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.
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