The Waltz

The Waltz

By David A. Burns

Edward sat up. The sun was bright coming through the eastern window. He stretched and yawned. When he reached his hand to his head, he didn't find anything. "Oh, it must have been a dream."

The bathroom door opened and Hannah stepped out toweling her hair. The sunlight glistened off her damp, nude body. "I thought I heard you stir." She cocked her head to the side and vigorously rubbed her hair.

"Good morning, dear." He got up off the bed, stretched again, and then started to scratch himself as he walked into the bathroom yawning.

When he came out, she had finished toweling off and was standing in front of her dresser. He came up behind her, and put his arm around her waist and kissed her neck. She turned around and kissed him firmly, passionately on the lips, pressing fully against him.

"Let's stay in bed today." He took her hand and pulled her towards the bed.

She slipped her hand out of his. "Not today, dear. I have to do all that jam today or the fruit will go bad. And you have to chop down those trees. But I'll make it up to you tonight." She turned around and reached into her underwear drawer. "You like this little, wispy number, don't you?"

He woke up, his head pounding, the light too bright. The down comforter was too heavy, making him sweat. Cracking his eyes open slowly, he squinted up at the canopy above him and then propping himself on his elbows, squinted at the reflection on the other side of the room. It was too blurry.

Pushing the comforter off, he swung his legs to the side, stood up and stretched. His head swam, and as he steadied himself against one of the pillars on his bed realized that he needed to relieve himself and stumbled into the bathroom.

When he was done, he stood in front of the sink. His face reflected in the mirror on the medicine cabinet. His hair was receding. He needed to shave, too. The whiskers were rough and stubbly. His face looked sunken, and his eyes were bloodshot. He took a drink of water and swirled it around his mouth before spitting it out. His mouth tasted a little better, but he needed something stronger.

An empty bottle of gin stood on his night stand. It was three quarters full when he started on it last night after finishing off the vodka. When he went to drop it into the wastebasket, he saw that there was a small amount left in the bottle. The gin tasted good on his dry tongue. After straining to get the last drop, he dropped the bottle into the wastebasket. His head didn't hurt as much as it did before.

Still in his pajamas, he went downstairs for breakfast, pulling on a robe as he descended the stairs. A hot plate of scrambled eggs and sausage was waiting for him. The mail had already arrived and was sitting next to his plate. There were no marks on any of the envelopes except for ‘Louis' written in script and centered perfectly on each envelope.

Over his eggs he read the letters, all of them invitations to fancy parties or balls. He selected three to go to and quickly penned his regrets to the others and placed them in the box to be mailed out. He would ring the three later to accept, chat them up, and try and curry favour with them in order to gain an advantage with their daughters.

He sat looking down at his cereal. When he looked up he saw that his wife was busy at the kitchen counter. He remembered that he hadn't taken his medicine this morning.

"I had an interesting dream last night, dear."

"Oh, what was it?" She continued to work at the counter, not turning to look at him.

"I dreamt that I was a commander on a supply ship, about to be promoted to second in command of a ship-of-the-line, just in time for a battle. But then I was taken to this room and poked with a lot of needles and had things attached to my head. That's when I woke up."

"That's interesting, dear." She turned around and he saw that she must have been washing the dishes. Her white blouse was soaked through completely. "Are you done with that?"

He looked down at his bowl and then back up. "Oh, yeah." He started to get up.

"Don't get up. I've got that." As she walked back to the counter he watched her ass in the tight pair of jeans she was wearing. He got up and moved behind her, wrapping her arms around her and pulling her back against him.

"Don't, honey." She pulled away and looked at him annoyed. "I have to finish this up. You have to go chop down the trees. Go do that." She turned around and returned to washing his dishes. Slowly he slunk out of the room looking back at her.

He blinked hard as he realized he was staring at the trees outside his den. He glanced at the table next to his chair and saw that there was no bottle. He didn't even remember going from the dining room to the den. He must be having his fugues again.

