I Don’t Want to Miss Any of This ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Alva Fritchie, age ten, tap danced in his tennis shoes on the bare wood floor between the kitchen and dining room. He didn’t seem to be able to stand still anymore but always wanted to be dancing. When his mother called told him to come to supper, he danced his way to the kitchen table, where his mother, father and sister were already seated.
“I’m going to get taps put on my shoes,” Alva said as he sat down.
“I don’t think so,” mother said. “They make marks on the floors.”
“Does it matter?”
“It matters if you have to get down on your hands and knees and try to get rid of them.”
“Dancing is for sissies,” father said. “What do you want to dance for?”
“He’s not really dancing,” Cecelia, his sister, said. “He’s only imitating what he’s seen on TV.”
Cecelia was sixteen. She had washed and pinned up her hair after school and had a scarf on her head, peasant style. She also had an outbreak of acne on her chin.
“I can so dance, pimple face,” he said. “I’m good at it. I can give you a demonstration any time you want.”
“That would be never,” Cecelia said.
“I like to dance. It makes me feel young.”
“You are young,” mother said.
“Anybody can stand and move their feet,” father said. “That doesn’t make it dancing.”
“He’s such an idiot,” Cecelia said.
“Don’t call your brother that,” mother said. “We should be glad he isn’t an idiot. I’ve seen idiots and they’re no laughing matter.”
“Isn’t Bobo Mitchell an idiot?” his father said.
“I think he might be a moron. Or maybe an imbecile. A long time ago I knew the difference but I guess I forgot.”
“I guess you forgot,” father said mockingly. “I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know.”
“That’s stupid,” Cecelia said.
“Don’t be disrespectful to your father.”
“He’s disrespectful to me. You hear all the time about kids being disrespectful to their parents. What about parents being disrespectful to their kids?”
“I guess that doesn’t matter so much,” mother said.
“Life’s a bitch,” Alva said.
“We don’t use that kind of language at the supper table,” mother said. “It’s a vulgar, ugly word.”
“Kids at school say it all the time.”
His mother shook her head. “And that’s today’s ten-year-olds,” she said. “I never heard that kind of language until I was married to your father.”
“That’s a kindergarten word compared to the things I hear,” Cecelia said.
“What do you hear?” Alva asked.
“Never mind,” mother said. “Eat your stew.”
“I don’t like it. I want a hamburger.”
“Well, then, why don’t you just hop in your car and run downtown and get yourself one while the rest of us sit here and eat this stew?”
“I don’t have a car,” Alva said. “If I did, I’d get in it and drive a long way from here.”
“Where do you think you’d go?” Cecelia asked.
“I’d go to Hollywood, California and get a job dancing in the movies.”
“Hah!” Cecelia said. “Who’d pay money to see you? You’re a freak!”
“What is this obsession with dancing?” father asked.
“I don’t know,” mother said. “It’s something he saw on TV. Tomorrow it might be something different.”
“All I want to do is dance, dance, dance!” Alva said.
“If you only knew how stupid you look,” Cecelia said.
“You shut up!”
“Both of you shut up and finish your dinner,” father said.
Alva took a couple bites of the tepid stew and said, “Birdie Leonard went to the bathroom in her pants today at school.”
“Oh, my!” mother said. “Why didn’t she ask to be excused to visit the restroom?”
“I guess she didn’t know she had to go until it started coming out on its own.”
“I’m not sure that’s a fit subject for conversation at the dinner table.”
“What was funny, though, was she started blubbering. Miss Gottschalk slapped her across the mouth.”
“She did not!” Cecelia said. “Teachers aren’t allowed to do that anymore. They can get into a lot of trouble.”
“Well, she wanted to slap her. I could tell she was thinking about it.”
“So, you know what people are thinking now?”
“Sometimes I do.”
“You’re a liar.”
“So they had to call Birdie’s mother to come and get her and take her home. When Birdie got home, she washed off and put on some clean underpants.”
“How do you know what she did when she got home?” Cecelia asked.
“Well, isn’t that what you’d do if you went to the bathroom in your pants at school?”
