Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?



Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery


Celia must have looked horrified because the other woman broke out in peals of laughter. “It’s fake, Celia!  Look at my costume!” she cried. Celia looked and realized that the other woman was dressed like a hobo. She had a tattered jacket over a threadbare vest, and under the vest a tunic of some kind. It might have been light blue at some point but it was covered with grayish stains wherever it showed through the vest. The pants were held up with twine around the waist and the girl had mis-matched, striped socks on. Most of her hair was pulled back into a red bandana, but some wild curls escaped around the edges. The only part of the costume that wasn’t authentic was her shoes. They were the same kind of sturdy white nursing shoes that Celia now had on her feet.
“Come on, Celia, I want you to meet our Hungarian. He’s here to give us real authenticity to the party!” The girl dragged Celia over to a table where a bowl with pink punch sat, poured her a cup, and then dragged her over to where a handsome, dark man was talking to several people.
“Hey everyone, Celia’s here now!” she exclaimed happily.László ,” the girl said, “I’d like you to meet Celia.”
“Another nurse?” The man took Celia’s hand in his, kissed it, and said, “it is my pleasure to be surrounded by so many beautiful women.” Celia blushed and took her hand away. He was tall and thin, with jet black hair combed back from a widow’s peak on his forehead. His eyes were dark and hooded, and his skin was a beautiful olive complexion. He had a generous mouth and even white teeth. His personal magnetism obviously had a pull on every girl around him.  As Celia tried to think of something clever to say that would not reveal how out of place she was, another girl came over dressed in nursing whites.
Celia turned to look at the newcomer and was shocked to see the face of the young girl from the 1933 Loyolan! “Why,” she began, “you’re Emajean!”
The girl laughed at her. “Celia, no one around here calls me that and you know it! Ever since I left Lincoln, Michigan I’ve been just Jean! Although some here might refer to me as ‘Maw’.” The other girls all laughed at that. She greeted everyone in the circle and leaned in to give Lazlo a kiss on his cheek. Celia tried to remember the names – especially the name of the first girl she’d encountered. Rosa. Okay, I just have to remember Rosa.
A commotion at the front of the barn revealed that several young men had arrived. A couple of them had more musical instruments. They threw together a few hay bales and began tuning up. Temporarily forgotten by László and the other girls, Celia walked over to the musicians. A drummer started laying down a beat, starting a fast rhythm that the others began to follow. Pretty soon a real tune was getting going with brass and even a clarinet, and couples were starting to dance. Celia looked over to where she had left the others and saw László and Emajean beginning a complicated dance together.

I’ve seen this on an old movie. I think it’s called the Lindy Hop! Celia’s foot began tapping to the rhythm. She thought the poetry of the couple moving together was exciting and energizing! A part of her longed to go out on the dance floor but she resisted.
“They’re really good,” commented a young man at her elbow. Celia opened her mouth to agree enthusiastically but was cut off by a second young man. 
“That dance is obscene. White girls should not be doing a dance like that with old Hungarian men,” he snarled. Celia was surprised by the venom in his voice. She couldn’t help herself. She turned to him and asked, “are you upset because the dance is energetic, the girl is white, or because she’s not dancing with you?”
 The young man turned to her in fury. “White girls should not dance with foreigners, especially gypsies!” he spat.
Celia was shocked and her mouth fell open. “What is wrong with you?” she cried. And then she suddenly remembered that if this was 1933, the issue of who white girls should dance with was still very much strictly controlled by societal mores. Being Celia, she plunged ahead anyway, “any girl should be free to dance with or date or even marry whoever she falls in love with!” she exclaimed. 
The tall blonde athletic looking young man sneered, “if you really believe that, try selling your daddy on a Gypsy son-in-law.” He spun on his heel and marched out the barn door.
“Just ignore him,” said the remaining man, “and enjoy the show.” They both turned back to watch László and Emajean execute a series of swirls and dips that left both of them laughing and breathless and the surrounding watchers clapping and cheering.
Rosa reappeared and asked Celia if she was having fun. “Oh yes!” she answered. “Well, except for that one insufferable man. What a racist!” she said bitterly. 
Rosa looked at her askance. “Racist? What does that mean?” she asked. “Oh you know, someone who dislikes other people because of their race and wants to keep the races separate,” Celia answered. 
Rosa responded, “I've never heard that word used for people like him." She sighed and added,"it's too bad he's so unpleasant. He’s a brilliant doctor.”
Celia said, "brilliance is more than just brains. What's his name, anyway?"
Rosa stared at her, "Celia, you know that he is Anthony Harper! You have been doing rotations with him these last couple of weeks!"
Celia tried to think of a quick recovery, "oh my, I must be losing my mind. I need to get some air." She turned and went outside, leaving Rosa's puzzled expression behind her.

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