Stefanie Freele ~ Well-Dressed Executives

Around the white table­cloth: men in suits with cuf­flinks. They order Up Olive, Dry, On the rocks. The wait­ers, many of them stu­dents, keep to the periph­ery, watch­ing signs of low scotch, the tin­kle of ice. Food is eat­en or ignored. It is the drink that fas­tens the men togeth­er and the smoke after­ward until the time for men to pick up daugh­ters from bal­let lessons. The girls climb quick­ly into the back­seats of their fathers’ com­pa­ny cars, the Ford LTDs, long stretch­es of clean lux­u­ry. While flick­ing cig­a­rette butts into the falling snow, the fathers turn up the weath­er on the radio. With cold fin­gers the daugh­ters draw delib­er­ate squig­gles on steamed-up win­dows, think­ing they want to quit bal­let. They are at an age where they real­ize they are nei­ther cute like the lit­tle girls nor ele­gant like true dancers. At home, their fathers remove galosh­es and rain­coats, walk silent­ly to their cab­i­nets to make a drink – a dark for­bid­den splash. Mix me a Shirley Temple! The girls in pink tights beg, not con­cerned about the grena­dine as much as the coma­raderie and inclu­sion of their mys­te­ri­ous fathers who are the gran­ite of the fam­i­ly. The girls have gained their fathers’ trust by pre­tend­ing they hate the taste of liquor. This way the whisky is aban­doned on the dress­er when the fathers hang up their suits. Little mouths sneak scorch­ing sips, cap­il­lar­ies alive with an inten­si­ty that feels as grace­ful as the per­fect pirou­ette.

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Stefanie Freele is the author of two short sto­ry col­lec­tions, Feeding Strays (Lost Horse Press) and Surrounded by Water (Press 53), which includes the win­ning sto­ry of the Glimmer Train Fiction Award. Stefanie’s pub­lished and forth­com­ing work can be found in Five Points, Witness, Sou’wester, Mid-American Review, Western Humanities Review, Quarterly West, Chattahoochee Review, The Florida Review, American Literary Review, Night Train, and Wigleaf. Her web­site is www.stefaniefreele.com