Monday, July 13, 2015


                                                   Go Ahead and Dance

            Imagine this: a skinny eight year old dancer, who doesn’t know she is one, discovering her gift by breaking the embrace of gloved hands and twirling--spinning and spinning and spinning--atop the wet grave of her just-buried grandfather.
            “What the hell?”
            “Is she crazy?”
            “Whose daughter is that?”
            She hears this.  The words are like confetti at a ticker tape parade, jumbled, stringy and attached to nothing.  She can spin all day.  She’s not dizzy or tired or anything but joy-filled.
 A pastor quoted scripture earlier—something about grace and unconditional love, then more about the shadow of death.
“Stop it!” her mother screams.  When she’s angry, Amy’s mother resembles the dead old man.  “Stop with your spinning.  Amy, I mean it.”  The dirt is loose and fresh on top of the grave, dark like coffee grounds.  A clump of it sticks to Amy’s black boot as her mother pulls her back into the crowd.  Even though she’s no longer dancing, in Amy’s mind she is.
When they’re home Amy notices how the phone has a hollow cowbell sound to its ring.  That night and the next day, it rings constantly.  Amy’s mother whispers.  Much of what she says is apologies for Amy’s behavior at the funeral.  “I don’t know what’s gotten into her.”
            He always took his teeth out and looked at them, as if scanning for trapped food slivers before putting them back in, and that was the sign.
            “Dance for me, will ya?”
            His speech sounded gravelly and rough, same as his hands.  His whiskers were like the wire brush her mother used to scour the oven.
            “Go on,” he said, “do some dancing before we get started.  You’re prettier that way.  Go on, go ahead and dance.”
            The old man’s mouth was foamy, as if he had rabies.  Amy read a story about an entire town that ended up zombies because of getting rabies.  Her Grandpa looks the same as the zombie whose hands were chopped off, who kept right on approaching with his limbless body.
           “Dancing?” her teacher asks.  “How do you expect to make a living off of something like that?”
           Amy is fourteen now, first day of school introductions.  Her grandpa’s long buried, her father dead since forever.
           “You need to think more practical.  Be a nurse.  There are never enough nurses.  Why’re you looking at me like that?”

            “Hey, Tatiana!  Tatiana!”  This kid is twenty, tops.  They pop up, a new one, like mushrooms, all the time.  They want her.  They have something to prove, and by saving her or ravaging her they think they’ll become whole and more masculine.
She’s heels and wheels on stage.  The bottom of Amy’s corset cuts her skin above the last rib and her mind swirls with the strobe, bobbing shadows around the fire pole. 
He presses his head beneath the rope on the lowest rung and sits his square chin on the rubber ring matt.  He grins.  He’s kind of cute.  No he is, he is cute.
           “Let me take you out, to a movie, just once.  We could even go dancing, real dancing, like at a club.”
           This starts a fire.  She doesn’t mean to kick him so hard.  Her boots are tipped with metal.  He screams.  He comes through the ropes and is moving so fast, like a jaguar, and grabbing her hair and slamming his fist against her head and face, anywhere to hurt her, to transfer his shame, and the bouncer is not as tough as he looks, because he’s slow to defend her and it takes him plus another guy and the manager to get the beating stopped.
           Everett is the boy she lives with after skipping out on community college.  She dances for him in the living room and sometimes on the bed when he asks.
           “I like that,” he says.  He’s got a cruel streak but he’s the only person that ever seems to appreciate her dancing.  She can take a lot of licks, but she has to dance.
Has to.

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