“TOES TO TOES, NOSE TO NOSE,” A Short Story by Mike Frosolono

“Have you had enough to drink?” Jordan Elizabeth Rains finished her Jack Daniel’s sour mash, crunched the remaining ice between her teeth, and crumpled the paper cup before throwing it out the window of my father’s 1957 DeSoto.

“I have a sufficiency, more would be a redundancy,” I replied, knowing what prompted her question.

“Please tell me, have you drunk just enough booze so you can fast dance without making a complete fool of yourself?” From experience, Jordan knew I needed the right amount of booze in order for me to feel the beat of the music. If I drank beyond that point, I would embarrass her and myself.

“Yes, Jordan.”  I didn’t know the details, but physicians told Ethyl and Jordan Rains not to have more biological children after their daughter’s birth. I figured Jordan’s father wanted a boy to carry on with the family business; but, in compensation, the parents gave the baby, “Jordan,” for her first name.

“Good. I know you prefer to slow dance with me so you can look down my dress and see my boobs, but I feel the need to fast dance, and I hope you can keep up with me.”

I opened the door for her. We walked, with Jordan properly holding onto my arm, into the country club where the spring formal marking the countdown to our high school graduation was well underway. I took Jordan’s lightweight wrap to the cloakroom and caught up with her where she stood talking to a few friends from her socioeconomic group.

The band began playing a rendition of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.” Jordan waived dismissively at the chaperones, some of the country club’s most conservative members and several of our high school teachers, seated on one side of the large room. “Fuck, ‘em,” she said, leading me onto the dance floor. “Let’s get down and dirty.” She swirled her white evening dress to reveal her long, well-shaped legs. Jordan, a head taller than me, was a quintessential example of good breeding, with the added benefit of wealth and social position. My socioeconomic position was lower than hers. Such class distinctions were important in the minds of some people in our hometown, but I thought artificial rankings based upon birth, rather than achievement, were nuisances that should be ignored. Besides, I tried to act as if they were unimportant to me because I didn’t think I’d ever live in my hometown after I left for college.

I felt the rhythm and began to dance with Jordan. She nodded appreciably and danced with increasing abandon. Jordan was an excellent dancer. I managed to keep up with her, with my eyes on hers. I knew Jordan was upset. Jordan’s parents had terminated her affair with one of my best friends, Paul Adams, who definitely hailed from a much lower class than hers.

Jordan had originally planned to go to the spring formal with Paul. After the breakup, Jordan asked me to take her to the dance. I agreed because I didn’t have a date. The girl I was dating had decided we didn’t have a future together, now that our high school years were coming to an end. She went to the formal with the boy she would eventually marry. The old bugaboo of class distinctions in our town had once again come into play.

Jordan urged me on; we danced faster and faster until the song ended. The exertions did not cause us any problems. We were in great physical shape from playing on the school’s tennis teams. Jordan excelled in athletics. She looked over my head. “Damn, here comes trouble.”

“What?” I asked.

“That old bitch, Mrs. Mansfield, is headed our way. Don’t worry. I’ll handle the situation.”

Mrs. Mansfield, the town’s enforcer of social proprieties, came to within a foot of Jordan. I managed to stay sufficiently close to Jordan to keep Mrs. Mansfield from standing between us. “Jordan Elizabeth Rains, you’re making a spectacle of yourself dancing with this boy.” Mrs. Mansfield knew my name and family history. Calling me “boy” rather than by my name was intended to put me in my place.

“Mrs. Mansfield,” Jordan replied with a big grin, “we’re having a great time. Would you like to dance with Joe?”

“Certainly not, and the two of you should leave the dance floor immediately before Joseph embarrasses you further.”

I saw Jordan’s eyes harden, although she kept a demure smile on her face. I knew the signs, Jordan was beyond angry. “Mrs. Mansfield,” Jordan said, “I’m not embarrassed and I intend to dance with Joe until the evening is over.”

“How much have you had to drink?” Mrs. Mansfield asked.

“A sufficiency, more would be a redundancy.” Jordan grinned at me.

