Hilda and Mack made their way up the stairs of the downtown Starbucks, to the reading room with mini coffee bar. The baristas working the evening shift were delighted to see Hilda and Mack come into the store. Both were dressed in formal clothes. Hilda always wore a knee length silk dress, made balloon-like by the 1950’s crinolines. Her sparse gray hair sparkled like the Toys R Us tiara she wore which matched the HSN faux rhinestone necklace and earrings. Age was not kind to her eyesight. The smudged lipstick made her look like she had slid off a stool at some down and out bar. Mack spent hours starching and ironing his blue tuxedo shirt. The folds on his outsized neck covered the frayed and yellowing collar. Mack’s tuxedo jacket and pants with the satin ribbon running up the side of each leg were two sizes too small and held up by the suspenders he wore when he was Fire Chief.
As soon as the night manager saw Mack and Hilda enter, he ran to the supply room to change the Starbucks “Muzak” to big band jazz. The final strains of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” brought Hilda, Mack and the baristas to the brink of excitement. Duke Ellington, the Dorsey brothers, Buddy Morrow, Glen Miller, Harry James, Count Basie were all there waiting to be released from their digital graves. The couple was not disappointed and held hands as they waited for a perfect melody . . .Hilda fingering the small corsage that Mack had bought at the grocery store.
The Duke playing the opening strains of “Satin Doll” put a broad cheap denture smile to each of their faces. Mack bowed and asked Hilda if she would like to dance. Hilda’s eyelids fluttered, a talent most women naturally come by at the age of six and lose only at death. She reached out her left hand and Mack gently held it as he pulled Hilda close to him in the starting position for a traditional fox trot. Hilda closed her eyes as Mack led her around the smooth wood floor. She saw sparkling lights and other couples with Mack avoiding the chair and garbage can landmines. Her back, bowed by age and decades of poring over the books from the plumbing store her brothers owned in Omaha, straightened. Hilda was once again the princess at her coming out ball, the lady in waiting at her high school prom, and the proud mother at her imaginary daughter’s wedding.
Jess Nadelman has had numerous careers in numerous locations. He lives in Colorado and is a frequent contributor to Lightwood.