The bartender glanced up and down the bar. When no new customers presented themselves, he leaned on his elbows in front of Jonathan. “Ruby in L. A. and, I think you said, Lola in Las Vegas was your third wife. Who and where did number two strike?”
He stared into his glass and sighed. “Might not have been a number three, if I’d been a wiser man.” But then he wouldn’t have met Lola, and that would’ve been a shame. “Ethel was a handsome woman.”
Since she was moneyed from a previous marriage, and since his sons were on their own, he’d been able to assume the role he’d chosen as a no-responsibilities-female-loving kind of guy. Finding the financial means to enjoy his idea of retirement had been the dilemma until he’d found Ethel. In wife number two, with her love of fun and a seemingly endless supply of money, he’d found his means.
“Ethel stood nearly six feet tall, and in our stocking feet, we met eye to eye.” Her girth was almost too much for him to get his arms around, but she was strong and nimble, which relieved him of any real work around the house. “She was a beauty that favored bright colored dresses and layers of jewelry.”
“Sounds like you strayed from the golden goose.”
“That I did.” He considered the unflattering characterization the bartender coined. “And got what I deserved. A cocktail waitress at the Palomino Club turned my head one night. If my hand hadn’t been where it was and one of Ethel’s friends hadn’t seen me and blabbed…well, I might still be married.” He shrugged. That little gal was so sweet and firmer than anything he’d had since he was eighteen. He remembered thinking she’d probably be the last young thing he’d ever touch again.
“A lesson learned, Carl. A man has to know his limitations and embrace his age at some point in life.” He was damn good with the women, but he wasn’t getting any younger. About time he got wiser.
Marriage number two ended with Ethel’s quietly spoken words.
“Jonny, you’re a no good two timing, drunken Indian. It’s no wonder your first wife ended up in the nut house. It’s beyond me how you raised two boys to be such good human beings when you’re so loathsome. Now get out of my house.”
Yep, lesson learned. Then he’d met Lola. And damned if his new style couldn’t have seen him through the rest of his life…if she hadn’t died.
“Hey, barkeep. Can I get a vodka tonic?” A voice called out at the end of the bar. Carl tapped the wood, nodded, and shuffled away.
Multi-colored lights suddenly blinked around the edge of the bar, and in a corner by the stage a Christmas tree came to life. “Looks like the holidays have come to Laughlin.” His chest went hollow. He chided himself. It wasn’t possible to get to the boys this year, but he’d damn well find a way to celebrate.
He hated spending Christmas alone.
Jonathan heard the music in the lounge start up. As his white patent leather shoes touched the floor, he nearly danced out of the bar and over to the adjoining lounge. Standing behind the brass rail separating the lounge from the casino, he flexed his biceps under the snug fitting, shiny polyester shirt and tapped his right foot to the music. The four-piece band played standard pop tunes from the past five decades. Jonathan watched the couples moving back and forth, up and down, no one touching, no one twirling.
“I need to show these people how it’s done.” He’d had the same thought every night for a week, and although he managed two dances three nights ago, the clientele during the week consisted mostly of retired couples and newlyweds. Tonight, Friday night, would bring in the local ladies and the people up from Phoenix.
The band launched into a fifties rock and roll tune. He stepped into the lounge and approached a table of four women. They appeared to be two sets of mothers and daughters.
“Would any of you lovely ladies care to jitterbug?”
The dark-haired mother on his right smiled. “I can do that.”
He took her hand. The wedding ring pressed into his palm as he led her to the middle of the square dance floor. This would be a one-dance lady. He started with a simple step until he judged her ability as fair, then led her into a sideways maneuver and a twirl. She was tight and a touch off beat, but he managed to turn it into a pretty fair display.
He scanned the tables as they danced around his arena until two women sitting next to the Christmas tree caught his eye. He had their full attention. Jonathan smiled and dipped, keeping the beat and rhythm of his moves at pace with the fast music. While everyone around the couple bobbed up and down in solitary fashion, he and his partner moved through in harmony.
When the song ended, he bent slightly forward, knees locked in a gallant bow. “Thank you, lovely lady.”
After escorting her back to her friends, he strolled across the dance floor to the two women bathed in the lights from the tree. “Good evening, ladies. I couldn’t help but notice you sitting here and hoped you might allow me to buy you a drink.”
“Only if you’ll sit and have one with us.” The thin brunette with a wide smile and a long face spoke up.
“I would be most honored. My name is Jonathan Jay Somefun.”
“Well Jonny, ain’t that the truth.” A high pitch giggle erupted. “My name is Adele, and this here’s Mae. We sure did enjoy your dancing.” She batted lashes over narrow-set eyes.
He tipped his head in thanks, glanced at Mae, and met her pale blue gaze with a smile. He judged both women to be near sixty, no wedding rings, and not tourists. Mae was short, a little round in a matronly way, with cropped silver-white hair that sparkled with the tree lights. She had a close-mouthed smile and eyes that saw beyond his polyester shirt. The band began their rendition of “Money for Nothing”.
With his gaze still on Mae, he asked, “Do you ladies dance?”
They both spoke at once. Adele gushed, “Oh no, Jonny, not like that!” While Mae answered quietly, “As a matter of fact, I do, Jonathan.”
The use of his full name, her quiet reply, and steady gaze dimmed the surroundings. She had his full attention. “Well, then, this song sounds like a good one. May I have the pleasure?” He dipped his head and held out a hand. “Adele, do you mind? Maybe you could catch the cocktail waitress for our drinks?”
He sensed the confidence in Mae’s step and didn’t hold back as the jitterbug began. She followed with grace and rhythm. The fast song led right into a slow one, an old Johnny Mathis song, “When I Fall in Love”. Since Mae gave no indication of wanting to return to the table, he pulled her respectfully closer.
With a deep breath of her lilac scent, he cocked his head at an angle to address her. “Mae, you are a fine dancer. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy dancing with an attractive woman who knows her way around the dance floor.”
She murmured a quiet thank you.
“Do you live around here?”
She nodded. “In Bullhead.”
“What do you know? So do I. Just moved here a couple of weeks ago. How ‘bout you?”
“I’ve lived here for five years. After my husband died, I decided to retire here.” She glanced toward her friend. “I knew Adele and her daughter, so it was easy.”
He lowered his voice, expressing true sympathy, yet flushed happily with the news. “I’m sorry to hear about your husband. Were you married long?”
“Thank you, Jonathan.” Her sweet smile returned. “Oh yes, thirty five years.”
“Well, isn’t that wonderful.” He pressed his fingers gently into her back. “Marriage is a great and honorable thing. Although I am currently single, I much prefer the married life myself.”
“Do you?” Her smile widened. “I guess I would say so, too. I’ve been having quite a time living close to all this nightlife. Although after a while, every night is a little bit the same.” She batted her eyelids and dipped her chin before gazing into his face again. “But I thought you would be more the partying type.”
“Now Mae, why would you say that?”
“Well, Jonathan, you dance so beautifully and seem to have a way about yourself.”
“And you, too, dance beautifully, and I’ve seen the men looking at you.”
Mae was artfully flattered and held her head a notch higher as he smiled down on her.
The dance ended, and as they stepped back from each other, still holding hands, a disco song from the 70’s began. He twirled her twice, and they danced once more, Jonathan lavishing the compliments all the while, before returning to the table and a bored looking Adele.
Please come back for the conclusion tomorrow!
Please come back for the conclusion tomorrow!