Excerpt of Maybe A Miracle by Brian Strause
(Page 3 of 4)
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Lazarus keeps the tuxedoes on the fourth floor in the back. I wanted to get one
in baby blue, just to make it clear I wasn't taking the prom seriously, but
Annika would have none of that. "Monroe," she said, "you'll look
back at pictures of yourself and wonder what you were thinking. Is that what you
I look at myself in the mirror and cringe as it is. I can't imagine how looking
back on photos will be any different.
She insisted on a classic cut. "You'll look like William Powell and Emily
will be Myrna Loy . . . or better yet Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire."
Annika wants to be a dancer. She watches those old movies all the time.
When I came out of the dressing room, she came right up to me all serious,
brushed off my lapels, and asked, "May I have this dance?" I'm telling
you, she's going to break some hearts someday, she really will. You'll see.
"Of course, my lady." I know it sounds kind of gay, dancing with your
sister like that, especially in public. But we've always danced together. It's
the one thing my mother insisted on, dance lessons. "There are a lot of
things you can fake in this life and dancing is not one of them," she said.
It's right up there with, "People always say dance like no one's watching,
but the thing to remember is this: they are watching and you can bet they wish
they were dancing, too."
Annika and I used to dance all the time. It didn't matter that I have about a
foot and a half on her; she could always keep up. It wasn't cheesy, you know,
like at weddings when you see old people dancing with little girls. She really
knew what she was doing.
People at school used to call me a faggot because I took dance class, like it
was something to be ashamed of. And it worked. I was ashamed. Being called a
faggot will do that to you. I wanted to quit and Mom would have let me too. But
first she asked me one question: "So what do the boys who call you names do
at the school dances?" I told her they all hang around on the edges. They
don't dance at all. "That's interesting. You're dancing with girls and
they're not, yet you're the faggot." Sometimes the most obvious things go
right over your head when you're a kid.
We finished with a big dip and the clerks all clapped. It figures, they sell
Annika never worried if people laughed at her. She always assumed everyone else
was in on the joke and I've always assumed the joke was on me. When I was eleven
I was mortified if I wasn't wearing the right shoes to school. But Annika just
never cared what other people thought. Maybe if you don't care, other people
don't care much either. Maybe it's like how dogs only bite people who are afraid
After they made some alterations, we got milk shakes at the old-fashioned
fountain on the fourth floor. There was no one else there. It was just us and
Sam, the old black man who works the counter. He's been working at Lazarus
forever. Sam's a nice man, but kind of slow. Mom says he's thickjust like his
"It doesn't look like anyone comes here much anymore," I said.
"They don't, son, they sure don't," Sam said as he continued polishing
the counter, not missing a beat. He concentrated his efforts on one spot,
gliding his hands over and over it again.
I inhaled my shake, but Annika took her time. She said, "Mr. Sam, you make
the best milk shakes in the world."
He just smiled and kept rubbing that one spot, considering the praise. Then he
looked up at us and said, "I wish I could make more."
When I was a kid, before they built a new mall next door, Lazurus was packed on
Saturdays. But sitting there looking at Sam, it felt like we were at a museum
visiting a relic from the past, like the way they have blacksmiths banging out
horseshoes and women spinning lamb's wool at the Ohio Historical Society. If
they ever close the store, maybe that's where Sam will end up. In a museum. The
mall next doorthat was so new and popular just a few years agoquickly
filled with ghosts. New, better malls with more things to do popped up on the
outskirts, effectively killing the downtown renaissance before they even had a
chance to build an IMAX.
Excerpted from Maybe
a Miracle by Brian Strause Copyright © 2005 by Brian Strause. Excerpted
by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.