When Frank and Ellie Danced
Randy Burns

Ellie really didn't want to accept but she was just too nice a girl to say no. Oh well, she thought, one dance wasn't a lifetime. However, if one dance could last a lifetime, then Frank Balarzi was the one guy in town that could make time stand still. Like a human traffic jam, Frank could become intolerable without a moment's notice.

Ellie was no mover or shaker. She was a farm girl. Pretty in a way that being healthy, young and alive, seldom misses. A good student that learned easily, but no collage followed high school for her, just a secretary's job for the only lawyer in Ludika Iowa.

Now Frank was someone who united this little town, though in a small way. He was one thing no one ever argued about. The old, the young, the dogs and other animals, the clergy and the Sheriff, even the bartender that dealt with every kind of undesirable in or about town, thought Frank was an idiot.

Just one dance with him, that was all. No harm in that.

So across the sawdust floor sauntered Frank, with those coal black eyes of his glued to Ellie like it was her lucky day. Two crooked lines were left in the sawdust behind him because Frank didn't take steps like normal people. He'd just drag those size thirteens under him wherever he went. That sight, and knowing she was about to become the object of his request, would have scared the hell out of any woman. But not Ellie, for everyone at the dance had gone to school together, had known each other's folks since they were kids. So having to dance with Frank was at least safe. Repulsive, but safe.

Ellie accepted his invitation, as she'd decided she would, and walked out onto the open dance floor with ole' Frank following close behind her humming loudly. Everything and everyone, stopped to watch them dance.

It was kind of Ellie, everyone thought, Ellie was just so kind. When she was done with this particular dance, it would be proof positive how nice she really was to any doubter left in Ludika.

From the moment the dance began, Ellie naturally glided, while Frank danced slightly hunched over like a driver afraid at the wheel. He was immune to embarrassment. He wore a black felt hat tilted off to the side, always the same hat, inside and out. At least he'd spared Ellie the shades. Though actually Frank had left them in a friend's bathroom the night before. A sudden attack of stomach cramps had overwhelmed him, causing him to stay in his friend's toilet for well over an hour. Finally, after disengaging himself from his inanimate relief receptacle, he escaped from that room where nature had ordered him to remain. Frank re-entered his friend's living room zestfully, only to find him fast asleep on the couch. He was disappointed, but quietly went home leaving his friend undisturbed. Now I say "His friend," because I'm not sure who this friend was. I knew the story because Frank would talk to you about anything. If there were a boil on his ass that was bothering him, he'd talk to a Nun about it.

Well enough now, back to the point of all this! Somehow, Frank had forgotten his precious sunglasses on his friend's bathroom sink. He still wore his hat as they danced, but without those shades he was restless. "I tell ya Ellie," he spoke as they danced, "I didn't know I had that much of anything inside me."

"Frank, please," Ellie half begged.

"Has that ever happened to you Ellie?" He wasn't trying to upset her, he was genuinely attempting to carry on a conversation. The subject, however, just wasn't right for the occasion. It seldom was with Frank.

"Not that I recall," she answered, because all hope was gone. Her protective instincts had surrendered. If a white flag could talk, her voice would be its sound.

Frank became silent for a while as they struggled around the floor together, this way and that. Then he said something to her that was totally unexpected.

"I'm sorry Ellie, really sorry" he said quietly, "I know what a jerk I am."

"It's okay Frank." She was trying to make him feel better now. Ellie had no idea that he knew about himself. No one did!

The music stopped and song was over. Then, with no hesitation at all, Ellie asked Frank to dance with her again. Man, I'm telling ya, that was really something! The expression on Frank's face was as new to Ellie as it was to Frank himself. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had two dances with the same girl, in a row!

"Are you sure Ellie?" Frank asked her, "I'll be happy with just the one."

Ellie held both her arms out to him. "So are you gonna dance with me again or what?"

Frank was still a bit stunned, but then "Sure, sure I will," came pouring out of his smiling face. For the first time in years, Frank's shades became the last thing on his mind. Someone he considered incredibly beautiful was treating him like a regular person.

The band went into an up-tempo Cajun song, and right there's when it all broke loose. Frank grabbed one of Ellie's arms and swung her around him, then he kicked one leg of his high up into the air and away they flew. Frank was cuttin loose, the two of them were. No one there could believe it. Ellie was flying just as fast as ole' Frank, they were terrific! Those size thirteens were history. What moves, what speed! Nobody danced that well in Ludika, nobody. Frank and Ellie were laughing and making faces at each other, spinnin and jumpin, together they owned the place. I hate the word, but glee had overwhelmed them both.

The world changed a little that night. Hell, the town of Ludika was little. Frank became accepted a short while after that, but Ellie accepted him immediately. They dated for years, well into their late forties. Never got married though, not while I was living in Ludika. Still they were always together, the best of friends, and everywhere they went people waited to watch them dance.

To this day I remember that astonishing evening in Ludika. I don't want to know what happened to them after I left. I prefer to remember it all as I do, unchanged by any possible sadness.

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