Southside

It was the summer of 1949. The night was alive with energy. The oppressive heat of the day gave way to a refreshing breeze. The clink of my cooling Maserati A6 as I pulled up. The look on the valet’s face as I threw him the keys. You could tell the kid was gassed. A red carpet ran up the steps to the clubs entrance. There I was confronted by a pretty señorita, shadowed by a man who wore a mustache shaped like the horns of a bull.

I withdrew a card from the inner pocket of my tux, and handed it to the girl with a flick of the wrist.

She looked from the card to me, inquisitively, “Miles, C-op-land?”

“Copeland, Miles Copeland,” I corrected with a smile.

She stepped to the side, nodding at the muscle, “Welcome to the Mama Rumba, Señor Copeland.”

The bouncer lifted the rope, and I made my way inside. As soon as I stepped into the main hall, the rhythm of the music hit me hard. I wanted to flip my wig and give in to the beat of the drums. Instead I made my way to the bar. The barman was busy. He acknowledged me with a nod as he continued to mix drinks for a large group of young women. Their drinks lined the counter in an impressive rainbow.

I surveyed my environment. It was a large space, held up by pillars on either side, leading to the main stage at the far end; an impressive platform, surrounded by palm trees, where a sizeable band – piano, brass, strings, drums – drove the beat through the room. Below the band, people danced the mambo. It was like voodoo. The hypnotic way those guys and gals moved their bodies. People dined either side of the hall. Their eyes glued upon on the dancers.

The song ended. The music paused. A moment of silence. All eyes were drawn to center-stage. Then, emerging from between the palm trees, out stepped a woman. A woman of considerable beauty. She wore a blue dress, sapphire to match the stones in her earrings. Her skin was milky white, and the red hair that framed her face made it obvious that she wasn’t from Mexico City. She took a clear breath, filling her lungs, and began to sing.

Her voice rang out, and her body started to move. She danced with the soul of the song. Each movement a word. It took a few seconds for the band to catch on, as they seemed just as mesmerized as the audience. Then the room was back into the full swing of things. Folk were twirling, whirling and tripping all across the dance floor. I was knocked out of my trance by the not-so-subtle sound of a cough behind me. I turned to face the bartender.

“Beautiful, isn’t she?” The barman said, pointing as he cleaned a glass.

“She’s something,” I said, “Do you know her name?”

“Madame Blanche. Charlet Blanche.“ He said, with a knowing smile. “What will it be, Señor?”

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