SERIOUS, STRAIGHT-BACK by Woody SkinnerIt was such a little thing among so many things he’d done to please her: how he’d arranged the second date unfashionably soon after the first. How, when he’d picked her up, his cheeks were razor-flushed. His hair pomaded in that serious, straight-back style — sort of severe, yes, but also slimming. On the way to the theater, his clumsy devotion to the rules: escorting her street-side, slipping his jacket over her shoulders. Picking the safest movie of all — a John Wayne Western, a film her father might’ve chosen. Afterwards, how carefully he danced with her: his stiff, cradling lead, his studied knowledge of the songs, his breathing of the counts. And when they finished dancing, how he delicately stepped between so many dancers to carry two Schoenlings to their booth.

And then the moment she still thinks about now, ten years later, when she’s wiping the stovetop or running the can opener and he flickers through the kitchen: how, even before the first sip of Schoenling, his eyes had wetted with pleasure. How, across the grease-streaked Formica, he gripped the pint with both hands, his whole body relaxing around the beer. How he huddled over the glass like it was the campfire in that cowboy movie, like he’d traveled the treacherous West to sit beside those flames and feel small warmth in a big desert.

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