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Scenes From the Life and Death of Jackson Overland Frost
Part 13: ElectroSwing

by K. Stonham
first released 9th February, 2013

November, 2017

The winter spirit dropped from the heavens, laughing and dancing in the wild grasp of the winter wind. He didn't care that certain people (who might be named Bunnymund) thought he was crazy. Traveling with the winds was fun! He spun and swooped and brought snow with one part of his mind while the other kept an eye on where he was going, springboarding off buildings, traffic signs, and moving vehicles.

Children cheered and adults cursed in his wake, and the sound of his name yelled by high voices was sweet indeed to Jack. He grinned and waved in passing; he would come back and play with them later. For now, it was his first day back in Burgess in months, and Jack had a first believer/little brother to check up on.

He looked at Jamie's home first, and found their mom's car in the driveway but no Jamie and no Sophie. A quick skip over to Jack's pond ruled that out as well. Next was a drop in at Monty's house, then at Pippa's. Jack finally hit the jackpot when he peeked in the living room windows at the twins' home. His eyebrows raised, though, as he watched Cupcake and Pippa and even little Sophie dancing with the boys in a style Jack hadn't seen for decades. Claude was the odd man out, standing to one side and watching. Jack smiled and watched too, frost curling across the windows without his conscious control. He waited until the song was done to knock on a pane.

The resulting mad scramble amused him. He was standing at the front door by the time the horde of mostly-teenagers opened it, drawing him into a warm, loving fourteen-armed embrace.

It was weird, he thought as he was pulled inside and led to the living room, how he used to be the older one. Now they were almost his peers, and someday not too far off, they would all be adults and he'd still be eighteen. Excepting Sophie, they were already all taller than him; Pippa and Cupcake had shot past him a year ago, and now the boys were straggling past them. If he was one of their classmates, Jack suspected, it might give him a complex. He'd been of average height when he was alive, but these modern teenagers had never had hungry winters stunting their growth. Their height was their right. On the other hand, if he'd been one of their classmates, maybe he'd have grown taller along with them....

"So," he asked when they were all ensconced in the two sofas and one overstuffed armchair that had been pushed hard up against the walls, "what's with dancing the Charleston?"

The kids exchanged surprised glances, some of them straightening up. "Wait, you know the Charleston?" Caleb asked.

Jack pointed at himself. "Three hundred twenty-three years old," he reminded them. Three hundred twenty-four in a week, he thought, but didn't say, because if he let anyone know, somehow the Guardians would find out, and while he wouldn't mind a party and cake with his human friends, he wasn't sure he wanted one from the Guardians. And they would throw him one. "I was around during the twenties. And dance was fun, even if I couldn't participate with a partner."

Cupcake's eyes narrowed. "How about swing?" she asked. "Forties, fifties."

"Also great stuff," Jack said.


"So," Jack repeated, ignoring her calculating look, "why the Charleston?"

"Well," Claude began, "we have the Winter Formal coming up next month...."

"Winter Formal?" Jack asked.

"School dance," Pippa told him. "And we want to be able to dance, and Cupcake's been taking lessons, like, forever, so she's trying to teach us...."

"Pippa and me are getting it fastest," Sophie told Jack. She made a face at Jamie. "It's 'coz boys are dumb."

Jamie rolled his eyes.

Cupcake stood, and walked over in front of Jack. "Dance with me," she said, and it was somewhere between a request and a command. While Cupcake was still growing into her looks, she was going to be a goddess one day, and perhaps knew it; she already projected authority like a queen.

Bemused, Jack stood. "Can't promise I'm any good," he said. "I've never danced with anyone else before."

Cupcake nodded in acceptance. "Monty," she told the blond boy, "track two." Monty nodded and pressed a couple buttons on a black device as Jack took Cupcake's hands. Then there was music in the air again.

The beginning notes were easy enough, and Jack remembered how to move his feet. Rock step, triple step triple step, rock step, triple step triple step. He fell into it easily, into the rhythm, and twirled Cupcake.

Then the music stepped up a notch, got inside Jack in a way music hadn't in a long time--

Do you think you cannot swing?

--there were women's voices, and all of a sudden he was remembering moves he learned long ago--

Everybody loves that thing!

--things he'd taught himself out of boredom and envy, things that he'd never done with a living partner.

Look that girl - she lose control!

Cupcake floated like silk in wind, following Jack's every motion with a grace that came of training.

Push the trigger, free your soul!

Jack was totally lost to the dance--

--and then the music ended and he was back to himself, standing barefoot in Claude and Caleb's living room, Cupcake in front of him, breathing hard with exertion, beaming.

Jack risked a glance at the other members of the Burgess gang.

