I came up with this crazy idea to provide my blog followers a snippet from Chapter XIII of ‘The Gym Show’. If you haven’t yet read ‘The Gym Show’, give it a go! According to the hundreds who have already read it, you won’t be disappointed!
January 1970, Mercyville, Pennsylvania
The Fifth Dimension’s “The Age of Aquarius” blasted from the record player’s speakers until Peggy Huffington heard JoAnn Donaldson’s shriek for her to turn it off. Not wanting listen to JoAnn’s bitching any longer than she had to, Peggy hastily lifted the needle off the album.
“God, stop! That was awful! Beth, you gotta’ turn when the other girls turn, and Debbie, that last part when you do the jazz square then plant your feet apart? Your feet are supposed to be apart, not crossed. Man. That was bad. Again.”
Forty girls were crammed onto the stage, some sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor, some standing with arms folded in front of their leotard-clad bodies looking bored and wondering why Mrs. A. was forcing them to be there; only five of the forty were busy learning a dance that was supposed to be performed during the Gym Show between equipment changes. While it was true that this first week back after Christmas was the first solid week of preparations for the Gym Show, things were not boding well for JoAnn Donaldson and her troupe of amateur dancers.
JoAnn had talked Mrs. A. into letting her take charge of the dancers in this year’s Gym Show. She had been taking dance lessons from the venerable and demanding Miss Arita Lee Blair since she was seven, and thus considered herself far above anyone else in the dance milieu at Mercyville including Mrs. A. Since a dance milieu didn’t exist at Mercyville, Carol was more than happy to let JoAnn (who displayed a rather poor showing during last year’s floor exercise portion of the Gym Show) take over the dance part. Maybe then, Carol hoped, she wouldn’t throw a tantrum when Carol broke the news to her that, no, JoAnn would not be performing a floor exercise this year. Carol didn’t care if JoAnn was a senior—JoAnn, with her awkward un-pointed toes and bent knees—her tumbling was simply awful. She and her jazz hands could dance instead.
Once again, this year Carol was competing with the basketball coach Ken Montgomery for time in the gym. As far as Ken was concerned, Carol’s little project ranked far, far below his quest for a Lake County championship in basketball (this could be the year) and so he had no problem telling Carol (and he didn’t give a shit who she slept with every night) that during his practices, she and her girls could be on the stage with the curtains closed, as long as they kept the music down. As if anything would have drowned out Ken Montgomery’s particular brand of coaching vernacular, liberally laced with various four letter words designed to inspire his players to greatness.
Carol, for her part, would play her accompanying music as loud as she wished, and Ken Montgomery could stick it up his fat ass; in fact, she would tell him that very thing as soon as he was finished insulting Danny Teague’s parentage and questioning the more personal details of the poor boy’s anatomy. If he could scream like a lunatic and swear like a longshoreman, then she would play that damn record player as loud as the dial would take it, and if he didn’t like it, here it is, mister, you can kiss my sweet little tushie. That would shut him up for a little while at least. Carol sighed. “Count to ten, Carol,” she whispered to herself. She reminded herself that she must be careful to avoid using her position as the boss’ wife to leverage things in her favor—even she knew how devastatingly dangerous that could prove to be for both she and Jim—but every now and then, some folks needed reminding of their place in this school, and Ken was one of those people.
Pulling back the black velvet curtains and revealing herself to the entire basketball team, the coach, and the assistant coach resulted in a sudden halt to the verbal assault on poor, skinny Danny Teague (so pale and freckly, that one).
“Coach,” Carol began, “we can hear you swearing all the way up here on the stage, and I just wanted to remind you that the young ladies who are so hard at work preparing for this year’s Gym Show really have no need to know the exact length of Danny’s penis.”
Luckily for most of the team members, they happened to be, at that moment, situated out of Coach Montgomery’s range of sight, so Ken wasn’t able to see the thumbs and forefingers estimating, in centimeters no less, just how small they knew Danny’s little willy to be, and if Ken or Dan Baxter, the assistant coach, heard the teams’ bubbling snickers, they chose to ignore them. Ken fumed at Carol.
“Mrs. Adamson, I’m surprised you can hear anything at all with all that goddamn hippie music playing. Now why don’t you just go on back there, conduct your little practice, and let us finish ours. We play Iroquois Lake this Friday, and I would like for us to at least look like we’ve shown up.”
“I, too, Coach Montgomery, want to do win this Friday. My cheerleaders, who also have had no time in the gym, have been practicing out in the cold lobby every night after school, and they’ve worked very hard to support your boys. I certainly do not want their hard work to have been in vain. Now, I will excuse myself and return to our Gym Show preparations, but please know,” Carol glanced at the caged-in clock that hung on one wall of the gym, “that you have exactly eight more minutes left in which to practice in this gym. In eight minutes all forty or so of my girls will descend upon this floor and begin erecting the equipment necessary for them to, once again, draw a standing room only crowd come Friday, May 8, 1970. Oops,” she said, looking down at her petite silver watch, “looks like you have seven minutes now.”
Montgomery looked at Carol with pure hatred in his eyes, blew his whistle, and yelled at his players (who were painfully stifling themselves over Mrs. A. saying ‘erecting’) to the east end of the gym to begin running pro sprints. Carol turned and flung the velvet curtain aside with a dramatic flourish and returned to her girls.
Oh, that man. As if my girls, who don’t have a basketball team to play on, deserve to be treated as second-class citizens simply because they’re girls! This is precisely why Vinnie Tagliaburro and his asinine idea of putting boys in the Gym Show is about as fair as the way his wife gets to traipse all around this school dressed like a hooker even on days when she isn’t substituting!
Much to Carol’s continued distress (and her beleaguered husband’s list of shit he had better take care of before his wife makes his life even more miserable), Vinnie Tagliaburro had been persistent in his quest for a male presence in this year’s Gym Show. At the staff Christmas party, hosted every year by Carol and Jim, with their three children spying wide-eyed and curious at the outrageous nighttime behavior of the usually staid and conservative faculty, Vinnie had made his move. Loosened up after several shots of Black Velvet, and feeling as if no woman present would be able to resist his charms, Vinnie had cornered Carol as she was digging through the garage freezer for more ice.
“Carol, come on, hun. What could you possibly have against having some ah…the more, you know, talented and athletic boys doin’ a little something-something during the Gym Show? What, are all they’re good for is moving mats and breaking down equipment, uh? Building that throne a yours for the May Queen? Come on. We could even think of some things they could do together—like build pyramids or something. Hey, my Dreama’s got some really cool ideas—‘member she was on some dance squad or something like ‘at back at Slippery Rock. She’s got some good ideas for getting the boys involved, an’ ‘at. Whaddya say, uh? Come on, Cupcake, do me a favor—do all of us a favor–and just think about it, uh?”
What made it even worse, and what had nearly ruined Jim and Carol’s much looked forward to and well-deserved two week Christmas vacation, was that while Carol brought up the subject nearly every day, Jim brushed her off. Whether he was buying time or whether he was just hoping that Carol would move on to another crusade or campaign, he didn’t really know. He was more bothered by the whole stage incident, the board’s reaction to it, and his moral obligation to protect the students at Mercyville High School. Vinnie and Dreama Tagliaburro were way down on his list of priorities.