4.06 / June 2009

Why Don’t You Slide?

Why don’t you kids dance? He decided to say, and then he said it. “Why don’t you dance?”

—Raymond Carver
“Why Don’t You Dance?”

On the front doorsteps, he takes another shot of Scotch and looks at the bed of flowers in his living room floor. The garden wire stripped, it lies beside the thick pad of soil removed intact from the ground. Crouching in front of the coffee table, he’d weeded the bed, but other than that it looks the same as it did beside the house—Petunias on the left side, white roses on the right.

His seed, her seed.

He nods, rolling the liquor around in his mouth.

The garden wire is half-untangled and digging into the sofa arm. He’d rolled and wrapped it with a small piece of rope earlier this morning, but forgot to tie the knot. A full birdbath is beside the wire. A plastic gnome stands, hands behind its back, in front of the birdbath. The five-piece patio furniture set is crowded into the kitchen. Still covered with smeared bird shit, the umbrella’s open, blocking the kitchen light. A hanging Ivy plant sits on the table, along with a bundle of garden tools. A yellow Slip n’ Slide tarp is stretched the length of the hall floor. A large Craftsman push mower’s in the foyer, barely a year old, and a few feet away, taut and tied to the door of the living room is a badminton net. The mailbox leans against a bedroom door. Inside the mailbox, an outdoor thermometer and wind gauge hang out like a forked tongue. There’s also cartons filled with toy dump trucks, a Radio wagon, and tricycle, all of them covered in rust. This morning he’d cleaned out the garage and the yard and, except for the things too big to fit through the front door, everything was inside the house. He ran the water hose through a window and hooked up the yard sprinkler at the foot of the hall. Things still worked, same as they did outside.

Occasionally, nosey neighbors walking along the sidewalk crane their necks or shade their eyes, trying to see the mess inside the opened windows and front door. None of the judgmental bastards spoke.

He’d like to chunk a garden rake or something at them, but then, he guesses, he probably wouldn’t speak himself.

To the boy, the girl’s all, “It looks like an open house sale.”

These two, they’re furnishing a town home.

The girl’s all, “Let’s see if they got a waterbed.”

And the boy’s like, “And a surround sound DVD.”

The girl whips into the driveway, in front of the opened, empty garage.

They get out and move up the front steps, leading with their outstretched necks. The girl steps past the mower, almost stumbling, and left into the kitchen, where she sees the patio furniture. She picks up the ivy plant, squinting in the faint light. In the foyer, the boy kicks the front mower tire and shrugs. He sets it flat and rolls it back and forth. He checks the crank. The oil stick.

He slips a box of Tic Tacs from his shirt pocket and thumbs the lid open. He throws his head back, rattles a couple into his mouth, and looks around.

The girl, she’s in the living room, slowly browsing. Confused by the mess, she looks at the back of the couch, at the coffee table, for some kind of price tag. In the soil, she sees a worm s’ing its way out.

“Hey Scott, come see this. And bring a shovel or something from the patio table,” she’s all.

“Whatcha got?” he’s like.

And she’s all, “Look.”

He looks around. All the lights are on.

He’s like, “This is messed up. Is anybody here?”

She leans down and smells the flowers.

“First look around,” she’s all.

He hooks a finger in the bottom of the badminton net, pulls it down, and lets it sling shot back up.

And she’s all, “What is it?”

And he’s like, “It’s cool.”

She stands and steps behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist.

Pouting her lips out, she’s all, “Some sugars.”

He’s like, “Let’s get this.”

“Some sugars,” she’s all, again.

She closes her eyes. Her lips still puckered. Her arms still around his waist.

But he keeps hooking his finger in the net holes, stretching them down. He pretends he’s playing.

Cars pass up and down the street outside the house.

“Wouldn’t it be exciting if,” the girl’s all, and licks the edges of her teeth and doesn’t finish.

The boy sort of laughs for no damn reason. For no damn reason, he’s swinging around a pretend badminton racket.

The girl swats and ducks from a honeybee zipping around her head, and the boy slams a phantom shot down and holds his hands up in victory.

Looking down the hall, he’s like, “Wonder if anyone’s home? I don’t reckon there is, but I’d like at least some sort of assistance out here.”

And she’s all, “Whatever they ask, deal them down. That’s kind of good.” Then she’s all, “Anyway, whoever’s selling this stuff must be dumb or something.”

“That’s a kick-ass badminton net,” the boy’s like.

“Wheel and deal, Hon,” the girl’s all. “Wheel and deal.”

The man, he’s coming down the sidewalk with a paper sack from Otis’ Liquor Store. Inside, there’s beef jerky, a couple of double deuces and a fifth of Early Times. He sees the Hyundai in the drive and hears the voices of the two inside. Walking in, the boy’s taken up the imaginary badminton game again, and the girl is twirling her finger in the filmy birdbath water.

To the girl, the man goes, “Hello.” He goes, “I see you found the birdbath.”

And the girl’s all, “Hello.” Standing up, she’s all, “I was just checking this thing out.”

“Well, there’s better, but it ain’t bad,” the man goes, setting the sack down and taking out the booze.

The boy’s like, “We thought nobody was here.” With a shine of sweat on his forehead, he’s like, “We’re looking at this here badminton net and she likes the couch. Possibly that bird thing there. How much for your net?”

