Second Book in the Series
Dance Floor Wars: Lucinda’s People
Angela K. Durden — Alias/Pen name: Durden Kell
Attorney: Jelani Miller
j m i l l e r @ t h e m i l l e r l a w g r o u p dot c o m
404-974-9583 or 404-781-0794
Excerpt: 3500+/- words
Overview of Goals for the Dance Floor Wars Series:
A. Books published
B. Movies or TV shows to be based on these
Chapter 1: Bang the Drum Slowly
These past few months, Mike was waking too early. His clock always showed he had another hour before his alarm should scream. He learned not to roll over and attempt to sleep again because sleep would not come, and his body would feel miserable. He rose this morning as well, and quietly padded into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. He didn’t walk quietly for fear of waking anyone because no one was there. It had simply become his habit to move quietly and get from one place to another with an efficiency of movement sparing his lowering energy reserves.
Mike was not looking forward to the evening. There was a time when he enjoyed bartending. When the people and their stories still fascinated him. When he was still surprised by what they would do and say when the sexes mingled. When he thought of writing a book about these stories. But no more.
Where had he put those notes? Did it matter? When had he stopped listening? When had he pulled the plug on all but the chosen few? When had he lost hope in mankind’s ability to bring peace between the sexes and end this long, long war? When he was younger, he had hope an end to it was in sight. But now? Now he barely smiled when uttering, “What’ll you have?”
Not that the reason for his weariness made much of a difference to his clientele. He was their servant, they the master. One didn’t care about a servant’s feelings when one was actively engaged in seeking one’s own fulfilment. As long as Mike said with a semblance of a smile and a strong voice, “What’ll you have?” or “Your regular?” they were happy and tipped well – most of the time. He paid his bills on the tips. God knew his hourly wage sucked. But that was the bartending game and his bar was the hottest in town most nights.
He had to thank the DJ for that. Without the music, the crowds wouldn’t come. It would be just another quiet bar where men hung out to get away from the women. But women liked to dance, said DJ F-Bomb, and men liked women, so it followed he would always have a gig. Play it and they will come. Pun intended, Mike, he’d say, laughing knowingly and pointing his finger at Mike and walking to his station.
Whatever. It no longer mattered to Mike. When did it stop mattering? When did he lose hope? Pouring the cream in his coffee, he remembered. It was the night Lucinda came in without Gordon. God, could it be? Could it really be that he had been clinging to hope through the romance of these two people?
Lucinda, Dancing Queen, whose whirling dervish dance moves never ceased to make him happy as he watched her, but who needed a man of her own to worship her, only her. The one woman the men craved and lusted after, but couldn’t handle on any level. The one who lit the room with the fire of her personality and joy in life.
And Gordon, Hemingway they all called him because he was a writer and a damn straight good one. The one man the women in the room all wanted but knew they could never control. The one whose cynical, jaded attitude began to change as Lucinda moved into his life.
Yes, that was the night his hope died. When Lucinda came in without Gordon and said she didn’t know where he was as the smile on her mouth did not reach her dead eyes and Mike knew they were over.
This goddamned war was lasting too long, too long. Could he muster out? Could he do any other job in the world than this? He slugged his coffee, picked up the mail from yesterday, and paid his bills.
Chapter 2: War: Harsh Taskmaster
Lucinda bought a copy of Gordon’s book one year after it was released. Dispatches From the Front was brilliant and, knowing him to be an excellent writer, was not surprised to have those days brought back so clearly. She laughed and cried her way through it.
She went so far as to compose a letter telling him how much she enjoyed the book. It read too much like a fan letter. Oh, Gordon, I enjoyed your book so very much. You are such a good writer. Wow. I wish I could write like that. Lucinda ripped it in two, and threw it in the trash. No one watching her rip the paper could have guessed at her internal commotion. It was not a dramatic rip with angry mutterings and flinging of paper into the trashcan.
She was always the quietly internal drama queen. The one who made true the saying still waters run deep. The one who – while the world went to hell – smiled as everyone turned to her for solace. The one everybody wanted in their corner, but was unable to sacrifice themselves for. The one who heard confessions, but never gave.