“Whatever I did, it wouldn’t be any of your business.”
“That’s enough of that kind of talk at the table,” mother said.
“Why don’t you go study up for your driving test so you can fail it again?” Alva said.
“Mother, make him shut up!” Cecelia said.
“You both shut up!” father said. “You’re making my headache worse.”
“He’s such a little weasel.”
“At least I didn’t fail the driving test six times.”
“It was not six times!”
“How many was it then?”
“None of your business! That’s how many it was!”
“You’re a sloppy pig. You’ve got pimples all over your face. You look like a whore!”
“Why don’t you go dance yourself over a cliff and make us all very happy?”
“Don’t you ever let me hear you call your sister a whore again,” mother said. “Do you understand me?”
“I didn’t call her a whore,” Alva said. “I said she looked like a whore.”
“I don’t even want to hear that word.”
“It’s a good word,” father said.
“Don’t encourage him!” mother said.
“I saw her getting into a black car with a man down at the corner,” Alva said.
“Shut up, you little liar! You did not!”
“She was standing there all by herself. She didn’t know I was watching. A man drove up in a black car and stopped. When he got out and walked over to where she was standing, she became all girly and giggly. She flapped her arms and rolled her eyes and waggled her hips.”
“I did not!”
“They talked for a minute and then they both got into the black car and he peeled out.”
“He did not!”
Mother took a deep breath. “What are you saying?” she asked.
“I saw it all and I wished I had had a camera so she wouldn’t be able to lie her way out of it.”
Mother turned and looked closely at Cecelia. “Anything to this?” she asked.
“Oh, he’s got it all wrong. It wasn’t anything like he said.”
“So you did get into a black car with a man you didn’t know?”
“Who said I didn’t know him?”
“Hah-hah-hah!” Alva laughed.
“You little snake!” Cecelia said. “I’m going to slit your throat the first chance I get!”
“You’d better explain yourself while your head is still attached to your shoulders,” father said.
“It was Alice Terry’s brother. He’s home on leave from the navy.”
“How old is he?”
“I don’t know. About twenty-two, I guess.”
“What were you doing with him?”
“He was just giving Alice and me a ride to the library.”
“Alice wasn’t there!” Alva said.
“Oh, yes, she was, you little turd! She was in the back seat.”
“I didn’t see her.”
“That’s because her brother has tinted windows on his car.”
“I’m not liking the sound of this,” father said.
“It was all perfectly innocent, believe me.”
“Why should anybody believe a big liar like you?” Alva said.
“That’s enough, Alva!” mother said. “If you’re finished eating, you may go to your room.”
“I want some dessert and, besides, I don’t want to miss any of this.”
“Give me Alice Terry’s telephone number,” mother said. “I’m going to call her and see if she confirms what you’re telling me.”
“She isn’t home.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s going to be in a play at school. They’re having rehearsal tonight.”
“I will be talking to Alice Terry and her mother,” mother said, “even if I have to wait until midnight to do it.”
Cecelia threw down her fork. “Why are you all picking on me?” she said. “I haven’t done anything!”
She began bawling in much the same way that Birdie Leonard had done when she went to the bathroom in her pants at school. Her eyes bulged tragically and bits of food came out her thin-lipped mouth and dripped off her chin. She reminded Alva at that moment of a frog, but he kept it to himself. He would have a new name to taunt her with later, though.
Cecelia ran out of the room with mother right behind her. “Women!” father said to himself. He threw his napkin down disgustedly and went out the back door.
Alva was left alone at the table. He stood up and danced his way to the refrigerator, where he opened the freezer and helped himself to a generous bowlful of chocolate ice cream.
While he sat at the table and ate it, he heard the drama going on upstairs: Cecelia’s wailing, slamming doors and hurried footsteps. Mother would be trying to console Cecelia, as she always did, but Cecelia, at this moment, would be inconsolable.
When he was finished, he left the bowl on the table, pushed the chair in and danced in the big space between the table and the sink. The floor was tile and good for dancing. He was working on some new steps that he made up himself. He would dance the night away if only he could.
Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp