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Ted and Edie dance the Rumba

“I saw it happen an’ that’s how I knows it … and I know why it happened … an’ I’m sorry it didn’t happen a long time ago, back when they could’ve made something with it.” Swertzy took a drag on his cigarette again and settled into the chair outside the Sedan Post Office and reflected on times past … his portly frame shifted to ease the rheumatic pain in his hip.

Heinie Schwertzferger explained:

“Ted and I first learned proper dancing with old Mrs Harris, who used to give dance classes in her home back in the fifties … over there in Towitta … when Ted and I were young blades … She would move the lounge table to one side and crank up the old gramophone player and she and her hubby would teach a group of us locals how to dance real proper like … you know … the Fox-trot, Military Two Step … those old ballroom dances of the day … ”

“A few of us young blokes went there because there was a lot of old-style dances in those days or when the rock and roll came along, there were those 60/40 type dances and we wanted to meet and dance with girls … none of us being that suave with the ladies … save Johnny Hocking … he was a goer .. but “Rosie” … Ted Rosenswietz and I … well, we just weren’t in the game … so we learned how to dance with Mrs. Harris .. and learned darn good too! … oh, she was a good teacher … so that when we went to those dances held in the Sedan Hall by Gladys and Johan Herbig, she … Gladys, said that there wasn’t anything she could teach us and that we were just swell at dancing … ”

“But she could show us a new dance … The Rumba … ”

Heinie took a draw on his ciggy and stared into the distance as he deliberated on his thoughts ..

“I wasn’t that good at the rumba, the movements were a tad too quick for me .. ’specially the turn and stepping back … I was a bit clumsy in that movement … but Ted and his dance partner, Edith Bentley were a perfect match … they moved as one, joined by a kind of tied cord through their arms and hands … they were very good … but they were at their best when they danced the rumba to that then new Roy Orbison song: “In Dreams” … they’d look into each other’s eyes and sweep around that floor like they were floating on a cloud … they were so good.”

“Every month, the Herbigs would have a dance at the Sedan Hall, and every month, Ted and Edie would do a centre of the floor demonstration of the perfect rumba … and you couldn’t help but give them the applause they deserved at the end … they were good … they were so good.”

“Well, after dancing together so long, it was no surprise that Ted took a shine to Edie in a serious way … and he confided to me and Edie’s brother one afternoon in the hotel, that he had honourable intentions to ask for Edie to become engaged to him at the next dance … and he smiled the smile of a happy man … ”

“He didn’t say any more on the subject, but you can bet that Edie’s brother told his mother that same week of Teds intentions … now, while the war had ended a long time ago, there still lingered that undertone of distrust between the Anglo community and the German community … things had not yet got back to any sort of normalicy … after all , it was only just a recent memory as far as memories go … ”

“Well, that next dance, Ted shows up in his best clothes … his only suit, he has his high polish Roaul Martin dance shoes on and a bright red rose in his lapel that he had plucked from Mrs. Auright’s front garden on his way to the dance … He’s standing there over the one side of the hall, and Edie is sitting with her mother over the other side of the hall … they only have eyes for each other … Ted smiles his biggest smile and walks across the dance floor to stand in front of Edie, who now has a pinched lips look on her face … a worried look … Ted reaches out his hand and requests her hand for the next dance …

Ted had arranged that the music for that dance would be their favourite rumba number … yes … Roy Orbison … ”In Dreams” … they would face each other in those first opening lines where he says; “That candy coloured clown they call the sand man … ” … they would get set ‘in the square’ as they say and then move on from there when the song starts … ” I close my eyes and I drift away … ” Well, there Ted is in all his glory … and Edie hesitates, looks to her mother, who does not say a word … not – a – word … does not even look at Ted or Edie, but just stares straight ahead into the hall and then firmly places her hand on Edie’s forearm and holds it in her grip … stopping Edie from reaching to Ted’s outstretched hand … and there it stood for a greater time than can be measured in a moment … it was to be an eternity … for with that one mute gesture, Mrs. Mavis Bentley had asserted her parental authority upon the desires of the younger couple and in effect cancelled any wish of Ted to “pop the question” to Edie … the dance partnership was over … and as they remained there in silence, that song played mockingly out over the hall:

“In dreams I walk with you …

in dreams you’re mine …

in beautiful dreams … ”

Ted stepped back, stood tall gave a measured bow of his head and without a word, walked out of the hall … ”

“The Bentleys moved from the district to the city not many months after that incident, Ted never went back to the dances, eventually he married a lass from Angaston and settled down to a farming life … But it was a doomed marriage in the long run and he ended up growing old alone … ”

“And now there they were, fifty years later … Ted dressed to his best, his resurrected Raoul Martin dance shoes polished to a dazzling shine … though he was no longer the strapping young man that he was … indeed, you could say that time had worked its measure on his body, for he walked with a limp now … and there was Edie again, after so many years there at this one-off celebratory “Olde time dance” for the anniversary of the Sedan Hall, there with her grand-children … and she herself was also what we would call time-worn through the usual burdens of life and children … no longer the lithe maiden that Ted swept around the dance floor in his arms … herself now a widow … and there they were, again with only eyes for each other … not in a romantic way, but now rather more in a “I dare you” way. A cheeky smile played on both their lips as they held each other’s stare.

