Saturday, February 4, 2012


            “Hey Hank, that blond in the corner has been lookin’ at you all night,” Mickey said. Henry looked past the couples dancing to the latest Smokey Robinson song. He saw the delicately pretty blond Mickey was talking about.
            “You’re imagining things,” Henry replied, swallowing the last of his beer.
            “No. I keep trying to catch her eye, but she’s stuck on you. I’d be all over her in a second if she was lookin’ at me.”
            “I’m not interested. You want another beer?”
            “Not interested? You’re crazy. Wait. Are you still stuck on that waitress? I’m telling you. I’ve never seen even look at one of the guys. I bet she’s a dyke.”
            “Not wanting to go out with one of us doesn’t mean she’s a dyke.”
            “What’s it mean?”
            “It means we’re assholes.”
            “Ease up buddy. Hey look at that. Blondie’s on her way over. I’ll go get us another beer so you can be alone.”
            “Mickey…” Henry said as his fraternity brother walked away.
            “Hi,” she said in a breathy voice. “My name’s Joni.”
            “I’m Henry. I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.”
            “I just transferred from Vassar.”
            “Vassar, huh? You must be pretty smart.”
            She frowned and fiddled with the gold cross at her throat.
            “If I were really smart, I’d still be there.”
            “I’m not so sure about that. I think it’s smart to get out of an all-girl’s school.”
            Joni giggled, showing expensive white teeth.
            “You have a beautiful smile,” Henry said. He knew exactly how to act with this willowy girl. He always said the wrong things with Karen. Being with her was a visit to a foreign country. The culture fascinated him, but he didn’t speak the language. Joni could have belonged to the same country club as Henry’s family. She could have sung in the choir at his Episcopal church. Joni was a visit home, a warm sweater, a comfortable pair of shoes.
            He saw Mickey coming his way with the beer and signaled to him to back off.
            “Would you like to dance?” he asked.
            “Sure,” she said.
            In his mind, Joni’s tiny waist and slim hips became Karen’s curvaceous body. Her pale carefully upswept hair became Karen’s wild black curls. Joni was thrilled to be in the arms of one of the most popular boys on campus. She never imagined he was dancing with someone else.

            This piece is inspired by a prompt from Write on Edge. We were asked to write a piece in which a character reacts to a piece of music. I wanted to write about the beginnings of Karen and Henry’s relationship which began in 1965, so checked out the top 100 hits of that year. There were so many songs by great artists that year: The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Marvin Gaye. But one song jumped out at me, "The Tracks of my Tears" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. You can read more about Karen here