Description: This is a piece I wrote for a creative writing class my senior year of high school. I loved that class, and this was by far the favorite thing I wrote for it. This piece was a practice in describing scenery. We were to pick a time period and location, do research on it (including clothing, games of the time, etc.), and describe an accurate “scene” from that time period using the elements we researched. So, while it lacks much of a plot, remember: the point of it was to depict an accurate, vivid atmosphere of the time period/location. It’s something you might see at the beginning of a chapter. It must have made an impression on me, as I would go to join swing club my sophomore year in college and become an avid swing dancer.. and next year I’ll be the president of the swing club!
It seemed appropriate to post it today: the day of my university’s spring swing dance!
This piece had the privilege of being published in the 2010 Spring Edition of Anderson University’s Literary Arts Magazine.
Shadowed by the high walls of the alley they waited, huddled around the door as if to fight off the night’s wintry chill. For many tense minutes they spoke only in muted whispers, but soon an excited murmur rippled through the dense crowd as the guard finally permitted entrance. Both music and light leaked out through the crack of the open door, and, jittery with excitement, each guest shouldered and squeezed his way to the front.
The wooden dance floor teemed with young men and women. Had it not been for the vibrant pinks and blues of the ladies’ dresses, however, all would have faded into the darkness behind veils of gray smoke. Light burst forth, yet, from the stage, where a dribble of sweat sparkled briefly before slipping down the deep brown skin of a trumpet player’s brow. The saxophonist, drummer, and pianist too suffered from the heat of bright lights and a snug stage; though, they continued to pierce the air with the clear, high riffs and syncopated beats thousands had come to love due to the popularity of the radio.
Below the stage, mini rainbows formed as the ladies spun in their colorful skirts. Their parents would have shunned their exposed knees and collarbones, but the young women only laughed as their partners joined them in the Charleston or swung them up into the air in the more daring Lindy hop. The way their bodies smoothly flowed from one position to the other gave one the impression of flying and inspired daydreams of Charles Lindbergh’s recent solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean.
Along the outskirts of the dance floor the murmur of voices and soft wisps of laughter meshed to create an effect more hypnotizing than the wave of shifting bodies on the dance floor. Tired from dancing, many young women discussed comedic lines from the latest film or Broadway play, while men, young and old, crowded together and complained about the continuation of Prohibition. However, many slyly sipped warm, brown liquid from the unmarked bottles the man behind the counter slipped them.
On a nearby stool a young woman in a scarlet dress sat, the end of a cigarette pressed against her soft, cherry red lips. The forearm length cigarette holder was held daintily between two fingers and her thumb, and a wisp of smoke slipped out from between her lips and floated away on the air with her next exhale. Her painted lips curled into a smirk as a man’s strong fingers brushed through her short bob haircut, and laughs echoed from the surrounding group as he coaxed the cigarette from her hand and tugged her to the swelling crowd in the center of the room.
The moist, steamy air whooshed between each swirling body and mixed with the hot stench of stale alcohol and tar. Sweat continued to drip off the necks of relentless dancers.
They would go on like this for the rest of the night – careless, laughing, drunk, beautiful. In fact they would continue this routine for months and months, for nothing, not even the police, could put an end to their fervor. There was, in fact, only one event that could pause their jazz and trip up the rhythm of their dance. It was called Black Tuesday.