THE DANCE TRICK A Fiction by J. Leslie Adams
ÂŠ2004 Jon L. Adams All rights reserved. Previously unpublished short story.
Cover and titles: Copperplate Gothic Light Text: Adobe Caslon Pro
Rush hour traffic choked the four-lane street. He kept to the right, braking occasionally to inspect the women exhibiting their scantily clad wares along the sidewalk. Some were only twelve or thirteen years old. The pickup on his rear bumper blasted its horn as he braked to get a closer view of the two leaning their elbows on the newspaper racks. He ignored the truck and pulled into the vacant bus stop, came to a halt and lowered the passenger window with the automatic button. The hookers lowered their heads to inspect him. Not children, both were black and dressed in tight leather.
“Wanna date?” The taller one asked, curling her painted lips so they drew a sneer on her sparkle-dusted face. He chose the other one. About twenty. She had long and straight black hair that glowed in the low afternoon sun as if polished with golden wax, and her face expressed an innocence, not marked with so much stage dressing or those tiny sparkles that gave the impression of sequins. He pointed at her. “Can you dance?” “That’s what you wanna call it?” He smiled, his graying hair nearly over his eyes, and asked again. She stepped off the curb and leaned through the window with her arms folded on the door. “Two hours. Then I’ll bring you right back.” He drove to the next corner and turned right in a residential street. She noticed he checked the rear view mirror as if watching for another car. “Nobody tail us. The cops all down that way today,” she pointed toward his chin. “What’s your name?” “What’s yours, John?” “I’m Jack. How much?” “Fifty. Twenty for the best blow job in town, but you have to go where I tell you and you’re headin’ the wrong way.” He turned right at the corner and went up a low hill. “I don’t want sex. I want to dance. I’ll pay you double for it.” She snorted, shoved her thin milk chocolate legs against the front of the floorboard, leaned back and tugged on the seat belt. Her eyes
looked straight ahead as he topped the rise and turned onto an industrial street. “Where we going, Jackson?” “It’s about three miles from your corner. We’re halfway there.” She kept her eyes fixed forward and he glanced at her. She still hadn’t offered her name, so he asked again. “Ambrosia.” “Hello, Ambrosia.” “They call me Ambrosia on the street, but my real name’s Marcie.” “Hello again, Marcie.” “I don’t know about this.” “All I want is you to dance with me. I’ll get you back safe and sound.” “Don’t try any crazy shit or my girlfriend will sick the police on you. She got your plate number.” “I’m a gentleman.” In ten minutes he shut off the motor and pulled the keys. She stared ahead at the asphalt ribbon that curved through the cemetery. “I’ll get your door,” he said and stepped out. He hadn’t noticed the miniature black patent leather skirt until she lifted the matching purse from her lap. When he offered his hand to help her out, she hesitated and raised her head. Her eyes squinted in fear, of the place or of him. She grasped his hand. Hers was soft, the feel of warm carefully molded clay. “Not many tricks open doors for me,” she laughed. He led her through the stone garden, slow to match her pace so she would not catch her long heels in the deep spongy lawn. She stole a
glance at him as they went up a low slope where he stopped at a burial marker set into the ground level with the top of the unmown grass. He let go of her, reached in his jacket for a cigarette, and wondered if she wore anything under the skirt. Her form-fit top made her ample breasts stretch the fabric to footballshaped points. Marcie put her purse on the ground, then jammed her fists on her hips and cocked her posture in a contraposto figure that reminded him of Michelangelo’s statue of David. He imagined the marble sculpture, beside him in the garden of the dead. “So, what’s this about dancing? Why you wanna do that in some graveyard?” “We have to wait.” “What for?” “Sunset.” “You’re weird, Jack. Where you from?” “New York.” “You on business here?”
“No. Just fulfilling a promise I made.” They went to a low stone bench. Sitting side by side but not quite touching, they both took in the lengthening shadows of the endless cemetery, its sparse trees and the chapel a hundred yards distant. They were deep in the memorial garden and could barely hear the traffic a half-mile away. No one was in sight, and he thought that may have been the cause for her concern when she folded her thin arms and let loose a little shiver. “I used to live near here. Years ago.” She made no comment. “Think of what your friends will say when you tell them I paid you to dance here.” She leaned forward and put her hands on her knees. “How long you been on the street?” “Too long,” she lost her smile. “Did you finish school?” She jerked her shoulders toward him and folded her arms.
