An Anniversary Waltz

By Jeffery Cohen

Bill and Rosey lived next door to my grandmother on Freese Avenue in Pennsylvania. They lived without money, without friends, without things. All they had was each other.

Bill was a hometown boy, only leaving for the year he spent in the army during World War II. The high school football star’s once statuesque physique had been chipped away over the years, leaving stooped shoulders and a pot belly. At fifty, his still boyish face would kiss Rosey good bye each morning. Tugging on the brim of his railroad cap, he’d head off in his pickup truck seeking day work.

Rosey was a farm girl, plain and simple. Though her body looked lean, a wiry strength hid inside. She wore her hair tied back though a few strands always managed to escape over her forehead. Her teeth were crooked with one missing up front, but it didn’t seem unnatural. It fit perfectly with her half smile and sad eyes that had seen hard times and learned to live with them.

The house that Bill and Rosey lived in they were building themselves. It began with a vision of their dream home early in their marriage, but like some dreams, you wake up before they’re finished. This house had a roof, some windows and was encased in brick. But walking through the front door, you understood why the hopes of a young couple got lost as years and money ran out.

There were no walls in Bill and Rosey’s house. Wooden two-by-fours lined up like prison bars marking each room that they hoped to one day complete. Pieces of well worn furniture were placed about the see-through rooms with a tattered rag carpet covering the worn spots on a bare plywood floor. They lived on what little Bill earned, and if he was able to make a few extra dollars, they’d buy a stack of planks at the lumber yard and continue the dream.

Neighborhood kids rode past on their bikes tossing stones at the work in progress and laughed as they sped off crying, “Hey, Crazy Rosey!” My sister and I, intrigued by the people who lived in half of a house, often wandered next door. The couple loved kids but weren’t able to have any of their own, so we were always more than welcome.

One fall afternoon Rosey called to my mother over a gray dilapidated fence.

“Can the kids come over tonight? I’ve been promising to make fritters from the apples they helped me pick.” When we arrived, she was already folding green apple chunks into a thick, creamy batter. The oil crackled in a cast iron pan as Rosey shifted a stack of cakes onto a chipped plate. As she placed them onto the table, she shyly whispered, “Today’s our anniversary.”

“My brother knows how to sing the Anniversary Waltz”, my brother jumped up and proudly announced.

“Is that right?” Bill asked.

“I learned it for a play,” I shrugged.

“Well, let’s hear it,” Bill grinned as he lifted me onto a bench.

“I’ll try,” I said clearing my throat. “Oh how we danced on the night we were wed, we vowed our true love though a word wasn’t said.” My sister joined in straining to stay on key. Bill’s huge frame rose from his wooden stool, and he gently reached a hand out to his wife. Rosey laid her palm into his meaty mitt and they began to dance.

“The night was in bloom, there were stars in the sky, except for the few that were there in your eyes.” Bill in a worn T-shirt and khaki pants and Rosey in a faded flowered house dress twirled round and round under the single light bulb that hung from a wire above their heads.

“The night seemed to fade into blossoming dawn, the sun shone a new but the dance lingered on. Could we but relive that sweet moment sublime, we find that our love is unaltered by time.”

Rosey’s face blushed as Bill stood up straight as a soldier, then gracefully bowed to her.

“Well that was just beautiful”, she smiled as a tear fell and caught on the front of her dress. She dug into a small change purse and pressed a quarter into each of our hands.

   

“This is the best anniversary I ever had,” she smiled warmly, wiping her eyes with her apron.

Bill and Rosey’s house never did get completed. They lived there until they both died without money, without friends, without things. All they had was each other, and somehow that was enough.

About this writer

  • Jeffery Cohen Freelance writer and newspaper humor columnist, Jeffery Cohen, has written for Sasee, Lifetime and Read, Learn, Write. He’s won awards in Women-On-Writing Contest, Vocabula’s Well Written Contest, National League of American Pen Womens’ Competition, Southern California Genealogy Competition, and Writer’s Weekly writing contest.

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One Response to “An Anniversary Waltz”

  1. Jeffery, this was an absolutely delightful story which will remain in my heart for a long while.

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