It had happened before, blacking out and not remembering how he got to where he was. The doctor had prescribed some pills for him to take, but he found that the best way to deal with it was to drink, which sometimes led to blackouts of their own. He could handle those. He couldn't handle the others without a stiff drink in his hands.

After a poured himself a brandy, he sat back down and looked out at the sky. It had grown gray and looked as though it might rain.

He stood in his picture window looking out at the trees and the stumps that were all that were left of them. There would be plenty of wood for the upcoming winter for his fireplace. The sky was clear of clouds and the sun shone on the few golden leaves that remained on the trees.

She sidled up to her husband. "Lovely day, wasn't it?" He didn't answer. "Is everything all right, hon?"

She put her arm around his waist.


Rain began to pelt down hard on the trees, ripping the dead leaves off the branches. Through the picture window in the living room he watched as the water began to rise. The houses around his were slowly being flooded, an inch an hour or so. His house rested on an almost cartoonish hill. It would probably take forty days or so of rain for the bottom of his stairs to be even gently lapped.


"Oh, sorry dear." He shook his head to clear it of cobwebs. He looked down at his wife's concerned face.

"Are you having a relapse?"

"No. Just thinking." He bent down and kissed his wife firmly on her lips. "Is dinner ready?"

"Almost. Just a couple more minutes and then we can sit down." Her hand slowly stroked his back.

"Do you need me to do anything?"

"No, that's okay, dear."

He put his arm around her, pulling her tightly against him. When the egg timer pierced the stillness, he could feel her jump. She pulled away from him and hurried off to the kitchen. He watched her go, staring at her back, until she turned into the kitchen and out of his view before looking back out the window. He pulled his gaze away from the autumn sunset and slowly shuffled into the dining room.

He sat in the study, a pipe in one hand, a brandy snifter in the other. The dark maroon walls were a nice complement to the dark, rainy night. It was still raining as it had been before dinner. The house had gotten colder though. A fire had been started in the fireplace next to him. The flickering flames made the tiger head over the mantle seem more ferocious.

He had watched, over his dinner of steak and kidney pie, as his neighbours laboured to save their possessions. One of them, Herr Simmons, walked up his steep drive and pounded on his front door, demanding to be let in, and for his family and all the other families to be given shelter. Edward continued to eat, listening as Mozart was played gaily on the phonograph. Eventually, Herr Simmons left. Edward took some pleasure that as Herr Simmons was walking down Edward's drive, his house was washed away. Almost as if to double his pleasure, Herr Simmons' Great Dane was standing on the roof, tied to the chimney.


He looked up from his meatloaf. "Yes?"

"You're having your spells again. After dinner I'm calling Dr. McAvoy."

"No. You don't need to do that. I've just been thinking a lot lately."

"About what?"

He ate a couple of bites of his meatloaf.


He stopped chewing and looked at her with his head cocked slightly. Outside a dog barked several times. "What?"

"What were you thinking about?"

"Different things." He began to chew again.

"I'm calling Dr. McAvoy."

"Don't do that. I've been taking my medicine. Maybe I haven't been getting enough sleep. I need to get enough sleep or I have my spells, you know." He took a long drink of water before swallowing loudly.

"If you say so, dear."

They continued to eat in silence. After dinner, they washed the dishes, still in silence, before settling down to read the paper that neither had gotten to read before they had started their work for the day.

He stirred in his sleep, moving restlessly, but remaining on his back. The aluminum bunk was cold next to his skin. The air around him was cold, but he was sweating profusely.

A dog barked and he looked up with a start. The paper lay scattered on the floor next to him. He sorted it and put it on the coffee table.

He stood in the picture window, drunk, laughing. The rain had begun to come down harder, and lighting laced the sky. There were no houses remaining. Gaily he ran to the phonograph, wound it, and put on Smetana's Bartered Bride. Taking up his whiskey, he sipped it as he twirled around the room, all the while laughing.

The room is very cold, the bed hard.

"Edward, wake up."

