Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 14

Weeeeeeeeelcome back to Flash! Friday! I am here to confirm for you that yes, we DID just enjoy Flash! Friday five minutes ago and yes, there ARE in fact four Fridays each week.  I expect national scientists to confirm this at any moment.

Until then–please join me in bidding adieu to faithful and passionate judge Whitney Healy. I love the exuberance with which she’s approached each of her judging weeks; I suspect she’d have written a giddy novel on each tale if I’d let her. Thank you, sweet Whitney, for all your time and labor. But BEWARE, dear writers: her imminent departure means she’s likely to be more passionate this week rather than less. Be sure to scour her judge page to see how best to capture her gleeful eye. 

Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own stuff sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays “just for fun.”   

Your turn!

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Sunday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the word ‘bourrée‘”–and yes, I made it frightfully easy for you this week–you’d better make it good):


***Today’s Prompt:

Dancing at the Red Cross Fund, Brisbane, 1942. Public domain photo.

Dancing at the Red Cross Fund, Brisbane, 1942. Public domain photo.


76 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 14

  1. @StephenWilds
    “A Bad Date” – 160 words

    Alex’s ears were still ringing as she pushed herself up, knees and elbows in the hard red dirt of the fairgrounds. David had said something, but the gunshots she had pushed him away from were making it hard to understand him.


    She was positive tinnitus was in her future.

    “I asked why the little girl doing the performance art with the balloons was firing at us with a machinegun,” he said ducking further down behind the colorfully painted cart holding bales of hay.

    “Don’t know,” Alex said, raising her head up slightly to assess the situation. “I wish she would go back to being cute and dancing though.” She jerked back down quickly, having been greeted with a few bullets across the wooden side of the cart.

    “I think she’s after you.”

    “Well,” David said, flustered. “Who do you think sent her?”

    Alex shrugged and pulled her gun from the holster.

    “I don’t know…let me go ask.”

  2. Before the Battle of Brisbane

    Primula posed in her ballet tutu. With a fluff of white netting, she felt like a real ballerina. Her father did not share her joy.

    “Them damned Yanks are all over Brisbane. Giving our women chocolate and nylons,” said her father. “Now you are parading our daughter about for the sods, Hilda?”

    Primula’s mother frowned.

    “She’s not parading. She’s dancing. Ballet, you big goon, is art. Serious art. Mrs. Fredericks has a classical record the girls are going to dance to, like at a fancy theater.”

    “I don’t think they carry balloons at the theater,” said Primula’s brother Will. “They look stupid.”

    “Don’t spoil it for our Prim,” snapped Hilda.

    “What them Yanks want, is some chorus girls with balloons on their—“

    “Hush!” said Hilda. “Come along, boys. “

    Primula and the other girls waited anxiously as men in strange uniforms wandered over. Yanks.

    “Do you suppose they’ll give us chocolate?” Prim asked Veronica.

  3. The Spectator
    (155 words)

    He held the photograph, gazing at monochromatic ballerinas frozen in time. He could recall that day with such wonderful detail. The hushed tones of the audience as his sister and her friends entered the hall. The rustle of fabric against skin. The apprehensive glances thrown between confident smiles.

    Angels, all of them, poised and elegant.

    The music filled the universe, the dancers becoming a moving constellation of wonder. He had been so proud of his sister that day, so in awe of her beauty. She had been so graceful, so wonderful.

    Afterwards father had bought them sodas and ice-cream. She was still in her costume, a princess amongst peasants.

    He never watched her dance again, yet he had never forgotten that moment.

    Now she was gone, leaving him alone. He gently lowered himself into his armchair, watching the dust dance into the air.

    If only he could recall her name.

    Or even his own.


