“It’s the last dance, babe,” I said, rising from my chair. I eased her chair back as she stood. I took her hand. The band was playing a waltz as the last song of the night. It was one of that new group’s songs, THIS BOY. She placed her hand on my shoulder and leaned into me. I pulled her close and we slipped across the floor boards. Babs was in my arms once again. She had come all the way from Newberry to be my date for the Junior-senior, or as we called it, the Senior-Junior. It was our last dance as a class.
I looked at the clock. It was 12 midnight. The last few notes of the song were fading into the past as I dipped her. She laughed. I kissed her lightly as we began to part.
“Time to go,” she said walking back to the table.
“I know. Wish it could last forever.”
“Nothing does,” she said sadly.
“Here let me help you with your wrap,” I said draping it over her shoulders.
She stood four foot eleven in stocking feet but tonight had on high heels bringing her to five foot.
Her smile warmed me as I slipped my jacket on wary not to lose the buttoner she had bought me. She wore a wrist corsage. I’d wanted to buy one that attached to her upper garment but, times being what they were, I was worried she’d think I was copping a feel.
The room was thinning out. GH passed me with a wink.
“See you later?” he said quietly.
“Hell yeah!” I whispered back.
Babs was oblivious to our little chat. GH gave a salute as he passed with his girl in tow.
JR passed by with his lopsided grin. He was driving us all to Folly later, whether he knew it or not I wasn’t sure. We were to meet up at five points in the Terrace.
“See ya,” he said.
“I guess I better get you home,” I said. She looked up at me.
“I don’t have to go right home,” she said with a smile.
“I know your dad will worry if I don’t get you home soon.” What a surprise. She wanted to stay out later.
“I’m a college girl now, Rickey. I can stay out later if I want,” she said still smiling.
The girls in our class had rented a beach house. Our favorite teacher was chaperoning them. I hadn’t thought to ask Babs if she wanted to go to the beach house. It was kind of late now to ask so I didn’t but that left me with a bit of a problem. I didn’t have any plans to spend more time with her. There was no place to go this late.
“I could see if the girls have room at the beach house if you’d like to go there.” I offered though I didn’t know what I’d do if she said yes.
“I don’t want to spend time with the girls. I came back to spend time with you.”
What the heck? I hadn’t considered this. In the past she always had to be in by twelve at the latest and here it was twelve-thirty. What the heck was I going to do?
“Isn’t there anything you want to do?” she asked.
To myself I thought, yeah, I want to get to five points and hook up with my buddies for the beach house.
“I…uh…I don’t know of anything. Everybody is going to Folly. We rented a beach house, too, but we didn’t ask for a chaperone. There may be drinking going on there. I don’t want to expose you to that.”
“Oh, Rickey. I see that at frat parties all the time. It’s old news to me.”
She kept looking at me. My brain raced with excuses. I’d never been in this situation before.
“Aren’t any of the seniors going anywhere for after dance fun?” she asked her smile not so prominent now.
“Uh, only to the beach,” I said opening the door to the Tan Can.
“I like the beach,” she said.
I didn’t like the emphasis she was putting on this.
“Uh, I wouldn’t want you to mess up your formal gown,” I said.
“I could slip into my house and change real fast,” she said.
It appeared she was determined to go to the beach.
“I don’t know. Your dad…”
“Don’t worry about my dad,” she said smiling.
“Well, OK then. Let’s go to your place.” I pulled the gear shift into first. She was sitting right next to me and my hand grazed her knee. It sent shivers up my spine. This might turn out to be the best night ever, I thought to myself. Yeah, boy.
I pulled it into third and she took my hand from the gearshift and placed it on her knee. OH, baby!
My speed increased a little over the speed limit to get her home. This was going to be a sand dune night! I’d heard about what happened after dark in the sand dunes of Folly but never experienced it for myself. It appeared those days were over. I looked over at her. She squeezed my hand pulling it above the knee. My foot slammed to the floor board. The Tan Can moved like lightning toward the Terrace.
When I got to her place I hit the brakes skidding along the ditch in front of the house. Unfortunately the tires on the road squealed to a stop.
“Shhh,” she said touching my left cheek turning my head toward her. She pulled me into a kiss both startling and over the top. I couldn’t move. The kiss was lingering and searching. It was beyond this senior’s kin. She slowly withdrew. I knew I couldn’t move until I regained control of my body. She looked at me dreamy eyed. Her smile turned to faint laughter.