Never that is, until she met Gordon. She shook her head, and dismissed the thought. Even after reading his book, Lucinda was not ready to accept that Gordon’s leaving was all her fault; though it was and she knew it undeniably. The night of his leaving was a regular night. Nothing in the wind or on the wire to indicate it would be a night of quietly dramatic endings. All that week, he worked around her house, repairing this, fixing that, doing things she never asked him to do, but that he did because she was his woman and that’s what real men did for their women.
All week Lucinda smiled and encouraged and admired. All week Lucinda went nowhere and did nothing but stay with him as he worked. She was happy to do so. She enjoyed his company. Sunday and Monday he scraped and patched; she cooked and smiled. Tuesday and Wednesday he replaced and primed; she cooked and smiled. Thursday he painted and painted; she cooked and smiled. Friday he bent knee and proposed; she declined and cried.
Lucinda knew the proposal was coming. Her gut had never been wrong. Ever. It was the bane of her existence. Never Wrong Lucinda. Always Right Lucinda. She didn’t know, though, that it was coming that particular evening. She was prepared for it, though, and her answer was no. Gordon’s expression at the termination of their relationship was sad, and unbelieving. Sure, she was sad about it, too; but it was the right thing to do at the time. So he went from kneeling in front of her to sitting with a thud on the floor with legs crossed. To slowly rising and carefully pocketing the ring in its case to walking out the door and driving away. To moving out of state to writing that damn book of his.
I have to dance, Gordon.
The statement was simple in its clarity and intent. He understood immediately. He didn’t like it, that was true; but he understood it. Gordon was ready for quiet; Lucinda had not had her fill of noise. Gordon needed to be away from the fight; Lucinda couldn’t get enough of the battlefield. The Dance Floor Wars showed no sign of abating in her life; he was ready to muster out.
It must have taken a huge amount of self-control for him to walk out without too much groveling, or begging for her to change her mind. In fact, he didn’t beg, he didn’t grovel. He listened. She loved him. She still did. But it wasn’t their time for that marriage thing, for that commitment, for that joining of two lives. About that she was right.
The months preceding the breakup had been sweet on the one hand, and aggravating on the other. Lucinda did not like admitting to herself she desperately needed a man. Such sentiments, though an open secret with all womankind, were politically incorrect to utter out loud in public. She told Gordon these things, though. To help him better tell the story of The Dance Floor Wars she was willing to make that sacrifice. Still, she said all she was doing those years before meeting Gordon was going out to dance. Not for her the looking for a husband, no sir; yet at the same time, at evening’s end when she didn’t meet that man that could fire her imagination and her body, she was disappointed not just for that moment in time, but the heavy burden of the unknown stretching out before her life often caused her to cry.
The months with Gordon took that disappointment out of the equation. In that taking, though, disappeared the drama and emotional roller coaster she fed on. She didn’t consciously recognize those things right away. Her gut knew it and screamed a bit at her; but she ignored her gut until she couldn’t ignore it any longer, and when pushed to give a definitive yes, she gave a definitive no.
Chapter 3: And “The Beat” Goes On…And On…And On….
DJ F-Bomb got his name when he let fly with the internationally famous word that is verboten on all regular broadcast media. Not only had he let fly with it once, but he managed to follow up three more times in a row when a caller asked for a song that was, in his informed opinion, terrible. He got into an argument with the caller. That wasn’t the problem. Everybody knew that was his shtick. Call him and rile him. It was a game and the ratings were through the roof. He was the DJ everybody loved to hate, but his act became stale and ratings began to fall. He moved from one market to another smaller market to another for several years in a row; the ratings followed the same pattern. Rise meteorically, then plummet and level off.
He had to figure out a way to get more attention and enhance his earning potential. One day the opportunity was handed to him on a silver platter. A woman called in and requested a Barry Manilow song. And not just any song. If she had requested something off his Paradise Café at 2:00 AM album, he would have said take your pick, baby, awesome Jazz chops on this album with Sarah and The Velvet Fog, darlin’, though the rest of his popular stuff is shit.
