Some stories are better left untold
|** Author's Note: The shag is a southern derivative of swing dancing or, as Charlestonians might say, swing dancing is a northern derivative of the shag.
“The South speaks in satin syllables. She listens with heirloom ears honed by honeyed tongue and polished by long lineages. And when the South walks, why she doesn’t walk at all. She dances a slow, smooth shag that could ‘most seduce the sun.”
Sandra sighed that “end of the world” dirge composed by Stravinsky but perfected by teen-age girls. She was acutely aware that her own Yankee syllables were more like clipped corduroy than satin and that her meager lineage would fit quite nicely on a 3X5-- with a little room left over to spare. And, should Sandra ever dare to forget, the family’s annual trip down South to visit southern kith and kin never failed to remind her.
“I’m a traveling man” crooned her current heart throb.
Sandra turned her transistor volume up--from high to a ‘torment the parents’ blast and tried to drown in deep hazel eyes. But even Ricky Nelson’s browns could not cure Sandra’s blues.
She twisted the ends of her straight black hair and counted the Burma Shave billboards. Anything to distract her from the nightmare she knew was awaiting in Charleston, South Carolina “where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean.”
“What Chutzpah!” Sandra thought. “Meet to form the Atlantic indeed. Those southerners sure enough have chutzpah. I have to give them that--not that they’d have a clue what I meant.” She smirked as she thought of greeting her cousins with “Ya’ll sure have some gall now, ya hear ” in her most vicious imitation of a southern drawl.
Sandra sneaked a glance at her reflection in the rear view mirror. Sadly, no miraculous metamorphosis had taken place since the family piled into the old black Buick in New York City. Only angles stared back at her, nothing but angles from head to toe. Sandra hated being that skinny, straight-haired damnyankee amidst all those southern curves and curls.
On the outskirts of Charlotte, an old Chevy pick-up piled with produce advertised “Ripe Peaches at Peachy Prices”. Sarah loved peaches, but one look at the display of tawny pink perfection and all she could think of were her cousins with their Tangee lips and Baby Oil-bronzed bodies. She almost gagged remembering the year she’d tried to color her own milk white skin with QT and turned a semi-permanent neon orange. She’d spent the entire summer parading down Folly Beach like a psychedelic popsicle. Sarah could still hear the snide snickers from Cousin Beth--the longest drawl in the world couldn’t soften them.
Sarah watched from the rear window as the truck full of peaches grew smaller--shrinking as fast as her own self-confidence.
Too soon, the salty sting of shrimp and ocean announced their arrival at Folly Beach.
Cousin Beth was waiting to greet them. She wrapped both curls and curves around Sandra, then stepped back and drawled, “Why honey, whatever don’t they feed ya’ll up there in New York? You need some good ol’ grits on those bones. And, sweetie, don’t they sell any of those Tony perms up North? “
“Oh, and by the way, I saved my old Rose Marie Reid bathing suit for you. I hardly wore it at all. I kinda outgrew it--if you know what I mean,” she drawled dropping her eyes to a swelling women’s breast.”
And so the nightmare began.
The juke box was swallowing nickels as fast as nimble fingered teens could feed them. “Be Bop A Lula” was blaring and sand filled shoes shagged on the peanut shelled dance floor of the Boardwalk. Ponytails bopped and duck tails dipped.
Beth was breathless when she returned to the table where Sandra waited--listlessly counting the waves tumbling in. Beth had been dancing for the last two hours. Sandra hadn’t left the table.
“Too bad, sweetie, that ya’ll Yankees just can’t seem to dance. Well, mayhaps ya’ll can do a little twist or somethin’, but you’ve got to have some rhythm to do a southern shag. And you’ve got at have some blue blood flowin’ through your veins to do a proper Carolina shag.”
Sandra sighed and turned her mind to more important matters; she counted wave number 3,004.
3,005 was rolling in when Billy Buckly tapped her on the shoulder.
Billy was a true son of the South. His syllables were so satin they slid from his lips, his drawl stretched way out to tomorrow, and his blood lines were as long as all of America’s yesterdays.
“May I have this dance?” he asked.
Before Sandra could even begin to dog-paddle, she drowned in hazel eyes--Ricky Nelson eyes.
She took Billy’s hand and tossed her black mane over her shoulders. She slowly slipped off her flip flops. Sandra’had been waiting all her life for this moment.
“Why won’t you stay just a little bit longer” Jackson Browne’s sexy song soon filled up the dance floor. But before too long, no one was dancing anymore--no one but Sandra and Billy.
Sandra shagged soft and sultry. Billy dipped long and low. Sandra shuffled and spun. Billy mirrored her. Billy swung and Sandra whirled. Billy thrust and Sandra belly-rolled.
“Just one more time,” sang Jackson Browne.
When the last plaintive note was swallowed by the waves, two hundred teens clapped in amazement. And Billy Buckly fell in love.
“The South still speaks in satin syllables and listens with heirloom ears. She still dances a slow, smooth shag that could ‘most seduce the sun. But there is ne’er a mention of the folly at Folly Beach way back in ‘69 nor a word spoken of the damnyankee girl who really did seduce the son.”