Saturday, 10 March 2012

Dancing in the Moonlight

originally published at, 11.09.2011

“Good night, then.”

She pressed her lips one last time to his, then broke away and walked quickly up the short garden path to her front door. As she opened the door she waved to him, her silhouette clear in the yellow hall light. He waved back. She blew him a kiss, then the door closed and Sean turned to begin the long walk home.

“Yes!” he hissed to himself. The music echoed in his head, as it had all evening. He sang to himself. “Dancin’ in the moonlight, it’s got me in its spotlight, it’s all right. Dancin’ in the moonlight …” He took a jump into the air, clicking his heels together. “Yeah!”

Even the heel-click worked. It didn’t always. But tonight everything worked, everything. He was nearly sixteen years old and it was summer, and the holidays were just beginning, and he’d just walked Teresa home. They’d been to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the local cinema. Their first date. It was a film he’d wanted to see but – he thought, grinning to himself – as it turned out, he hadn’t got to see much of it …

The lights went down for the start of the film and she was in his arms and he was in her arms and her mouth was open and sweet, her tongue questing and he was running his hand through her hair and down her back, to her waist and under her blouse and then moving up her silky smooth back …

Bra strap. The first frustrating hurdle for generations of teenage boys. Teresa wriggled out of his grasp.

“Wait a minute.”

He looked at her, slightly confused, as she twisted in her cinema seat, pushing her hands quickly behind her back, pulling them back down and then turning to him, once more taking him in her arms and kissing him again. When his hand slid up her back again, the bra was open.

His hand moved slowly, almost reverently forward, cupping for the first time in his life the full firm curve of a woman’s breast, his fingers seeking and finding the nipple, feeling it stiffen slightly under his touch. Teresa gave a little moan, deep in her throat.

On the screen Richard Dreyfuss was modelling the cone of Devil’s Tower out of mashed potato. Sean didn’t notice.

“Now we go steady to the pictures
I always get chocolate stains on my pants …
But I’m dancin’ in the moonlight …”

Chocolate stains, thought Sean, grinning, it’s not chocolate stains you get on your pants in situations like that! He’d had an erection all the time and it had become pretty uncomfortable, straining against his jeans. But there would be time. With Teresa he would go all the way, they would go all the way together. Ah, Teresa, Teresa, what a girl!

It had taken him a long time to walk her home after the film, the two of them with arms slung around each other, stopping frequently to kiss. When the way began, the sky in the north west was still light, the remains of the long late sunsets of a northern midsummer. In the east, the full moon was rising, orange and gigantic through the magnifying lens of the atmosphere.

Between the kisses they talked; she telling of her family and how her younger brother got on her nerves, he talking about the other great passion in his life (apart from her), rock music and his bass guitar.

“The bass is something special and it’s not easy. Most people just see it as another electric guitar, but it’s much more than that because it’s also part of the rhythm section of a band, along with the drums. It’s the anchor that holds the whole group together. And the notes you’re playing are usually completely different to the melody of the song, which means you really have to concentrate if you’re singing as well …”

Teresa nodded, hanging on his every word. He told her of his hero, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, one of the few bass players who was also the lead singer and front-man of a band.

“… and we’re practicing Dancin’ in the Moonlight at the moment. It’s a marvellous song, completely driven and carried by the bass line …”

Teresa said that she’d like to come sometime and hear himself and the band practising. They decided that she’d come next Tuesday evening but arranged to meet the next afternoon as well. Oh, he told himself, I think this is love and it’s got me and it’s wonderful, simply wonderful.

“And I’m walkin’ home
The last bus has long gone …”

It was late now, past midnight. The moon had risen, becoming somewhat smaller but whiter and brighter, clearly visible even through the sodium orange glare of the street lights. It was still a long way home, over two miles, but Sean wasn’t tired; his heart was too full and his joy too great. The evening replayed itself over and over again in his mind, the strains of the Thin Lizzy song providing a continual accompaniment. He was humming the bass riff again and again, da da da da DUM dum, da da DUM dum, occasionally skipping for sheer overflowing exuberance. The light summer breeze was warm, despite the lateness of the hour, and he was young and in love and the summer holidays were just beginning. Life is perfect, he thought. Dancin’ in the moonlight, it’s got me in its spotlight …

* * *

Gerry Hanlon was one of the last to leave the pub. There was nothing unusual in that, it was a regular occurrence. The fact that he climbed into his old Ford Escort after having downed seven pints of Guinness in less than three hours was also nothing unusual. Gerry always drove home, insisting (when this was occasionally questioned) that he could drive no matter how much drink he’d taken. It seemed to be the case too; on all the hundreds of nights he had driven with his blood alcohol level well above the legal limit he had never had an accident and, amazingly, never run into a police control.

Tonight he was in somewhat of a hurry. Shortly after driving away from the pub, he realised that he had forgotten to visit the toilet before leaving. Jesus, he needed to piss! Well, all he could do was see that he got home as quickly as possible.

He decided to have a smoke to try to take his mind off the pressure in his bladder. He crammed in his pocket for cigarettes and lighter. He got the cigarette packet all right but the lighter slipped from his hand onto the floor of the car in front of the passenger seat.

“Fuck,” he exclaimed. Holding onto the steering wheel with his right hand he bent to the left to scrabble on the floor of the car for the fallen lighter.

The street curved gradually right. Gerry’s Escort didn’t; on the contrary, it pulled more to the left as the weight of his bent body pulled his hand on the wheel slowly behind it.

* * *

Lost in joy, Sean never even hears the approaching car until it mounts the pavement, still travelling at more than fifty miles an hour. By then it is far too late. Less than a second later the vehicle strikes him squarely from behind.

His pelvis is crushed as the impact flips him high into the air, somersaulting back over the car. Mercifully, the shock is so great that there is no pain.
Time stretches like hot cheese at the side of a pizza slice …

Da da da da DUM dum, da da DUM dum …
The music is there, mixing with the moon spinning in the sky
Dancin’ in the moonlight …
The moon, shining in Teresa’s eyes, the feel of her breast (curved like the moon) under his fingers
It’s got me …
The memory of the sound of that quiet moan of passion in the back of her throat, the sweetness of her mouth kissing him
In its spotlight …
The inexpressible feeling of joy, of completeness, of summer opening itself before him, filled with endless possibilities
It’s all right …
The road rushes up to meet him.

Time breaks.

He hits the asphalt head first, his skull crushing, cracking like a soft-boiled egg.
Blood spreads, shiny black in the sodium orange street light.
Gerry is hunched beside his car, which has crashed into a lamppost thirty yards down the street, looking back in horror at the scene. He has pissed himself.

Sean’s eyes are wide open, staring sightlessly at the sky.
At the moon.

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