Otto alternated between moments of slow-dance bliss with Rayette Lewis and fast-dance imitations of a Tahitian Fire Walker. In his blue suit Otto looked like the world's biggest, toughest stockbroker, and Rayette in her long sky-blue robes looked like an African angel.
We spent most of our time right near the bandstand, dancing and watching our friend Damon Thuringer, the Sausage Man as we called him, play his flute. Sausage was no killer on the mat at 103 pounds, but with a flute in his hand he was armed and dangerous. Actually, Sausage was a prodigy. The band he played with was composed of all college guys except for Sausage. They traveled around the Northwest and made a lot of money. Sausage wanted to go on the road with them, but he was only 16 and his folks wouldn't let him.
The band took its break at midnight and Sausage came down beaming and saying hi to everybody. We all told him how great he was and Carla gave him a friendly kiss on the lips. Sausage's blush could be seen even through all the flashing lights. "My first groupie of the new year," he said. We all said how sorry we were that he couldn't leave early and come to dinner at Konigi's house with us. He said it was O.K., though, working musicians had to make sacrifices.
We stayed for one more song before heading for Mike's house for the late-night supper he had suggested. Sausage and the lead guitar player took turns with a favorite melody of theirs. They played so clean and sharp. It was funny to see Sausage do something so well and with so much poise. You never would have guessed that most of the time he was just a dumb kid like us. Carla leaned back against me and watched the band and banged her head softly against my chest the way little babies will. The mood was one to be savored. The companionship and shelter of high school would end with June graduation. Sure, we vowed not to let the outside world separate us, but we all knew it eventually would. Each of us, though, would be left with comfortable memories of nights like this one, and I wanted to remember the events of the New Year's dance just as they happened. We drifted contentedly with the music until Sausage was finished.
The Konigi house looked like a shopping center, there were so many cars. I hadn't expected so many people to be there. Mrs. Konigi greeted us at the door and led us into the dark dining room. Many dark shapes stood around the long table. Nobody said anything for a second or two, and I began to feel self-conscious. Then Carla put her fingertip lightly on my forearm and whispered close to my ear, "Surprise!"
Mrs. Konigi switched on the lights, revealing Coach, the entire Evergreen wrestling team and assorted girl friends. Mike led me to the head of the table and sat me down. I was the guest of honor. Platters of sashimi, steak teriyaki, rice balls wrapped in seaweed, almond chicken and other yummies were spread across the table.
But not in front of me. In front of me sat a plate heaped with steaming spinach. A small gold flag protruded from the green glob like a buttercup from a cow pie. On the gold flag was printed in green, GOOD LUCK, TERRY.