By Phil Troyer
In 1987, I decided I would move to a trailer park. I looked at numerous trailers and finally found an old seniors-only park where the rent was low. At first, there was uncertainty about taking me, because I was only 51, but the president decided to make an exception. On a street lined with live oaks, pigeons cooing beneath them, squirrels chasing each other up and down the palms, I found a trailer in the $5,000 range and took out my checkbook. I had always been shy, but soon after I moved in, there was a Welcome Home dance in the meeting hall for residents who had been away for the summer. I decided to go.
The room was lighted by glaringly bright fluorescent lights overhead. The door of the women’s room had a paper plate with a hen turkey thumbtacked to it. The door of the men’s room had a paper plate with a tom turkey on it.
A lavish table was set with sandwiches, homemade cupcakes of all kinds and fruit punch—all donated by the residents. The stems and feet kept falling off the plastic punch glasses as we carried them from table to chair. A rather heavy woman asked a thin man to dance. In front of everyone, the thin man’s neat yellow slacks began to slide down his hips as they did a fast fox-trot. The woman reached behind the man, grabbed his belt, and pulled his pants up, holding onto them throughout the dance. There were smiles all around the room; the woman holding up the pants smiled, too. When the dance ended, she walked the man back to his table, still carefully holding onto his pants.
A very pretty woman in her early 60s, wearing a green party dress with a shawl of the same material thrown over her shoulder, asked me to dance. I am a poor dancer. She was an excellent dancer. It was a slow dance. I suddenly realized that I was carrying her hand in mine as high as a subway strap, and I lowered our hands and pressed hers to my shoulder. I had forgotten how good it felt to have my arms around someone, and theirs around me, on the dance floor.
An elderly man got up and by himself did some disco steps. And then, with a complete lack of self-consciousness, he did an imitation of James Brown dancing. He danced remarkably well.
Mobile-home parks must be budget-conscious. The elderly woman at my table remarked on the one-man band, made up of trombone and piano with a mechanical thump issuing from his tape recorder. “He’s a lot better than the two clowns we hired last year.”
I ate a homemade cupcake and remarked how good it tasted. I didn’t know the woman across the table from me had baked them. She beamed and said, “Now that we know you’re a bachelor, a lot of us are going to be cooking for you.”
The dance ended abruptly at 10 and everyone jumped up and folded his chair. The women hurried to the sinks and counters and the men cleared the tables. One of the men who had tried to help the women complained to me as he stomped out, “These women think you have to SOAP a coffee urn. Hell, all you have to do is rinse it out.”
I was sent home with a large basket full of sandwiches and cupcakes to put in my freezer.
I felt especially good because, when I left, for the first time people waved and called me by name. I finally felt I was getting acquainted.
This is an excerpt from a story published in 1990. The late Phil Troyer was the author of a novel, Father Bede’s Misfit.