by Jane Doe
For April Fools Day the junior class had voted to sponsor a roller skating party in the city. If enough people came, it was an easy way to make over one hundred dollars for the class trip to New York City next spring. The school board, in response to a new insurance regulation, decreed that buses could no longer be used for extra curricular activities, or in a word, for fun. Everyone was incensed. It worked like negative psychology. No one could stay home. Car pools were organized. Dating couples promised to stuff the back seats of their cars with all the singles they could bring.
I didn't want to go. I didn't want to be one of the "duds" sitting in someone else's car, watching someone else getting the kisses I wanted. My stomach aches had started up again. I recalled the good doctor's advice about having more fun even if I didn't feel it. The faint hope lingered. I had had luck last year, defying gravity and loneliness on the ice. Perhaps the old magic worked on a wooden floor as well.
What finally convinced me to go was hearing that Sarah, one of the junior girls who was going steady with a college man, was driving a load of "girls only" in her car.
The day finally came. For it I was the fool. Fool became my word for the day. I took the word for my name. I felt so foolish making another attempt to chase down a boy. He would have to be a fool to ever want to go with me, I sang to myself in my blackest mood. Up until this hour there was always the chance, in my mind, that some male might
Full of self pity, and alone with it, as one should be, I thought, I walked to the restaurant, ordered a milk shake. It tasted better than the milk the doctor prescribed; to hell with the extra calories. I had two and one half hours before meeting my ride at the school to nurse the shake and read a book, Sorcery in the Middle Ages.
The book was my text for my next endeavor. What I couldn't get white, I'd take it black. Some of the recipes for winning your true love's heart rather got to me when they called for drops of his blood or other "discharge." I wondered how you got that if he didn't love you. Even the ones involving lizards' gizzards, bats' whiskers and stump water were making me wonder if males were worth the effort.
It was easier to have fantasies. I imagined, as I stared unseeing into the book. Some lone boy, also waiting to go to the skating party, would come into the restaurant to wait as I was. Being the only young persons there, we'd begin talking, find out we were going to the same party, leave, arm in arm, into the cold spring sunset.
But there was only Jonesy, the hardware owner, sitting at the cold frozen white Formica counter, eating his supper early so when the high school kid who helped left at six, he wouldn't starve before closing at eight. I wondered if the boy help had told Jonesy about
A couple of other men were having coffee and pie. More I didn't look at. I found it hard to get emotionally involved in a spooky book in such a brightly lit public place. It should be read while hidden in the attic, by the light of a gutted candle to make it effective. Flipping through the pages, some drawings caught my attention. One, especially.
Nice word. Tall-is-man. With the help of magic could one be as tall inside as one is with the skin and bones? Did it stop the "feeling small" complex? Looking closer, I saw it was the charm for capturing true love. Taking out my pen, I began copying the strange figures in it on my notebook. Ball-point pen on school paper was not the method they recommended. The instructions were that the charm was to be written in blood on parchment in the full of the moon. Our sky was overcast with April rain thinking. I had no moon and I had no extra blood.
Soothed by the repetitious motions, I continued to trace the weird drawing. I didn't believe in it, yet every time the door opened, I raised my head to see if it was "him" coming into the gateway of my heart.
This time it was two girls from my class with whom I rarely spoke, who were in the same situation I was. It was better having company, even if they were girls, than reading spook books. The time went faster with them, and their silly companionship raised my spirits.
Was the experience of meeting them was telling me it is better enjoy yourself with those around you, no matter who they are, than sitting alone and brooding? I laughed as I listened. I still wanted a boyfriend, but since tonight did not seem to be the night, I made up my mind to enjoy the feelings of floating on wheels, going around and around until I was dizzy with forgetfulness.
And so it was. I skated with my eyes nearly closed so the feeling of moving over the earth in an unearthly movement enclosed me. Round after round I circled, hypnotized by the speed, the roaring of all those wooden wheels grinding on the smooth wooden floor. The taped organ music was schmaltzy and loud, swaying me as if I was touched with unseen hands.
Gradually, I noticed my one foot was wobbling. It was like it was bewitched. I couldn't stop its shaking movement. Had it some connection with David's wedding? At the edge I swung off the rink into the lobby where the non-skaters, observers and people eating snacks were milling around. I was more than a little scared. I searched for someone to
Before three battered chairs stood a wizened old man wearing a blue workman's apron with tools sticking out of the pockets. He looked at me with a kindly glint in his squinty eyes. I thought of one of Snowwhite's dwarf friends. No one else was sitting in the chairs
"May I help you, miss?" He spoke so softly in spite of the ongoing roar of skates and music that overpowered every sense.
"Un, yeah, something is wrong with my foot." I didn't want to tell anyone my worry, but I was confused and let it blurt out.
He lifted up my booted foot, bent over, inspected the bottom of the skate. "No wonder you are feeling wobbly, the front section of your skate is ready to fall off."
"Is it serious? Is it my fault?" I had visions of having to pay for these ugly used up skates just because I had broken them.
"Hey, hey, don't get so worried. It happens all the time. That's how I keep my job. If you'll take off your skates I'll fix it in a jiffy." Sitting there without the skate, my foot seemed indecently exposed and naked. I tried to hide it under the folds of my skirt.
"That's a mighty pretty red skirt you'd wearing."
I felt he was trying to make me feel more comfortable. I welcomed his concern with my rely, "I made it myself in home ec."
"Mighty pretty it looks. Looks like it was made for skating. Do you skate often?"
"No, but I enjoy it so much, I wish I could skate every day."
"Why don t you?"
"I live too far away."
"That's too sad. I saw you skating out there. How you looked as if you were very far away. Let me see if the other skate needs its screws tightened up, too. Nope. It's okay Here let me help you."
As he took hold of my foot, his fingers pressed into my arch. Electricity shot up under the red skirt. Gently he positioned my toe in the mouth of the skate, pulling back the long tongue to make the entrance easier. Sliding his hand around my heel, up to my ankle, he wiggled my foot into the soft old leather thing. With a plop everything slid into place. Beginning at the toe, he pulled and tugged until each little hump of laces, pulling them flat across my foot. Higher and higher he went, sometimes hurting me with his strength. Holding fast the laced parts, he stuck the strings through the metal eyelets, back and forth, until he was to the very top. Here he tied a neat sting
He ran his hands down over my leather covered foot, pinching it to make certain that it fit perfectly. I wondered why the handsome boys of my age could not make me feel like this. Why did it take an old man to make me feel like this?.
"Thank you very much for helping me. I guess I panicked there for a minute. Thanks again."
"No thanks needed, it was my pleasure."
"Are you done planting tomatoes?" said a voice above me. I looked up. It was Leigh, the guy who was with Dave's sister, Barb, the day we planted the tomatoes.
"Yes. Forever. Since long. And you?"
"Yes, Babs ran off with the baker's son last summer, long before the tomatoes even got ripe." he laughed, crinkling his eyes like a magician's.
"The crop wasn't worth waiting for anyhow." I tried to sound careless, while trying to recall those two days in the field. What was said? What was done? Who was why?
"Would you care to try the next skate with me? Since we've both given up farming maybe we can dance!"
"Sure!" I looked back to thank the nice old man once more, but he was already tightening someone else's skates.
Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010