Winter Dance


In the short story "Winter Dance" John O'Hara "memorialized" (that's the word he used) the winter of 1922-1923, when he (fifteen or sixteen) and Margaretta Archbald (four to six years older) fell in love. Here are excerpts from this powerful story:

     "Hello, Teddy."
      He turned. "Hello, Nat," he said.
     "Finish your cigarette, Ross. I'll dance with Teddy." . . . .
      She took his arm and they marched to the far end of the room. She greeted friends along the way, but said nothing to the boy. Then she held up her arms and said, "All right?" and they began to dance. He was good, and he had self-confidence because he was good. She was good, and she liked dancing with him. There was no need to talk, and at this end of the room people got out of the way. They got all through two choruses of "Stumbling" before the music stopped. "Oh, that was grand," she said. She applauded with him.
      "Shall we sit down?" said the boy.
      "Well, I think I'd better find our crowd."
      "Don't do that, Nat. Please?" said the boy.
      "No, Teddy. I must, really," she said. "Cut in later."
      "Couldn't we just sit down a minute?"
       She shook her head. "You know they'll only kid you."
      "Oh, you know that?"
      "Uh-huh. They kid me too, don't forget."
      "They do. Who does?"
      "Oh, my crowd. Same as your crowd kids you."
      "You're not sore at me because they kid you."
      "Of course not. And don't you be embarrassed, either."
      "You know it's all my fault, Nat," said the boy.
       She hesitated. "You mean on account of the postcard?"
      "I showed it to everybody. I shouldn't have."
      "Well, if I felt like sending a friend of mine a postcard," she said.
      "But I went around bragging about it, and showing it to everybody."
      "Well, if you wanted to. I don't even remember what I said on the card."
      "'You would love it here. Lots of good trout fishing. Have gone on two pack trips. See you at Christmas. Natalie.' And a picture of the ranch."
      "I remember," she said. "Not very incriminating, was it? Will you take me over to their table now, Teddy?"
     "And your word of honor you're not annoyed with me."
     "Only if you let them embarrass you," she said.
     "I don't have to say it, do I? You know, don't you? You do know?"
     "She nodded. "Give me your arm," she said.

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