PRIDE AND PRETZEL-TURNS
A novella in 5 volumes. By the author of “Sense and Swingability.”
CHAPTER 1: Lonliness and Lindy
IT IS A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED, that a single leader in possession of great Lindy Hop skills must be in want of a partner.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood dance, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding young follows, that he is mentally considered as the rightful property of some, if not, all of them.
“My dear sisters,” said Lydia, the youngest of the Furroughs sisters of Virginia Tech. “I hear there are two professionals from DC at the dance here tonight. Ann Bingle’s older brother, Jeffy, and his mysterious friend. Someone said his name was Remington Darcy Bassington Stone the 73rd or something. He’s tall, dark, and has this floppy curly hair that he flings around when he dances. I think he’s oh-so-handsome. Especially when I found out that he’s just got back from teaching at Herrang. And can you believe it? And neither of them have a partner! I bet you by the end of the night I will have one of them begging to dance with me in the ILHC strictly.”
Jane, the eldest, checked her sister. “Now, now, don’t get your hopes up. If they are professionals, why would they concern themselves with us? They could dance with some of the greatest followers in the world.”
“Don’t underestimate your abilities, Jane” said Victoria, the second-to-eldest, and a young woman praised for her dry wit and classic complexion. “They’d be charlatans indeed if they weren’t impressed with you.”
It soon came about that Mr. Bingle and Mr. Stone were in town using the school’s facilities to practice a Charleston dance number for ILHC. Mr. Bingle, though rather quick to discuss The Smiths at length, was immediately considered a genial fellow and his dancing was well-praised by all. By the end of the night, the only criticism people could hold against him was that he had danced nearly every other song with Jane, leaving many of the other followers wanting. His friend however, had sat out the entire night, refusing to dance. Whispers circulated around the room, and the general consensus was that, though he brooded a great deal and had dark floppy curls, he was simply another DC rock star who was too good to dance with students and too cliquish to make new friends.
Victoria Furroughs had been obliged to sit out for a song due to her dislike of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and had been near enough to Mr. Stone to overhear a conversation he had with Mr. Bingle.
“Come now, Remmy,” Mr. Bingle said, wiping the sweat from his horn-rimmed glasses. “You must dance. I have never seen so many pretty girls at once.”
“You have been dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” Mr. Stone said, motioning to Jane Furroughs.
“She is beautiful, isn’t she?” he said. “I think perhaps she is the best follow I have ever danced with. And there is her sister sitting down behind you, who looks to be a great dancer from what I have seen.”
“Which do you mean,” and turning around, he looked for a moment at Vicky, until catching her eye. He turned away and said, coldly “She is tolerable, but I’m sure not a good enough follow to get me on the dance floor tonight. Especially since they haven’t played one song from 1933 to 1937. Go back to your partner, you are wasting your time on me.”
Mr. Bingle followed his advice, Mr. Stone went back to playing Boggle on his iPhone, and Victoria remained with no very cordial feelings for Mr. Stone.
CHAPTER 2: Jams and Jadedness
At the next week’s dance, Mr. Bingle once again danced most of the night with Jane, this time even venturing to do the Nasty Blues with her, though he was known for not liking Blues dancing. Mr. Stone sat in a corner and did not dance, claiming he had pulled something in his and Mr. Bingles earlier practice. It was of little concern to the follows of Virginia Tech, however; aside from their chilled feelings toward Mr. Stone, a group of advanced leads that was touring dance events around the country had come to town and there was hardly a follow not attended to.
Among these was the dashing figure of Mr. Wickaughby, [A note to Americans: Pronounced “WICK-a-bee”] who had a plumage of bandana scarf about his neck, despite the 90 degree weather, and jeans so tight that if he stood in place for too long his legs would fall asleep. Upon seeing his exuberant and flashy style, followers around the room began anxiously awaiting his offer to dance and have his sweat flung upon them.