“Walk me to the door?” She asked. She knew the effect she’d had on me with that kiss. Her smile betrayed it.
“Uh, um, uh…maybe I should wait here,” I said apologetically.
“You could stand watch, in case daddy is up,” she smiled.
“Um, uh, well…maybe we should talk about this.” It was the best stall tactic I could think of.
“It wouldn’t look right if you didn’t walk me to the door. If daddy’s watching he’ll get suspicious.” Her smile broadened.
Almost under control. Almost under control. Think of baseball. Think of beer. Think of the beach. Yeah, the beach and sand dunes… NO!NO! Not that! Oh jeez, how long can I sit here without her getting angry. Think of baseball…
She woke me from my strong willed attempt to get my body back under control.
“Are you going to walk me to the door or not?”
“Um, uh…” Maybe I can slouch a bit and turn to the side so my jacket will…
“OK, OK. Gimme a minute.” I pushed on the door swiveling in my seat. Left foot on the pavement. Now right foot on the pavement. Now pull on the door to stand. I wasn’t the only one standing. I slouched and twisted to the right a little.
My jacket was long enough.
She was waiting on me to open her door. I must have been a sight taking baby steps along the fender slouching with a twist to the side.
I opened the door holding it against me.
“What’s that? Your impression of Igor in Frankenstein?” she asked with a chuckle.
I chuckled in return. “Yeah.”
I buttoned my jacket and held it off center to the right with my hand. I was still stooped over some as we began the walk along her pathway to the front door.
Thinking about baseball was beginning to help now as I slowly began to straighten up. Walking became more natural by the time we arrived at her door.
The porch light went on. The door was jerked open from inside.
“Young man, do you know what time it is?” Her father spat the words at me.
“I…I…I…she…I…” the words poured out.
“Oh, daddy. I’m in college now. It can’t be all that late,” she said. “Let me say good night and I’ll be right in.”
“Make it fast,” he said. The door slammed but the light stayed on.
“Uh, I guess you won’t be changing to go to the beach, huh?”
“What do you think? Rickey, you know I wouldn’t sneak out,” she said laughing quietly.
“You’re in college, now. I thought maybe…”
“Pfft. You think I’m going into the sand dunes with you on Junior-Senior night. You got another think coming. I know what happens out there.”
“Get your hopes up? Just to see if I could. And I could Mr. walk-over-bently.” She laughed.
“That was pretty mean,” I said frowning.
“Yeah, I know,” she said reaching up to kiss my lips.
I answered by putting my arms around her and going deep with my return kiss. A moment later we separated. Her eyes were clouded over and my intentions were so obvious she pulled away from me quickly.
She went in after whispering good night. I smiled and walked away upright and shoulders squared back. I didn’t care what the world had to say about my… and then I did, bending over slightly and hot footing it to the car.
I waved at her front window, cranked the car and peeled a wheel around the corner. The Tan Can could leave rubber on the road as long as it was off kilter on a corner. My watch showed close to one-thirty in the morning. I doubted they would wait for me. Another left had me headed for Five Points. As I approached I saw JR’s car in the triangular area of the AMOCO.
A cop’s car was sitting there as well, with its lights flashing.
Uh oh, I thought. Somebody’s been caught drinking and driving.
I pulled up just as they were angling Rod’s head under the roof of the back seat. He looked out the window as the cop walked to his side and slid in behind the wheel. He cranked it and drove off with Rod smiling and waving from the backseat.
“What the hell?” I asked.
“If you hadn’t been late you’d know,” said GH.
“The cop saw Rod in his Tuxedo standing here alone and pulled over. Rod just watched him. The cop got out and asked what he was doing. Rod said he was standing.”
“Not cool,” I said.
“Nope, but that ain’t all. Rod had a small suitcase with his clothes for the beach. When the cop asked him what was inside Rod said, Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids.”
“Who knows? We drove up about that time. We tried to tell the cop he was waiting for us. He was still in his tux from the dance, but since he called him a Silly Rabbit he decided maybe he wasn’t all there. And there he goes off to the hoosegow.”
“Are we still going to the beach house?” It was my only question.
“Hell yeah!” everyone chimed in.
“How about picking me up at my house? No sense everyone going in separate cars.”
