(This story, with illustrations, was the last assignment for our art class, based on an anonymous year book picture. The story is fictional, the illustrations are raw, but I wanted to put them out on the page together, to see how they looked. Any feedback welcomed.)
Barbara (Bo) Weaver was not beautiful, or popular or academically accomplished, but she had something none of her other awkward, unpopular friends had and that was a boyfriend. Still, she told no one, not Lorraine or Mary or Cynthia, not her parents or pastor. She was the only one who knew, which gave her a certain power, a power she felt she deserved for all the teasing and taunting she endured, and for what? For the mere fact she had buck teeth and her miserly German Lutheran parents did not believe in spending the money to fix them. She suffered, she cried, she threw tantrums to get them to change their minds, but her parents were strict in ways no other American parent could imagine. They said no. God had given her those teeth and she had to live with them.
Her boyfriend didn't seem to mind as long as she unbuttoned her Villager blouse and exposed her healthy German breasts whenever they met behind the garage where he fixed engines. He didn't mind as long as she wore the panties he told her to wear. They had met at a dance in the West End of Louisville, or as it was called, the black section of town. Barbara had gone there with Cynthia when a friend from orchestra had handed them an address on a torn piece of paper. They drove down Broadway, past the 4th street bridge, going further than they'd gone before, to the church address on the piece of paper they'd been given. They parked and went inside, through the double doors and up the balcony stairs, where other teenagers from their high school sat clapping and bobbing their heads.
The dance floor was packed tight with sleek, sweaty bodies, while five men on stage sang in harmony, stepping in unison: front, back, step, step, side, dipping and turning and jumping up with their hands in the air. When they shouted Baby, the crowd went wild, and it seemed to Barbara she'd never seen anything so wonderful. She watched, entranced, practically falling off the balcony, so intent was she on seeing every move.
As Barbara stared down, she noticed a man who stood out among the crowd, taller than the rest; it wasn't his height that impressed her though, but his gleaming white teeth. He had a big set of choppers like her, just like her, only he didn't seem bothered, not in the least. He smiled widely, unlike Barbara who was forever covering her teeth with her nervous lips. He was in the grove, having the time of his life, twirling girls around, bending them backwards, laughing and sliding through the middle of the dance floor, his admirers applauding from the sidelines. Barbara couldn't take her eyes off him; he was beautiful, a black angel.
9 x 12She knew, though, that no black man was an angel, not according to her strict German Lutheran father who forbade her to go past Fourth Street, where, he told her, she'd be raped and likely killed by men like him. But she couldn't see any evidence of it, not here, not on this dance floor, pulsating with one giant beat. She looked down and thought, why am I standing here?, and before she knew what she was doing, she ran downstairs, flinging herself about with her hands pumping overhead.
The white crowd looked down and gasped. Everyone on the dance floor stared, disbelieving.
You could hear the giggles and gaggles encircling Barbara, but she didn't care. She didn't care! Her eyes were closed, her arms swinging recklessly, her hair in a perfect flip, shifting side to side.
Suddenly someone grabbed her wrist and gave it a powerful tug, dragging her off the dance floor, through the double doors into the cold night outside.
What the fuck are you doing? the man she'd been watching said. Didn't she know the dance floor was reserved for blacks only?
As the man lectured her, Barbara looked around to see where she'd parked the car; she'd run to it and lock herself inside if the man threatened her. When she looked at him again, the bucked tooth man stopped and smiled.
At first it was just a smile, and then a chuckle, and then a howl, and then he couldn't stop. He laughed so hard, tears burst forth. Barbara started to laugh a little too as he began to imitate her, eyes wide, flapping his elbows, stretching his neck long, like a chicken. In between gasps, he told her she needed a whole world of dance instruction, cause she was one sorry honky chick who couldn't keep a beat. He wanted to know how'd she come downtown, and did her parents know, and by the way, his name was Jared, what was hers, and how old was she? She certainly was pretty. If she wanted, he would teach her how to dance.
And that's how it began. Her black angel boyfriend, who seduced her and made her feel loved for the first time in her life. Who taught her how to keep a beat, who consoled her when her father was murdered two weeks later in the restaurant he managed on the east side of town. Who sweet-talked her into maxing out her mother's credit cards to buy furniture for his apartment, cajoled her into forging checks when she dropped out of high school and came to live with him; who brought his other girlfriends around when things got nasty, who took to disappearing for days, saying he had appointments with his agent— whatever that meant; who kicked her out of bed one morning and told her to go back home: she was ugly and needed her teeth fixed.