  4. rlyonsii.net
    156 words- This Year

    “No,” Cole screamed angrily, “We are not going to the stupid bourrée again this year.”
    “Every year Cole,” Anastasia screamed back, “You know damn well why we have to go, we go every year.”
    Cole did know the reasons behind what he was beginning to fully recognize as madness. His options were limited however, he was in too deep.
    “This is stupid,” he muttered as they walked up the weed infested walkway, “You know one of these years this place is going to fall down on top of us.”
    Anastasia rolled her eyes and remained silent up until they were inside the collapsing building, that housed a dance studio in the 1940s.
    “Aren’t they beautiful,” she asked him.
    Cole sighed, “Honey you know I can’t see them like you do, they are dead!”
    “You will this year you son of a bitch.”
    She was right, when his heart stopped beating he could see them just fine.

  5. Aussie Rules Ballet
    Ian Martyn (www.martynfiction.com)
    153 words

    ‘Hey, you! What you looking at? Ain’t you seen a girl in tutu with bunch of balloons before?’

    ‘Look, luv, I’m just taking the photos. Anyway, what you going to be dancing.’


    ‘Well I’m guessing you didn’t dress like Margot Fontaine by accident.’

    ‘Margot who…? I think you’ve got the wrong idea, mate. This is Aussie Rules ballet.’


    ‘Yeah. This is Aussie Rules team ballet. There’s eleven of us and we’re taking on the Perth mob. All for charity of course. See these balloons, you tie them to your behind right.’

    ‘Then what?’

    ‘Well, we lines up and it all kicks off. Last team with a balloon still blown up wins.’

    ‘Sounds a bit rough?’

    ‘Oh yeah! It’ll be mayhem, mate. We’re goin’ to rub there little touches in the dirt alright. You’ve heard of that dying swan thing, well there’ll be a few dead ducks out there, I’m telling you.’

  6. Life’s A Gas
    by A J Walker

    Little Jeanie hated the wishy washy subjects like art and dance and abhorred sport. Give her a maths problem or a chemistry set and she was insanely happy. It didn’t make her a popular girl.

    At the school show she was thrust into a dancing troupe, tutu and all. Her face was a study in pain when she was told. Behind the scenes she was subject to horrendous attacks the like of which only young girls could commit.

    The night before the dance, in the garage at home, she carefully reacted the aluminium sulphide with water, collecting the gas. She then put the hydrogen sulphide into the balloons.

    Before the dance she surreptitiously swapped her balloons with all her tormentors.

    Inevitably the heavier balloons fell to the floor during the increasingly chaotic dance and the feet of the children burst them one by one creating an acrid smog throughout the anarchic school hall.

    No one had seen Jeanie laugh before.

    (160 words)

  7. Littlebox Town
    160 words

    The balloons were a distraction from uncoordinated feet; the fair an annual distraction from a grubby little town.
    The tutu, a wilted hand-me-down from decades before, scratched at my thighs as I slapped my flat feet around to the rhythm of my own teeth chewing gum.
    The pianist tried to accommodate our freestyle, but in the end, he, too, had to go it alone.

    For a moment, I looked up, knowing Momma wouldn’t be there, but Billy was. His grin was beautiful and infectious. He pointed to our place at the tracks.

    A brief curtsey, and I raced to cradle in his embrace and dream of leaving this place behind. I asked why he thought the last summer’s plans hadn’t amounted to much.
    He shrugged.

    When Momma found us, and I said to leave now, I saw in his face he had only been dreaming.

    It would’ve broken my heart to hate him, so I said goodbye instead.

  8. Gaelendor’s Son
    By TJ Marshall
    WC 160

    A crowd assembled in the clearing outside Gealendor’s cave. They circled a bonfire large enough to see from the far side of FourPosts. Sprites, dressed in lily flower skirts, danced around the fire waving colorful rocks above their head, while nymphs, centaurs and satyrs cheered and drank elfish mead from horn goblets.

    Gealendor paused at the mouth of the cave and kept the egg close to his chest. He raised his head toward the full moon.

    “It is time.” His words settled over the clearing as a wide path was made for him. He stepped out of the cave he’s called home for two centuries; his tail held high to keep from knocking over his guests.

    He placed the egg in the center of the fire. Flames rose. Sparks flew. A crack sounded splitting the egg in two. The long thin head of his son appeared and squeak-roared.

    “Long live Fealen, son of Gealendor!”