It was agreed. I drove to my house, slipped inside and changed. I walked outside easing the screen door back into place. They weren’t here yet so I snuck over to the hollow tree next door to retrieve a bottle of Canadian Club. Turning back to the drive JH drove up.
I hopped in back.
“Got any more in the hollow tree?” JH asked.
“Sure. Go help yourself.”
ID and JH jumped out and ran to the source of booze. Each grabbed a bottle quickly returning to the car.
“Folly Beach here we come!” yelled JH.
I cracked the seal on my bottle.
“Listen to that sound. Ain’t it music to your ears? Any chaser in the car? And a plastic cup?” I looked around. Not seeing any I upended the bottle. Burning liquid tore down my throat. A lot of it. I blew fire when I stopped, holding it out for my neighbor. He took it following my lead. He handed it to JH who took a healthy pull on it. When I got it back it was half empty. By now I was beginning to feel it along with everyone else. So I took another slug and we repeated the rounds.
“Wow! A fifth gone fore we even get to Folly Road. Dash pree fass,” I said in liquorese.
“Zat one finissed?” Asked JH.
“Dass sokay. Gots dissun. Lissin.”
CRACK! went the seal as he twisted the cap.
“Bess soun’ inna whirled,” he said bringing the bottle to his lips.
“Gimme it,” said JH swirving onto Folly Road from Stono River Road.
He up ended it. The car moved steadily into the left lane.
“Keepyereyesonnaroad!” we all slurred loudly.
“Keepa shirt on,” said JH handing the bottle to the back seaters.
Each of us swallowed three or four fingers. The effect was becoming very pronounced.
“Dis iz a mighty fine automobile,” I said stroking the seat. “Mighty fine. Howmucha pay frit?”
“Week’s pay,” said JH. “Fifty-fi’ dollah.”
“You gotta mighty fine deal,” I said.
GH was in the front smiling and nodding his head in agreement. ID was busy taking another drink and JD was watching the road ahead with wild eyes.
“You know, JH, you might want to slow down some. Cops’ll be out for Prom night.” He wasn’t much of a drinker.
“Prom night? Wher’s zhu fum? Das Seenya-Junya dans. You muss be sum kina yankee. Prom night, pfft.”
The last bridge before Folly was fast approaching.
“Watch out for the rail!” yelled JD.
“Wassit gon do?” yelled back JH.
“Tear up this fine automobile if you don’t slow down some,” said JD with a laugh.
“K. Folly udda side. Slow down an’ shhhh. Don’ wake nobody up,” said JH with his finger to his lips. “Anybuddy know whe’ we goin’?”
“Next right,” said JD.
“Huh?” said JH.
“Next right. There.”
Turn! Turn! This one! Here!”
JH turned the wheel with all his strength. His turn was a might off.
“Oh shit! Now we’ve done it,” said JD.
“Anybody know whose car that is?”
“NO. Nuh uh. Nope.”
Oh man. How am I going to explain this?” JH had sobered immediately, right along with the rest of us.
Four doors flew open. We all inspected the damage. JH’s car was only slightly bent along the finder. Those old cars were built to last. The car in front of it, not so much.
“We better call the police.” The words hung in the air.
“Yeah, all accidents have to be reported to the police. You don’t want to be a hit-and-run do you?”
JH looked around searchingly.
“Nobody saw it.”
“Probably not. Everybody is asleep this hour.”
“No. The dog?”
“The dog?” asked JD. “What dog?”
“That dog that was in the road.”
“What dog in the road?”
“The one I swerved to avoid,” yelled JH in exasperation.
“There was a dog?” asked JD. “I didn’t see no dog”
“Yeah, the dog I swerved to avoid. You saw him didn’t you GH?”
“Sure did. You just missed him.”
“Yeah, I saw him. He’d be dead now if you hadn’t swerved,” piped in ID.
“Well hell yeah there was a dog,” I chimed in.
“Oh, that dog,” said JD.
“Yeah, that dog,” we all said.
“I’ll walk over to the beach house and call the cops.”
“Get some coffee and breath-mints while you’re there.”
“Maybe we should all get coffee and breath-mints and try and find that dog.”
We all walked from the car, leaving it skewed in the road. We found a phone and did our civic duty. Later that morning as the sun came up we carried a loaf of bread and a bottle of PJ to the sea shore to watch the sun rise. It was Easter Sunday and we had our own private sunrise service there with the waves lapping around our feet. If ever a bunch needed to have sunrise service it was this one.