Enjoying making things awkward for Mr. Stone, Victoria had positioned herself near his person, and had spent the entire night dancing with her partners in front of him. At one point in the evening, Mr. Stone rose and approached Victoria as if to ask her to dance, however, Mr. Wickaughby at that very moment approached her from behind and asked.
After a speedy acceptance, Victoria noted a shocked look on Mr. Stone’s face upon meeting eyes with Mr. Wickaughy. Mr. Wickaughby himself was also stunned at beholding the sight of Mr. Stone. Any further awkwardness was avoided, however, when Mr. Stone quickly turned and left the ballroom.
“You know Mr. Stone?” Mr. Wickaughby asked, as they entered side-by-side Charleston.
Yes I know him,” she replied, and he seemed squeamish and missed a lead. “I know him–to be priggish, supercilious, and, I daresay, a bit of a D-bag,” she added.
“Oh, yes, well, I didn’t know if you had heard the story of what he had done to me.” He said.
Victoria, who was usually not one for talking while dancing, now began keeping herself in closed position simply to hear him better. “Why, I dare say, what has he done to you?”
“Well, you know, I was meant to be a swing dance teacher. We learned to dance in the same city, Mr. Stone and I; and I even began partnering with his sister. Soon we were teaching local classes, and putting on dances. I think he grew jealous, though. He demanded that she stop partnering with me, you see, and he took over our classes. We were well matched, and I think we might have done very well in the competitions that year. I hate telling you all of this now, but I feel you deserve an explanation as to why I drove him away from you just now.”
“No apology necessary,” Victoria said. “In fact, if his character is as you say, I should be thanking you for driving him away. And please, call me Vicky.”
After their first dance, which both parties found highly agreeable, Mr. Wickoughby made it a point to dance with Victoria as much as possible, stopping only to dance with her younger sister, Lydia. Lydia herself had made the rounds that night, attempting her charms on every man possible, hoping to find an ILHC partner. Vicky, not usually susceptible to such thoughts, could not help leaving the dance thinking that it would be a very good thing indeed to compete with Mr. Wickoughby, and help him become the teacher he was destined to be.
Later that night, while waiting for her sisters, Victoria sat on a couch outside of the ballroom reading a book, with Mr. Stone awkwardly playing a game of Whist on his iPhone nearby. She was soon joined by a group of the college’s drunken Sigma Pi pledges who had come to the dance to pick up freshmen and carry them back to their dorms.
“What are you reading?” asked one of them.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
“Oh, I heard it was really good,” said one of the guys, who was wearing a sweaty wife-beater. “I hear that its humorous twist helps modern readers appreciate the greatness of Jane Austen’s writing.”
“The original text did a far better job of that,” she said. She denied herself the pleasure of adding that the only reason she was reading it was that a book full of drooling brain-dead creatures was far better company than their own.
Upon hearing her reply, a pleased smile grew across Mr. Stone’s face that did not escape Victoria’s attention. Her sisters soon joined her and they left together. The next week, Mr. Wickoughby wrote on her Facebook wall no less than five times.
CHAPTER 3: Tenacity and Tuck-Turns
Two weeks before ILHC, Virgina Tech once again had a dance (They hold a lot of dances over the summer, for a college swing club, don’t they?). Mr. Wickoughby, however, would not be able to make it, much to Vicky’s annoyance, as she was almost sure he was planning to ask her to compete at ILHC and she wanted to practice.
After an hour of spiritless dances, she gathered her things to leave, when suddenly Mr. Stone appeared at her side and held out a hand.
“It will not do, my feelings cannot be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I would like to dance with you and possibly take you to a movie sometime. I hear ‘Up’ is quite good.”
Victoria’s astonishment was beyond expression, which seemed sufficient encouragement for Mr. Stone to continue.
“Of course, I cannot deny that this is not the greatest match I could hope for. You come in too quickly on swing-outs and have an affinity for music made after 1939 that cannot easily be tolerated. But, against my taste, and my judgment, I’d like for us to train together and compete at ILHC.”