But she didn’t request any of that. No; she had to request commercially successful Copa Cabana. Popular songs were his stock in trade, and he loved the disco years as much as anybody else – all that free, hot love to a driving beat; damn— but his response to this woman was swift.
DJ: I’m sorry, woman. Did I hear you say Copa Cabana?
Caller: Did you just call me woman?
DJ: Yeah. Are you not a woman?
Caller: Yes, I am. But you said woman very insultingly.
DJ: Oh, my bad, baby. Let me try again. Did I just hear you say Copa Cabana, heifer?
Caller: Heifer? What’s a heifer?
DJ: So we have established you have bad taste in music. Are you stupid, too?
Caller: Did you just call me stupid?
DJ: I did not. I asked you a question. I asked are you stupid, too? Are you also hard of hearing?
Caller: You son of a bitch.
DJ: We bleeped that out…woman. Listeners, she just called me the male offspring of a female dog. Ain’t that special. Like I’ve never been called that before. So, woman…
And that is when she managed to punch his ticket close to home several times by calling him a washed-up has-been wannabe who didn’t have the talent to make it to the big leagues and was serving this market in fly-over country that he had sworn he would never set foot in. Thus provoked, he proceeded to say fuck you, woman four times in a row without punching the bleeping button before the producer got back from the bathroom and managed to pull the plug on the whole thing.
It wasn’t all bad. The station had never received that many calls in its entire collective history, and their phones had a meltdown. At least they knew they had listeners. Look on the bright side, he said, cheap market research. They should have thanked him. Email count went sky high, and DJ F-Bomb was now so-named thanks to a very unhappy listener. He didn’t play Copa Cabana that night and, in fact, made that part of his act: Hating on Barry Manilow. He smiled all the way to his next better-paying gig in a bigger, more urban – and thus more understanding – market.
He began playing in clubs, some of whom encouraged the use of his eponymous title in its entirety, others which discouraged it mightily. He didn’t have a problem remembering which was which. Twenty-somethings? The more fucks he said, the more grownup they felt. Thirties and forties? They didn’t like to hear it until they got very drunk, at which time they got back in touch with their wild-and-wooly youth, but the next day they could be expected to tell their children not to say such filth. Fifties and sixties? It bored them. Really? Been there, done that, got something else? Seventies? They couldn’t hear anything, so he often got away with cynical murder as he mumbled just under their hearing range.
DJ F-Bomb himself was tired of this act. He really didn’t hate Barry Manilow’s music that much, and in fact, had started to play some of his songs even if they weren’t requested. Anything to please the women who came to dance, right? Anything to keep the women dancing so the men would tip well as they got to touch the women, right?
Hey, it was the business of war. Sometimes you did things you didn’t like in war. Sometimes the war drums just beat on and on and on, and you kept your boots slogging through the mud whether you liked it or not because that was what Had To Be
Done. At heart, DJ F-Bomb had been, was, and would always be a good soldier even if he never made Captain.
From his DJ perch, he saluted Mike at the bar.
Chapter 4: Clandestine Affairs
“Ow. That hurt.”
“Time for you to go.”
In Hock, rubbing his thigh where Ticking kneed him by way of a reminder, slowly sat up in bed. “Why do I have to leave? Why can’t I stay until the morning?”
Ticking sighed deeply, rolled her eyes to the ceiling as if in supplication for patience, and answered him. “I told you. I don’t want you doing the early morning walk of shame when my neighbors can get a good look at you.”
“I don’t know what the big deal is. You’re a grown woman. I’m a grown man. We aren’t doing anything wrong.” He slid his legs off the edge of the bed, his feet thumping to the floor. He stretched his arms to the ceiling, arching his scratched and clawed back; her hands kneading the kinks felt good. He put elbows on knees and head in hands, and let her work his muscles.
