Thurber did not write the way a surgeon operates; he wrote the way a child skips rope, the way a mouse waltzes.
~ E. B. White, (1899-1985), American writer
Night noises and fire crackle replace conversation around the fire circle as the group collects its collective breath. Cu captures Alberto and cradles him on one shoulder. Soon his little boy wiggles cease, indicating the sand man has caught up with his frenetic pace.
Suddenly, some loud, echo-y gasps and strange strangled sounds break the peace.
"'Echo cave' is active tonight, I hear," comments Mickey as he suddenly steps out of the shadows.
Bruno looks embarrassed, but Horst, looking around and noting Paul Peter and Lupe's absence, announces with extreme disgust and disdain, "Consorting with savages."
Looking around the circle, Mickey says, "Jacques? No, too late for him. Ah, PP? Well, I never! I always thought..." his voice trails off.
"Must be Bruno's music. Definite aphrodisiac music," quips Despina.
The sheriff shuts off the key and removes the tape from Paul Peter's jeep. Tipping the tape toward the firelight, he reads, "Famous Waltzes from Around the World. I can't imagine anyone here dancing to that."
"Well, almost everyone did, even Alberto."
"Adriana in the cave, then?"
"No. Lupe went up, all doe-eyed, poor thing."
"That sounds like the voice of experience talking."
"Talking -- that's all he does -- he talks romance to death."
"The echoes say otherwise."
She shrugs, unwilling to go further on that topic. "When she asked PP to dance, he darn near incinerated her in the flames, he was so disgusted with the music. He only did it because I was waltzing with Bruno. Then he made a horrid parody of his movements. I would have left him standing on the dance floor if he'd done that to me!"
"I think you have a bit more of a temper than Lupe," Mickey chuckles, handing Bruno his tape. "Sorry I didn't get here earlier. I think I'm the only man in the entire county who hasn't gotten to dance with Miss Twinkle Toes, yet."
Despina notices for the first time that Mickey's in jeans and a sweater, not his uniform.
"If battery be good," Bruno says as he starts toward the jeep.
Noting how Cu's eyes glisten as Mickey pulls Despina upright, Horst mumbles, "Dissension in the ranks" as the Christmas-y strains of the "Nutcracker" wafts from the speakers, followed by "Babes in Toyland" and "Gumsucker's March". The sheriff's waltz is not as fluid as Bruno's, nor as flashy as Cu's version, but is quite comfortable and undemanding.
Round two of the cave noises ends the dance.
"Sounds like the cries of a mortally wounded beast," Despina says with a shiver. Sitting her on the passenger seat at the end, he climbs into the jeep, firing it up to return it to the hovels.
She's afraid to look in Cu's direction. As they pull out, she mumbles, "Plain Jane to star attraction all in one month is a bit confusing."
"What? I couldn't hear you over the engine."
"That's okay." She lapses into a moody silence. When the jeep stops, she slips out, yawning. "Five a.m. comes pretty early."
"Then I'd miss the best part of the day."
Coming around the edge of the jeep, he gives her a chaste peck on the cheek. "Goodnight, then. Thank you for the dance."
As she turns toward her hovel, she sees Cu paused on the trail, watching her with the sheriff, Alberto draped over one shoulder in a pose of total relaxation.
Last updated 7/20/08; quote added; dissension corrected. (11/28/04)
Word Count: 598
Reading Level: 5.1