Thursday, June 13, 2019

Poplar Mountain by Dellani Oakes Part 4


Lucius helped Dollie set up for the party, and asked her to be his date. He was also invited to have dinner with them, before the party begins.

The dining hall was bursting at the seams with people when they walked down. Willem met Patty at the door and the four of them walked in together. Music played on the record player. One of the men had rigged it so that it was piped through speakers. This would do for a time, but the play party games music would be played by a group of local men and one woman who often performed together.
Somehow, Lucius' cousin Jed had been convinced to introduce the tunes and start the records. He did an admirable job of it. A new song started just as they walked in the door. Jed smiled, giving them a thumb's up. The opening strains of Moonlight Serenade began.
"Miss Dollie, would you honor me with this dance?" Lucius asked.
"I'd be delighted," she replied as he led her onto the dance floor.
Dollie hadn't expected Lucius to be able to manage the modern dances, but he did very well. Smiling and laughing, they spun around the dance floor with Willem and Patty nearby.
Jed followed the slow dance with another popular song by Louis Prima, Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing). Lucius surprised her further by swinging her into a rollicking dance. Many of the others hung back, unsure of the steps. The enthusiasm of Lucius and Dollie was contagious, and soon all of them were dancing. Gasping and laughing, the couples had to rest afterward. They gravitated toward the refreshment table where the younger girls served cookies and punch. Lucius got cups of punch for himself and Dollie.
"It's hot in here. Reckon you'd like to step out for a breath of air before the games start."
"Reckon I would," she replied.
Willem and Patty followed them, keeping their distance. Dollie thought it was so they could keep and eye on them, but her sister and Lucius' brother were too wrapped up in each other to notice.
"Will put the last nail in the house today," Lucius said. "Outside's finished. Got to do the inside, but that won't take long, with me and the boys helping."
"That's wonderful!"
"Reckon he's gonna make it official any day," the young man said, raising an eyebrow in the direction of their siblings.
"I think he just did," Dollie added, watching the other two kiss.
"Yee haw," Lucius said quietly. "Miss Dollie...."
"Just Dollie, please. No need to be so formal."
"Dollie.... I'm not a big talker...."
"I know...."
"But I like talkin' to you mighty fine. I think you're about the prettiest girl I ever met. If you'd consider.... That's if you'd...."
A loud screeching wail emanated from inside the dining hall. All the men and older boys leaped to attention. Those sitting down, stood while the others rushed to the doors. Lucius jumped back from Dollie like he'd been stung. Loud laughter echoed from inside as music started to play. Jed laughed louder than anyone, as he tried to apologize.
"Sorry, folks. Not a fire siren, it's Rhapsody in Blue!" Doubled over, he laughed until his sides ached.
The moment between Lucius and Dollie was lost. Both of them hoped somehow they could find it once more. There were questions that needed to be asked and answered. It would have to keep. At least Dollie knew he was interested, that much was obvious.
More determined than ever to get his kiss, Lucius led her back inside as the small band took their places and the games and country dances began.
They opened, as always, with Skip to my Lou and Goin' to Boston. After a few of these, they played Jamaica, Bung Your Eye and Childgrove.
Suddenly, the doors burst open and there stood Big Earl Henry. Obviously drunk, he carried a bottle in one hand. His grubby overalls hung off his massive frame in muddy creases. He looked as if he'd slept with the pigs—and smelled like it too. The people nearest him recoiled in fear and disgust.
"I wanna see my boy!" he bellowed.
Willem took a step forward, but his father shoved him away. "Not you, you pansy! Where's Lucius?"
"Here, Pa," Lucius said, stepping up bravely to confront his father. "Don't you think you owe these folks an apology?"
"Fer what? Getting what's mine?" He put his arm around Lucius' shoulders, dragging him toward the door.
Willem rushed to get between the door and his father, hands out. "That's far enough, Pa. You let Luke go. You got no quarrel with him."
"He's my son!" Earl yelled.
"You've got two sons here, Pa," Will began.
"No son of mine would leave home and work in town. My son works the land. He's gonna take on the farm, after I'm gone."
"Pa, you're embarrassing us," Will said quietly.
"So? You think it don't embarrass me to see you flaunt all your money around town? And you spend it on that floozy from the city! Her, right there!" He pointed at Patty. Leaving Lucius, he took a couple staggering steps toward her.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes


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