By: Leon Kortenkamp
The evening news goes to a commercial break following the weather report. Heavy rain and twisters are predicted for the Oklahoma Panhandle, but it’s expected to be clear and sunny in Milwaukee. Molly clicks off the TV and announces it’s time for bed.
“Not yet. Let’s twist,” Benny says, rising from his chair and swinging his arms and knees from side to side in the rhythmic contrapposto of the dance. “Shoo, shoo, shoo,” he huffs through pursed lips with each move.
“Where did that come from?” Molly sighs through a long slow breath. “It’s time for bed, dear,” she repeats with practiced resolve.
“Let’s twist…I remember now… like we did last year,” he persists.
“Come on, Benny. That was years and years ago. My God, you look a sight in your striped pajamas, like some court jester in a 16th century spoof.”
“Twist again…Shoo, shoo, shoo…”
“Enough,” she says. her resolve taking on a stern edge. ”I’m too tired for all this. Come to bed.”
“Yeah,” he says in dismissive mindless agreement. “Seems like it was just last year…last summer.” Frozen in mid-step like an artist’s model striking a pose, he gazes past Molly, as if he were probing time and space for clarity. “Yes, that’s it. Let’s twist again like we did last summer,” he sings out, resuming his dance, a shock of his gray hair sweeping from side to side across his forehead. “Shoo, shoo, shoo.”
“You’re going to throw your back out, you silly man.”
“Like we did last summer,” Benny sings again in determined falsetto.
“I’ll get your pills.”
“No, no. That’s it. Let’s twist again like we did last summer,” he sings again, extending his hand. “Up and down and all around. Come on…shoo, shoo, shoo.”
Grabbing Molly’s hand, Benny pulls her toward him. “What’s your name?” he asks, and slowing the dance, he adds, “I like you.”
“I’m Molly,” she answers flatly. “Now come to bed.”
“Molly?” He plants his feet and studies her face. “My wife’s name is Molly. She’s a good dancer. Will you dance with me?”
“Benny, that was all a long time ago. There’s no music, and I’m tired,” she sighs. “I’ll get your pills.”
“Don’t you hear the music?” he protests, squeezing her hand and pulling her into the dance. “Shoo, shoo, shoo…Up and down and all around…shoo, shoo…like we did last summer,” he sings.
There’s a light in his eyes she hasn’t seen for a long time; there’s a presence in his voice she hasn’t heard for a long time.
“Benny…?” she asks tenderly.
“Dance with me,” he responds.
There is a spark, wherever it came from, however fleeting, a spark. A glimmer, stirring tender memories. A compelling frightening glimmer, awaking guarded dreams of him ever being fully back in her life. “Like we did last summer,” she whispers with cautious indulgence as their eyes meet. “At the lake,” she ventures in hushed concession.
“Yes, Molly, last summer at the lake…shoo, shoo, shoo,” he squeezes her hand and nods with each movement. “Round and round and up and down, like we did last summer,” he sings out with abandon.
Her body begins to move with his. “Like we did last summer,” she sings softly.
“Like we did last year,” they sing together.
Then, suddenly, as if someone lifts the needle from the record, it ends. Benny stands frozen. With puzzled eyes he studies the tears streaming down Molly’s face. His mouth struggles to form words, words which won’t come.
Molly presses her cheek to his; swaying wistfully, she whispers, “Like we did last year.”
With grateful acknowledgment to Chubby Checker: Let’s Twist Again, 1961