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How to Do the Twist
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Winter 1997
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One evening close to five, her father, a tall man, pale and austere with a thick scar running from his temple to his cheekbone, pushed through the swinging doors of the household kitchen and said, "What do we do with Mary Beth?" He was talking to Mrs. Polk, who was standing across the wide counter from Mother, dipping a finger into the clam dip Mother had apportioned into three silver bowls for the Polks' dinner party. Mrs. Polk sucked her finger, and when she turned and faced her husband it was hard to tell if what was on her mind was the clam dip or her husband's question.

"She can come to my house," I blurted out.

We'd hardly been at the Polks' a month, and despite Mother's repeated warning to mind my place, to speak only when spoken to, I couldn't contain myself. It made perfect sense. Mary Beth's parents were having a function for her brother dinner for his friends and their parents and, after a half-minute discussion, they would decide to send Mary Beth to her room with dinner and schoolwork. I'd seen it happen before.

Mrs. Polk looked up, found me and Mary Beth behind my aproned mother. She held her sucked-clean finger in mid-air, about six inches from her face, indicating her surprise.

"Iris," Mother snapped over her shoulder.

"No," Mrs. Polk said to Mother. "It isn't a bad idea." She craned her neck to check with her husband. The bright overhead light caught the curve of her unbelievably long neck, highlighted by the way she pulled her hair up and tight in a twist. A sprig of short bangs sprang tastefully from her forehead; I thought she looked like Audrey Hepburn on the cover of Life magazine. She and Mr. Polk gave each other a look I knew well; I'd seen it in teacher's eyes when it was my turn to have my fingernails and hair inspected.

Mother, quietly slicing celery into uniform sticks, sensed as much, too. I saw her pause, the stained knife still a moment, before she resumed her work and said, "Go on out, Iris."

I was suddenly embarrassed. I crammed the celery stick I was holding and eating into my dress pocket and turned to go.

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