“I’m thinking somewhere in the ten to ten-fifty range,” the man goes.

And the girl’s all, “Would you take nine?”

And the man goes, “Why not?”

He goes to the kitchen, grabs a patio chair, and drags it back, knocking a hoe off the table as he does. He cracks open the whiskey.

The boy, he’s like, “What about your lawn mower?”


And the girl’s all, “Would you sell it for forty-five?”

“Suits me fine,” the man goes. “Forty-five’s right fine.”

The girl looks at the boy, who’s still breathing a little heavy from his game.

“What say we have a drink,” the man goes. “Styrofoam cups on the coffee table. Me, I’m just gonna sit down here a minute. Here on this lawn chair.”

The man sits down, stretches his legs out crossing one foot over the other, and opens up his beef jerky.

The girl pours two Styrofoam cups half-full of Early Times.

“Whoa,” the boy’s like. “I might ought to pour a little Coke in mine.”

He’s dragging a lawn chair, the legs caked with dried mud, out from the kitchen.

“There might be a Tab soda in there in the ice box,” the man goes, over his shoulder. “Right there, in the kitchen.”

The boy steps back in the kitchen and comes out with a faded can of Tab, him squinting at the can for what might be an expiration date. He pours it in his cup, sits down, and smiles. He doesn’t take a drink.

The man looks at the flowerbed.

The girl, she’s all, “Your flowers are beautiful.” Taking a sip, she’s all, “But I’m curious about something—why would you grow white roses instead of pink?”

The man rips a piece of jerky free and his drink drops to the floor.

The girl walks over and picks it up for him.

“So what is it you want?” the boy’s like, to the girl.

The boy whips out his checkbook full of temporary checks and taps his knee with it.

“Actually, I’d like to have some patio furniture,” the girl’s all. “How much you take for the patio furniture?”

The man leans up, looks back over his shoulder, then settles in again, crossing his feet at the ankles.

“What would you give for a set like this?” he goes.

He looks at the two, their dark shapes in the light. Their faces just shadows in the dark shapes. If they are attractive or ugly, he really can’t tell.

“I’m going to turn on this sprinkler and water the flowers,” the man goes. “The sprinkler’s for sale, too. Whatever you’ll give me for it.”

He drinks another cup of whiskey and chases it with a long pull on a double deuce.

He goes, “Everything you see, it’s buy two get six free.”

The girl kills her drink. The man pours her another.

“Well thanks,” she’s all. “You’re pretty cool,” she’s all.

“I’m buzzing,” the boy’s like. “I’m buzzing my ass off.” He pours more Tab soda in. It doesn’t fizz.

The man kills his drink, pours another, and goes out and turns on the spigot.

The water coughs out of the sprinkler, then rises quickly like a kite in an arc, sweeping loud across the ceiling. The boy and girl step back, away from the spray.

“Run through it,” the man goes, coming back in and leaning in the doorway.

The boy, he wipes his checkbook off and begins writing.

The girl slips off her shoes and takes down here hair. She’s all, “Here,” handing her shoes to the boy. Suddenly, she didn’t want to stay dry.

And the boy’s like, “I’d might not cash this till Friday after next.”

And the man goes, “Sure.”

And they keep drinking. And the girl keeps jumping through the rake of water arcing back and forth.

The man, taking a drink he looks down the hall at the yellow Slip n’ Slide tarp.

Why don’t you kids slide? He decides to go, and then he goes, “Why don’t you slide?”

“Damn some sliding,” the boy’s like.

“Go ahead,” the man goes. “It’s my damn Slip n’ Slide. You can slide if you want to.”

Arms out in front of her, real Superman-like, the girl’s a blur down the wet yellow tarp. She’s all, “Whoohoo,” stopping herself before she hits the hall closet door. The boy, he goes down once on his knees, but it’s easy to see his heart’s not in it. Getting up at the end, his knees dark and shiny, he’s like, “I’m drunk.”

And the girl’s all, “You’re not drunk.”

“Shit, I’m drunk,” the boy’s like.

The man leans over and lets the water spit through his hair, and the boy’s like, “For real.”

To the boy, the girl’s all, “Slide with me,” and then to the man, and when the man walks over she wraps her arms around his waist and gets ready.

“People outside,” the girl’s all, “I’ll bet they’re spying on us.”

“Fuck ’em,” the man goes. “It’s my goddamn Slip n’ Slide.”

And the girl’s all, “Fuck ’em.”

“Damn straight,” the man goes. “They always tried to watch the show here. Well now they’ve got a show,” he goes.

He feels her arms, cool and wet around his waist.

He goes, “I hope you enjoy your birdbath and badminton net.”

The girl sort of closes her eyes, her head dipping. She turns her cheek to the man’s back. She squeezes tighter.

“You must be dumb or something,” she’s all.

A couple months later, she’s all: “This guy was a middle-aged cuss. All his outside things right there inside his house. If I’m lying I’m dying. We got drunk off our asses and slid down the hall. Jesus H. For real. He turned on his sprinkler to water his white roses. And this birdbath—bastard just gave it to us. For free. It’s not the best birdbath, but I’ll be damned if it ain’t half bad.”

And she kept on. Telling everyone and their mother. There was more to it, but she couldn’t remember everything. After a while, she just started lying.