High school senior Ashley St. Helens
has suddenly found herself living a fairy tale life....
Which is not as much fun as it sounds.
Until... the other shoe drops.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Day-Glo Orange Jacket

“Good morning you two!” I called out the window. “Isn’t it a beautiful morning?” Jeff and Harry looked up, big smiles on each of their faces. “Would you like to come inside?” I grabbed the shoe from the windowsill and tromped down the stairs again.

When I opened the front door, I had to sort out my second impression from the outrageous woman who had walked in last night. This well-groomed, low-key forty-something fellow was a foot shorter than her, but he matched my childhood memories, which was an equally great surprise. “You look divine,” he said, in one smooth move bending down to grab the Sunday paper, handing it to me, kissing me on the cheek, and touching my head. “You have eyelashes in your hair, dear.”

Then Jeff stood square in front of me and stared, grinning from ear to ear. “Oh, it’s you,” he said, probably having the same disconnect with me that I’d had with Harry. “Look, I have one, too,” he said, nodding at the shoes we were both cradling, stroking like puppies.

“They’re so soft, aren’t they?” I ran my fingers over the suede and glass beads. He stared and smiled some more. “Want some coffee?” I offered. “Or tea? Or OJ?” We all moved into the kitchen and I reached in the cabinet for a mug, forgetting I’d laid out a beverage table with the punch bowl and the shining silver samovar.

“Champagne?” Harry found a chilled bottle, making himself at home as if no time had passed at all, as if it was still Mom and Dad’s house. “I think there’s an occasion.”

“There’s sparkling cider for us,” I said to Jeff, grabbing glasses. “Muffin?” I asked with a smile as I pulled a pan out of the oven, the shoe tucked under my arm.

“Yes, Honey Bunch?” Jeff teased, leaning against the counter top. Harry laughed. Jeff marveled at how nice everything looked. “Wow, even the top of your refrigerator is clean!”

We settled in to the now-naked armchairs, the three of us in a celebratory mood. “Did you try that shoe on everyone in town before you got here?” I asked Jeff, who was carring it like a football. “Or just Harry?”

“Oh! Here! I should give it to you,” he said, handing it to me. “Or is it yours?” He shoved it at Harry.

Harry took both shoes and got up to place them on the windowsill nearest the door, where the sun was coming in strongest. The transparent soles glowed white, the mystical carvings throwing swords of light onto the walls. Sparkles danced about the room, flecking all of our faces, making us laugh and shake our heads and blink the dazzling pinpricks of light out of our eyes. Jeff sang, “Aaaaaah,” like a choir of angels.

“Darling, you wouldn’t believe what a scene you missed last night,” said Harry. “You left just before midnight. Sylvia never knew it was you. She was all, like, ‘who stole my daughter’s crown?’ and once you were gone, ‘Jeff, for God's sake, dance with my daughters!’ And the band had stopped playing, and everyone was staring at her—”

“Aawwk-ward!” Jeff chimed in. “Especially since I was dancing with Harry.” I gave him a curious look.

“I even dipped him,” said Harry.

“He dipped you?” Now I stared at Jeff. He blushed. Harry punched his shoulder and rushed on.

“In the silence,” Jeff continued, “Coach’s watch starts beeping; it’s midnight. Well, Sylvia forgets about us—”

“—and we stop dancing—” Harry pointed out.

“You dropped me,” Jeff mentioned.

“—and she reaches into her purse.”

“People freaked out—they thought she was reaching for a gun!” Jeff said, gesturing with his hands. “Some kids even hit the floor!”

“But no, it’s a cell phone,” says Harry, “and she dials a number and says, “‘Run it,’” glaring at the coach the whole time.

“Their eyes were locked,” Jeff said, illustrating by pointing two fingers at my eyes, then his, then Harry’s, then his. What on earth? Now I was thinking about the Chanel blouse and the girdle….

“Then Coach starts peeling off his clothes!” Harry was nearly doubled over laughing at the memory. He stood up and started mimicking a strip-tease. “The orange cap. (Ba-dump.) The day-glo orange jacket. (Ba-dump.) The whistle, the squash team sweatshirt—he peels them off and throws them one by one at Sylvia’s feet.”

“The dude is buff,” Jeff said. “And now he’s standing there in jeans, a white t-shirt, his hi-tops, and his now silent watch.”

“Kind of hot, actually,” Harry murmured. “In a James-Dean-at-forty kind of way.”

Jeff continued. “And he goes, glaring at Sylvia, ‘I said what I had to, but it’s over now.’ Then he looks up at the crowd and says, ‘Party’s over, kids, go home. And goodbye. —”

Harry finished. “—Effective immediately, I’m no longer the coach. I’m going back to being Jack Pupkin, regular guy.’”

“No!” I couldn’t believe it.

Jeff started laughing hysterically.

“What?” We both turned on him.

“I just got it!”

“What?” He had to catch his breath first.

“Come on, Cinderella! Your coach turned back into a Pupkin at midnight!”


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