“You’re making a fool of yourself with your behavior tonight. Your parents will be furious with you.”

“I’m furious with them, so turnabout is fair play.” The grin disappeared and Jordan’s eyes became even harder. “Joe, perhaps we should have more booze in honor of Mrs. Mansfield’s concern for us.”

Before I could reply, Mrs. Mansfield asked, “What do you see in Joseph, Jordan Elizabeth? He’s not one of us, and you’re lowering yourself by associating with him.”

A wicked smile appeared on Jordan’s face. “Mrs. Mansfield, Joe and I have been close friends since grammar school. He’s always treated me with respect. He’s a nice guy with a great sense of humor.” Jordan paused, the smile becoming even more wicked. “And, he’s a great kisser. I suspect he’ll be a great lover, and I might find out if I’m right before the end of this night.” Jordan held one of my hands and squeezed hard to keep me quiet.

I knew these last statements were false and intended to flummox Mrs. Mansfield, because Jordan and I had never kissed or engaged in any other teenage sexual explorations, unlike Jordan and Paul. I winked at Jordan.

Mrs. Mansfield took in a big breath. “Miss Raines, you’re out of control.”

“No, ma’am, I’m in full control of the situation. But I forgot to tell you the best of Joe’s many fine qualities.”

“What would that be? I don’t see any redeeming qualities in this boy.”

The band played the first notes of “Ebb Tide,” one of my favorite songs from that era. Jordan said, “Mrs. Mansfield, when Joe and I are head to head, his toes are in it, and when we’re toes to toes, his nose is in it.” She leaned toward me and planted a wet kiss on me, her tongue probing into my mouth. I played along and put my tongue in her mouth.

Mrs. Mansfield sputtered in shock. Jordon stepped aside and led me onto the dance floor as the chaperon stomped back to her chair. “Look all you want to at my boobs.”

“Well, they’re worth looking at,” I said. We whirled about the dance floor as I kept my gaze on Jordan’s face. “Will Mrs. Mansfield report the conversation to your parents?

“Of course, but what can they do?”

“Ground you until you leave home?”

“I have my own car and my own money from my grandfather. If they try to ground me, I’ll stay with friends. But my threatening to leave home will end the discussion: My parents couldn’t take the shame of their daughter and heir to their fortune leaving home except to go to college.”

“Your parents could disown you.”

Jordan laughed. “No, they won’t. They’ll be afraid of what I might reveal about the family.”

“Why didn’t you make that threat when they forced you to break up with Paul?”

“Paul and I had no future together.”

“Paul believed you did.”

Jordan shook her head. “It was good while it lasted.”

“So, you just used him for sex?”

“He didn’t object. I made it clear from the beginning that, once we left high school, we would split. He accepted the terms.”

“You can be coldhearted,” I said, trying to keep my voice kind.

“Perhaps, but I’d say I was realistic. I saw no need to keep on with Paul simply to irritate Ethyl and Jordan.”

I asked, “Then why are you furious with your parents, if you knew you and Paul would split?”

“They had no business going to Paul’s parents to break us up. That was my responsibility.”

“Do your parents object to my taking you to the prom?”

“They know we’ve been friends forever, and they don’t consider you a threat. I think, deep down, they like you for what you’ve already accomplished.”

“What about you? Do you consider me a threat?”

“You’re too much of a gentleman to be a threat, although we probably could have a lot of fun together, if the circumstances were different.”

“What do you men, ‘if the circumstances were different?’”

“Joe, as soon as you can, you’ll leave our fair city to make your way in the world. I intend to stay here and accept my rightful position in the town’s society. Besides, I’ll take over the family business.”

The band put down their instruments for intermission. “More booze?” I asked.

“For damn sure.”

I escorted Jordan to the DeSoto. We sat quietly, sipping the Jack Daniel’s until she said, “Either take me home or to a motel.”

“Why a motel?”

“We can see if the toes to toes and nose to nose thingy works for us.”

“I’ll take you home. I’d very much like to make love with you tonight, but the circumstances aren’t right. I’ll take a rain check.”

