Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Valentine's Day Tap Dance by Richard Godwin


I always tell the truth on forms. So when I filled in the dating service application I wrote under persona details:

“82 year old lesbian interested in group sex and bondage.”

It asked for my favourite song.

“She may be the face I can’t forget.”

Aznavour. Remember that? Truffaut, Les Quatre Cents Coups.  Mabel used to put it on after she phoned him. I also wrote:


Right at the bottom of the form. I guess whoever read my information ignored that bit, or didn’t understand what I was driving at. It was one of Mabel’s favourite words, ‘amend.’

‘I am amending things round here,’ she used to say when she spotted a speck of dust on the floor.

I hated the flat. All the cupboards full of cleaning products. Elvis’s face stared at me out of the sticker on the fridge.  Mabel put it there. She worked for the IR and told me never to lie to them, ‘Because,’ she used to say, wagging a bony finger at me, ‘if you lie, they find you and if they find you they...’

‘What Mabel?’

‘Say that word, the one I refuse to utter.’

‘What word?’

‘F-f-f-fuck you,’ she used to say, stamping a tiny pink foot. ‘You know I hate obscenities, clean kitchen, clean floors.’

Out came the finger again. I used to wonder what she did with it when she visited him smelling of bleach and heartache.

The last time she uttered that incomprehensible, nonsensical mantra I said, ‘LIKE YOU FUCK ELVIS?’

She counted out all her detergents right there. She got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed, a little foreplay before the tartare with Hound Dog.

‘Do you like to get dirty Mabel?’ I said. ‘Is that it, you need a bit of filth?’

She kept scrubbing, removing imaginary swear words from the highly polished floor. I could see her face staring down, maniacal, lost in the religious ecstasy of the sexually cleansed.

I pounded the wall with my hips. I pounded the brickwork.

She was the Queen of comedy with her act, and her pretend demureness. My frustration felt like boiling water. I tried laughing at her. I took pictures of her in her outfit, the one she wore when she went to see him between cleaning shifts. She always put it on in the bathroom and covered it with her overcoat. She dressed up as Shelley Fabares. I heard her on the phone to him.

‘I think smut and do dirt just for the King,’ she said.

She refused to touch my tap shoes. She would clean around them, considering them an object of such deep menace she sometimes screamed when she came near them.

‘Do you have a problem with Mr. Bojangles?’ I once said as she stood sweating, cloth in hand.

‘It’s obscene.’

‘And Elvis the pelvis isn’t?’

‘He is not, he is not! “He danced a lick across his cell. He grabbed his pants and spread his stance”. Filth, filth!’

She said I had ideas above my station.

‘You and those shoes,’ she used to say.

Still, a dancer’s life is one of drudgery.

I was chief icing controller at the factory, the place where Elvis worked. He made the fudge. He used to croon of how “it’s now or never” and squirt sugar at all the young women, chasing them with a cake syringe tucked into his flies. All the young women lined up for eternity in the waffle factory. He puckered his lips for the camera. He pumped his hips into their rears as he passed behind them. He ran his greasy hands through his thick black hair, one eye on the mirror, one eye on a piece of ass.

I knew his reputation, Mabel refused to listen to me. I knew where he operated. I’d seen the dating service form in his desk.

I see the donuts ride the belt to oblivion, all the young minds not destroyed by madness but diet. The sugar heaves and falls. There are no explicit revelations in monotony, only the bored yawn of a donut chewing guard.

I masqueraded as an aging voyeur to restore order. The factory belt was a bad trip, and I had to stop him singing anymore. I met him at the Toffee Bar, dressed in black leather and suede shoes.

He couldn’t dance. I took him to my flat, the one I rented at Cheapside. Elvis strutted and he waddled.

I said, ‘Love, Elvis, love is not a song.’

He said, ‘Love, do it to me granny.’

He removed his tie, his imitation Elvis shirt.

I said, ‘OK, honey, I may be some time, but I will never leave the building.’

‘I understand,’ he said, curling his lip.

He didn’t see my shoes on underneath the ridiculous dress I bought. I put them on and entered the room again as Doris Day.

‘Who the fuck are you?’ Elvis said.

‘I am a legendary actress and singer, I want to perform for you.’

He was unzipping his flies when I broke into my routine. I stole his eyelids. I stole his song, the cheap trick he played on the mornings when Mabel coughed blood. He’d ring her when I was out and sing down the line.

He sang for me that night.

He sang, ‘Please, please.’

‘Don’t know that one Elvis, try harder you tosser,’ I said skipping across his head and slamming him into the wall.

I removed my girdle and tap danced all over his fat face. He didn’t know the song I sang nor its precise relevance, I don’t think he even knew Aznavour.

I didn’t want Mabel’s flesh. I only wanted to remove the false idol in her never ending fall.

I asked him to recite the amendments.

He sang All Shook Up.

I said, ‘The right to Viagra among aging would be singers is not the eleventh amendment.’

I did it to him one more time.

And so there I was on Valentine’s Day with Elvis rotting in the deserted flat. What can a man do faced with such an impasse in his imponderable maze?

I ordered pizza and phoned Mabel.

She sobbed, or she tried. Elvis missing, no fudge, what can a girl do?

I found her signed transactions, I found all the statements recording how they tried to steal my life savings from me. I took her back and fed her fudge every day, spooning it into her dumb salivating mouth. She stared at me with grief stricken eyes pondering the hygiene of the flat.

Maybe she was my plan all along. Elvis liked her until I kicked his face across the wall.

‘Mabel I’m making an amendment,’ I said, putting on my tap shoes and handing her a bottle of detergent.

The next day I got promoted, now I hold the cake syringe.


Charles Gramlich said...

As always, I love the surreal word art in Richard's tales.

Salvatore Buttaci said...

Can the master of horror also be the master of comedy? You bet he can, if he's Richard Godwin!

Miss Alister said...

What a fantastic conglomeration of crazy! Ultra-clever, so enjoyable! Brill bizarro, Mr. G : )

AJ Hayes said...

I can die peacefully now for I have seen The Only True King rise from his doughy, center-holed supplicants and, ride a Tsunami of fudge (and a Harvard Comma) to glory. Praise Elvis young and old, thin and fat, dark and light forever. Amen. BeBOPaLula he's my baby.

Unknown said...

Charles thank you when he tap dances it sure is surreal.

Unknown said...

Thanks Sal.

Unknown said...

Miss A thank you. I was thinking Bizarro.

Unknown said...

Bill thanks think donuts.