“The Sock Hop” by Carly Berg

Categories: ISSUE 03: Edgar

The Sock Hop

Bitsy arrived at the church bake sale and put her special lemon bread with the other goodies. “Whoa, that’s a big table. Let me give you a hand,” she said to her new friend, Alice. Bitsy never dreamed she and Hal would move away and have to make a whole new set of friends after thirty years of marriage. But Hal had wanted the big promotion.

They carried the table outdoors, Bitsy walking backwards. From the other end, Alice said, “Are you going to the Sock Hop next Saturday?”

“What is it? Everyone I ask says, ‘Just wait,’ and laughs. If it’s not a dance, then what?”

“Well, they don’t like to tell everyone. But since y’all have officially joined the church, it’s okay. A few years back, the pastor got tired of too much bickering among the women and–“

Bitsy backed into Marlene Johnson, sending Marlene’s German chocolate cake out of her grasp, and out of its box. It plopped out onto the sidewalk and broke apart. Bitsy yelped, a nervous laugh.

“That’s not funny,” Marlene said, louder than necessary. “That’s not funny at all.” The chatter around the tables stopped.

“Oops, sorry, Marlene! Come on, Bitsy, let’s put this table over there.” Alice steered Bitsy and the table out of the ugly moment.

Bitsy was grateful, behind her burning face. Genteel, that’s what Alice was. “Thanks. I didn’t mean to laugh.”

“Of course you didn’t.” She lowered her voice. “What kind of homemade cake comes in a cardboard box anyway?”

Storebought cake. For a bake sale. Tacky.

Later, Bitsy glanced up from selling a strudel. She laughed her nervous little yelp because Marlene glared daggers at her.

O Typekey Divider

Bitsy and Hal got to the church basement at two in the afternoon. She was surprised at what appeared to be a makeshift boxing ring. Thick red ropes ran from pole to pole in a square. Gym mats covered the floor, or maybe they were nap mats from the Mother’s Day Out program. Several rows of folding chairs were set up, and most already contained church members.

Alice approached, looking flustered. “You’re on the list, Bitsy. You’re first. That Marlene is so common. I can’t believe–“

The pastor began his speech and Alice hurried back to her seat.

Bitsy heard his words but they floated, she could not quite connect them. She tried to get Hal’s attention. He had leaned forward in his seat and seemed quite focused on the pastor’s words.

They were going to make her fight.

She had to get out. Bitsy rushed up the stairs. The pastor stopped speaking. Someone giggled.

The door was locked.

In the seventh grade, some tough girls were after her. She had faked a stomach ache for two weeks and hid out at home.

“Bitsy, it’s time,” the pastor said, from the bottom of the stairs. Bitsy meekly trudged back down them.

“Shoes off,” said a man she didn’t know. After taking off her shoes, she climbed between the ropes and into the ring, her heart pounding. The man tied her wrists behind her back. “Kicking only,” he said.

Bitsy scanned the crowd for help. Hal gave her a thumbs up sign, and a picture of them on Divorce Court flashed through her mind. How dare he just sit there. What a stupid, useless man. Alice looked ready to cry. The other fifty people seemed impatient for the show to begin.

In the ring, Marlene hopped up and down, popping her bubblegum like a hardcore thug.

The man Bitsy didn’t know said, “Ding, ding, ding, ding.” He was a bell-shaped man. She wondered, wildly, if that’s why he was chosen. Marlene bounced into Bitsy’s space, driving her backwards. Bitsy cowered. Everyone hated her. Everyone wanted to watch her get beat up.

Marlene yelled, “Whoop!” and kicked her.

Bitsy stared at her.

People hollered instructions. Some got out of their seats. “Kick her,” said Hal. “Get her. Don’t just stand there!”

Enraged, Bitsy curved around Marlene and kicked with all her strength, right in her big, fat butt.

“Owie!” Marlene bleated. The crowd cheered. For Bitsy. They had cheered for her.

Hal yelled, “Kick her again. Don’t fight like a girl. Get her!” He pantomimed kicking. Sweat beaded his face.

Furious, Bitsy kicked Marlene hard a couple more times, with her heel, so as not to hurt her toes.

“Waaah,” brayed Marlene, running around the ring.

Bitsy pursued. A children’s song played in her mind, Ankles, elbows, feet and seat, feet and seat. Kick.

The crowd went nuts.

“Ding, ding, ding, ding,” yelled the bell-shaped man. Bitsy ignored him. Here’s for the time mother slapped me. And for when my first fiance dumped me. For the girls who picked on me. Kick, kick, kick.

“Whoa, my tigress, that’s enough.” Hal seemed elated, pulling her out of the ring, holding her arms up in the air. People pushed in around her, everyone wanted to be near her.

Before long, two other women got into the ring.

Bitsy’s breathing slowed. Hal hadn’t seemed so mesmerized over her in many years. Bitsy caught Marlene’s gaze, and glared daggers back. If Marlene got smart again, Bitsy would give her a fresh one. When Bitsy met Alice’s gaze, Alice turned away.

Story by Carly Berg
Background photo by Doriana Maria
Foreground photo by Clay Brandt
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