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THE BREASTS OF YOUNG WOMEN / Anthony Caputi HE TOSSED LINES to the girls coming off the dancefloor the way some people feed pigeons, smiling, exuberant, as if the pigeons were really feeding him, or promising to. "Nice number 'the ?-train'." "You're looking good. I was watching." He stood sideways so that he could play his black eyes over both the dancers and those waiting. Through the dancers I could see him talking, always talking, heroic line of his Clark Gable mustache rising and falling. Between numbers we huddled with whomever we had drawn in, and then he always began by talking about dancing, about what a good dancer she or they, as the case may be, were. "You ought to dance with this guy." (My cue.) He kept playing out lines, grinning as if he were dividing up loot. That was how he drew a bead on Anne and Elizabeth, standing two pillars down at the edge of the floor, lookingin our direction and smiling, probably at Al's look of a curb trader. Even at the distance and in the moonlight serenade light of the dancehall you could see they were more than usually good-looking. "You live in Kenmore," Al said about five yards out. "How did you know?" Anne with the loose halter and deep cleavage turned to her blond companion, smaller and more wary, and laughed. How did he know? I wondered. J couldn't guess, except that Kenmore was a large middle-class neighborhood, all white and mostly Protestant, and these girls with their halters at the Crystal Beach Dance Pavilion and their pale cheeks and college girl sloppiness looked more like Kenmore than the East Side. Al had an instinct. "Home from school?" "Hm-m," Anne answered. As he asked where they went to school, he settled into an easy familiarity that meant, and I knew it, the line about fellowcollegians , what a small world! "Mount Holyoke." Anne's full lips broke over white, even teeth. The other, with long blond hair rippling in stringy curls, looked away, at the dancers. "Where did you say?" Al pretended that the band and the talk had prevented his hearing. "Smith," she snapped. I'm sure they practice saying itjust that way. "I was going to Buffalo, but I had to drop out to help my family. My father had a stroke and they need me. Can't think of myself at a The Missouri Review · 49 time like this. Besides, I've plenty of time under the G.I. Bill. Four years in the Marines—from Guadalcanal on. I'll pickitup when I get the old folks straightened out." They sobered a bit. Al's manner— wicked even as he turned the most solemn lies — told them he had spirit to burn. The blond looked at him more carefully. He wasn't bad-looking. Thick, black hair, olive skin, and powerful arms and chest from cement construction. But somehow you didn't notice these things at first, or that he dressed with great care. You saw the slightly awkward stance from the back injury that had kept him out of the service, the quite ordinary glasses that he bounced in place as he squinted and contorted his mustache, and, ultimately, after you had become friends, his false teeth. And you saw these because he made you see them as proofs of his good humor. IfEve's serpentcould talkand a dragon is a serpent, thatwas why Alwas sometimes called the dragon: he could talk. Ofcourse he also had a monstrous reputation with girls. He devoured girls. Talking was not my strong suit, and that was why I had learned how to dance. I liked girls, oh, how in my heart ofhearts I liked girls. Maybe more than Al! So I learned to dance as the shortest route between them and me. I studied the best in a neighborhood of very good dancers! I practiced with my older sister Charlotte, herself a fine dancer; and after months of preparation, gliding alone across the living room rug, my left arm out, my right encircling every beautiful girl I had everknown, I made my debut at the Friday dance...


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