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Seeing this made me a bit self-conscious and I began looking around for a
dark corner where I could drink without being seen. My date still had me by the arm,
but I shook her off and moved toward one corner of the room. No one paid any
attention to me as I eased through the mob, bumping dancers here and there, keeping
my head lowered and moving cautiously toward what looked like a vacant spot.
A few feet to my left was a door and I edged toward it, bumping more
dancers. When I finally got outside I felt like I'd escaped from a jail. The air was cool
and the terrace was almost empty. I walked out to the edge and looked down on
Charlotte Amalie at the bottom of the hill. I could hear music floating up from the
bars along Queen Street. Off to my right and left I could see Land Rovers and open
taxis full of people moving along the waterfront, heading for other parties, other
yachts and dim-lit hotels where red and blue lights glittered mysteriously. I tried to
remember which other places we'd been told to go for the "real fun," and I wondered
if they were any better than this one.
I thought of Vieques, and for a moment I wanted to be there. I remembered
sitting on the hotel balcony and hearing the hoofbeats in the street below. Then I
remembered Zimburger, and Martin, and the Marines — the empire builders, setting
up frozen food stores and aerial bombing ranges, spreading out like a piss puddle to
every corner of the world.
I turned to watch the dancers, thinking that since I'd paid six dollars to get into
this place, I might as well try to enjoy it.
The dancing was getting wilder now. No more swaying fox-trot business.
There was a driving rhythm to the music; the movements on the floor were jerky and
full of lust, a swinging and thrusting of hips, accompanied by sudden cries and
groans. I felt a temptation to join in, if only for laughs. But first I would have to get
On the other side of the room I found Yeamon, standing by the entrance to the
hall. "I'm ready to do the dinga," I said with a laugh. "Let's cut loose and go crazy."
He glared at me, taking a long slug of his drink.
I shrugged and moved on toward the hall closet, where the button-down
bartender was laboring over the drinks. "Rum and ice," I shouted, holding my cup
aloft. "Heavy on the ice."
He seized it mechanically, dropped in a few lumps of ice, a flash of rum, then
he handed it back. I stabbed a quarter into his palm and went back to the doorway.
Yeamon was staring at the dancers, looking very morose.
I stopped beside him and he nodded toward the floor. "Look at that bitch," he
I looked and saw Chenault, dancing with the small, spade-bearded man we
had met earlier. He was a good dancer, and whatever step he was doing was pretty
involved. Chenault was holding her arms out like a hula charmer, a look of tense
concentration on her face. Now and then she would spin, swirling her madras skirt
around her like a fan.
"Yeah," I said. "She's hell on this dancing."
"She's part nigger," he replied, in a tone that was not soft.
"Careful," I said quickly. "Watch what you say in this place."
"Balls," he said loudly.
Great Jesus, I thought. Here we go. "Take it easy," I said. "Why don't we head
back to town?"
"Fine with me," he replied. "Try talking to her." He nodded at Chenault,
dancing feverishly just a few feet away.