Wantonness, Lasciviousness, & Folly
by Bridgette M. Yaxley

Violet would be the last one to join her family this warm summer's eve at a dance held the third Saturday of every month at a large farmhouse just down the road, about half a mile from her family's home. It was usually quite an affair, drawing people of all ages from villages in Orleans County, such as Clarendon, Albion, Byron, and Medina. The dances were well attended. Some walked while others came by horse-drawn carriage, and there was growing curiosity as to who might be next to roll up in a Model T. Even Violet's pastor was punctual, not only blessing each event, but jubilantly accompanying her cousin's violin playing with his viola. Dances also commonly featured boisterous sounds echoing from a mighty Victrola phonograph that stood erect in the corner of the large dining room as attendees engaged with one another. A genuine Victor Talking Machine crooned familiar songs occasionally heard on the radio or rare treats when someone quickly ran over to The Frank Levan Company in Medina to spend 85 cents on a new 78. Violet's friend, Ester, often turned the crank to make the turntable spin, adjusting the needles, and introducing songs. Having such a responsibility made Ester very happy, and gave Violet and the entire community something to look forward to each month.

This evening's dance was quite different, however. The air was thick, the summer was coming to an end, and Violet had intentionally lingered behind after her mother and father, siblings, and driver all left, taking the family's horse-drawn carriage to the dance. Promising she would join them shortly, Violet could hear the clippity cloppity sounds of the horses' newly shod hooves growing softer as they slowly strolled away toward the house down the road. The driver held the harness tight, guiding the freshly brushed and fed steeds toward their familiar destination.

Once the carriage was out of sight, Violet took a bowl of freshly picked elderberries from her lap, opened the screen door, walked quickly into the house, and placed them into the icebox to use later. Then she removed the flowery apron from around her neck, folded the garment in great haste, and buried it in the pantry linen drawer quite haphazardly. Slamming that drawer shut, Violet glanced momentarily to see if anyone else was around before rescuing her hidden stash of Ladies Home Journal magazines that were hiding behind two enormous sacks of flour. She immediately began anxiously thumbing through one of the magazines, then pausing to glance upward and take inventory of the aqua-colored shelving in the pantry which contained her father's shaving mug and mirror, razor blade, facial brush, shaving powder, and scissors. Knowing that her father used a leather strap to sharpen all of his blades, Violet thought these clippers might be a tad sharper than those sitting in her mother's sewing box next to the old Singer in the alteration room. Walking from the pantry, she borrowed the shears after folding back the pages of one particular image in the most recent issue of the Journal, utterly fascinated with information on fashionable trends and who was setting the standard out in Hollywoodland.

Almost seventeen and standing just shy of six feet tall, long-legged, raven-haired Violet desired to make a strong and lasting impression on a young man of the same age named Vernon. He was a handsome, blond, rugged farmer who worked his family's land and was the apple of every young girl's eye at that moment. When Violet was anywhere near Vernon, she could hardly breathe and found herself rambling uncontrollably, even though their families had known each other for a lifetime. To Violet, Vernon was the "cat's meow," and there was no one else alive she had her sights set on. Quite possibly, Violet thought, she could accomplish her goal without saying anything at all.

She scampered through the kitchen to the dining room and up the winding staircase to the second floor of her family's modest Victorian home. She made it quickly down the long corridor to the bathroom where she spread out that latest edition of the Ladies Home Journal and went to work. After a while, the sun began to set, and Violet powdered her porcelain image in the mirror, slathering on a layer of Bordeaux-colored lipstick before setting the scissors carefully on the vanity. She turned her head to and fro, taking in this new look, washing her hands with Lux Toilet Soap. With a dab of Erasmic perfume behind each ear, Violet left the bathroom to change, abandoning the corset that had imprisoned and tormented her ribcage for years. She breathed a sigh of relief while fastening a button on her soft blue dress, finally tying a green scarf just below and around her hips like the image portrayed. She paused momentarily to glance at herself in the large oval-shaped mahogany mirror, drawing comparisons to the picture in the magazine before heading quickly out of the room and through the corridor, down the spiral staircase, through the dining room, and out the front door. Excitedly, Violet imagined Vernon unable to take his eyes from her once he saw her at the dance. The very thought of captivating Vernon, a young farmer with dreamy blue eyes, oxen-strong shoulders, and a sensational smile that could melt freshly churned butter, made Violet walk down that dirt road in great haste and with a skip in her step.

