Charles Joeseph Smith



The Hustle Lady

A short story by Charles Joseph Smith


Rita Laver slumped her face as she approached her living room, trying to refresh her memories of the 1970's disco craze. She had longed for her lover who parted in 1981 for he was too obsessed with the hustle.

It is now 1991, and although Rita had danced several types of hustle with several good dance partners, she said, "I think that I feel that in my heart I do not have the great happy rhythm I experienced when I danced a lot in the past."

She even had a dance studio in her home to teach hustle to others, but now even that laid empty. "I can blame this to the newer dances that blew up to overtake what the hustle had left behind. There was the electric slide...breakdancing...2-step...and several others." Rita then catapulted from her living room chair and tried to gain some purpose she got from her previous dancing. "I had enough! I want to dance the hustle again!"

Rita Laver, who was about 5 feet tall and 140 pounds, was about to start her search for a lover that she lost to a breakup --though it didn't lead to a divorce.

One day, while walking down a busy city street of small stores and businesses, she heard a disco song above the first floor of Lila's Laundromat. It was coming from a cassette player in a dance studio owned by another person.

She tried to keep her hustle dancing secret when the moderate, driving beat and its funk-style sound reverberated in her senses for she felt too sad for her lover.

Yet even so, she could not be reticent. Realizing that the song was "Love Rollercoaster", she burst into excitement and danced her own style of hustle without a partner, and it was not just mere feigning of the dance. For example, she would do six continuous free spins with her hands tucked in--off the beat, finishing with a lateral lunge step and go back dancing into rhythm. "One, two and three and one, two and three," she said in a whisper as she continued dancing.

A few pedestrians noticed her moves and stopped to watch Rita for a moments. One of them, Bill, accosted her in the middle of her dance.

"What dance were you doin'?"

"I...was doing hustle."

"What type 'o hustle?"

"My own style of it!"

"Are 'ya really doin' it?"

"I'm doing my hustle based on the other types of hustle I have learned."

"And you think I can't lead you? In fact, I danced hustle before. Let me be your man." Rita raised her hand and he led her to an open space on the sidewalk.

The disco song still continued as Rita immediately threw Bill into a double underarm turn-checked turn combination; she threw him out into open position. Bill then spun Rita freely two times, and he took his left hand to stop her turning momentum. Next, while she stepped in place, Rita executed the slow free spin near him, counterclockwise. Then Bill and Rita did a series of 4 turning basics in two-handed open position; they were like rubber bands pulling and pushing each other. Rita's lively, curly hair was moving with her body.

But after the fourth turning basic, she slipped and fell on the sidewalk as if she was having a heart attack, and she cried. Rita fell on purpose when her dream of her past relationship hit him like lightning.

"What happened to you? You were doin'...pretty well."

"I lost a...I lost a love."

Bill assisted in getting her up but Rita refused several times, and she tried to wipe her tearful eyes by her hands. As the music ended, Bill tried to figure out what the name of the lover that Rita had lost. She moved her head from side to side several times. "I don't remember at all who he was."

The next day, Rita tried to remember her lover as she read some hustle instruction books in her apartment bedroom. Then she slammed one of those books down on the floor and decided to run outside with a greater concern then ever before.

She walked about seven miles an hour and thought if she did not know the name of that lost person, she would kill herself. One sidewalk block had a palm-reading business, and when Rita almost passed the sign, Green's Tarot and Palm-Reading Store. "I have to stop and go there! It is either that, or I will not dance the hustle ever again! I want to find that man who loved hustle as much as I did!"

As she came in, she went up one flight of stairs to the store's entrance and was appointed to the palm reader named Brenda. She was 41, 5'4", and 138 pounds, and had green eyes with a fair complexion. Moreover, she had a fairly, low voice and loved to wear gold rings on her fingers. Her other jewelry included 3 silver necklaces, 2 silver earrings, and 4 wrist rings.

The room Brenda worked in (when Rita came in) was brownish- green. It had a fair amount of light and an oak table with a candle inside a small, glass jar. It also had 2 small bookcases and a mahogany floor embellished with a Persian rug.

Brenda and Rita sat down and both took each other's palms on the table. Brenda then closed her eyes and after about 15 seconds, she started to see something in her client.(The table had two decks of tarot cards, but Brenda decided not to use them.)

"It seems that your name is Rita Laver, is that correct?"

"That's who I am." Rita did not even mention her name until then.

"That's a good-sounding name. I can see love dancing a lot?"

Rita smiled with enjoyment. "Yes, I love to dance hustle."

"I also seeing that have tried to find someone... that you really love... or have loved. And you are still looking for him?" Rita tried to turn her head away from Brenda's face but she forced herself to leer at her. "Yes. I have lost my lover and do not even know who she is." Brenda looked up at the ceiling to try to receive subliminal messages from Rita.

"I had looked in your eyes and...the stars up above say that you should look for a man with brown, curly hair, about 5'5", with a light complexion and medium build...and eyes. He will have a low voice, is Hispanic, and loves to wear green and blue. He will also have a tattoo of an eighth note...on his left wrist. His name...his name is Rosario."

Brenda explained further that this will be an impromptu encounter and it will take place inside a big ballroom dance venue in 8 days. "I know that this may be just a little bit far out but don't look for him now...he will come there and find you."

Several days later, Rita tried so hard to follow Brenda's advice but there were several struggles with Rita's patience and impatience. Her face sometimes was like a statue and she tried to look at other people as she accosted them. "There are so many people in the world! How could Brenda know it is Rosario?" Rita then smiled only a little but she prepared for the worst.

