High Voltage

Contributor: Marian Brooks

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Every time Clara wears her black leather jacket she thinks of Joe Grimaldi. He purchased this jacket for her fifteen years ago. It’s missing a button now but otherwise, still wears well.

Clara graduated from an Ivy League university with a degree in English Literature. She loved ballroom dancing. She was quite tall, not really glamorous but classy and fashionable. She twisted her blonde hair neatly into a bun at the nape of her neck. Joe liked to kiss her there. It tingled for a long while afterward.

Clara categorized Joe as her first and only “true grit” boyfriend after the divorce. She was tired of academics and thought she might be missing something by limiting her mate selection to college graduates. Joe never finished high school, lived with his sister and sometimes drove a green taxi with several hefty dings on the passenger side. His grammar was deplorable. He took on construction work from time to time just to buy small trinkets for Clara. Joe had a blue lightning bolt tattooed on his right forearm. She’d never once dated anyone with a tattoo.

Joe loved to dance. In fact, that’s how they met, at the Summit Ballroom in New Jersey. It was an elegant venue with fine table linen and the customary mirrored ball rotating from the ceiling. Sometimes Joe would just jump up in mid-air during a swing number without any warning and land on the floor in a split. Clara laughed until she could no longer breathe. There was a glow on her face when they waltzed or tangoed. He made Italian spaghetti sauce from scratch. Joe thought Clara was beautiful. She was his “Uptown Girl.”

It took several months for the grammatical errors and lack of good manners to begin to grate on Clara’s sensibilities. He embarrassed her by greeting her friends with “Yo” and “Whazzup?” Eventually, all things conspired to reach the inevitable conclusion. She began making excuses for not being available and he began following her whenever he had the opportunity. He called Clara five times a day and parked his taxi outside of her upscale, high-rise condo, waiting and hoping. Ultimately, he gave up in frustration and, after a few choice expletives, drove away for the last time dragging his tailpipe.

Several months later, he discovered Sandy, a petite redhead, with a wild history. She helped him forget about Clara who was happy for them both and relieved for herself.

Clara met Ethan Granger, II at an art exhibit and, after a short courtship, married him. He knew when to applaud at concerts and could quote many Shakespearean sonnets. He often did just that. Ethan was grounded, handsome and refined, a gentleman whose decorum Clara could count on even though he had a weakness for outlandish bow ties. But he rarely kissed Clara and disliked dancing of any sort.

Two weeks ago, Clara’s friend called with the dreadful news that there had been an accident. Joe was dead. He had electrocuted himself at a hotel construction site. Although Clara had not seen Joe for over ten years, she felt an overpowering compulsion to visit his grave site. His tombstone read, “Joseph Grimaldi danced his way into this world on March 6, 1948 and split on June 12, 2004.” Clara reached for a tissue in the pocket of her black leather jacket and began to weep.

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Recently retired, Marian Brooks has begun to write some short fiction. Her work has appeared in Curly Red Stories, Linnet's Wings, First Stop Fiction and others.
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