In this coming of age novel thirteen year-old Tim Holter tells you about his day. In his small Midwestern town a bartender has killed himself. A boy’s new bicycle has been trashed and the boy’s big brother intends to find out who did it. Before noon Mrs. Plummer will stand stark naked in Matsen’s Bakery and Tim will meet a pretty classmate under less than ideal circumstances. After lunch Mr. Schwartzentraub will introduce Tim and his friends to a mysterious chemical compound that has far more uses than Mr. Schwartzentraub could have imagined. And that evening, as the Square fills for a band concert, the boys will set forth on a mission of revenge that leaves everyone, even Officer Burkholtz, with a lot to think about.
THE DANCE LESSON
Copyright 2013 by Douglas A. Ingold
Like I said, Somner, me and Trauber been together since first grade. I don’t remember Somner from first grade. He was there, but he was in the other class. Some years all three of us was in the same class. Other years I was better friends with one than the other. In fourth grade they were both in Mrs. Newman’s class and I had Miss. Rich. Miss. Rich was about a hundred but she was a nice lady. She’d been my mom’s teacher in fourth grade. She wrote a note on my report card at the end of the year. The note said I could do better than I did.
Seventh grade was hard but fun. Before that we and the girls did the same things. Now the girls had home economics and we had wood shop. We made things with power saws, drills and sanders. I made a tie rack for my dad.
Another thing was recess didn’t happen anymore. We had gym last year instead. There’s a gym class for boys and another one for girls. In the fall we played softball or flag football, in the winter basketball, in the spring track and field. On rainy days we did calisthenics. We use the boys’ locker room and have to dress for gym. Coach Paulsen made us take a shower after every class. He comes around, “Holter, you take a shower?”
One day last winter, Coach told us to not dress for gym. He made us take off our street shoes and line up on the gym floor in our socks. Coach stood on the stage. He always wears a blue sweatshirt and he’s got a whistle that’s on a lanyard round his neck.
“Okay, boys,” he said. Coach Paulsen’s voice sounds he’s talking through a bullhorn. “Listen up. In about fifteen minutes Mrs. Clendenen will be bringing the girls in here for a dance lesson.”
Hearing that my stomach got tight and I could feel it start to squirm. Some guys groaned real loud.
“I thought we’s gonna play basketball, Coach,” Ted Bonner said.
“The curriculum calls for dance lessons in the seventh grade, and today you’re going to learn to waltz. Even you, Bonner.”
The groans got louder and Coach Paulsen gave a blast with his whistle.
“Now put your feet together and listen up! You are facing the girl and she is facing you. You got that, Bonner?”
“Think of it this way. You are standing on home plate facing the girl who is standing on second base. Your left hand is holding her right hand at about the shoulder level. Her left hand is on your right shoulder and your right hand is resting on her waist. I said resting on her waist. I did not say you got your arm around her. I did not say you are squeezing her like a pillow. Your right hand is resting lightly on the girl’s waist.”
“If she’s on second base and I’m on home plate, I can’t touch her at all.”
“Five laps, Carter.”
“You heard me. Followed by ten pushups. And that doesn’t mean you don’t keep listening while you run. Each of you boys is going to dance the waltz today with a girl and if you don’t want to look like a fool, you better listen up. And that means you too, Carter.”
“Where you standing, Bonner.”
“At home plate, Coach.”
“That’s right. Feet together, feet apart?”
“And the girl?”
“Good. Where’s your left hand, Somner?”
“It’s in his pocket, Coach.”
“Very clever, Graham. Ten pushups. Where’s your left hand, Somner?”
“Ahh, on her waist?”
“Right hand is on the waist. Left hand is holding her right. What level?”
“At the shoulder, Coach.”
“That’s right, Somner. Straighten your back, Graham. That one does not count. Still got ten to go. Shout out those laps, Carter. If I don’t hear em you keep runnin em.”
“Okay, now, everybody. Feet together. Put your hands out in the approximate position they would be in if the girls were here. Now, before I put the music on, we are going to go through the steps. In the waltz the rhythm is in threes. One, two, three, one, two, three. So, that’s all there is to it. Three simple steps.
“First step you slide your right foot to first base. Go on, right foot to first base. Second step you slide your left foot over the pitcher’s mound to second base. Third step your right foot steals from first to second.
“Where you standing now, Schwartzentraub?”
“Second base, Coach.”
“Feet together, feet apart?”
“Good, so everybody look at your feet. They should be together. Now, Holter, where’s the girl?”
“He’s standing on her, Coach.”
“That’s right, Bonner! He would be standing on her if she wasn’t dancing too. But she’s been doing the mirror image of what you been doing. When you go forward, she goes back. When you go back, she goes forward. So, where’s the girl, Holter?”
“Ahh, out’n left field?”
“I hope not, Holter. I hope she’s in centerfield otherwise you’ve dropped the ball somewhere.”
“Now we got to get back home. Left foot slides to third base. Right foot slides over the pitcher’s mound to home. Left foot steals home from third.”
“Where are we now, Ellis?”
“We have returned to home plate, Coach.”
“And the girl?”
“She has returned to second base, Coach.”
“We start over?”
“You start over. Got that Carter?”
“Isn’t that six steps?”
“You could think of it that way, Schwartzentraub.”
I had to dance with Karen Willis. She’s about six inches taller’n me and she kept looking down at my socks. I think she was looking at them cause they were kind of dirty. That’s because I’d already been out checking the trap line that morning and I always wore big old boots when I went out there. She was kinda pushing me around while we danced. Her feet were bigger’n mine and I had to be real careful not to step on them all the time.
A coming of age novel told by a thirteen year-old boy. 180 pages $12.00
Available from the author, and from various Humboldt County bookstores including: King Range Books, Northtown, Booklegger and Eureka Books.
Or search under books for Doug Ingold
Doug enjoys, when practical, meeting with book groups who have read the book. Also please leave any comments about the book you may have.