Penelope’s “vicious” sense of humor displayed itself that evening as she mocked anyone who tried to dance. Even though the band played some eminently danceable tunes, music from the last era in which Franny remembered really loving music, no one danced more than one song’s worth. As soon as a couple would take to the floor, Penelope would follow, performing her own exaggerated version of their dance moves when she believed they were not watching her. At one point, a group of about six “women of a certain age,” as Franny’s mother would say, formed a tight circle on the dance floor. The song was the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running,” Leo’s harmonies supporting the lead singer were high and lovely, and the women managed to enjoy their dancing for a whole minute or two before Penelope began to prance around them.
Penelope also joined in on vocals, with a harsh high soprano that had not benefited from the loosening of the vocal cords caused by too much very good red wine. The women in the circle shuffled back to the tables, and Penelope did not appear to notice she no longer had company on the dance floor. Franny watched in horror as Penelope’s large shape tilted and whirled with less and less ability to anchor itself to the floor. She seemed to fall in slow motion and then suddenly she was in a sitting position, wine glass still held high and proud.
Marilyn made her way to her friend’s side, helped her up, and led her gently to a chair. Some of the other guests took the opportunity to dance without Penelope’s intrusion. Franny stayed in her seat, fighting a wave of vertigo. Is this what it means to be fifty-nine? Is this what I have to look forward to? And who would help me off the dance floor, if I made a spectacle of myself like that?
Against her better judgment, Franny waived the waitress over and took another glass of wine.