The night was a little too warm for early spring; the air felt alive, lusty. Using an ancient tome we had found in an attic that promised to make us all sexual magicians, my friends Mariah and Midge and I were attempting to conjure a little erotic alchemy. Of course the ceremony was accompanied by some notable consumption of a tasty red wine; I recall that it was a Merlot.

And even though we were only novices at applying our sorcery talents, as entrepreneurial women, we bantered that we were going to earn our certification so we could open our own Sexual Magic Practice...maybe sell franchises, too.

With high spirits, we were following the recommendations for creating a Magic Circle; a space that embraced Mariah's bedroom and the attached patio. The outdoor area included a hot tub, partially enclosed by a privacy fence covered with honeysuckle and dominated by a blooming jasmine. The heady fragrances entranced us as we relished our magical movements.

We danced, scarves flying and candles illuminating the dark corners of Mariah's room. We couldn't contain ourselves indoors; a bit of our home-crafted ceremony drifted through the door onto the patio. Mariah reminded us that her neighbors in the retirement community occasionally tended toward the overly curious side.

"They are serious around here about maintaining the consistency of this neighborhood," she said. "If, for example, people let the weeds get too high in their yards, the patrol comes by and writes a citation."

Sipping our wine, we scoffed at the overly restrictive rules of her property owner's covenants; the same ones that prevented her from having a complete fence around her backyard. We remarked humorously that the jasmine was probably too fragrant and would bring out the "Perfume Police."

"But now it's late, Mariah," I said as we climbed in the hot tub. "Most of your neighbors have been asleep for hours. And besides I doubt they keep a Dancing Naked in the Moonlight cadre on the property."

"They probably have a wide contingent of volunteers ready to go whenever an emergency arises, however," said Mariah. We laughed, luxuriating in the luscious hot water.

Midge, our most beautiful friend - whom none of us doubted would get the first opportunity to practice her sexual magic - continued her happy, scarf-twirling dance beside the tub.

It was only one day past full moon, and although we tried to be somewhat inconspicuous, our bodies mirrored the sweetness of the moonlight. Mariah kept admonishing us to "keep it down," but our exuberance spilled, occasionally, into delighted giggles. And inevitably a nosy neighbor called The Authorities.

* * * * * *

Across town, a late-night phone called abruptly interrupted the peaceful slumbers of Ray Steele, a member of the Sun Lakes Patrol.

"Wha...hello," mumbled Ray, attempting to switch on the light next to the bed. "Who is it," sighed Mrs. Steele, rolling over onto her left side away from Ray, not waiting for an answer before she drifted right back to sleep.

"Sorry to bother you, Ray, but it looks like we've got another group of those amateur witches or whatever they are dancing around naked and making noise over on Oak Hill Drive." It was Mike Stanfield, Deputy on Duty at the Sun Lakes Patrol headquarters, a small storefront right next to the Pizza Hut Express on the corner.

"No, no, it's Okay. What's the address?" asked Ray, finally finding the pencil with his sleep-fumbled fingers. "I'll put on my uniform and go right over."

* * * * * *

The last cut on the CD was an unusually energetic song with deep, rhythmic percussion, and when it ended, the silence seemed profound.

"Wait...do you hear something," asked Mariah. "Listen."

We were quiet for a moment and heard what could have been a throat being cleared: "Ma'am...Ma'am." Officer Steele was on the job, but we couldn't see him. He was standing right beside the house near the hot tub, but out of sight.

"Who is that," demanded Mariah. Property-owner's covenants or not, her home turf was being invaded and she was not happy.

"It's Ray Steele, Miss Stone, I rang the bell, but nobody answered. We've had a complaint about the noise."

Mariah and I looked at each other. "Ray, what do you want?" Mariah was not amused.

"We're going to need you ladies to settle down immediately," said Ray in his most official voice. "Also, I, uh... need you to put on your clothes so I can come around there."

Mariah, from her perch in the hot tub, demanded: "If you want to talk to me, just walk around the corner!" There was no sign of movement from Ray.

Finally he said, "Well, will you at least hold up your towels in front of you?"

With huge, put-upon sighs, we picked up our towels and draped them around our shoulders, not concealing anything completely, but complying with his request. The edges of our towels dipped into the water, which we believed was sufficient coverage.

We gently guided Midge through the open bedroom door. Despite the interruptions, she had never stopped her capricious pirouettes and, other than her scarves, wasn't particularly interested in putting on attire of any sort.

"You can come back here now, Ray," said Mariah with a great deal of exasperation in her voice. When he appeared, after a glance around the corner to make sure we were suitably covered, Mariah said: "Exactly what do you want?"

I lifted my wine in a modified salute to Officer Steele. His brow was knit and he could barely get a full sentence out. It must have been the combination of the semi-nude women and the fragrance of the jasmine...or maybe it was our sexual magic at work!

"Ladies, we are going to have to ask you to put on some clothing...or go...inside the..."

We could tell by following his eyes that he was watching Midge dancing in the bedroom, barely reflected in moon and candlelight.

"Ray," said Mariah, "We are not bothering anybody."

"Yes, ma'am, one of your neighbors called in a complaint," Ray reluctantly brought his eyes back to look at Mariah who was at least partially covered by her towel, per his instructions.

"I can't believe this," said Mariah, dripping with sarcasm. "Where does one even get a Dancing Naked in the Moonlight Police uniform?"

"Ma'am, I'm just doing my job," said Officer Steele, rocking uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

"So what if we refuse to go in?" said Mariah. I tilted my head inquisitively, raising my eyebrows and lifting my wine again.

"I'm afraid I will have to cite you as the home owner and impose a fine on each of...the...naked people," said Ray, his eyes drifting back to Midge's whirling silhouette.

"How much?" Mariah echoed my exact thought.

"The fine? Well, it is usually between $25 and $50, but that's not the point..." started Officer Steele.

The sound of our victory whoops and the splashes we made as our towels whipped through the air brought Midge abruptly back into a conscious state. Startled, she dashed through the door, stepping out right before Officer Steele's ever-widening eyes.

"Midge!" he gasped, finally recognizing her as the moonlight caressed her face.

"Well, hi Ray," she bubbled back at him, wearing only an extensive grin and a silk scarf. "Did you come over to join us?"

"Oh, NO!" said Ray. "I'm here to...you've got to..."

"Ray wants us to settle down," said Mariah. "The neighbors are complaining." She sat regally now, fully exposed to the moonlight, the queen of her domain. "Write us a ticket, Ray," said Mariah, "and have a glass of wine."

"Oh, no ma'am, no. I'm on duty..." his resolve was melting as Midge climbed into the tub, doffing her scarf and flinging it at him gently. His eyes never left her body as he caught the scarf with a quick clutch, keeping it from falling into the hot water.

"Oh, come on, Ray," said Midge. "It'll be like the old days."

"Yeah...I mean, NO! No. I'm going to...I'm going to...I'm just going." Dropping the scarf reluctantly, he turned on his heel, disappearing again around the corner of the house.

I raised my glass to the spot vacated by the ever-upright Officer Ray Steele.

Story copyright 2001 Valencia Bathe. Dancing illustration adapted with many 'thank him very muches' from a piece by Charles MacFarland.

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July 11, 2001
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