Victoria finally found her voice.
“I believe it is the established mode to graciously thank one of such rank as yourself and accept, however, I do not feel happiness. Especially in light of your predilection for destroying dance careers and your insulting way of asking me to dance with you.”
Mr. Stones complexion became pale with anger.
“Do you expect me to rejoice in your situation? To congratulate myself on getting you as a partner? You didn’t dance to ‘King Porter Stomp’ tonight, but you did dance to ‘Ding Dong Daddy of the D-Car Line.’ You followed a pretzel un-ironically. You probably don’t even own a real pair of Keds. But I know the spirit of Lindy Hop when I see it, and I refuse to let it be hidden under a bushel. And as to this other matter– what dancer’s career have I supposedly destroyed?”
“You know it is Mr. Wickoughby whom you have treated most foully.”
“Mr. Wickoughby? Mr. Wichoughby? You seem to take a great deal of interest in Mr. Wickoughby.”
Victoria guessed his thoughts.
“He has nothing to do with me refusing your proposal, Mr. Stone. You alone have done that fully and completely. From the very first moment of my acquaintance with you, your manners have impressed me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, conceit, and selfish disdain for the feelings of others, especially beginning students. You can rest assured, if I felt any regret in the first place, your method of proposal has spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.”
At these words, Mr. Stone himself lost all coulour in his face. “I fully comprehend your feelings. I apologize for taking up so much of your time.”
Mr. Stone retreated to the couches outside the Ballroom to brood, and Victoria, not desiring another confrontation, danced for another half an hour. When she finally had decided to leave, Mr. Stone approached her again, this time his hand typing something into his iPhone.
“I have just written you an email. Please do me the honor of reading it.” He hit send on his screen, and the iPhone buried in her dance bag blinged. He gave a small bow and hastily left the dance. Vicky had only made it to the couches outside the ballroom before curiosity tore her attention to the email.
“Do not be alarmed that this email contains any further reiteration of the sentiments I mentioned tonight that were so repelling to you. I write only out of duty, to set aright the two accusations you have delivered upon me. The first is that I showed great arrogance to the beginner dancers of your school, presumably by not dancing with them, and perhaps by my natural tendency to sit in corners and brood. I obviously cannot deny that I did not dance with them. However, when first we had met, I had come from teaching a week in Herrang, where I spent every night dancing with beginner students, a lot of which to music I did not find particularly inspiring. When I was finally home, dancing for enjoyment, and tired from a long day of practicing, I desired nothing but the ability to enjoy an evening with no dancing obligations. If any of the beginner dancers had asked me to dance, I would gladly have accepted. I fear though that my introverted nature and my exhausted demeanor came across as snobbish. But I do not regret my actions, they were just and natural.”
“Now to the matter of Mr. Alabaster Pinkerton Wickoughby. He was correct only in saying that we had learned to dance together in DC. As to the other aspects of his story, I will lay the facts before you. Mr. Wickoughby came to the scene after college. He was enthusiastic about teaching, but was new to dancing himself, and I discerned from his conversation that he only wanted to be thought of as an authority, was only in dancing for the glory, and would never be willing to consider himself a student, which I believe is the most important aspect of teaching. I do not deny that I tried to keep him from teaching, as I thought it poisonous to the beginners of the scene to be taught by such a one as him. The fatal blow came when he began partnering with, and soon after dating, my fifteen-year-old sister. I demanded she stop spending time with him, and, being of a good spirit at heart, she saw the tribulations she was heading for if she stayed with him. My father threatened to call the police, which was when he left town. I took over his classes and started a weekly dance. For proof of all this, you need only ask Mr. Bingle, who was present as all of these events occurred. Though, not when Mr. Wickoughby and my sister made-out, to my knowledge. All the best.”
–Remington FitzHerbert Darcy-Bassington Stone, XII, Esq.
Sent from my iPhone.”