Ted had once again plucked a rose from the front yard of … the now deceased … Mrs. Auright’s place and he had arranged that the disc-jockey put on that now very old song of Roy Orbison: “In Dreams” … he stepped out onto the dance floor just as the first chords of the song were played … and with his eyes as a querying gesture and his hand outstretched toward Edie, he raised his eyebrows questioningly … Edie accepted his request … ”

They squared up to each other as those first words were spoken by the Big ‘O’:

“That candied coloured clown they call the sand-man,

Tiptoes to my room every night,

Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper …

Go to sleep, everything’s alright … ”

“I close my eyes …” The Big ‘O’ sang …

“And off they went into that rumba … like they had just left off yesterday some fifty years ago … not a movement out of step, not a turn fumbled for lack of practice or usual companionship … not even a sign of that limp that so bedevilled Ted for all these years and Edie’s hip showed not the least sign of slip or hindrance as they moved from hand to hand, half or double turn … in step with old Roy ‘O’s beautiful lyrics:

“In Dreams I walk with you … – four-one two three …

In dreams I talk to you … – turn, fan … alemana …

In dreams you’re mine … all of the time … -forward walk … hockey-stick, touch …

We’re together … in dreams … in dreams … -spot turn … again single … then double …”

Oh they were good … just so good … and that rumba was made for Roy Orbison’s song … a perfect match … and every one else on that dance floor had stopped dancing and stepped away to gaze stupefied at this lovely old couple sweeping up and down the dance floor, movement upon movement in exact and beautiful synchrony … no! … they were not old, they were alive with their own youthful vigour!

Turn and step forward and backward … hand high to hand alemana and fan then cucaracha …

like a young couple fresh from a dance class of the sixties … as indeed they were in their heads and hearts … their eyes glued to each other, their hands and bodies not just touching, but finger-tip caressing with the touch of young lovers all over again …

shoulder to shoulder … the song continued …

“But just before the dawn, I awake to find you gone … ”

side to side … alemana, in and out four, one two three four …

“I remember-when you said-goodbye …

It’s too bad that all these things … ”

And on they danced to the end … till those last notes and words from the Big ‘O’ finished the dance:

“And I’ll be happy in my dreams …

only in dreams …

in beautiful dreams … ”

They finished with a beautifully executed hand to hand turn to end up facing each other “in the square” as they started … there was complete silence in the hall … their dance was beyond compliment of mere applause, for this was the completion of their relationship that started so long ago, only to be interrupted by the tyrannical hand of social expectation … but with this dance they had completed their obligation of their love affair to themselves and each other … there was no more needed to be said … indeed, they were deaf and blind to all around them …

Ted dropped his hands to his side, bowed his head in a measured way and said.:

“Thank you, Edie.”

To which Edith Bentley smiled coquettishly, blushed and replied …

“Thank YOU, Ted.”

“Edie turned and walked back to where her grandchildren sat open mouthed and Ted walked proud and without limp to the door-way and out of the hall.”

Swertzy stubbed out his cigarette in the aluminium ash tray on the table and finished with:

“I saw it happen and that’s how I knows it … an’ I’ll say again .. it’s a pity it didn’t happen that way a long time ago when they could’a made something with it … but that’s life … ”

 

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8 comments

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  1. Anne Byam

    So enjoyed that story too, Joseph. Thank you.

  2. Joseph Carli

    You’re welcome, Anne…and thank you..

  3. Joseph Carli

    Letter to a friend…….

    ” I place this piece to you and your readers as a seperate post as I am sure my too regular presence on your newer posts must by now be somewhat tiring to see….I apologise for my intrusion on YOUR blog..It’s just that I am a chatty person..perhaps some would call me ..: “mouthy”…I have to wear it, and will try to reduce my verbosity in future…But I did want to say this and see if you..or any others who may read it.. have any thoughts on the subject, seeing as how you too have written so many words on such a familiar subject as the human condition.

    Out here in the Murray Mallee where I live, between the eastern face of the Adelaide Hills and the Murray River, on what is called ; “The Murray Flats”…or : “Break-heart country”..at the end of the second world war, there was a distinctive “cut” in a cultural tie with the methodology of farming…particularly in regards to the older families of the pioneer Germanic farmers in the area.

    Before the 2nd. World War, and indeed right to the end of the war, horse-drawn implements were a common form of ploughing, seeding and harvesting…in some locations tractors had been introduced, but they were such cumbersome technology, that it was a risky and expensive proposition to do a major “tooling-up” in cost and farm layout to change over. But it did happen, and with that event, there was not only a “cut” in ties from old technology, there was also a severing with the connection between the farmer and his soil….between “Humanity and its touch to Earth”..

    Where once, with the horse era, the connection between philosophy of mind, religion of heart, to callous of hand was a real and tactile thing..The farmer man and woman, rose in the early morning, praised their God, saw to and fed the animals, groomed and attended to the health of both themselves and their beasts of burden…the harness of leather and steel, the equipment of cast metal and timber..the feel of earth under foot and hoof…was it soft, hard, moist or too parched?…the entire process was “ of the senses, of the touch”.

