New Year's Eve Gala

by Charlotte Webb
2004, all rights reserved.

But all she wants to do is dance
Jean Boulder and Ida Caslon had set it up. Steve would be taking Korinna to the New Year's Eve charity gala at the Phoenix Country Club. Mrs. Boulder had rented a Presidential Black 1960 Lincoln Limousine for Steve and "Korie."

When they arrive at the country club, Caslon speaks to the driver who is holding the door open, "Engine ain't idlin right."
"Hey! Aren't you the guy with the light green '53 Ford on Central?" he asks, awestricken.
"Be my guest," he says with respect, as he pops the hood latch. "I've been wanting to meet you. You're famous."
"Got a flashlight? I'll need a socket wrench and a screwdriver, too." Caslon finds what he needs in the trunk: a toolbox and a floodlight.
"Steve!" Korinna says impatiently, as Caslon removes his jacket and rolls his sleeves up.
"Go on in, Honey. This'll only take a few minutes. I gotta adjust the idle mixture."
Korinna waits for a few minutes, finally loses her temper, and stomps into the building alone.

About an hour later, Caslon finishes with the car, and goes to the men's room to wash up. He runs into Berling.

"No way!" Berling laughs. "Your mom set you up, too?"
"Yeah. With Korinna Boulder. Her dad rented a 1960 Lincoln for us, and she's mad cuz I talked to the driver."
"Uh, Steve, what did you say to the driver? Did it have anything to do with the grease on your hands?"
"The idle mixture was too rich, was all. He didn't have a vacuum gauge in the toolbox. I had to adjust it by ear. Boss mill, a 430-cube V8 Lincoln, 350 horses. Man, I love Fords! That mill is a beauty! And now he's gonna buy the '53 Merc I won last week." Caslon tosses the paper towel into the trash and surveys his hands. "Think I got all the grease?"
"Fortunately, your suit was already black," says Berling. "Bunny's here, but she isn't having a very good time."
"I can fix that," Caslon says proudly.
"Duffy Quentin is her escort. The cat with the green El Camino named Tall Cool One."
"With the fake lakespipes and glass-pak muffler and 'full-race' squirrel knob. Poor Bunny."

Korinna sees the boys emerge from the men's room. Omigosh! That's Jim Berling with Steve! He doesn't look like a hood tonight. He's a doll! I was gonna lay into Steve, but I won't. I wonder who Jim is with? Not that it matters. Whatever Korinna wants Korinna gets.

"Where have you been! As if I didn't know," Bunny laughs when she sees Caslon with a small grease smudge on his chin. "Hold still," as she wipes his face with her lace handkerchief.
"My mom fixed me up with Korinna," Caslon whispers while they sort-of slow-dance. "She's pretty, but she ain't very smart. She's got a '58 Ford and she don't even know what kinda engine is in it."
"My mom stuck me with Duffy Quentin."
"I wish we could trade dates."
"Make the best of it. We'll go out tomorrow night."

No use to sittin and singin the blues
Korinna moves on Berling. I'll rescue him from that skag, Twinkle.

"Hi, Jim. You are absolutely stunning in that tuxedo. It really shows off your good looks."
"Can I talk to you in private for a minute? You gotta help me with Steve. He's my date, and he's ignored me all night."
Berling glances down at Twinkle, and then at Korinna. "I'm with Twinkle now. We can talk in English class on Tuesday." Flashing a beautiful smile at Korinna.
"Do you know him very well?"
"Somewhat." Putting his arm around Twinkle.
"He's sick."
"I saw him just now. He seemed fine."
"No, not that kind of sick. I mean crazy. He got out of the limousine and started working on the motor. In his tuxedo!"
"It probably needed fixing. Most of those places don't take very good care of their cars," says Berling. To Twinkle, "Steve is Korinna's escort tonight."
"Steve who?" says Twinkle.
"Steve Caslon. The cat with the light green '53 Ford on Central. He takes a lot of shop classes."
"I'm sorry. I don't know him."
"I'll introduce you."

Korinna sees that she is getting nowhere with Berling, so she goes hunting elsewhere.

So let the little girl dance

"Jim," says Twinkle, "it's such a beautiful night. Why don't we go for a walk outside?"
Berling is trying to refrain from sneezing as he holds her lynx jacket for her. Geez, I hate fur. He takes her hand as they step onto the patio.
"Jim, you're one of the nicest men I've ever met. You're so mature."

He glances down at her and smiles mechanically. I hope tonight is permanently stolen from my future. I wonder what Petey's doing. I didn't talk to her all week. Bunny and Stymie. Petey and Marco. Suzi and Otto. Twinkle and me. That's a pretty rare club to join. I've often wondered why Petey went out with Marco. What did she see, that no one else did? Why am I out here with Twinkle, instead of inside, taking Korinna's bait? Might be a poem there.

So crank up the band and let's get hot

"I took Korinna Boulder out last night," Angelo says over a pitcher of beer at the Totem Pole Bar on Sunday afternoon. "Talk about hot-to-trot!"
"Yeah," says Berling. "One brandy alexander and she was ripping my clothes off."
"Brandy alexander!" Watson laughs. "You frat-rat!"
"I had to compensate for my substandard vehicle," Berling says in a mock-snooty voice. "I took her out in The Honeydripper. You didn't make her in the MGA, didja?"
"No, I used my mom's car, and one Falstaff is all it took. Once she started in, I couldn't shake her."
"Was she trying to find out more about Petey?" says Berling.
"Yeah, and I told her to ask Petey, not me," says Angelo.
"I told her it wasn't any of her business, and I uh, 'changed the subject,'" Berling smiles slyly and licks his lips. "Luckily, she's not smart enough to remember your name in a paternity suit," says Berling.
"No telling what diseases she's got," says Angelo.
"I know one," says Berling. "She gave me the clap."
"Hell, Jim, you've had the clap so many times, your old man needs to buy a clinic to save money," says Watson.
"Just three times," says Berling. "Once from Maggie, and once from Tammy, and once from Tina, the North Mountain majorette."
"What about that chick from Tucson?"
"Uh, that was crabs."
"You need to date more virgins," says Freddy.
"Ugly third-graders," says Watson.
"Hell, even the ugly ones aren't cherry," says Berling. "My mom and Old Lady Belwe fixed me up with Twinkle for a New Year's Eve charity ball at the country club. Around eleven, she dragged me outside. I guess she took the words 'charity ball' seriously, and we started the new year with a bang. If she weren't so wiped out, she'd be an okay piece."
"Jim's fondest dream is to get trapped inside of a Petey Pretzel," says Angelo, and Berling turns candy-apple red.
"I've never seen another pair of legs like hers," says Watson.
"I have," says Berling.
"You have?!" says Angelo.
"Yeah," says Berling. "On my little sister's 'Barbie' doll."
"She can do permanent damage to ya, with those lethal hip bones," says Watson.
"Tell me about it," says Melior. "One night, I took her to the vacant lot at 4th and Colter. She didn't wanna put out, but I'd completely pinned her by getting on top of her, holding her arms with my elbows so she couldn't push me away, and I was just about to get my hand inside her blouse, when she twisted her hips around real fast and racked me in the balls with a sharp hip bone. Then she got out and walked home."
"I guess she meant 'no,'" Berling laughs.
"She's a p.t.," says Melior.
"No, she isn't," says Angelo. "All she cares about is stealing records."
"But wearing those tight shorts as a come-on," says Melior.
"And then you can't even get your hand inside 'em," says Watson.
"Maybe they're tight to keep trespassers out," Berling laughs.

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