"Pshaw! T'ain't nuttin'," I said swiping my foot along the hardwood floor.
"Oh, but it is," said Clyde.
"You coulda done it better," says I.
"Well that's true but think how much Older I am. I can do everything better'n you. Here try it again," he said. His feet clacked along the floor in a slow shuffle. The taps on his shoes beat time to the music in his head. He was showing me the routine he had learned at the dance class in the Terrace.
"Got it?" he asked coming to an abrupt stop with his arms stretched out at a 45 degree angle and knees bent.
"That looked hard. Lots a steps. I don't know."
"Give it a try," he said stepping away from the floor and on to the linoleum.
I shook my feet and scraped the floor to make the clicking sound.
"No, try again. Bounce your toe heel somewhere in there. Watch again."
He stepped back on the oak floor and commenced his tap, tap, tapping in rhythm with his body movements.
I watched but it was more than a 5 year old could take in.
"OK. Give it another go." He stepped back onto the linoleum of the kitchen.
Scrapity, scrape my shoes said and a final screech of a slide across the highly polished oak flooring into a bang as my bottom smacked against the wood.
"I'll show you one more time," he said. He jumped into the flooring and tapped away. Those steel toed shoes clickety clacked across the floor. The polish in the area we had used as a dance floor shone small knicks and grooves where steel had cracked across it. The shine was wearing thin on the floor. Scuffs and scrapes became prominent. Clyde became more exuberant in his movements as his practice before me warranted. When he finished he looked at me and said, "Think you got it now?"
"I can try."
As I began to mimic his moves as best I could a car was coming to a stop in the driveway. I was too busy concentrating to hear it. As my feet moved across the fraying floor Clyde stopped me.
"Hey, I know what it is. You need these shoes on to really get the feel of tapping. It'll make you feel like Gene Kelly. Try 'em."
He slipped them off hurriedly and slid them to me. While I was trying to put my foot in them he had his regular shoes on.
"Here, lemme help," he said tying the right shoe on. Quickly he put my left foot in the other and tied it too.
"OK," he said, stepping onto the linoleum, "try it with the shoes on."
I started clacking away thinking how cool it was to hear the crisp noise of actual tap shoes. I was! I was Gene Kelly! I put all my efforts into the clickey-clack of my honest to goodness tap shoes. I was better than Clyde as I lifted my feet and slammed them into the floor. Listen to how loud those taps are. He never sounded so good.
The back door slammed. I didn't hear it since I was so busy. My grandmother appeared in the doorway with a load of Christmas packages in her arms. Clyde must have slipped out to help because he had packages in his arms too. My grandmother's face went white as the packages fell from her grasp.
"Oh my dear... What are you doing Rickey? Clyde what is he doing?"
"I'm dancing. Listen to these shoes," I boasted as I hit the floor harder with the taps.
"STOP IT! STOP IT!" yelled my grandmother. "Look what you've done to my beautiful hard wood floors!"
I looked. There was a patch of bare wood in the middle of the beautifully stained oak flooring. It was right where I had been smacking the floor with my steel clad shoes. As a big oops was forming on my face I noticed Clyde who smiled ever so slightly.
"Take those shoes off now!" I was told. I sat and removed them.
"Clyde, you were supposed to be watching him. I expect more out of you." Clyde's smile was disappearing. "take those shoes and put them where he can't reach them and leave them there. You two boys are gonna be the death of me."
Clyde never taught me another step or slide after that. My dance career was over. And I was just getting the hang of it.