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Jun 06, 2020



                                  Last Dance


                             John Meiners, Jr.



     Barbour sits and waits for Mimi in the living room. He relaxes, reads the paper, and listens to 'Fibber McGee and Molly' on the radio.


     Michael, his son, who was in bed all of five to ten minutes, calls out from his room. "When is Mommy coming home?"


     "She'll be here soon." Barbour looks at his watch, 10:00 PM. He wonders if she'll be home by midnight. 'Soon' seemed the best thing to say. In hindsight 'soon' to his son means she'll walk in any moment. There's no reason to go to sleep. Michael has missed his mother and is ready for her to be home. Barbour shares Michael's feelings. Mimi and Barbour are rarely apart and never for long, except of course for the years during the war.


     Michael hears 'Fibber McGee and Molly' and quickly lets it be known. "I like Fibber McGee and Molly."


     Barbour loudly calls back to him. "Sorry, it just ended." Barbour turns up the radio so Michael can hear, and as he walks to Michael's room, he adds, "Listen." Just then the radio host announces, 'Join us next week for another episode of 'Fiber McGee and Molly', but stay tuned for the next exciting adventure of 'The Lone Ranger.'  


Of course, Barbour could have written the script for the next thing Michael said, "I love the Lone Ranger." 


"I called that shot," thought Barbour with a laugh. "I know, but it's late. Another time. Mommy will kiss you good night when she gets home."


     Michael pleaded, "Aw, Dad," and looked at him with the disappointed face he'd mastered into a fine art.


     "Alright then. Straight to bed. Deal?" Barbour held out his hand for a gentlemen's agreement.


     "With a huge smile, Michael shakes his Dad's hand and says, "Deal"


     As they settle in with the sounds of horses' hooves and 'Hi Ho, Silver' heard on the radio, the sound of keys are heard in the door. Barbour tells Michael happily, "Mommy's home early." 


     The door opens, and Mimi asks, "How are my two leading men?"


     "Happy... we thought you'd be another hour or so."


     They both run to her and hug, After a few more kisses, Barbour carries her bags in.


     "I caught an earlier flight. I wanted to surprise you. I missed you both so much."


     Michael says, "I missed you too, Mommy."


     Barbour embraces her again. It's evident he's happy she's home.


     Mimi opens and digs through her suitcase while telling Michael, "I brought you a present." He beams in anticipation, and Mimi pulls out a small figure of King Kong.


     "King Kong... Gee, it's swell. Thank you, Mommy."


     "My, would you look at the time... almost eleven. Off to bed little man."


     Barbour sees Michael's disappointed face and tries to nip it in the bud. "Oh, don't look so gloomy. Mommy's home safe and sound and... only one more week of school." With a loving pat on the head he says, "Night," and Michael leaves with his new King Kong most likely to not go to bed, but instead to play with King Kong. Barbour knows he went too easily as does Mimi, and Barbour offers the answer. "You know King Kong will be fighting airplanes on the Empire State Building until midnight."


     Mimi nods, "Oh, I'm sure of it." She smiles looking pleased with herself. She definitely has something important to say. Barbour knows that look and wonders. Excitedly Mimi exclaims, "Barbour, they want us!"


     "Who wants us?"


     Mimi not wanting to disclose all, "Are you ready for this?"


     "I don't know what 'this' is."


     "Barbour, I'm telling you this could be it."


     Barbour's curiosity grows with every sentence, and finally he bursts out, "Mimi, tell me."


     "I auditioned. They liked me. I showed them our pictures, the movie stills." Barbour wonders for a moment. 'What about me?' but then has a sigh of relief when Mimi says, "They want a couple. Two people are needed, and when Mr. Steinfield, who's the director of the new movie saw the pictures, he said, Yes!" 


     Barbour hears this and wonders if he's dreaming. In the past, the dream of dancing professionally seemed just that, an illusive dream. With excitement he quickly asks, "What's the movie? Who's in it?"


     Mimi is saving the best for last. She, of course, knows the dancer Barbour more or less idolizes and springs it on him. "We're going to be in a movie with Gene Kelly! "The Pirate."  


     "My God... Gene Kelly?... It's called "The Pirate? And we're definitely in the cast?"


