Except for a few pimpy-looking guys, and a few whory-looking blondes, the lobby was pretty empty. But you could hear the band playing in the Lavender Room, and so I went in there. It wasn’t very crowded, but they gave me a lousy table anyway—way in the back. I should’ve waved a buck under the head-waiter’s nose. In New York, boy, money really talks—I’m not kidding.
The band was putrid. Buddy Singer. Very brassy, but not good brassy—corny brassy. Also, there were very few people around my age in the place. In fact, nobody was around my age. They were mostly old, show-offy-looking guys with their dates. Except at the table right next to me. At the table right next to me, there were these three girls around thirty or so. The whole three of them were pretty ugly, and they all had on the kind of hats that you knew they didn’t really live in New York, but one of them, the blonde one, wasn’t too bad. She was sort of cute, the blonde one, and I started giving her the old eye a little bit, but just then the waiter came up for my order. I ordered a Scotch and soda, and told him not to mix it—I said it fast as hell, because if you hem and haw, they think you’re under twenty-one and won’t sell you any intoxicating liquor. I had trouble with him anyway, though. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said, “but do you have some verification of your age? Your driver’s license, perhaps?”
I gave him this very cold stare, like he’d insulted the hell out of me, and asked him, “Do I look like I’m under twenty-one?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but we have our—”
“Okay, okay,” I said. I figured the hell with it. “Bring me a Coke.” He started to go away, but I called him back. “Can’tcha stick a little rum in it or something?” I asked him. I asked him very nicely and all. “I can’t sit in a corny place like this cold sober. Can’tcha stick a little rum in it or something?”
“I’m very sorry, sir. . .” he said, and beat it on me. I didn’t hold it against him, though. They lose their jobs if they get caught selling to a minor. I’m a goddam minor.
I started giving the three witches at the next table the eye again. That is, the blonde one. The other two were strictly from hunger. I didn’t do it crudely, though. I just gave all three of them this very cool glance and all. What they did, though, the three of them, when I did it, they started giggling like morons. They probably thought I was too young to give anybody the once-over. That annoyed hell out of me—you’d’ve thought I wanted to marry them or something. I should’ve given them the freeze, after they did that, but the trouble was, I really felt like dancing. I’m very fond of dancing, sometimes, and that was one of the times. So all of a sudden, I sort of leaned over and said, “Would any of you girls care to dance?” I didn’t ask them crudely or anything. Very suave, in fact. But God damn it, they thought that was a panic, too. They started giggling some more. I’m not kidding, they were three real morons. “C’mon,” I said. “I’ll dance with you one at a time. All right? How ’bout it? C’mon!” I really felt like dancing.
Finally, the blonde one got up to dance with me, because you could tell I was really talking to her, and we walked out to the dance floor. The other two grools nearly had hysterics when we did. I certainly must’ve been very hard up to even bother with any of them.
But it was worth it. The blonde was some dancer. She was one of the best dancers I ever danced with. I’m not kidding, some of these very stupid girls can really knock you out on a dance floor. You take a really smart girl, and half the time she’s trying to lead you around the dance floor, or else she’s such a lousy dancer, the best thing to do is stay at the table and just get drunk with her.
“You really can dance,” I told the blonde one. “You oughta be a pro. I mean it. I danced with a pro once, and you’re twice as good as she was. Did you ever hear of Marco and Miranda?”
“What?” she said. She wasn’t even listening to me. She was looking all around the place.
“I said did you ever hear of Marco and Miranda?”
“I don’t know. No. I don’t know.”
“Well, they’re dancers, she’s a dancer. She’s not too hot, though. She does everything she’s supposed to, but she’s not so hot anyway. You know when a girl’s really a terrific dancer?”
“Wudga say?” she said. She wasn’t listening to me, even. Her mind was wandering all over the place.
“I said do you know when a girl’s really a terrific dancer?”
“Well—where I have my hand on your back. If I think there isn’t anything underneath my hand–no can, no legs, no feet, no anything–then the girl’s really a terrific dancer.”
She wasn’t listening, though. So I ignored her for a while. We just danced. God, could that dopey girl dance. Buddy Singer and his stinking band was playing “Just One of Those Things” and even they couldn’t ruin it entirely. It’s a swell song. I didn’t try any trick stuff while we danced—I hate a guy that does a lot of show-off tricky stuff on the dance floor—but I was moving her around plenty, and she stayed with me. The funny thing is, I thought she was enjoying it, too, till all of a sudden she came out with this very dumb remark. “I and my girl friends saw Peter Lorre last night,” she said. “The movie actor. In person. He was buyin’ a newspaper. He’s cute.”
“You’re lucky,” I told her. “You’re really lucky. You know that?” She was really a moron. But what a dancer. I could hardly stop myself from sort of giving her a kiss on the top of her dopey head—you know—right where the part is, and all. She got sore when I did it.
“Hey! What’s the idea?”
“Nothing. No idea. You really can dance,” I said. “I have a kid sister that’s only in the goddam fourth grade. You’re about as good as she is, and she can dance better than anybody living or dead.”
“Watch your language, if you don’t mind.”
What a lady, boy. A queen, for Chrissake.
“Where you girls from?” I asked her.
She didn’t answer me, though. She was busy looking around for old Peter Lorre to show up, I guess.
“Where you girls from?” I asked her again.
“What?” she said.
“Where you girls from? Don’t answer if you don’t feel like it. I don’t want you to strain yourself.”
“Seattle, Washington,” she said. She was doing me a big favor to tell me.
“You’re a very good conversationalist,” I told her. “You know that?”
I let it drop. It was over her head, anyway. “Do you feel like jitterbugging a little bit, if they play a fast one? Not corny jitterbug, not jump or anything—just nice and easy. Everybody’ll all sit down when they play a fast one, except the old guys and the fat guys, and we’ll have plenty of room. Okay?”
“It’s immaterial to me,” she said. “Hey—how old are you, anyhow?”
That annoyed me, for some reason. “Oh, Christ. Don’t spoil it,” I said. “I’m twelve, for Chrissake. I’m big for my age.”
“Listen. I toleja about that. I don’t like that type language,” she said. “If you’re gonna use that type language, I can go sit down with my girl friends, you know.”
I apologized like a madman, because the band was starting a fast one. She started jitterbugging with me—but just very nice and easy, not corny. She was really good. All you had to do was touch her. And when she turned around, her pretty little butt twitched so nice and all. She knocked me out. I mean it. I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.