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Step In Time

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It’s for the convenience it might add to a cover, to be honest.

The fewer number of questions the family asks, the fewer questions he’ll have to dodge, and the fewer people he has to worry about when he’s out in the field. If that means wiggling his booty to the sound of ‘Shake your Groove Thing’, so be it.

The class was led by a female majority, and he brooked no arguments with the way the social pecking order was arranged. There was warm, stale-tasting coffee and some low-fat cookies…well, they appeared to be cookies, not chunks of cardboard with raisins embedded. It’s easy enough to stomach, and he smiles and nods whenever someone speaks to him. That there’s a very tall man among their suburban horde is less an unusual transgression to their social group than Susan humping her ex-husband’s sister.

He will – almost in spite of himself – remember every single thing he’s been told today and take it back to headquarters with him. The wages of an eidetic memory. He’ll probably know Janet’s muffin recipe and all about Susan’s uncle’s hernia problem.

***
It takes a few weeks for him to admit that the whole process is a lot more fun than anticipated. Maybe he does have his father’s fondness for dance in him, or maybe he’s simply naturally fleet of foot. But whatever it is, he takes to the stomping rhythm of a Zumba beat. He learns how to dip his hips and do full donkey rolls. He masters the sensation of moving along to the beat, enthralled by it all.

When he comes to the next family reunion, his mother is impressed by his sudden display of elegance. He swept her around the floor, and she stared up at him in adoring delight.

“How did you learn how to do all of this!?” She wondered.

“Mom, I took four years of tap and three of ballet.” And a few more of jazz, though he had no idea if that counted. “You had to know I’ve been light on my feet for ages.”

She dipped her shoulders, but moved in rhythm with him. “You’re always so mysterious, sweetheart. Always off doing things, acquiring new skills. I remember that time you went to a conference in Las Vegas and came home speaking perfect French.”

“That was a special instance. A lovely diplomat’s widow insisted on teaching me during a carpet cleaning demonstration.”

“Well, she sounds like she was a peach,” his mother snorted. “Why didn’t you bring her home? We could’ve painted plates at Color Me Mine.”

“I don’t think the Archdutchess of D’pence D’Boutinee would be interested in squatting next to water colors,” he said.

“Well she sounds like a snob!”

“Less a snob than…part of typically rarified cultures.”

“So a snob with money.”:

He laughed. “Well if the shoe fits…”

“Well. One can never assume with such things,” she said. “You shouldn’t be spending so much time with her, then.”

“I would never dream of it,” he sighed. He tucked his head against his mother’s shoulder, smelled her Wind Song, and thought to himself that he’d never forget how to do a proper Zumbalike dance step.

***

Six weeks later, Susan had had her hernia operation and he had a pretty good idea of what the secret ingredient in the salsa Emily was selling had to be (probably cactus blossoms, if the tip of his tongue’s swelling was any sort of clue). He could do a proper hot jazz lead and could swing with the best of them. His coordination was getting better. He could even manage to climb up to a more professional level and dazzle their teacher. There was something terrific about his speed – and he couldn’t tell the women exactly why he was so speedy at the art of the dance – it simply was a fact of life.

He went to lunch with a few of the girls at TGI Fridays and had an entire plate of cheeseburger sliders while mentally planning out an infiltration of a dictator’s lair. His life was…well, unique.

***

“You really are taking Zumba classes!”

He winced back from the phone as his mother’s voice rung out into his ear. “Yes mom, I’ve been taking them.” Well, it wasn’t as if it was a secret, but he’d been pulling a bullet from a compatriot’s arm with a pair of improvised-from-cocktail-skewer-tweezers when she’d called.

“I didn’t believe you when you told me at first, but Mary Aranzo said she saw you out by the A&P with Sylvia Witlock and her class dancing out in the street.”

“We were bringing the joy of Zumba to Applegate!” His friend let out a low moan as he pulled the bullet free.

His mother hummed thoughtfully. “Back playing your video games again?”

“Yes,” he said, and stifled Jose’s moans. “And I think I just got a triple high score!”

“I do hope you’re having fun,” she said. “And there’ll be plenty of leftover meatloaf when you come by on Sunday.”

“Can’t wait,” he said, and poured alcohol on Jose’s gaping wound.

***

He keeps it up. No matter what country he’s in, no matter what he’s doing – no matter who he’s playing – or who he’s seducing – he always manages to find a class. There are new women, smart women who nod along and are completely willing to pretend he’s a normal guy with a normal job.

He kickdances his way through life – knee in face and face in palm – until he got the chance to teach a little bit of Zumba to somebody else. He ended up with thirty pounds more in muscle mass and thighs that could crack walnuts. It made him a better spy and a better son, his reflexes quick and smooth.

Eventually he retired to teach Zumba himself. In passing the gift along to many other people – children, old ladies, housewives, students - he the student became the master – and his days of dancing duplication finally came to an end.