    Then, in almost the blink of an eye…it was gone…all that old expertise..redundant, along with an entire generation of horsemen farmers…the sound and scent of preparation and harnessing….of horse-feed, stabling and manure was gone…no longer were these hardy pioneers “dirt farmers”, they had now needed to graduate to become ; “chemical farmers”.

    And so that was the end of something.

    Another thing I believe has ended – right now – with an older generation is the understanding and/or sympathy in the writings by that older generation, of a younger generation for the reality of the Human condition…NOT to be confused with the living standard..or material comforts..or the trysts of social relationship..but rather; that uncertain something that gets us out of bed in the morning to give touch to the start of the day…the hunger of physical contact however slight or intense with our fellows…our (female in my case) opposites…the moment of embrace to start the day..a gentle ; “Good morning, did you sleep well?”.

    The haste of the post-modern lifestyle, that celebrates the “individual” rather than the couple to fulfil those material needs, driving many to fore-go that moment of space necessary for human contact and relationships to co-exist..After all, we can only fill one pair of shoes at a particular time, or stand on one patch of soil underfoot…it is our mood that makes us, and I feel there is a mistaken association with the sweeping mood of “instant”communication technology via the internet or mobile phone hook-up that is making, shaping and dominating and in the end ; replacing..the mood of so many people so that the above understanding of the making of the Human condition from another age..another generation of post war people, is being lost or thrown aside for a new-fashioned personality that has little time to look into either the eyes or the soul of humanity..and like those post war farmers who adopted the new technology to up-the-ante in both speed of the deeds of farming and the output for profit that resulted in the further decimation of an already fragile environment, so too will a past generation’s experience of the pain and what is gained from that pain, will be shunted aside for a more “profitably expedient” if tactile poorer outcome in human relations.

    And that too, I fear..will be the end of something.

    I make this claim because after years of writing story and tale, essays and poems on example after example of situation, be it delight, devastation or humiliation of so many good folk and their moments of life, I have to conclude that it has to the greater extent been to no avail and the grinding of those most vulnerable underfoot has continued almost unabated…and this saddens me…NOT to the point of actual depression, but rather in that way where one has to sit by and watch a drama unfold and yet not be able to do a thing to stop it…like the proverbial train wreck in slow motion.

    And there were our grandparents and parents who saw it, lived it and told oral story after story about those times which we, of a better educated generation..perhaps the BEST educated generation of an eon of years, has put down in word on page those lives..and yet the carnage goes on…Perhaps, like that generational change from horse-power to tractor, it cannot be stopped and the maxim of ; “Live for the moment”…better suits the times than the old ; “Work like you are going to live forever and pray like you are going to die tomorrow” ..which is..like this author..just too wordy to be called out of a swiftly passing window. “

  4. Christina Heath

    I always enjoy your stories Joseph. I can particularly relate to the story of Ted and Edie. My German great grandmother would not allow any of her family to speak in German, she was so afraid of the prejudice. Understandable but so sad. In later years my cousin married an Italian who was sent to the Peninsula to work on our farm. She was ostracised for years.

  5. Joseph Carli

    Thank you Christina…yes, there was a depth of covert racism that decided many relationships around here in those times when parents had a greater hold on their children’s future…thank God for the Boomer’s social revolution!…The story was told me by an old German farmer from just over the other side of the “hill” (it is the mallee after all)…He is the “Ted” in the story (poetic licence allowed)…an old man now, but (according to him) a good dancer in his day…
    But history is like that…the overlooked part is the emotional connection of the person to the events..Where academic historical study likes to fix on times and places, the story-writer MUST take an eye-glass to the physical / emotional effect on the persons in those times and places.

  6. Christina Heath

    Joe, I have often wondered if you have a compilation of your stories. You mention academic historical studies. Your stories are much more. I read and relish the memories as I have become aware of your writings through THE AIMN. I believe they should be preserved in a special place somewhere for present and future generations to enjoy the memories you capture so beautifully.

  7. Joseph Carli

    Christina…It appears to be the ways of this world that moments and feelings mostly just pass us by..a wash in the wake of what is seen as more pressing matters…the trivial and facile everyday more in need of our attentions than the laughter or heartbreak in ourselves or our loved ones….or indeed the community around us…These stories, I suspect, through lack of interest save a few of the more more sensitive souls, will pass with me…I am getting old and feel I do not measure up to the sophisticated wisdom of so many commentators found on Twitter or blog…after all, how can one compete with the plethora of Googled links and encyclopediad knowledge of the aged-educated when one only has a cracked looking glass to reflect what we have all left behind or have overlooked…
    On thinking on the subject. it may be a good thing that I press on in isolation with these snippets of local history and tale, as that allows me to pursue idiosyncratic behaviours outside the stultifying demands of a now calcified society..

    If you are interested, there is a list on my blog of stories and things I have put up there amongst the political and social articles…here.. https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2019/03/30/a-list-of-stories-posted-on-the-blog-here/ ..you’ll have to type the titles into the search space though..
    Again..thanking you for your kind words…

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