This is the sixth letter. School has started. As before, this piece is un-edited, the names were changed, and the State is intentionally omitted.
Dear Ms. Brown,
I sure hope you don’t cringe all up when you see that this is written by me, Bobby Lee Hendricks. I hate to be a thorn in your backside, but once again I sorely need some advice. Because, golly, Ms. B, if I’m not feeling the fool’s fool caught up in a tangle of twisted fate right now.
It all begins with the events leading up to Hog High’s homecoming dance. You might recall some of this from Betty Jo’s e-mail. Fuzzy told me she wrote to you. In that case, Betty Jo may have let on that I was poorly fixed in the confidence department, feeling as needed as a crushed Dixie cup. Especially when I began hearing Betty Jo and Jug’s names used in the same sentence, like they were a…a couple. Well, as my heart was about broken, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that Betty Jo decided not to go to the dance as Jug’s date. In fact, she would be going with her friend, Mary Sue, a big girl who’d been looking at Fuzzy as though he were a tasty dish. I think he likes her too. Anyway, I decided to go to the homecoming hoping for a dance or two with Betty Jo. And as this was my one chance to get to talk to her, and maybe, just maybe, put my arms around her during a slow country song, I figured I’d better learn to dance. Yeah, I never learned much more than jumping up and down, looking as graceful as a hop-toad at a barn dance. So with Fuzzy also wanting to dance with Mary Sue, we decided to get together and practice slow dancing. Augie brought the music: Tim McGraw, Travis McGee and my favorite, Slinky Magoo. He had a big hit, a heartbreaker if there ever was one, with the song Washing in the Rain. You might be familiar with it. We danced the afternoon away, finally getting to the point where we didn’t step on each others toes. But something about that day didn’t seem right, a nagging sensation, like when your jeans feel different and you can’t figure out why until you go to the bathroom halfway through the morning to find your zipper open. Only this time that feeling was coming from Augie. He was acting weird, like in asking us to dance closer. Maybe if I’d been less trusting…
Image courtesy of topstep07 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Well, with the Fighting Swine winning that day’s football game, the school’s gym was lit up like Times Square on New Years Eve (saw it on TV). They even had a big screen TV showing highlights.
That’s when it began.
I should have known something was up when Jug approached with two large cups of punch and a big smile. He handed me one, and then stuck his hand out. “Let’s let bygones be bygones, make a fresh start,” he said.
I was a little wary, but what could I do? I shook, and nodded. I remember thinking that maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
Betty Jo walked in shortly afterward. Ms. B, I’ll tell you that I went weak in the ankles – she looked that good – all pudding and ice cream. And the thing is, she wore the same dress I bought for her momma, the one that turned out too short. On her though…and I know this sounds goofy, but…it sort of looked custom fit by an angel.
We looked at each other from across the room, one of those special looks. You know, where you can feel what the other one is thinking? And at that moment the music began. It was my favorite slow song by Slinky Magoo, High Boots and Buckles. Betty Jo and Mary Sue started our way.
Image courtesy of Gregory Szarkiewicz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Oh, I should mention that all during this time I’d been nervously sipping at the punch Jug gave me, even passed the cup to Fuzzy for sharing. It tasted a little funny, but I didn’t give it much thought, and never connected it as the reason Betty Jo looked a bit blurry. Anyway, I wiped my shaky, sweaty hand across my slacks just before I took Betty Jo’s hand, took her to the dance floor and put my arms around her waist, just like we’d practiced.
Then the laughter began.
It started slowly from the edges of the crowd, and then built like a long roll of thunder. I couldn’t help but look up. And there, on the big screen showing highlights, was a photo of me and Fuzzy dancing, then another and another. Because I was feeling a little woozy by this time, it took me a while to figure out that the punch was spiked with booze, and that Augie must have taken those pictures without us knowing – and sent them to Jug!
I was being skewered with a double-edged sword.
You can probably figure out the rest of the story. The way Betty Jo looked at me as she stepped away. The way Mary Sue glared at Fuzzy, now turning a sickly shade of green. The way Jug’s laugh could be heard above all others. The nasty, taunting calls that followed us as we walked out of the gym in total embarrassment (not to mention that my stomach was riling like a stormy sea, pretty much suggesting I best leave before throwing up).
Needless to say, I didn’t go back to the dance last night. My chance with Betty Jo was over.
Ms. Brown, as you might reckon by now, I really need your advice. 1) Was I wrong in dancing with Fuzzy (it’s not like we know girls who would teach us, and we weren’t dancing that close)? 2) Can you really die from embarrassment? 3) Are you thinking like I am that it’s time for me to stand up not just for Betty Jo, but for myself? 4) Will I ever be able to listen to High Boots and Buckles again…without tears in my eyes?
Signed: A Fool’s Fool in Hog Swallow, —
What advice would you give?