“What the do you care for? What’s so important about who I am and what the fuck I do, anyway!” “I’m trying to make this easier for you.” Marcie held the pose for a few seconds before she returned her hands to her legs and looked away. “I just had a bad day. Don’t ask me nothin’ about what I do. I live off my crack and that’s a fact.” He crossed his legs and stubbed out the cigarette on his shoe heel. “We’re all whores, Marcie.” She countered, “Not like I am. Most people don’t fuck and suck for their rent money like me.” “Sooner or later we all sell ourselves,” he went on. “I’ve done it. I worked for people who demanded it.” “Bet they didn’t ask you to fuck them in some pizza joint parking lot.” “I mean I sold my soul. I did things that I didn’t believe in, just to keep my job or to get a promotion.” She turned her face to him and he saw that she understood. “I was married a long time. There was plenty of getting screwed connected to that.” She wrinkled her forehead. “What I mean is,” he continued, “we compromise a lot, sometimes beyond the point where we hurt ourselves in the process. Like this: We make promises we don’t keep. We start to lie about it to the one we love. Eventually we come to a point where we do it all the time and the relationship is just two people living in the same house with distinctly separate lives. It happened to me and the woman who’s buried over there.”
Her face smoothed, she looked to where he pointed. “You been hurt real bad?” It required no answer. He lit another smoke. The sun touched the distant row of trees and they felt the sudden drop in temperature. “What time they close this place?” She shifted closer, seeking his warmth against her naked legs. “About an hour,” he said. “You know, I like that you show me some respect. Some Johns don’t. I got lots of bruises to prove it.” He let her come snug against his side. She put her hand on his and laid the arm against his jacket. Her head settled on his shoulder. “All my life I’ve taken bruises, just like you. Only I let them do it. I let myself be controlled by people I loved, people I cared about. One day I realized I was just a puppet on their strings, and what really woke me up was that I had let them put me there and keep me there. I made
all the decisions about my life, not them. I just played their game and danced to their tune.” “Sometimes I feel like a puppet,” Marcie mumbled and the dampness made her breath a wisp of vapor. “Everything we do is the result of our own decisions. We become our worst enemy because by allowing ourselves to be manipulated by others, we become them. Then we begin to hate ourselves. We don’t realize that our fates are in our own hands, and it’s up to us to cut the strings and escape from the misery.” “You trying to preach to me, Jack?” “It’s almost time to dance,” he said. He led her back to the grave marker. From a pocket he produced a miniature cassette player, pressed the PLAY button and placed it on the stone. Then he turned to her and extended his arms, bent at the elbows in invitation. She kicked off her heels, took his arms, and the music began with strings of an orchestra, mellow and nearly solemn. “What’s that tune?” She whispered, came closer, and let her arms slip to his waist. “It’s “Kiss of a Rose,” by Seal. I recorded it for her years ago. It was the favorite song she shared with one of her longtime lovers.” “You made a tape of it for her!” “I didn’t know at the time what it meant. She said she wanted to listen to it in her car.” “You didn’t know she was foolin’ around?”
“Not until after I sued for divorce.” “What happened?” “She said she needed to be on her own for a while. I trusted her, so I let her go.” “Men just don’t get it. If your woman goes off somewhere, she’s screwing someone for sure!” Marcie paused, and then asked, “Did you cheat on her?” “I really loved the woman. From my perspective it was the perfect marriage. I was faithful and trusted her for over twenty years. A few months after she left I got an attorney. Then about a year later I heard the real story from her old girlfriends. She had been unfaithful from the beginning. She bragged about her conquests to those same friends. I was a fool, her marionette, dancing for her pleasure and blinded by my love for her.” The damp evening pushed her closer to him and she laid her face against his neck. “I kept my vows. She didn’t. Then I spent years trying to get a divorce. She delayed and nearly bankrupted me. I had to sell the house, and I moved to a temporary place and waited for what seemed would never come.” “They say vows are meant to be broken.” “I promised ‘to have and to hold until death do us part,’ but I broke it when I divorced her.” Marcie began to shiver. He interrupted their dance, took off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. She crossed her hands at the collar and tugged it close against her, then let him
collect her against his chest. They resumed the slow dance. “But why are we dancing here?” She spoke softly into his neck. “She thought she would outlive me. That’s why she dragged out the divorce. She didn’t want to let go of my strings, the last part of me that she could still twist at her will. I resolved to outlast her, so I promised I would someday dance on her grave.” “So this is about letting go?” “This is where I cut the last string.” The song ended and began to play again. He had recorded it five times on the tape. Marcie’s softness had molded her whole length against his. He felt their common warmth and ignored the music that echoed off the marble as the last token of daylight died away. They moved in slow circles among the cold monuments until the last song was done.
Published on ISSUU February 17, 2008 www.issuu.com ©2004 & 2008 Jon L. Adams
Published on Feb 18, 2008