    The crowd’s cheer shook the woods.

  9. Guilt
    by Karen (http://inasmallcompass.wordpress.com/), @okiewashere
    word count: 159

    They stood around the park bench in silence. The old man was definitely dead. The sand before him read: Forgive me, Shirley – I shouldn’t have left you. His hands still held two sheets. An official looking envelope lay beside him. After the photographers had finished, Ralph took a closer look at the papers. The second sheet was an apology that it took so long to send him the information. The first sheet was a death certificate: Shirley Anne Deerfield, born on February 14, 1934, died on September 12, 1942. Cause of death: pneumonia.
    With gloved hands, Derek carefully pulled the man’s wallet out of his breast pocket. According to his passport, his name was John Deerfield born in Brisbane in 1916. A crumpled black and white photograph was folded in the bill compartment. It showed some 10-year-old girls in tutus, dancing at a Red Cross Fund in 1942, in its centre a very sad looking girl, holding three balloons.

  10. “To Be Her Again”
    160 words

    Being a dancer at 10 was a slice of fantasy made real. When Eliza stood at the sink brushing her teeth, her feet worked through tandus. She would planche to collect her shoes from the floor, her leg behind her in a beautiful clean line.
    She would chaine across the street, sharp small elbows threatening to make contact with the other passersby.
    School over, she raced home, eager to abandon technique, turning easy cartwheels in the grass. She was a butterfly, performing for the flowers. Feet flying , body stretching, her pliable lithe frame not yet fully formed.
    She did not yet dance with the spirit of competition, she did not yet have dance shoes stained with the blood of tortured toes.
    Now, she sat in her wheelchair, thin wrinkled fingers tracing the picture of her younger-self dancing. She hoped she got a choice in how to spend eternity, she wanted to be that girl again- dancing, graceful and light.

  11. Pink With Jealousy

    Pointing my toes I move into fifth position. I had hated Mother for signing me up for something that made me wear pink.
    “Good,” my teacher approves, and a smile lifts my cheeks. But one can get used to a color, especially since I’m about to land the lead role in Giselle.
    My teacher claps, “Ladies, please welcome Miss Shirley to our production.” A girl with perfect bouncing curls whirls inside.
    Becca leans over, “I hear she puts fifty-six rollers in her hair every night.” My fingers reach up and lightly comb my lifeless curls.
    “Gabby, move back a row.” My teacher says to me as Shirley comes and takes my spot in front.
    “Don’t worry,” Becca whispers, “I also hear she sings about animal crackers in soup.” I hiccup back a giggle and blink away my tears. I glance at my mother, and she nods. Looks like I’ll be sleeping in more pink rollers tonight.

    156 words

  12. Dangerous Dance

    The fluid tempo of the orchestra echoed through the grand hall. Young women flitted about the dance floor gliding gracefully through the air. Lush fabric rustled boldly as they spun each was more beautiful than the last. Delicate silk lace covered their eyes stripping them of their identities.

    “I look forward to this celebration. It’s so lovely. I wish it happened more than once a generation.” The queen scanned the dance floor.

    “Yes mother, it’s quite a site to behold,” said the prince.

    “This year it’s all for you dear.”

    “One has caught my eye. I think it’s time I announce my decision.” The prince rose from his throne making his way to the ball room floor.

    “Ladies, if you please.” He motioned for everyone to approach. The music ceased draining the space of all joy.

    The women inched forward eyes downcast curtsying in front of the prince. A royal guard shadowing each of them, knives drawn.

    157 Words

  13. Dancing days

    The lights are blinding, the sound of politely muffled silence from the crowd is a deafening roar. It is the moment I have been dreaming of, my time in the spotlight. Each move is etched into my memory from the countless hours of practice. I glide with effortless grace, my limbs are as supple and weightless as freshly filled balloons.

    I follow my steps perfectly, but then without warning I lurch forwards, catching myself by surprise. This isn’t part of the routine but something else takes over. I twist and turn so beautifully the crowd bursts into tears, and I crumple to the floor exhausted.

