The time was 11:52. PM. Me and the fellas were heading for the Ragtime after a little soft-shoe over on Main Street when we heard it. Bass. Walking.
“Snap!” I held up my fist and my crew clicked to a stop and cocked their heads eagerly. Yeah, that’s them. The Denim Boys.
“Cool!” Flicked my wrist on the upbeat and Jumpin’ Jonesy hit the sticks. The hi-hat: our cue to stretch. I waited ’til I saw their shadows on the alley wall in front of us shrinking. They were coming, alright. And from the looks of it, they had their rumble shoes on.
“Sizzle…” It doesn’t take much to get the boys riled when they’re nice and limber. A quick arabesque into a cabriole and we were heading toward the corner, hissing like deadly venomous snakes.
We skipped to a halt just as they came sashaying around into view, head scoundrel Razamatazz leading the way.
“Been too long, Jazzhands.” Him.
“Not long enough, Razamatazz.” Me.
You know something’s going to hit the fan when the snapping starts. And that something is shit.
“Why don’t you just shuffle-off-to-Buffalo and save yourself some trouble Razz.”
The town clock struck twelve. His face instantly crinkled and his arms flew up, graceful, like a swan. “Show ’em what you can do, gentlemen.”
It began. Razz and I locked eyes and circled slowly, slinking like leopards. Meantime, the fellas broke into their routine. Brush wing, fallap step heel, drawback, paddlestep, repeat. Sure it was simple. But we weren’t any grade school tap dancers. In fact, we weren’t even allowed to talk about grade school tap dancers.
“Pow! Whiz! Slap!!” GAA Razz lunged, throwing three good ones my way. I countered with a “Bizbam slappity-bang!”
And then all hell broke loose.
The gangs slammed into each other. Violently. Delicately. Razz was hitting me with everything he had. But I whipped up a riff of my own so smooth I had to serve it with some shortcake. Razz was stunned. I was hungry.
“That’s a little something we like to call talent, Razz. You might want to try a helping sometime.”
“Heh. You look thirsty,” he said coolly picking up on my metaphor, “looks like you could use some High-C Fruit Punch!” He hit the note and threw out his fist. Luckily for me, he threw like Johnny B. and Johnny B. liked to practice that scene. I dodged it with an elegant pirouette and grabbed his collar. I was about to serve him up my five-knuckle club when the boys in the band hit a brassy climax and the music paused.
Time for the group number. Just my luck.
Entrechat, rond de jambe en l’air, Grande Jete; we danced the dance of beautiful battle. And when we were finished I tapped out a scuff-spank dig-toe and gave Razz a ball change he wouldn’t forget. Then I threw some cornstarch in his eyes.
“No one, but no one, taps on our streets,” I sang. The boys backed me up by chanting “no one” on one and three. It was done.