Then the eighth day after Brenda's reading came. As she picked up a newspaper from her front door and read it, she saw an ad that said a social and Latin ballroom dance would take place. It would be at the Daisy Fair Ballroom on Thursday night at seven in the evening, and it will involve 26 sets of dancing, including 3-4 dance sets of hustle. It was going to happen...tonight! Rita dropped the paper and jumped up and down in happiness. "Wow! This is really it!"

She put on her black dance shoes, black leotards that went to her knees, a red skirt and a black dress from her closet. Then she made her hair curly by going to the nearest beauty ship, where Sarah Alvina, her beautician, trimmed a little of her hair.

As night began, Rita was raising her eyes high, and stood up straight as she can, as she went out of her front door.

She walked a few blocks to part of a business district on Rogelio Street, where she waited for the No. 39 bus that would take her to the ballroom, which was at 3510 N. 14th Street, but she would have to walk three blocks south to get there as soon as the bus was near that place.

As she got off the bus, Rita could see the floodlights that marked over the main parking lot--and she knew she was about to be there. She also saw a green street sign, "14th Street", and her smile was more anticipatory as she walked out in the open. Suddenly, about 1 1/2 blocks into her walk, she saw a tall man who almost matched the description that Brenda was talking about during the palm reading. Rita then grinned in disappointment when she saw his yellow eyes--instead of the blue eyes. She put her right hand on her chin and decided to leave him alone without saying a word. Yet even so, her smile grew again as she saw the marquee, "Daisy Fair Ballroom" in yellow lights. She was trying to keep her head up, thinking that the "real Rosario" will be already in the ballroom. She also saw some people flocking to the place in formal or semi-formal attire.

Rita was shedding a couple of tears even after she went through the main entrance of Daisy Fair. Her heart was beating faster as she saw the people mingle or hold hands at the lobby area, which was mainly embroidered in gold and had 3 large chandeliers over a Persian-style carpet that had a red background. Rita saw the program containing the sets of dances. This was when her big moment came... the man she wanted from the palm reading came from the crowd from behind. He wore dark-green trousers and a light-blue shirt as he ran up to her, and when Rita turned around to see him, her arms were bent from her sides like a bird's wings and her chest was tightened up from the lower part to the upper part. Her eyes bulged, and she gazed.


"Is that you?"

"It's me, Rosario Amarillo." He shook her hand in a firm grip. "I missed you so much. What's your name?"

"Rita Laver. I can see that black eighth note on your wrist of yours." She also saw the beautiful blue eyes and she perceived his height as about 5 feet, 5 inches. "You have such a lovely, low voice."

Rita also recognized his medium-build body, and she ran up to Rosario with a great smile and embraced him. Then Rita looked up at Rosario. "Shall we get down?" Rosario blushed with lots of excitement. "We can!"

They went onto the dance floor just as the waltz music was about to end. The D.J. said, "Now we are going to have 2 songs of hustle. Are you ready?" Rita and Rosario were happy as they held in a 2-handed open position.

The first song was a rap version of "Staying Alive", which caused them to dance almost as fast as the music began. They started with passing basics, and Rosario led her into 4 check- steps, finishing with a waist turn where Rita goes around for 4 revolutions. Rita is then pushed away by him for 2 free spins until Rosario stops her. In the middle of the song, they both put their hands on each other's backs and execute the "spinning coaster" figure, and Rosario sends her out again into open position. He then wraps Rita by doing various turns--the coil turn, the reverse coil turn, and ending with a single loop turn to send Rita out again.

"Rosario, you're so good moving like this!" Rita began making a little bit more eye contact but she still concentrated on her following with Rosario. At that point, the song was almost coming to an end.

Rosario did not quit; he led her to more hustle moves. One was the "lady's hammerlock tuck--throwout tuck--coaster-finish" combination. Another was the crossed-hand preparation to the "pretzel--back hammerlock--catching finish" combination. They closed themselves together with hands behind their backs, and both spun around and looked at each other with smiles as they did the natural-top figure. As the song ended, Rosario was bending his back to catch his breath. "Let's sit down and have a rest... I would love to dance some more, Rita."

"You were very good at your moves, Rosario." They were about to go to the dining room table. Rosario's legs were a little heavy.

"O, please. I want to just sit back and look at the other dancers." "You were delightful out there. I was able to lead almost through every figure you threw at me. Hey, I like that next song. Come on and dance with me again!"

The dance mix song "In the Night" stirred Rita to take another dancing encounter with Rosario as the music seemed to bounce all over the ballroom with the driving bass beats. Rosario had to give in, although he was still a little expired. But as he started dancing the "rubber-band" turning basics with Rita, he was smiling as brightly as he did in the previous hustle song. Rita smiled back slowly.

He did almost every hustle figure in the dance: he tucked her in and out; he gave her inside and outside underarm turns; he spun her in solo turns, from 2 times up to 8 times; he brought her around in the coaster figures; he wrapped her to closed position in the pretzels and coil turns of several kinds. And she was the same Rita Laver, the hustle lady-- with Rosario's love for the hustle dance leading her in every move.

When they sat at one of the tables again to converse, Rita was now seeing Rosario with a strange smile and she leered at him a little with a flair.

"You were making me so excited! That was the most wonderful hustle we danced to in our life!"

"And what else have you been thinking of, Rita?"

"I guess...we will become soulmates right now. You seem like you are the kind of dance that delights my very own heart!"

Three months later, Rosario gave her a proposal to marry after their sixth time dancing at the Daisy Fair; outside of its entrance, Rita made a grand smile as tears began to roll from her eyes. Rosario responded by picking her up in a spinning lift in the air; some of the bystanders who saw this applauded. They got married after a four-week engagement and they still went to the Daisy fair to dance the other ballroom dances-- and of course, the hustle...


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