Thursday, May 15, 2008

“Paris Promenade”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a quiet morning in the Icehouse home office. A half-eaten breakfast of cheese grits and Vienna sausages waited for my attention, in the midst of scattered newspaper clippings. But my morning routine was on hold, for the moment. I had nearly finished my third book – a sports adventure based around local softball games from last summer. Yet the work had gone more slowly than I wanted – until today. The focus and concentration that I’d been seeking were now in full effect. Food held no attraction in the moment. I crouched in front of the computer monitor, with wordsmithing determination running hot in my veins. At last, this daunting task would be complete…

Rudely, our telephone rang as I composed the final paragraph.

My fingers stumbled on the keys. I rattled to a creative halt. What followed on the screen was pure gibberish: “Nbvfel@&#?”

I groaned out loud. The writing program indicated that a grave error had been committed. Suddenly, it was impossible to think. A window for spell check opened to highlight my improper entry. From across the room, our telephone continued to ring.
Chaos had claimed my creative moment!

I held my head while trying to regain control. “Make it stop!” I yelped, while picking up the receiver. “Please, make it stop!”

Liz, my wife, reacted with sheer befuddlement. “What??” she said over the telephone. “Rodney, are you okay??”

I stammered with embarrassment. “Honey! How are you? Sorry for answering your call like that…”

“What’s wrong with you today?” she said quizzically.

“Nothing,” I explained. “Just a bit of writer’s anguish.”

“Of… what??” she asked.

“Nothing. Nevermind. How are things at work?” I said with a smile.

She paused to collect her thoughts. “Actually, I called to ask you a question. How would you like to chaperone a prom this month?”

“A prom??” I coughed.

“Yes!” she chirped. “At the Glad Tidings Academy. We’ve been asked to participate this year, with Leigh!”

I felt old. “Leigh…? Is going to prom?”

“Yes,” Liz whispered. “Our girl is growing up! We’ve got to find her a dress, and matching shoes, and make an appointment for her hair, and buy special jewelry, and make corsages, and…”

I was dizzy. But it didn’t matter. A mother-and-daughter rite of passage had arrived in the Icehouse!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The theme of Leigh’s event was ‘Paris in the Spring’ – accomplished with banners, props, and decorations donated by a local high school. On each table, Eiffel Tower candleholders glowed romantically. The cafeteria had been artistically adorned in pink and black. A balloon archway filled the hall, outside. A mirrored, disco-ball hung at the center of this incredible display.

Music of all sorts filled the air. There were sparkles of color from sequins, lace, satin, and ribbons tied into festive curls.

Our teen bubbled with excitement, from her wheelchair. “Mom, this is so fantastic! We’ve never been dressed up at school like this, before!” She glimmered in deep purple and gold.

“You look like a Hollywood star!” I said with pride.

Liz blushed. “Doesn’t Chatham look spiffy in a suit? And Lodi wore a striped shirt, just like a real Frenchman! C’est magnifique!”

“And Kara wore yellow,” Leigh exclaimed. “It’s her favorite color!”

While we got in line for punch and snacks, I noticed three men, in matching polo shirts. They were already on the dance floor, mixing with students. My eyes could barely read the logo each one carried… WYBL 98.3 - The Bull.

I whispered to my wife. “Hey, who are the three guys in tan shirts?”

She giggled. “That’s Roger McCoy, Scony, and Dominic the Tow Truck Driver from my favorite radio station… The Bull!!”

“Here??” I said with disbelief. “At the Glad Tidings Academy?”

As if on cue, a rousing tune by ‘Trailer Choir’ began to play over the loudspeakers. The tables emptied as even the most shy participants got up to jam.

Leigh struggled out of her wheelchair. “Mom, I want to join my classmates!” She took turns high-stepping with Chatham, Lodi, and Keeney. Then it was time to break for punch and cookies.

Suddenly, Dominic approached our group. He stood tall, like a redwood tree with legs. Yet his voice was gentle. “You daughter is lovely, Mrs. Ice. May I have this dance…?” He reached out with a paw the size of a baseball glove.

Our daughter gasped. “Oh my! What a cool idea!”

My wife blushed again. “Why, yes. Of course!”

The radio celebrity bowed with a graceful arc of overgrown limbs. He cradled Leigh, carefully. Then they spun away, into the crowd.

Liz dabbed a tear from her eye. “This is incredible…” she observed.

I was busy with my digital camera. “Yeah, it’s a night to remember!”

She snuggled under my chin. “This is a special night for our girl. But also, for us. You know, we never went to prom together.”

I nodded. “No. At Leigh’s age, I lived in Virginia.”

“And I was still in Wisconsin,” she remembered. “So this is our night, too!”

Before I could answer, ‘The Locomotion’ had begun to play. Dancers lined up across the cafeteria. Chatham was now partnered with our teen angel, who had returned to her wheelchair. The group filed out an exit door, then down the hall and back inside again. Voices echoed throughout the building. “Come on, come on, and do the Locomotion with me!”

I drank more punch to combat the rising indoor temperature. Every pair of feet was on the floor. I could feel the thud of wild dance steps buzzing under my shoes.

Leigh passed by with a parade-queen wave from her chair. “I’ll remember this night forever, Mom! Forever! I love you!”

After a final tour around the room, everyone gathered in a circle.

I took off my tie. Our digital camera was nearly full of images. “Okay… what dance is this?”

“It is the final song,” Liz said, with moist eyes and a whimper. “They all hold hands and sing!”

Voices and hearts joined in a final moment of celebration. I raised the camera over my head for a better angle. Everyone swayed in time to the hopeful, uplifting anthem. Then, the room fell silent.

Leigh cried tears of joy. She squeezed Lodi’s hand.

“Forever,” she promised. “This night will last forever…”

Our drive home provided a peaceful counterpoint to the festive evening. Both mother and daughter yielded to slumber inside the family truck. Alone, I marveled at ribbon-strands that blew playfully from the antenna as I drove. We’d decorated the workhorse in hues that matched Leigh’s dress. Now, these streaming colors streaked the darkness with fanciful highlights.

“From Thompson to Paris,” I said in a hush. “And back, again!” I patted the dashboard, with reverence. “Well done, ol’ hoss. Now take us home!”

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