That night, on the car ride home, Victoria revealed the night’s events in detail to her eldest sister Jane.
“At first, I was incensed that Mr. Stone had such terrible excuses for his action. But, upon second thought, I began to understand, at least partially, where he was coming from with the beginner dancer’s thing. As for the Mr. Wickoughby part, I denied that Mr. Stone’s side of the story could be true at all. But then I began thinking: Mr. Wickoughby himself never dances with anyone but me and Lydia, and he was only willing to tell me all about how Mr. Stone destroyed his life after only knowing me for a moment, and only after he found out I disliked Mr. Stone. There is something strange in that.”
“Mr. Stone does say Mr. Bingle can testify to the events, and we have never known him to lie.”
“True, true. Tis sad, Jane. It appears that, though Wickoughby has all the charm, it is Mr. Stone who has all the facts. It’s a pitty they can’t be combined.”
CHAPTER 4: Flips and Floppy-Hairness
The week before ILHC, Victoria’s friends Marigold and Colin, and her own grandmother from North Carolina came early to visit for the capitol before the competition. Among their planned stops were all the major monuments and a trip to Amsterdam Falafel. While at Falafel, Marigold’s eyes suddenly brightened.
“Hey, isn’t that great DC dance venue open tonight?”
“Oh, I think so,” Victoria said, “but we can dance anytime. Tonight we should do something special. Besides, I hear it’s kind of snobby, and not very friendly.”
“But I’ve never been to the Jump Mansion. We can go for just a little while, right? Maybe some hot shots are in town.”
And, since Victoria’s Grandmother was anxious to see her granddaughter dance, they decided to go.
Though Victoria was apprehensive about attending Mr. Stone’s dance venue, she remembered that Mr. Bingle said he was out of town teaching at a weekend. As they approached the great Victorian mansion spewing the music of Chick Webb, and the silhouettes of pulsing Lindy Hoppers filled the windows, Victoria could little help herself from thinking “I could have trained and taught here weekly ”
For the first hour of the night, she had many great dances, and had overheard more than a few people highly praising Mr. Stone as a friendly teacher and organizer. Feeling strange about the whole experience, she was planning to leave when she suddenly found her self face-to-face with no other than a befuddled Mr. Stone himself.
“I’m sorry, I would not have come here if I had known you were coming.” She said.
“No, no, I’m glad you did.”
“They told me you were at a workshop, teaching.”
“I was, but I decided to come home early to relax.”
“Why are you wet?”
“I just skinny dipped in a pond. It’s how I relax.”
“Did you really?”
“No, we just have little air conditioning here at the Jump Mansion.” He smiled, a rare site for Victoria. “Please, introduce me to your friends, I believe they are new here.”
She did so, and Mr. Stone got them water, saw that their entrance fee money was returned, and danced with Marigold and Victoria when he was not seeing to the dancing needs of the other new visitors, even taking Victoria’s grandmother into the jam circle. When dancing with him, Mr. Stone’s dancing seemed one with the pulsating rhythms of the classic swing music, and once she stopped trying to anticipate his moves, she quickly found herself having not an unpleasant time indeed. It was equally fitting that, once she started really listening to his conversation, she found herself enjoying it similarly.
About half an hour before the dance ended, Mr. Stone brought a young woman to Victoria.
“I hope you will do me the honor of introducing you to my sister. When I saw you were here, I called her and asked her to drive down. I hoped you could talk to her about Virginia Tech, as I would love for her to pursue her passion for electrical engineering, and I hear they have an excellent swing club.”
Victoria was highly flattered, and had a very enjoyable talk with the young girl, though it was soon interrupted by a phone call.
“Oh, no!” Victoria exclaimed, far louder than intended.
“What is it, what, my God, woman, tell me!” Mr. Stone, nearby at the time, inquired.
“Jane just called. It’s Mr. Wickoughby. He’s got Lydia to decide to quit school and become a swing dance instructor with him. She’ll ruin her life! And they’re planning on competing at ILHC!”