Jamie was gaping. The other boys weren't much better. Pippa and Sophie simply looked delighted. Jack's survival instincts nudged at him to flee, but part of him knew it was already too late.

"You're drafted," said Captain Cupcake of the Boondocks Brigade.

Jack ended up dancing the part of a girl most of the rest of the afternoon, partly to make even numbers and partly because Sophie was right: the boys were way behind the girls in figuring out the steps.

"Doesn't that bother you?" Jamie asked at one point, stopping and staring at Jack trying to make Monty's leads into something a little less painful. Pippa glared at her partner.

"Doesn't what bother me?" Jack asked, guiding Monty through a turn.

"You know, dancing the girl's part."

Jack rolled his eyes at his more-or-less brother. "You're way too hung up on gender roles. One, I'm five-four and Monty's like five-foot-forty." The gangly teenager looked half abashed and half proud. "Leading him would be a pain. Two, dancing a follow doesn't make me a girl. And three, I know you've seen Tooth let loose. The only person scarier than her is Sandy. Girls aren't weak."

"Huh," said Jamie, and was glared back into practicing his lackluster steps by Pippa.

Jamie manhandled the sofa back against the edge of the room while Jack flipped through a stack of dusty LPs.

"Those were my dad's," Jamie said, shoving the heavy piece of furniture hard against the wall with one last grunt. "Mom hasn't played them in years, but she refuses to get rid of them. Says there's too many memories in them or something."

"Well, I can tell you this: your dad had great taste in music." Jack paused at one. "Queen. Cool." He looked back up at Jamie. "Seriously, you should listen to some of these. They're awesome."

Jamie flopped dramatically onto the sofa. "They're ancient," he whined.

"You kids and your synth-thrash-punk," Jack retorted. "Get off my lawn." Jamie smiled, which had been Jack's goal. "Anyway, these are classics. Not quite as good as live music, but the next best thing."

"Live...?" Jamie propped himself up on an elbow. "Wait, do you sneak into concerts or something?"

Jack's reply was a brilliant grin.

"How long have you been doing that?"

Jack pulled out an album, flipped it around to examine the back cover. "You really wanna know?"

"I really wanna know," Jamie confirmed.

Jack shrugged. If Jamie really wanted to know.... "I heard Mozart played by Mozart."

Jamie's mouth worked soundlessly for a minute. Then, "How old are you, again?" he demanded.

"Three hundred twenty-three," Jack replied. "Also, eternally eighteen. Am I breaking your brain yet?"


"Then allow me to add this: I'm the baby of the Guardians." Jack smiled wickedly.

"I hate you. So, so much."

Jack merely grinned, and pulled the album out of its sleeve, placing the black disc reverently on the turntable. "Sophie!" he called out. "Wanna help Jamie's dancing suck less?"

"Sure!" she called back from the other room, then came skidding in to the living room.

"Shoes off," Jack instructed both of them.

"What? Why?"

"It makes the turns easier." Jack watched both Bennetts put their running shoes by the wall. "Right, assume dance position."

Sighing, Jamie took his sister's hands in his. Jack dropped the needle on the record, and watched the siblings practice as Billy Joel sang his heart out about Vienna. It was a slower song, so it should be easier for Jamie to work with than the fast-paced songs Cupcake had preferred. "Rock step, triple step triple step, rock step, triple step triple step," Jack coached.

Jamie was biting his lip in concentration, trying too hard not to mess up. Jack stepped up behind him, placed his hands on Jamie's hips, dancing with him, guiding his weight shifts. "You're thinking too hard," Jack said. "You need to let go, feel the music."

"Easy for you to say." Jamie's footing stuttered, but he recovered. "You've been doing this for decades!"

Jack rolled his eyes. The next song started - one he liked, the one about a girl named Virginia - and he flicked a snowflake into the air. It drifted there for a moment, then hit Jamie squarely on the nose.

"Jack, that's - Jack, that's cheating!" Jamie laughed, but sure enough, his footwork was improving, his body rocking, and, yep, he was getting into the music.

It didn't make him a superior dancer, but it sure as hell made Jamie a lot less painful dancer. Laughing, Jack danced away, letting Sophie take charge of her brother.

And, whoo, was that a barrel roll?

But even better than the improvement was how both Bennetts now looked happy, like dancing was no longer a chore. Like it was fun. Which was what it was supposed to be.

I think I've done good here. Smiling, Jack let that thought warm his cold.

Author's Note: The song Cupcake and Jack were dancing to is "Ragtime Cat" by Parov Stelar. The album Jack put on in Jamie's living room was the B side of Billy Joel's "The Stranger." And, yes, my Wonderful Husband and I do swing dance. However did you guess? :)
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