     Just as quickly as excitement all but bowled him over, suddenly Barbour is stricken with fear. The war was over two years ago. Since his return from the war it hasn't been easy. He works part time at a grocery store which only recently became part time because the Dance Studio he and Mimi opened a year ago has started doing well just in the past five months. 


     Mimi notices his change of mood and points out, "Barbour, It's what we've been waiting for."


     "What about our dance studio, our students?"


     The worried look is now apparent to Mimi, and she quickly seeks to ease his fretfulness. "I spoke with Aunt Millie, remember her? Well, she lives in California, and she's invited us to stay for the summer. We'll manage. Then when we return after the movie, we'll have more students than ever. They'll be 'Dancing with the Stars.'"


     Barbour sets aside his worry. Mimi's excitement is infectious and her happiness paramount. He decides the move is worth the risk and says, "We can't pass up this chance."


     Mimi is relieved and retrieves a box from her bag, "Here, a present for you."




     "You'll need them. You can't dance in a show with GENE KELLY without new shoes."


     "What about you?" Mimi grabs her new shoes and holds them up with a big smile.


     Michael apparently heard the word 'present.' His ears perked up and overcome with curiosity, he and King Kong came to find out who was the recipient. He looks at his dad and asks, "Did you get a present too?"


     "I did... Say, aren't you supposed to be in bed? Well, since you're up... Your mother and I have news for you."


     "We'll never get him to bed now, Barbour. Alright. We're going to California and will stay with Aunt Millie for the summer. And... both of us will be in a movie with Gene Kelly."


     Barbour looks at Michael and waits for his excitement to fill the room, but Michael asks with a puzzled look, "Who?"


     "Gene Kelly"... Barbour answers in disbelief. "He's a dancer like your mother and I."  Michael seems to be still unimpressed, and Barbour laughs and tells Mimi, "See? He's not excited. He'll be able to go to bed."


     Mimi chimes in with, "The movie is about pirates."


     Barbour knows Michael listens to "Long John Silver" on the radio. It may his favorite program even edging out "The Lone Ranger" and tells her, "Now if he can't go to sleep, it's your fault."


     Michael finally excited exclaims, "Oh Boy,... Are you going to be a pirate?"


     "Yes, I'm going to play a fierce romantic... dancing pirate."


     Mimi attempts to end the conversation, "Now off to bed."


     Quickly Barbour tells Michael, "Probably we'll be famous and sign autographs."




     "Like Joe DiMaggio?"


     "Just like Joe DiMaggio."


     "Are you going to be on the pirate ship?"


     Mimi smiles at both of them. She feels the two of them have sailed away on a pirate ship, and she didn't get on board.


     "Your mother and I will dance all over the pirate ship."




     Mimi decides to play captain of the Pirate ship. "Now OFF to bed," and after multiple hugs and kisses, Michael runs into his room. Michael is a master of stall tactics, and she can't help but wonder when he went so easily if he already has a return plan. 


     Even as she tells herself, 'Don't be so suspicious.' Michael runs back in, King Kong in hand. "Sign King Kong."


     Barbour happily asks, "You want our autograph?"


     "Yes,... you too, Mommy."


     Mimi decides if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. "Oh, that's so sweet. Well, we want our little star's autograph too."


     Barbour and Mimi sign King Kong as best they can, and Michael signs the sole of each of their new dance shoes. Finally after another round of hugs and kisses, Michael sets out for his room and bed. They watch for the light to go off while they try on their new shoes. Finally it goes out. They turn to each other, and Mimi says, "What excuse will he use next to come back out?" 


     Barbour finishes lacing his shoes, stands and asks, "May I have this dance?"


     Mimi curtsies and takes Barbour's hands. They dance and after a moment, Barbour inquires, "This movie we're starring in? You haven't told me what it's about."




     "Could you elaborate."


     "Quite a bit of singing and dancing."           


     "Will I have an eye patch and an earring, even possibly a parrot on my shoulder?"


     "No parrot when you dance with me."


     They continue dancing more closely, and romance is in the air. A kiss or two and an exchange of 'I love you.' Suddenly Mimi points when she sees Michael's light come on in his room. They stop dancing and Barbour calls out, "Michael, why is your light on?"


     Michael answers loudly from his room. "I dropped King Kong, and he went under the bed."