Ticking lived in an apartment complex where it seemed nobody had anything to do except butt their noses into other people’s business. She apologized again. “I know, baby. I’m sorry. You know I love you. You know I want you to stay, but honestly, these people’s tongues just can’t stop wagging. I don’t want to be gossiped about until I’m ready to tell them to shove it. You understand, don’t you?”
“Yeah. I guess. I just wish we could spend the whole night together.” As he stood, In Hock felt her hands slide down his body. He turned, leaned over her, tucked the covers up around, and kissed her.
“Mmmmm…thank you for another job well done,” she murmured against his lips.
He stood and saluted her smartly. “My pleasure, ma’am. It’s always my aim to please, ma’am. I’m here to serve, ma’am.”
Ticking watched him dress. “You know, if you had an apartment, spending the whole night together would be a whole lot easier.”
Now it was In Hock’s turn to sigh. “Don’t bring that up again. Not after such a good evening. You know I have to live with Mom right now because of the divorce and everything.”
Everything meant not just the divorce in which he got reamed but good with the paying of everything for the kids (happy to do so for them), alimony to the damn cheating wife (kicking and screaming about that the whole time), the mortgage on the house (he would never live in again), and rent for an apartment (a dive in a bad part of town, but what could he do). To add insult to injury, not three months after the final divorce papers were signed by a judge, In Hock was downsized. He left work that day with a glowing recommendation letter (they didn’t lie), an appointment with a placement firm (paid for by his old company), a book on how not to be stupid in writing his resume (did people really spell their own name wrong?), and the promise of six months of severance pay (more than he expected).
Not a bad scenario in a downsized world. For some reason, though he did everything right, he couldn’t buy his way into another job with comparable or better pay. He was soon forced into taking two part-time jobs, and shortly after that moving in with his mother because while the part-time jobs did not pay for any health insurance, he still had to pay for health insurance for his damn cheating now ex-wife (may she rot in Hell) and his two wonderful children (he was proud of them), which meant he couldn’t even afford a dive.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I shouldn’t have brought it up.” Ticking smiled encouragingly at the now fully clothed In Hock.
“I’m working as hard as I can, honey. You know this.”
Ticking did. She knew that two part-time gigs had turned into three for a couple of years; all he had done was work, eat, sleep, and see his kids when he could. If he had had time to find a woman, he wouldn’t have had the time or the energy to bang her. One job slowly, but eventually, turned into full-time with bennies; he kept a second part-time job to catch up on bills and save for getting his own place, which gave him some time to socialize which is how Ticking met him.
“I know,” she smiled again. In Hock needed a last reward before he left. Something to inspire him during the day, work harder, make that money. So Ticking threw the covers off her naked body, walked on her knees to the edge of the bed where In Hock stood. She wrapped her arms around him and lifted her face. He gave her a quick kiss while slowly running his hands over shoulders and breasts she conveniently lifted toward him.
“It’s getting hot in here again,” he said as he stroked her nipples and heard her breath catch. He stepped back and smiled. “Better go. Don’t want the neighbors talking.”
In Hock backed toward the bedroom door as she stayed in place on the bed. He’d take that vision of her with him to work. With that sort of encouragement, he’d be a model of efficiency for days. He backed away from her naked body (still warm from his lovemaking), and wild brunette hair (driven into a frenzy holding fistfuls of it as he pushed himself into her and she moaned and begged for him to push harder).
Oh, yeah. He was da man. Watch out, world.
Ticking knew he would be thinking of her all day, and the next – and the next. She smiled and waggled her fingers at him. “Love you.”
“Love you, too, baby.”
A moment later she heard the front door close, the deadbolt thrown, and his car start. She lay back in the bed and pulled the covers over herself again, and fell asleep quickly. But during the very early morning, when it was the darkest, she woke with a heavy heart. Doubting herself, doubting In Hock, doubting her life, doubting the whole of the human race, she tossed and turned in the bed and fought the rising tide of misery that was her life. Could she pick them or what?
How did she unerringly always fall for men with evil ex-wives, small children, and desperate money troubles? How would she get her key back without an argument?