November 20, 2009

Jeanne Holtzman

The Tango Man

The wall between their bedrooms doesn't block out Frank's relentless snores. Nettie rolls on her side and then her back, throws the covers off and then pulls them back on. She squashes a pillow over her head. Finally she gives up, sits up, and reaches under the bed for her box. Pushing her dusty sex toys aside, she eases out the postcard. Stiff, yellow tape barely holds together the two ripped halves.

In the black and white photo, a young, sexy couple, dressed in black, dance the tango on a stone plaza. A black hat awaits donations. With fingers tentative as a caress, she turns the card over, and reads the once familiar handwriting, "We wouldn't have put out the hat."

She and Jake had danced for joy. The jitterbug, not the tango, the floor wooden, the shoes matching: wingtips, hers with heels. The postmark is 40 years old, but still Nettie can feel Jake holding her close, then flinging her away, twirling and spinning, arms entangled, back to back, side to side, until he pulled her in and caught her in a dip. Later, they would lie entwined and drift off in a cloud of James Moody and marijuana, as if they had invented romance.

Now passion is a phantom limb, non-existent except for the pain.

Something always broke the spell. Jake would fling her out and let her go. Or reel her in and let her drop. And then woo her again, kisses and tears. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

Nettie replaces the card, the box. Frank’s snores, incessant as the sea, lull her to sleep.


Jeanne Holtzman is an aging hippie, writer and women’s health care practitioner. Her work has appeared in Night Train, The Los Angeles Review, Dogzplot, Hobart, Foundling Review, flashquake, and others.

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