Jordan smiled. “I’ll redeem that rain check one day.”

* * * *

I sat with my adult daughters, Erica and Kimberly, at the table reserved for me—the guest of honor—along with dignitaries associated with the college. I saw a stir of activity at the back of the room. Jordan walked with physical grace that belied her years toward our table. Two waiters followed her, one carrying a chair and the other a tray of glasses filed with ice. Jordan directed that the chair be placed in front of me. She indicated the glasses with ice were for my family and her.

Once the arrangements were completed, Jordan removed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s from her large handbag. She said to me, “Have you had a sufficiency?”

“I have by no means reached my limit.”

Jordan poured generous portions of the Jack Daniel’s into all our glasses, totally unconcerned about the other people in the room. She spoke to my daughters: “Ladies, I’m Jordan Elizabeth Rains Johnson. Your father and I go back to what now is considered antiquity.”

Erica looked at Kimberly before replying. “We know who you are. Mom told us once that you were the only person Daddy loved besides her and us.”

“Well, that may be but your mom and dad had a grand affair; they loved each other completely until the day she died.” Jordan nodded, “And, he’ll go on loving her after they’re reunited.”

“They did, and he will,” Erica replied.

Jordan lifted her glass for a toast. “To absent friends and better times.”

We drank our booze and Jordan refilled our glasses. Jordan once again spoke to my daughters. “Ladies, does Joe have his speech for tonight and for the commencement address well in hand?”

Kimberly answered, “He does. Daddy’s always prepared.”

“Excellent,” Jordan said. “We can get down to business.”

“What business would that be, Jordan?” I asked.

“Bringing you home.”

“Please elaborate.”

“My late husband, Carl, and I contributed a lot of money to this college.”

“That’s appropriate,” I said. “You graduated with honors.”

“Now that Carl has passed on, I’ll continue to contribute generously to the college.” She gave me one of her benevolent grins. “Tonight, the president of the college will announce that I’ve been appointed to the board of trustees, to take over the vacancy my husband left.”

“Seems like a good strategy,” I said.

“Indeed, but here’s the thing.” Jordan took a big swallow of her drink and looked directly into my eyes. “The college wants you to become the new academic dean.”

“What?”

Jordan looked to my daughters. “Has your father become hard of hearing?”

Erica and Kimberly laughed. “No,” Erica replied. “I think you surprised him.”

“Well,” Jordan said, “he’s had time to get over his shock and awe.” She looked again at me. “How say you, sir? Will you accept and return to your hometown and me?”

“I’m not sure I can live here,” I said.

“Nonsense. The old class distinctions have, for the most part, faded away. My house is near the college, and you’ll spend most of your time on the campus. Your entering society in your hometown will be remarkably easy with me to lead the way. After all, who else from this town other than you has been a Nobel Prize recipient? Also, you’ve made a fortune licensing your discoveries, not to mention your books and TV programs.” Jordan looked at my daughters. “What say you, ladies?”

“You don’t expect us to move here with Dad?” Erica asked.

“Of course not, but you should visit often.” Jordan discreetly pointed at a table in the back of the room. “My children and grandchildren are at that table. You’ll like them. And, I think you should join them after this illustrious affair. They know the best drinking and fun spots in our fair city.”

Kimberly said, “Go for it, Daddy Man.”

Jordan refilled our glasses. “Out of the mouths of babes, wisdom.”

I sipped on the drink. “Jordan, I very much would like to see if the nose to nose, toes to toes thingy will work out.”

Jordan said, “Ladies, after your dad gives his speech tonight, please go wherever with my children and grandchildren. Your dad will come home with me. We have unfinished business to consummate.”

“Tomorrow for commencement?” Erica asked.

“Oh,” Jordan said, “I’ll have him there in plenty of time, completely sober and sexually satiated.”

I said, “I expect the sexual satiation to be mutual.”

Jordan clapped her hands. “Can you wait until we leave this stuffy affair?”

“With the exertion of great mental and physical discipline.”

“Hold that thought,” Jordan said. She walked away from us and toward her family’s table, beckoning the wait staff to remove her chair.

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