Violet was now walking toward the dance, but she had to take a moment to catch her breath. She was experiencing a kind of weightlessness that she had never known, a sense of freedom, a lightness and awakening, an exhilarating feeling that she was taking in everything around her, but as a new woman. She felt alive for the first time and ready to experience life from a new perspective. Continuing toward the dance, guided by the moonlight and her own perseverance, Violet could hear the echoes of shoe-stomping revelry and laughter accompanied by music in the well-lit house just a short distance away.

Confidently taking the front yard now, Violet observed several horses tied to posts among carriages and two awkwardly parked Tin Lizzies scattered about the property of this large country house. A warm breeze filled the evening air, and stars speckled the sky. As she approached the front porch staircase, two farmhands minding carriages and horses immediately removed their hats. Jacob squinted to see if his eyes were playing tricks on him, looking her up and down in great shock before asking, "Miss Violet, is that really you?" Before she could reply, Everett circled Violet and, noticing there was something significantly different about her, inquired if she was alright. She laughed at their shock and dismay, enjoying their reaction, and replied, "Thank you boys, everything's just swell!" Violet politely excused herself as the two farmhands returned to tend to the horses, stunned.

She took a deep breath, slowly turning the doorknob, knowing there was no turning back. Violet now glided elegantly into the dance, watching people waltz in three-quarter time until everyone and everything suddenly stopped. The entire event came to a grinding halt - including the music. Ester was so shocked by Violet's transformation that she gasped and accidentally dropped her brand new copy of "The Wang Wang Blues" by Willy Metschke, shattering it on the floor. At that very moment, people were frozen from shock, and all eyes were fixed on Violet's profound change, but Violet wasn't bothered by this one bit. The moment she had walked into the large dining hall, Violet and Vernon had found each other, immediately locking eyes, exchanging a smile and a certain kind of glance that does not require the art of conversation to understand. They spoke without words. Vernon clearly admired Violet's gumption and rebellious spirit. She could already sense this in the way he was watching her.

At that moment, it seemed as if everyone was waiting for someone else to breathe, to move, to say something. Without hesitating, Vernon walked directly toward Violet, their eyes still surveying each other in a wanton manner. Violet's mother's face quickly grew grim, and she shouted, "Oh, for the Land of Goshen child! Why did you cut your long hair, and where are the sleeves of your dress? You will go home this very minute and put on some proper clothing. Right this minute!" Violet just continued to smile at Vernon, acting as if she was immune to the world around her, as he approached from across the room.

Holding onto the cross hanging around her neck, Violet's mother was now asking for her husband, short of breath and furious that she was being ignored. Quickly sitting down, feeling faint and humiliated, Violet's mother began uttering segments of the Lord's Prayer every time she mustered the momentary strength to glance at her daughter's bobbed hair and clothing. The sight of her daughter's altered appearance absolutely terrified her.

With gentlemanly charm, Vernon offered to walk Violet home, but before anyone could utter another word, Violet's mother jumped up from where she was catching her breath to bark, "No! You will not! You can visit us accompanied by your own mother after church since my daughter feels so obliged to go to extreme measures to flatter you, young man." With that in mind, Violet left the dance to make that short journey home to change into clothing that her mother felt made her look like a proper young woman; however, she did so with a confidence and assurance that life wouldn't be so constrained from that point on. Remembering the look that she and Vernon exchanged when he carefully assisted her into the family carriage, Violet knew this was just the beginning of something wonderful, and that her plan had been successful…in more ways than one.

Return to complete issue »

comments powered by Disqus