The Tea Dance

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international fiction special feature

John McLennon

The Tea Dance



There’s a heavyset woman who likes to polka,” Armand said. “She throws me around like a rag doll. One day she wore a dress made of feathers and the damn thing shed all over the place. It looked like a cat had killed a bird on the dance floor.”
  Armand leaned over the table toward Melnick and whispered, “Did you say your name is Melnick?”
  “You came in here and told people your name is Melnick? Are you out of your mind? What the hell’s the matter with you, coming in here with a Jewish name? For God’s sake, you even look Jewish.”
  Melnick’s head jerked back as though he’d been punched in the face, “Well, what was I to do? It’s my name.”
  “What’s your first name?”
  Armand frowned. “Sheldon, that’s beautiful. Sheldon. That’s got to go. I’m surprised your name isn’t Israel.”
  “You got something against Jews?”
  “D’ya think, I carry a copy of Mein Kampf next to my heart? Listen, Hasid boy, your only chance to survive here is to do exactly what I tell you. Even then, it’s questionable. With your olive skin, you might pass for an Italian or a Spaniard. The Mediterranean look is popular. The ladies go for Latin lovers. If the women so much as suspect you’re a Jew, they won’t enter the club. I’m amazed you got hired. How’d that happen?”
  “Koko liked me.”
  “Of course, you’re a good-looking guy. The club’s always open for good-looking guys who can dance, but Koko won’t like you for long, if you don’t bring in the shekels. Can you tango, samba, cha-cha-cha, rumba, any of those?”
  “I can tango.”
  “That’s good. Women love the tango’s pretentiousness, but they have a hard time finding partners because most men can’t do the dance or don’t want a partner who’s not good at it. If you let them know you enjoy the tango and will be happy to teach them the steps, you’ll always have partners.”
  “Do you really think I can pass for a Spaniard?”
  “Yeah, it’s not a problem. Buy some Spanish clothes, one of those toreador hats with the flat round brim and tell Koko you changed your name to Ramone or Juanito or something. Get a pin with the . . .
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