Dance Real Slow: A Cool, Dry Place

Dance Real Slow: A Cool, Dry Place

by Michael Grant Jaffe

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Dance Real Slow: A Cool, Dry Place by Michael Grant Jaffe

Calvin eats dirt. He never actually swallows it, just places loose clumps onto his tongue and sucks, I think....He knows better, my son, but he is still
young and needs to be watched.

So goes the poignant journey of discovery for Gordon Nash, a journey that began two years ago when his wife suddenly walked out on him, leaving him alone to
raise their son. Calvin is now four, fragile yet stubborn, devoted to his pet, a dead Portuguese man-o-war he calls Mom. Faced daily with the struggle and
joys of raising this bright little boy, Gordon learns the vast reaches of his affection and the limits of his patience. He plumbs the deep well of rage within himself, to find there disturbing echoes of his own father. And he comes to understand that nothing is as important as this complex, imperfect love—a lesson he must turn to when his wife reappears one day, threatening to turn his and Calvin's world upside down once again

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553577099
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/02/1997
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 4.16(w) x 6.87(h) x 0.72(d)

Read an Excerpt

Calvin sits on the counter beside the stove, his feet dangling, tapping against the cupboard door beneath. He is holding two teaspoons like drumsticks across his lap. He watches me pry out large wedges of ice cream and knock them into our dishes.

"I want sauce," he says, banging the spoons together.

"We don't have any. We'll get some more the next time we go shopping."

"Let's go now."

"We're not going now," I say, running hot water over the serving spoon. "It's too late. The store is closed."


"What'd you mean, why? Because the people who run stores have to go home to their families, too. Shouldn't they get to have dinner?"

Calvin is still for a minute, digging the edge of a spoon into the spongy roll of skin behind his chin.

"They can eat," he says. "Just not when we want sauce."

I smile. "I'll let them know that."

"Let them know," he starts, climbing down. "For next time."

The two of us sit at the table and eat our bowls of French vanilla ice cream. Calvin uses his spoon like a spade, grabbing it down low near where the handle vanishes into the flat well of metal. The ice cream is turning soft and it has begun to slither its way around Calvin's wrist and up his arm.

"Maybe we should have showered afterwards," I tell him, reaching over to wipe the hollow, open side of his elbow.

His hair is almost dry, spiky and tight above the rise of his forehead, stiff as straw. It is yellow, with clefts of brown buried deep and random.

"Done?" I ask, taking both bowls to the sink.

"Well," he says, his chest wavering with quick, short breaths. "Well, do we have more? 'Cuz Icould eat more."

"No more tonight. You've had plenty."

"Yeah, but...but." He moves over to my side, his hands sticky and anxious, twisting above his waist. "If I...maybe...I'll just have a little."

"You won't have a little. It's getting late and--here"--I hand him a damp towel--"wipe up. You've got ice cream all over yourself."

I am reminded of a time before Kate left, when she was still pregnant and we were visiting my parents in Ohio. It was late November, before Thanksgiving, and the air had just turned cold. Kate and I had decided to take a drive in the country, away from Lakeshire, away from Cleveland. After a while we pulled off to the side of a small gravel road, beside a narrow bend in the Chagrin River, and sat in the car watching the water run from black to foamy white and then back to black again. I stroked her arms, which were draped steady over her bloated belly. We didn't talk for a long time, resting still, listening to the rush of water through her open window. Finally, Kate turned to me and said in a low, throaty whisper that she needed something. I leaned over, moving my hand to the softness below her breasts, and kissed her on the neck and then full on the lips. We kissed deep and wet for a few more minutes, my hand moving down, brushing over the embryonic Calvin on its way to Kate's inner thighs. Then she started to laugh, saying this isn't what she had in mind when she said she needed something. What she had wanted was something sweet, like pudding or ice cream.

There was a small New England-style town called Gates Mills about a half mile from where the car was parked, and Kate waited while I went off to surprise her. The houses were clean and white, with slate roofs and a common white fence that held off the road. I attended high school not far from there, and in the spring, before baseball practice, we would drive to Henry's, a general store, where we would buy bubble gum, chewing tobacco, sunflower seeds, and sodas. I hated the chewing tobacco, so I bought licorice, which turned my spit brown without making me ill.

Henry's was still there, unchanged, and I left it much as I had in high school, with a paper bag of two-cent candy: mostly caramels, peppermints, red-hots, and jawbreakers; and a pint of mocha chip ice cream, which was Kate's favorite. On my way back to the car it began snowing heavy flakes, big as feathers. Kate was standing down by the river, breath pushing in bursts from her face. I came up behind, taking her gently by the elbow and then the forearm. She told me my teeth and lips were red. I opened the bag and pointed inside and she nodded as we walked back to the car. I had forgotten to get spoons, so we carved out chunks of ice cream using keys. And when we were finished we went back to the river and washed off, using a T-shirt I had in the trunk to dry ourselves. At one point, while Kate was bending low to cup the cold water to her mouth, snow settling evenly on her hair and shoulders, I remember thinking I loved her more than anyone else, more than I could possibly love anyone else. That I would never stop loving her. But, of course, I was wrong. I could love someone more. And, indeed, we could stop loving each other. For as powerful and encompassing as love is, during brief moments, it turns fragile, needing desperately to be protected.

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Dance Real Slow 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I stumbled upon this book by accident in the library. To be honest it was the cover that intrigued me. Once I read the inside jacket I realized that I had seen a movie based on it. This is a fabulous book. I highly reccomend it. It's incredibly moving and you go through every possibly emotion. This author is brilliant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good middle-America tale. Jaffe almost made me wish I were in Kansas!