Dolores McDougal believed breaking wind was an act of God. She embraced this natural phenomenon with the full-blooded gusto worthy of divine gifts, openly sharing her odoriferous benedictions whenever the spirit moved her. Dolores’ zeal for her credo set the town biddies of West Ambrosia to tongue-wagging of the highest order.
“It’s a blessing she was orphaned at such a young age,” declared Mrs. Theodore F. Wanamaker. “Her parents would have died of mortification if they were alive.”
The rest of the West Ambrosia Ladies Auxiliary tsktsked sympathetically at this fate of cruel redundancy.
“She’s certain to end up an old maid,” Mrs. Wanamaker concluded.
Her fellow Auxiliary members all agreed, before moving on to their next order of business, the annual Bachelor Auction for the West Ambrosia Order of the Flower Pot.
Despite her glossy obsidian locks, va-va-voom cleavage, and legs that rivaled the best the Rockettes had to offer, Dolores’ commitment to natural gas had indeed cost her a few suitors, weak-willed souls unable to endure her regular assaults on their olfactory organs. On the other hand, her unorthodox bodily enthusiasm managed to secure her the reputation as the town’s Free Spirit, which, to Dolores, was worth a thousand men.
Along with her penchant for flatulence, Dolores had an absolute and abiding passion for dancing of all kinds—line-dancing, Zydeco, tango, clog, polka, disco, merengue, and even the Irish two-step. When there was a dance floor to be found, no amount of cajoling could keep Dolores away. The problem was once Dolores hit the dance floor, she cut loose with everything she had. Everything. At the first whiff of her redolent expulsions, the crowd parted like the Red Sea.
Dolores didn’t seem to give a rip, if you’ll pardon the expression. In fact, some amongst West Ambrosia’s upper crust claimed Dolores did it on purpose so she’d have more room for the carefree contortions and gymnastic gyrations she called dancing. Whatever the case, the fact remained, when Dolores was dancing, she had the spotlight all to herself. That is, until she met Alberto Ledbetter.
Alberto wasn’t much to look at—bald head and a face only a gnome could love. Though age had shrunk him from a respectable height of 5 feet 8 inches to something more suitable for a male gymnast, he still had the square shoulders, barrel chest, and bullfighter’s legs of his youth. What truly set Alberto apart; however, was his prowess on the dance floor. He didn’t just cut a rug; he wove a Persian tapestry. In his arms, every woman transformed into Ginger Rogers. The women of West Ambrosia loved him, and he loved them all back with his own special brand of chivalry. He considered it a point of honor to dance with every lady in the place, regardless of age, size, race, creed, or physical detriments. He was a democratic lothario.
The moment Alberto met Dolores quickly entered the annals of West Ambrosia legend. It was Saturday night at Duffy’s Bar and Grill, a local joint that drew clientele from every walk of life and stewed them into a veritable American ragout on its cozy dance floor. For West Ambrosians, Duffy’s defined “old school.” Ancient license plates and gas station signs dating back to the golden age of honky-tonk covered the walls. The men with the most wrinkles and the fewest hairs on their heads inevitably proved the best dance partners. Any customer under the age of 45 had a deep-seated love of swing dancing, foxtrot, bow ties, and zoot suits. Even the onion rings had vintage rust around the edges.
Like many owners of the local venues, Duffy had resorted to extreme measures to keep Dolores McDougal’s windy presence from invading his establishment. He posted a lookout half a mile down the road by the prize pay phone at the Terwilliger Grange. (The town council had declared the Grange pay phone a protected historic landmark on account of West Ambrosia’s notoriously bad cellphone service. There was even a brass plaque to commemorate this vaunted status.) Nineteen-year old Billy Kerpletsky was Duffy’s designated scout. Armed with a roll of quarters, Billy would stand on the corner by the Grange and keep an eye out for Dolores McDougal’s telltale silhouette against the neon glow of the commercial strip. At the first sign of her swaying hips, he’d duck inside the phone booth and call Duffy. Then the cry would ring out in the bar—“McDougal sighting!” Duffy would unplug the jukebox and shut down the master electrical switch while his patrons pulled the shades and blew out all the stubby candles on the tables. Everyone would sit there in the dark until Billy gave the all-clear. In exchange for Billy’s services, on $2 beer nights, Duffy turned a blind eye to the young rascal’s fuzzy Xeroxed fake ID.
In every other respect, the residents of West Ambrosia were known for their generosity of heart and friendly demeanor. But in this one area, their cruel exclusion of Dolores McDougal from terpsichorean revels, they had developed what could only be called a mean streak. This rankled Alberto Ledbetter. It disturbed his democratic ideals and sense of fair play.
“You’re all a bunch of hypocritical bullies,” he announced on that fateful night at Duffy’s.
It was early spring, just after Valentine’s Day, and the romantic mood in West Ambrosia had raised Alberto’s knightly graces to a fever pitch, conjuring visions in his mind of cheek-to-cheek waltzes, long-lost friendship rings, and leisurely picnics by the shores of Lake Bilgewater. In short, Alberto Ledbetter was contemplating monogamy.
“Hush!” whispered Suzette Pieswatter, Duffy’s youngest legal customer, from her hiding place in the corner. “Dolores will hear you.” Billy had sounded the alarm mere moments before, and darkness and secrecy had already descended on the bar.
Burly, bulldog-faced Floyd Flintswitch pshawed at her. “She’s half a block away yet.”
Suzette threw her hands in the air. “I’m just saying. She’s got ears like a greyhound.” While the validity of this comment on Dolores’ auditory appendages was questionable, nobody could argue that her sleek figure and long legs bore some resemblance to the dog in question.