    I hear voices mumbling quietly from the front row.
    “Sit rep?”
    “Young female. Car accident. Severe head trauma, multiple fractures.”
    “What’s with the outfit?”
    “She was on her way to a dance recital.”
    “Her Mother. She’s being treated for shock.”
    “Ok, prep surgery. Remove the tutu, I’m afraid her dancing days are over.”

    159 words

  14. The Our Lady of Thorns “Lil’ Sprigs” Dancers
    160 Words

    Hours later, the hurdy gurdy still grinds away and the girls still twist like dogwood branches in the spring breeze, trembling with the cold and exertion. The swollen red and white balloons are the only things holding some of them up.

    A susurration of whispers stirs through the crowd.

    “Will there be no volunteers?” Sister Agatha raps her birch cane against the stage. “None willing to donate? Not even an iron coin or a piece of beef?”

    One by one, the balloons pop and the pale girls collapse to the ground like kindling.

    “For God’s sake, stop it!” A man finally cries out and pushes forward, rolling up his shirt sleeves. “Just take it already.”

    Sister Agatha plunges her needle into the crook of his elbow. The thick redness sluices up the surgical tube. She smiles and looks down at the lone girl still dancing, trembling like a daisy.

    “This one is for you, Rosy. The greatest dancer of all.”

  15. A Dish Served Cold

    Hard blue eyes examined the faded photo. She spoke in a cold, satisfied voice. “There you are Margaret! You’ll pay for your sins, oh how you’ll pay! You were so jealous of my prettiness and grace, that you did this to me! You took my legs, my dancing career, and my lover!” She snarled bitterly, slammimg a clenched fist on the wheelchair’s arm. “I’ll teach you Margaret! I’ll destroy your life, just like you destroyed mine!” She pricked her age-spotted left thumb with needle. She carefully let three drops of blood fall on the face of a dark-haired girl. “Blood calls to Blood, by the Blood Shared, Seek and ye shall Find!” She trembled with rage, laying it in her companion’s claws. “Kill the one I’ve marked!” The witch ordered.

    “Yessss Misssstressss!” The demon hissed and disappeared into a cloud of sulpur back in time to 1942.

    “Revenge is mine after seventy-two years! Goodbye sister!” She shouted triumphantly.

    155 Words @EmilyKarn1

  16. The Girl in White (159 Words)

    I spin around in my new white toe shoes just as Mrs. Morrison showed us, except today I get to hold these over-sized red, white and blue balloons. Later we’ll give them to the wounded boys–that’s what Mrs. Morrison calls them. Some are just a few years older than me, so I must remember to be kind and not look away from the horrid burns and missing arms and legs.

    “Be kind, Alicia, imagine how pleasant it is for these boys to watch such sweet young girls dance and twirl for them.”

    I wouldn’t feel happy at all to be wheeled outside only to sit and watch, unable to move, like the big Yank with the awful burns. The nurses say he’ll be dead soon.

    I offer him a balloon, but he shakes his head and smiles a lipless grin. “Dance, child, no war here.”

    He’s wrong. At night I dream of his horrible face and hate him.

  17. The Domestic Dancer

    They’ve danced beautifully!

    I rest my broom against the wall so I can add to their parents’ thunderous applause.

    They are only children, yet I envy them so much! I still remember how I would walk gracefully around on my tiptoes as a child, “pirouetting” around my bedroom, stopping only to gaze out my window at those wonderfully fortunate students entering the dance school next door, their clothes sprinkled with sequins like raindrops in spring.

    A cleaner at the dance school; that’s as close as I could get to tasting my dream. Domestic Dance, I like to call it, on those evenings when the school is empty and I twirl my way round the studio with a swirling broom.

    The young dancers are eyeing me disdainfully now, as I stand and watch them wistfully, waiting for the hall to clear.

    Someone taps my arm. Their teacher.

    “Can’t you come back later, Mr Philips?” she says. “You’re rather in the way.”

    160 words

  18. “You Shall Go” by Tinman
    160 words

    It was supposed to have been a coach, but Martha’s pumpkin had turned instead into a balloon giraffe. Miss Applecheek had given it a withering look, and when you’re a teacher at Fairy Godmother School then “withering look” is more than just a turn of phrase.