Mr. Stone lost all colour. He excused himself, apologized for his intrusion on her time, and escorted his sister back to her car. It seemed a clear message that he would prefer to stay away from her indefinitely. Blushing with embarrassment, Victoria hastened her friends to pack up and leave.
In the car ride back to their hotel, Victoria could hold back no longer. “Damn you, Lydia,” she said to herself. “You have ruined more than your own chance at happiness today.”
CHAPTER 5: Comps and Compassion
At ILHC, the emcee called for all the Strictly Lindy contestants, and Victoria looked for a seat close to the front. She had tried to talk Lydia out of competing with Mr., Wickoughby, but she realized she had a better chance of talking a kettle out of being black than a freshman out of making a stupid-guy mistake.
The contestants began lining up when she suddenly felt a hand touch her shoulder.
“Excuse me,” Mr. Stone said, “I know you have rejected this offer before, but please know I would not make it again if it were not for the utmost urgency. If you would do me the honor of dancing with me in the contest, I believe we can thwart Mr. Wickoughby’s plans.”
She accepted, and just in time for Mr. Stone and his partner to be called to the floor. The contest was set and Mr. Stone and Victoria danced admirably. Mr. Stone paid attention to the variations she offered, and changed his lead accordingly to best reflect her strengths. For her part, Victoria concentrated on hanging back more than she was used to, so that she could follow more accurately and so Mr. Stone could use their momentum to the service of the dance. Their jams, though without aerials, were musical and connected and brought much exultation from the audience. And, during the final all skate, what Victoria lacked in energy, Mr. Stone made up for in throwing her around and flopping his hair admirably. All in all, it was no surprise that they were called first, and Mr. Bingle and Jane placed second. Lydia and Mr. Wickoughby finished fourth.
During the closing ceremonies, Mr. Wickoughby was seen asking another girl to be his partner, while Lydia, for her part, was seen walking away from the ballroom with a blushed demeanor. Though it pained to see her sister so, Victoria was relieved that her younger sister’s dealings with Wickoughby were dissolved.
“How did you know?” she asked Mr. Stone, who approached with a glass of water for her.
“Mr. Wickoughby has always been the kind of person that, when not placing, blames his partner. He somehow believes it has nothing to do with the fact that, when he gets excited, he dances like a drunk monkey falling down stairs impersonating Skye.”
“I figured if you and Jane beat him, he’d simply assume he chose the wrong sister to compete with. I knew you could win with the right partner, so I’ve spent the last few days training. I did not mention it to you because, not having a partner, my strength is in Jack and Jills, and I figured it would produce the best results.”
“You figured right, I guess.”
“I apologize, I cannot fight it more, I must apologize for my conduct when we first met. Your words, that I was not a gentleman, have consumed me since.”
“Please, think nothing of it, I blush to think of how rude I acted.”
Before they could continue their resolution, however, they were interrupted by a man in a tight suit and fedora, smoking a cigar.
“Say, kids, you got star quality, see? And I should know, I’m an organizer. Widdleburn’s the name. Say, hows about you come teach at my Jitterbugg Camp. You’ll make hundreds. Hundreds, see?”
Victoria looked at Mr. Stone, who gave a small bow.
“Victoria, you are far too kind to trifle with my feelings. I have such pride, I thought I was above ever letting the glories of becoming a champion Lindy Hopper affect my attitude. Now you have shown me I had become arrogant and harsh. Please forgive me. If you want to teach, I will be honored to teach with you. But I must admit, I do not care so much about being your dance partner.”
Victoria’s heart sank.
Then he said. “I wish instead to be your boyfriend. It is a far more important thing to me.”
“Say Kids, you got a lot of drama,” Mr. Widdleburn said. “You’ll go far in this business.”
Over the course of the next few years, the professional Lindy Hop instructors Mr. Stone and Victoria lived very poor, but very happy indeed.