Dance With Me

For the month of November I'm sharing little scenes of fiction every day here on the blog. I'm hoping this project will serve as a jump start for other projects, and also as a tool for sharpening my writing. Each piece is entirely made up fiction, not particular literal truth. But, I hope that each of these pieces of writing hold something of truth for the reader, an essence of truth.

I would love your feedback.

(To learn more about this project, click here.)

Here is what I wrote for November 4th:

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I sat at the dinning room table rubbing the eraser from a pencil back and forth mindlessly against the wood. Homework papers surrounded me like sharks circling their prey. I pulled one paper closer to me and read the one word instruction: Multiply. I stared at the paper and the numbers seemed to move, to dance and jiggle, and mix themselves up, until I couldn’t distinguish one line from the other. I pushed the paper away from me and tilted the chair back so it balanced on only the back two legs.

“All four legs on the floor,” My mother called from the kitchen. I had no idea how she could tell what I was doing even with her back turned towards me. I set my feet on the floor on either side of the chair, but kept the chair tilted back. She looked at me then, through the open kitchen door. “Very clever,” she said, “Now. All legs on the floor.” Her look was stern, but there was a twinkle in her eye.

I set the chair on the ground and kicked my feet back and forth under the table, as if the action would curb my urge to run. Perhaps I should work on something other than math, I thought. I pulled my history notes towards me and tried to read them. There was a test tomorrow and I knew I needed to remember each scribble on the white paper. But, the words wouldn’t cooperate again. I pushed the papers as far as I could across the table.

A warm breeze stirred the curtains. They seemed to come alive with the movement, as if they were two unique creatures who’s only purpose was to float on the breeze. Looking out the window I could see the orange and gold leaves dancing to the same rhythm as the curtains. I wanted to go dance with them, twirl round and round with them until I fell to the grass. From here I could see the tire swing that my grandpa had hung from the biggest tree in our yard last summer and I thought how wonderful it would be if I could throw myself across it and fly into the sky.

"Are you getting your homework done, kid?" My dad's voice interrupted my daydreaming.

"Trying," I murmured in response, then reached for one of the papers in front of me, not really caring which one, since I was equally uninterested in all of them. It was math. I drummed my pencil eraser on the table and wrinkled my brow.

"Maybe we can go for an ice cream run after dinner as a reward," my father’s voice was low and he bent in close to me when he spoke the words, as if sharing a secret.

"Could we? Oh pleeeeaaaaase," I begged, nearly jumping out of the seat.

“What’s going on in there?” My mom called from the kitchen.

“Just a little motivating that’s all, Helen,” my dad called back. He turned to me and winked quickly before saying, “Finish that homework and we’ll see.”

I fixed my gaze on the page and scratched a 24 at the bottom of the first equation. My dad turned away from me and walked into the kitchen where my mom was cooking.

Within a few minutes I heard my mom’s voice carrying that particular note of playful agitation which was reserved only for my father, “Henry!"

Looking up from my work, I could see them through the arc of the kitchen door. My mother's worn apron was wrapped tight around her waist, her hair was pulled into a low messy bun at the nape of her neck. She stood at the kitchen counter in front of the window and the golden light streaming in on her face made her glow like the autumn trees in the yard. My father was standing behind her. I watched as he turned her towards him and kiss the top of her forehead, then her cheek, then the side of her neck.

"Henry, I need to make dinner," her words were soft, but I could still hear them from the other room. There was less playful agitation in her voice now. Her words still protested my father's attention, but something in her voice seemed to have surrendered. He pulled her close and I could hear his gentle words, "No. You need to dance with me." She didn’t protest, she just looked up at him. He kissed her then and she wrapped her arms around him. Then he stepped back, made a bow, and left her for a moment. I couldn’t see him through the doorframe anymore, but I guessed exactly where he was going.

The soft humming music of the record player soon poured through the kitchen door and surrounded me. My mother hadn't gone back to her dinner preparations, she leaned against the counter watching my father as he walked the short length of the kitchen towards her. They drew close together, and I felt as if they were letting me in on a secret: they weren’t really two separate beings, they were one. My father took hold of one of my mother’s hands in his and she wrapped her other arm around the back of his neck. Then they moved, swaying back and forth, rotating in a tight square. It wasn’t a fancy dance, but then they weren’t fancy people either. It fit them, just like they fit each other.

Watching them I knew that was what I wanted. It was the first time I put clear thought to the feeling, “Someday I want a relationship that is like the one my parents have with each other.”

They danced until the end of the song and I watched them all the while. They never seemed to notice that I was watching, or that I had stopped doing my homework again, for the length of that song they were oblivious to time or obligations or anything other than each other. When the song ended my dad helped chop the rest of the green onions, while my mom moved over to the stove to check on the soup. I went back to my math homework and scribbled 75 at the bottom of the second equation. Life moved forward as if nothing special had happened, but I knew even at that young age that I had caught a glimpse of something precious and magical and I would never forget it.

(To see the picture that inspired this post, click here)

writingBethany Stedman