     "Maybe he knows it's time to stop playing and go to sleep. Turn off your light. He'll be there in the morning"


     Michael replies, "Aw, Dad."


     A few moments later the light goes out, and they continue their dance.


     The next seven days are busy with arrangements and preparations for their move to California. They're all filled with excitement. Mimi and Barbour with hopes of fulfilling their dreams of a movie career, and Michael to see them dance on a real pirate ship. They plan to travel by car to California a day or two after the last day of school. However, a call from the studio informs them of a change in the start date. Measurements and costume preparations are scheduled so to save time, they decide Mimi with Barbour's measurements will travel by air, and Barbour and Michael will follow by car. The studio agrees so Mimi leaves early to fly to California, but not before Michael insists she take King Kong with her to keep her company and protect her. The car is already loaded and ready for the trip which will unite them all once again.


     The next morning the phone rings, and Barbour happily answers believing it's Mimi letting him know she's safe at Aunt Millie's house.


     Fifty years later Michael sits in what used to be his bedroom at his father's home. Michael's wife, Theresa, suddenly arrives and hears, "Aw, Dad." Michael carries a large bag into the living room.  Theresa hugs him and asks, "What happened Michael?"


     "Not sure. The nurse got here in the morning... usual time and found him."


     "I'm so sorry." Theresa holds his hand sensing he wants to talk, and it's best to let him.


     Michael fighting tears sadly says, "After he lost Mom, I think he lost his dreams."


     "A dancer without his partner. He lost a lot. You did too."


     "I remember they were so excited about that movie. They were extras in one, but this one had bigger parts... They even had lines... It was their big break." 


     "Gene Kelly?... Right?"


     "Dad loved Gene Kelly." Michael is deep in childhood memories as he reaches in the bag and pulls out his dad's dancing shoes. Puzzled, he asks, "Dancing Shoes? He had these on?... I figured they were slippers."


     "Once a dancer."


     Michael looks closely at the shoes, inspecting them and states emphatically, "These are the shoes. Mom took them on the plane... back to California. She took them on the plane with her."


     Theresa tells him. "It must be a different pair of shoes."


     Michael is so emotional he's barely able to utter, "No." He shows Theresa the shoe and says, "Look... my name... I was nine, and... I autographed his shoes."


     "I remember. You told me.. they autographed King Kong, and you gave him to your Mom to... protect her." Theresa thinks it wonderful Michael has his Dad's shoes with his name on them and says, "All this time, you didn't know he still had his shoes."


     "Theresa, he didn't have them." Michael tells her without a shred of doubt in his voice.


    Theresa is a bit perplexed. Obviously he was excited when he found the shoes, and that was only natural, but his find is pointing now toward something not so natural. She wonders if he is saying what she thinks. She asks, "Couldn't the shoes have been returned after the crash, and you not know?"


    Michael is adamant when he replies, "No, it's impossible. They were lost. Everything Mom took with her. All lost, burned... no remains... luggage... people...nothing. After Mom was gone, Dad said, 'You know I can buy new clothes, but I'll never be able to replace those shoes. They have my little star's autograph on them."


    Theresa thinks, 'There must be an explanation, but I don't have one, and this is certainly not the time to find one.' Instead she asks, "What are you going to do with the shoes?"


    "Mom brought them to him, and he'll be wearing them now when he sees her again."


    Theresa smiles and nods, "I thought so."


    "He'll need them dancing on that pirate ship with Mom...                


    "Are you ready to go home?"


    "Not just yet."


    "Take all the time you need." She touches his hand as she leaves, "I love you."


    Michael stands alone in the living room. He remembers when he was eight, and Mom had just returned from California with news of the movie they were to appear in. 'I'll See You in My Dreams' played in his memory while he pictured his parents dancing as he peeked through the door. Shortly after that his King Kong had fallen under the bed. Michael picks up the bag of his Dad's items. He pulls out two watches, Barbour's wallet, some bills, and at the bottom of the bag his hand closes over... King Kong. In disbelief he sits for a moment, then inspects it more closely looking for his autograph.  He's shocked when he sees it. He holds his King Kong for the first time since he was eight. He looks up and says, "Thanks, Mom. Gee, It's swell!"



                                The End 

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1 comment

05:38 Jun 14, 2020

A story of belief. Thank you. With what's going on in the world, I needed this.


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