He snapped his head up and opened his eyes. "I heard you snore. Do you want to go to bed?"

He stretched and looked at his watch, yawning. "Yeah. I'm tired. I don't know why."

She closed her book and put it on the end table next to her. "I'm going to get ready. Go bring the dog in before you come up."

He took his glass of water into the kitchen and dumped the little that was left into the sink. The sky outside was darkening. The Great Dane was tied to the maple tree in the front yard, panting happily. He unclipped the leash and felt his arm jerk as the dog pulled at the leash in a hurry to go inside. He let the dog pull him to the house. Once inside, after the leash was removed, it settled docilely in front of the cold fireplace.

She was already in bed by the time he got upstairs. He closed the bathroom door to brush his teeth and change. Then there were the pills; a red one, a green one, and one that was half red, half white. They all tasted disgusting and he almost choked swallowing them. He was careful to turn the light off before opening the door and tiptoeing to the bed.

When he got into bed, she stirred; she wasn't asleep. He curled up against her and began to stroke her thigh. She pulled away from him. "Not now."

He pulled her back against him, slid his hand up her puritanical nightgown and between her thighs.

"No!" She grabbed his arm and pulled it away. She moved to the far side of the bed and huddled by the headboard.

"Why not?" He lay there staring into the darkness.

"Because you've been scaring me today! I don't know what to expect. Who would it be this time? Attila? Napoleon?" Her voice was almost crying. She paused and then became sarcastic, no longer afraid. "Or Commander Louis E. Powell of His Majesty's Navy?"

"No, I don't want to do that-"

Her voice sounded stronger. "How do I know? You've done that before. I'm sick and tired of your disgusting games. ‘Oh, Commander Powell, save me from the bug-eyed monster. I'm weak and defenseless and all that I'm wearing is this metal bikini and the monster wants to do all sorts of terrible things to me. Oh, save me.' I'm sick of it, Edward. I'm sleeping in the guest room."

He felt the mattress shift as she got up and then he heard the door to the guest room close softly. He lay back and stared at the ceiling as he drifted off to sleep.

He opened his eyes and stared at the gray ceiling. A few seconds later, after his eyes had adjusted to the bright light, he sat up, his legs still stretching out straight. There was a gray wall in front of him. He began to take off the brain and heart monitors and sticking them to the wall next to the bed. He then pulled the IV's out of his arm, heart, and spine and lay them on his bed behind him.

He swung his legs to the side and hopped down off the aluminum bed. It slowly slid into the wall. He walked and stretched a little before doing his morning exercises. After relieving himself, he pulled on his jumpsuit. The door opened as he was just stepping into it. "Good morning, ma'am." He jumped to attention.

"Good morning, Commander. Just finish dressing." He pulled his jumpsuit up and zipped it shut. He turned to face the doctor and stood at attention. "Just a few questions. Your charts from last night seem to indicate that you had a good sleep. Any thoughts about it?"

"At one point, I thought I was coming out of sleep, but I went back in, ma'am. I felt cold, but was sweating at the same time. And I noticed how hard the bed was."

"Okay, that happens every now and then. How do you feel?"


"Emotionally, how do you feel?"

"I feel excited about the upcoming battle. But I am pissed because I feel frustrated."

"Great, that's exactly what we want, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Good. Your assignment for today is command of the His Majesty's Ship York, the corvette. The captain is sick from a viral infection. You'll be flanking the ship-of-the-line Victoria. A shuttle will be taking you to it shortly. We're currently circling the Merisian moon of Vladast." She snapped to attention and saluted. "For the greater glory of the Empire!"

He saluted. "For the greater glory of the Empire!"

"Dismissed. Good fighting today, Commander Louis Edward Powell."

Copyright 1998 by David A. Burns

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David can be e-mailed at:

"My name is David A. Burns and I'm currently at the end of my first year at Albany Law School where I am an editor for the Albany Law School Literary Review. I am originally from Northern Virginia and went to Villanova University and graduated with a BA in Political Science."

David's homepage is at:

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