    “Interesting,” she said. “Perhaps when your time comes you can have your princess pulled along to the Ball by a small child holding a piece of string.”

    Martha’s lip trembled like her watching classmates. Miss Applecheek turned her attention to Clara, whose efforts had produced a bra with only one strap.

    “And what will she do with this?” she asked. “Use it as a sling-shot to stun her prince?”

    There is fire and steel within Fairy Godmothers, whose job is basically to patiently help the inept, and Clara would one day make one of the finest.

    “She will need it,” she said defiantly, “if the dance she gets invited to is a toga party.”

  19. The Balloon Equalizer
    By Laura Carroll Butler
    151 words

    It was titled “The Dance of the Planets”. Only the girls who could afford their own balloons were featured as planets. All the other children stood as stars, background for the dancing planets. Balloons were not in my mum’s budget. The money Pop sent home was just enough for our flat and for food. The leotard I wore was a hand-me-down; the lessons, a gift from my aunt.

    I wanted to be a planet. Instead I became the Balloon Equalizer. Mathilda, the mayor’s daughter, led the other girls whose fathers ran the industry and shops that exempted them from military service. When she and the other planets in their stiff tutus danced near me, their balloons went Pop! Pop! Pop! The audience loved it.

    “We know it was you,” Mathilda hissed at me later. I didn’t care. Pop could fight the Japs where he was; I’d fight the enemy at home.

  20. Berlin Ballerina, 1941.
    160 words

    Tonight, after many years of study and hard work, I’ll achieve one of my dreams when I dance in the corps de ballet at the opera house in Berlin.

    Everyone is excited. It is rumored that Herr Goebbels will attend tonight’s performance. He is der Fuhrer’s Minister of Propaganda and a positive reaction from him will greatly benefit our company.

    I don’t share my colleagues’ excitement as I have a secret. I’ve forsaken my roots and taken the name of a distant cousin. Now deceased, she was a Catholic. And I am a Jew. If I give an outstanding performance this evening, I’ll come to the Minister’s attention, and perhaps, be unmasked.

    I’ve two choices: dance like the star I intend to be, or perform adequately and remain forever a corps dancer. I’m afraid I’ll be sick. Then Herr Goebbels won’t matter. I’ll have sacrificed my place and lost this opportunity. I don’t think I can win.

  21. Swan Song
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke / margaretlocke.com)
    152 words

    “Dance for the fun of it,” they said.

    Our baleful stares betrayed our thoughts. We donned the dresses anyway.

    “It’s a blood drive, to help patients like you,” they explained.

    We know better. There is no help for us. The cancer that is ravaging our bodies leaves no survivors. We’ve seen too many children come and go to believe anything other than the truth.

    Not their truth. Our truth. This is our last dance, our swan song.

    They gave us balloons to distract you, so that you might not notice the frailty of our frames, the bruises and puncture wounds that dot our skin.

    As if.

    Ignore the hollows in our cheeks, the way our tutus hang on us like loose skin.

    We dance in anger. We dance in rage. We dance in defiance of pain and death and life cut short.

    “Dance like there’s no tomorrow,” they said.

    That’s easy enough.

  22. Ballerina – 159 Words

    I limped across her room and leaned on my thick cane. Maida turned as I flung the photograph of the young dancer onto her makeup table.
    “You’ve changed since our school days. Blonde now, more beautiful. The Prima Ballerina. Your debut a thunderous success.”
    “Did you see me? Was I not magnificent?”
    I pointed my cane at the photograph. “Instead of flowers I bring you this. I’ve kept it all these years. It was taken the night the guards broke my leg so I could never dance again. You recall that, don’t you?”
    Maida shrank from the photo. “I’m sorry for your accident, Alexi, but it has nothing to do with me.”
    “But you sent the guards. Even at that young age you could tolerate no competition.”
    Maida’s face turned ugly with contempt. “Get out!” She swept the photo onto the floor.
    I set my good leg and swung the cane in a wide arc at her knee.

