of relative importance, there were three things that I really hated: Country music, country music, and country music. Was this a problem?

Ninety-four days after cohabitation began, Toni and I were out of love and Jennie and Toni were out of my apartment.

For a few weeks, after Toni found other accommodations, we continued seeing each other, but it just wasn’t the same. Too much water had passed under the bridge and the flood of emotional turmoil had swept away all vestiges of pretense. The crowning blow came when Toni told me the little one missed me. Missed me? Usually this had entailed a sharp-edged object thrown with the accuracy of Nolan Ryan. Missing was seldom a factor. Now, since she had been the object of our discontent and I of her aim, her newfound nostalgia ricocheted off my libido and settled in the realization that the relationship was really done, over, finished, kaplut!

At first I was relieved, then a bit lonely, then very lonely, then hopelessly missing her. Only trouble was, by this time Toni had moved on. She and Jennie had imposed themselves on a country music dancin’ fool named Buster. Case closed.

I begged, pleaded, cajoled and embarrassed himself to no avail. She had shut the door on our romance and, like most women scorned, wasn’t about to even look out the peep hole, which now belonged to Buster. I wandered the lonely streets for months; finally, had a talk with himself and listened. Of course, meeting another amore who promised even more than Toni helped a little. Then, after a while, a lot. Finally, who the hell was Toni?

Still, the experience had taught me a lesson. I simply wasn’t getting involved in any more complicated relationships. I was too susceptible to “falling in love”, whatever that meant, with tall, thin, blue-eyed blondes. Whenever tempted, I remembered the old adage: “Never play poker with a man named Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. And never, ever, ever get involved with someone who has more problems than you do.” To which I added an equally important adjunct: “And whatever you do, steer clear of second-hand kids.” It was excellent advice, and I damn well intended to follow it…. Then Bethany showed up.

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