Back in the gym, the couch and the dolls tried to tune out their tormentor and focus on the dancing crowd. A bride was dancing with a caveman. Raggedy Ann overheard the caveman’s “Duh,” of delight and she also heard the Roman Senator’s response; that it was the most intelligent word Bart had ever spoken. She noticed the Senator’s dance partner was her fellow seventh grader, Gerry, dressed as a flapper from the roaring twenties.
“I suppose she is a real flapper now instead of her usual wall flower.” Raggedy Ann mumbled through her sewn mouth. “Probably loves to dance.”
“They all look like they are having fun.” Barbie said. Barbie was an eighth grader and she did not know these particular kids, now grown-ups, but she was fascinated with the racecar driver circling the ballerina. “I think they are all dancers.” Barbie said. She was getting good at interpreting Raggedy Ann’s mumbles.
The couch potato had his eyes on Dorothy from Kansas dancing with a robot. He was pretty sure Dorothy was his fellow seventh grader Rita, and he was wondering what it would take to short-circuit the robot. Rita, that is, Dorothy looked like she was having way too much fun and not in any hurry to get back to Kansas.
Two Truscan soldiers started down the hall beside the auditorium, headed for the gym. “The Queen wants the door to the party room watched to be sure the children stay in and the Princess does not slip passed the others.” One guard was explaining to his fellow as they walked the hall. The other was just nodding as they came around the corner.
“Halt.” The voice was a deep, reverberating bass, which got the guard’s attention and caused them to stop. “You are not permitted in this hall. You and your other soldiers will be dealt with soon enough.”
“What the?” The soldiers gasped. They had to look up to take in this man who was strangely armored in Roman style chain mail and a space helmet. One soldier was ready to turn around, not at all liking what he saw – the man was big – but the other drew his sword, so the first man drew his sword as well. They were both pointing their swords up at a ready angle.
“There is only one.” The first soldier assured his comrade. “He looks unarmed. We should be able to take him easily enough.” The other nodded, again.
The Space Gladiator said nothing. He pulled his laser knife and it glowed red and gave off the slight, characteristic whistle associated with the weapon. It was the Gladiator who took two steps forward while the Truscan soldiers stared and gaped. One sweep of the laser knife, which started in slow motion before going faster than the eye could follow, and both Truscan swords were sliced off near the hilt. The metal clanged loudly on the hallway floor before resting at the soldier’s feet. The soldiers ran, and the Gladiator put his laser knife away and dutifully returned to his post.
“Hit ‘em again. Hit ‘em again. Harder! Harder! Yeaaaa, Space Gladiator!” Cheerleader Tasha leapt and shook her pom-poms with true conviction.
“Who is the fat Viking lady?” The Barbie asked. The woman was hanging around the refreshments table.
Raggedy Ann shrugged, she could do that, but then she had to grab on to her seat to keep from falling over on to her side.
“Olga Svenson.” The couch potato said. “She’s new. I have her in math and science classes.”
“Well, tell her to sing. I want this nightmare to be over.” Barbie quipped and Raggedy Ann and the couch laughed, though neither one was an opera fan, so they did not really understand what they were laughing about. Then Barbie groaned and the others joined her. Supermodel Kylie was finished walking her run out to the basketball foul line, modeling her clothes like a true runway model, and she was returning and explaining things all over again, starting with the burgundy shoes. She picked up the dolls and plopped back down on the couch. The couch responded.
There was a definite squeak-squeak of rusty chains as the swings out beyond the west door were getting a workout. Miraz briefly wondered if he could get high enough to go all of the way around.
“Colonel Nate. Yoo-who!” The southern belle was calling.
“Karen, my dear.” The Colonel with the long gray beard responded as he shuffled over. “You are looking mighty lovely this evening.”
“Kind of you to say.” Karen looked down, shyly and curtsied ever so slightly, her hoop skirts touching the ground with a subtle grace while the Colonel tipped his hat.
“And I declare there cannot be a lovelier dress in all of Georgia this evening.” The Colonel was not finished with the compliments.
“Why, this old thing? Karen said in perfect seriousness. “Fiddle-dee-dee.”
“Now, mam.” The Colonel got a sharp look in his eyes. “I hardly qualify for Rhett Butler.” He stroked his gray beard before pulling out his flask.
Karen opened her fan and hid her face for a moment to hide her rosy cheeks. She was hot and having a terrible time trying to breathe. She might have sat down, but she knew the hoops in her skirts would not let her.
“Care for a sip.” The Colonel held out his flask. “December and the frost of winter is just a short month away, y’all understand.”
“Why, Sirrah. I would be most pleased, but I beg you to think no less of me as a lady if I do.”
“I could never think so.”
The southern belle took a sip. “You are so kind.” She spoke with a harsh voice like one finding it hard to swallow. “Smoothe.” She added.
“To your health.” The Colonel said, taking a long swig. It was real Kentucky Bourbon, and despite their being all grown up, neither had tasted the like before. The Colonel managed to screw the lid back on before breaking out in a hacking cough. Karen patted him once or twice on the back. Then the Colonel pulled out a cigar, but immediately, a firefighter, a woman hefting a rather large axe, came trotting up.
“Don’t you dare light that.” She threatened.
The Colonel stuck the cigar unlit in his jaw while he gave the firefighter a dirty look. He held out his hands for his partner. “Would my Georgia Peach care to dance.”
“Truly, sirrah, I have kept my dance card empty awaiting your pleasure.”
They could not start dancing right away, though, because Babette, the French maid chose that moment to run by on those terrible spike high heels, screaming and waving her feather duster high in the air, making her super-mini skirt almost non-existent.