The door opens, revealing that full night has arrived. Through it steps the man of her dreams, literally.
Despina gasps, "The 'no cigar store Indian!'" She is riveted.
"You look like a deer caught in the headlights of a Mac truck. You are going to be bowled over if you insist on wearing your heart on your sleeve like that."
Bradley cackles. "He's harmless. She's White. He's strictly Indian property."
The Indian has been carefully and methodically scanning the room. The thoroughness and intentness with which he does this is intimidating.
Before Despina has a chance to gather her wits about her, a small Hispanic man approaches.
"Con su permiso," he says, addressing Bradley as if he were her father or chaperon. He is diffident, excessively timid, even, and she finds herself dancing with him without even being able to remember his name, although he gave it.
As he turns her around on the dance floor, her eyes are constantly drawn to the large Indian figure, still standing just barely inside the door. She feels an electric jolt on one circle when their eyes meet. Soon the dance ends, and her polite escort returns her to Brad.
The Indian is suddenly there beside Bradley, replacing her former escort.
"Con su permiso," he mimics, giving a courtly half bow to Bradley, then holding out his hand to her, eyes locked on hers.
Hypnotized, she rises, and once on the dance floor, fails to keep her customary distance between their bodies. With a contented sigh, she leans her head against his chest. "A mi cuerpo le gusta muchísimo su cuerpo," she murmurs.
They edge toward the back entrance, and move into the darkened area where some old coats hang.
Part way through the second song, she is startled out of her trance by a rough tapping on her shoulder.
"You want to dance with HIM?" Despina inquires waspishly. Swaying slightly, Paul Peter cuts in, replacing the Indian. He leans heavily on her, but it is for balance, not in imitation of her dance style with the Indian.
"Are you out of your mind?" he hisses in her ear. "The way you were dancing with him is positively INDECENT."
Exasperated, Despina explodes. "I have been unfailingly polite to everyone. I have danced all night with all comers, no matter who they were. The only folks I have not toured the dance floor with are the two on duty, the sheriff and the bar tender. What is your problem? Surely you can't be jealous. Anything between us is LONG over."
He hisses in frustration. "Are you trying to get him lynched?" Grasping her hand roughly as the song ends, he angrily leads the way back to the table, clearly proclaiming her "his property."
Things become quite dicey after she dances the first time with the unknown Indian. Obviously, she has broken some unspoken taboo, but she has no idea what. Pointedly ignoring Paul Peter's high handed ways, she feels lost. Brad is nowhere in sight.
I don't even know who he was. We never exchanged names -- the only time all night that happened.
Looking around for the tall Indian, she spies him by the door to the men's room talking to another "real" Indian (as opposed to those whom she is unable to distinguish from Indians, but who take offense at that appellation).
He abruptly departs in great haste, trailed more slowly by his companion.
Bradley, who exits the men's room about the time their animated whispering begins, follows the direction her eyes take. Upon reaching his chair, he proves not to be quite as deaf as some people assume.
Closing his bad eye in a horrid parody of a conspiratorial wink, he announces, "Brother trouble. Must be on another drunken rampage."
Men who were polite and deferential before now become obnoxious. Finally, she refuses to dance with anyone any more, not trusting who will be gentle and who mean.
Surely this is just because they are more inebriated.
Tex approaches. Putting her hands behind her back, Despina says firmly, "No!"
Reproachfully, Tex eyes her. "I haven't even said anything yet."
"You don't listen."
Pulling up a chair and positioning it between Despina and Bradley, he sits. "Okay, I'm listening."
Paul Peter rolls his eyes. His look clearly says, "Let's see you talk your way out of this one." He is enjoying himself immensely.
Taking a deep breath, Despina wades in. "One can get drunk, anyone can get drunk," she corrects. "But most outgrow the need." She smiles triumphantly at Paul Peter, who wrinkles his nose in disgust. "It's not fun to be around someone who is drunk. Your WIFE is probably disgusted by it. That is probably part of the problem you are having at home."
"You are here. Your wife is NOT."
"Look around. How many other unaccompanied White women do you see?"
"My point exactly. You and your cohorts have created an atmosphere here in this bar, the only air conditioned place in the area, that no decent woman would be caught dead alone in. Why?"
"MY wife would not like to come to ANY bar, with ANY atmosphere. She is a true LADY."
"I'm sure she is. Why are you not in a legion hall, civic center, or some other SUITABLE air conditioned facility with your WIFE? You are one of the leaders of this community. Why does such a place NOT exist here?"
"What have you got against Óscar? He's a very hard-working individual who has sunk his life savings into this fine establishment, taking up a collection for a long time to help buy that air conditioning unit."
"Óscar strikes me as a very competent, caring person. I'm sure, if he had the choice, he would make a superior proprietor of a civic center or legion hall, where men's wives would feel comfortable, and even their children could come to hear live music and play good, wholesome games under benign adult supervision."
"Well, if we ever have enough to cover such an interesting enterprise, I'll remember what you said and bring it up. Have we talked enough now to dance?"
Despina tries once more, "Only on the condition that you promise to conform to the dictates of good manners."
Raising his hand in the "Scout's Honor" sign, he pledges, "I promise."
Still feeling trapped, she yields to those good manners and rises, heading toward the dance floor before he can grab her.
Winking broadly at Paul Peter, Tex follows, very much in the role of the "conquering hero".
Last updated 1/20/02.