  23. Perspective: Brisbane 1942 – a tale of Professor Cantera
    @JMnumber6, 159 words

    Sooner or later, seeing all of the typical sights of the DUST starts to wear thin. Professor Cantera had followed the 1942 DUST-road for four years, exploring the opportunities that only a DUST-walker with a taste for history could experience. He had seen the first flight of the Sikorsky R-4 helicopter and witnessed the end of the Cocoanut Grove. He’d seen both “Bambi” and “Casablanca” during their first theatrical runs. He’d also seen all of World War II in that year, from the assassination of Heydrich to Anne Frank’s last day before going into hiding.

    He was overwhelmed by history and it had made his outlook bleak.

    That was how he found himself in Brisbane, watching a group of young ballet dancers whose dour faces matched his dour mood … just before the discovery of the Greater Queensland Dragon forever changed the timeline of that particular DUST-world and, fleeing for his life, he was reminded how much he enjoyed living.

  24. And Though We Dance, Not All We Feel is Seen

    “Graceful. Lovely. Precision in every step. However, she shows no passion. No spark or emotion. It’s like watching a beautiful doll.”

    If only they knew.

    Pinocchio was lucky.

    When my mistress heard how a wooden doll came to life, she decided to do the same. She didn’t even make me herself, simply plucked me from my music box and made her demand. She wanted a dancer. She hoped for one that could be admired upon the stage and bring her gold, but she never said that part.

    Whichever fairy chose to answer her, gave her exactly what she wished for.

    Displeased, there’s little my mistress can do, the townsfolk know about me; she cannot simply dispose of me as she would like.

    I do not smile, or laugh, or speak.

    I only dance.

    But inside, I weep and yearn for the simplicity I’d known before, spinning in endless circles to Brahms’s Lullaby.

  25. Butterfly in a jar

    She could capture her audience with a single exquisite movement. Thread together a series of such motions and she’d weave a cobweb of such enchantment it would render those watching her helplessly spellbound.

    She sensed them drinking in every contour, every stretched sinew, every curve of her body. Yet somehow, when she was dancing, that sense was all she could grasp of the real world; the rest simply evaporated like a mischievous will-o’-the-wisp.

    Perhaps that was why she loved to dance – to escape. Or maybe she needed to escape in order to dance; it was hard to unravel the knotted mess of cause and effect.

    She was nearing the end of today’s performance now. Her back arched and she heard someone gasp. She smiled appreciatively, suggestively, in the gasper’s direction: And real life began to condense before her once more, with every £10 note that rained down on the stage at her feet.

    157 words

  26. For Her Happiness
    SVBookman 158 words

    She was a natural-born dancer. He did not even know her name. He had heard “Tilly” tossed out once and thought it belonged to her, but was never sure. It did not matter; he would not approach her, anyway.

    He was not a child molester; oh no, nothing so crude. He would never touch or harm such a child. She was destined to dance to ballet with symphonies, perhaps, the next world-renown ballerina. That he could not know. But he did know something.

    It all came from a picture. She was staring at the crowd, doing what she loved, yet those eyes were blank, devoid of pleasure; she was in too much pain.

    He did his work: studied, followed, researched, planned. Yes, planned, that was the most important. You see once he looked, really looked, the plans were needed. Her father was not the man he seemed. Her father was a monster.

    So, her father had to die.

  27. ALL I’VE GOT IS DREAMS (159 words)

    “You have a great future in dance” she said as she gave me the balloons.

    Well, hope for a big future was all I had as a kid; a longing for a time when the artistic gyration of my body to the sounds of exotic music would be enough to feed me and my immigrant parents.

    “Future… Future…” I mimicked Madame Valerie as a way of cleansing my tongue of the Ukranian accent that plagued the little English I could speak, because my speech was a constant source of laughter to the girls at school.

    “Don’t worry” mama always said, “Someday you’ll be laughing and they’ll be cheering you in wonder”.

    That day never came.

    Father died, mother fell ill and poof! The contents of my future were gone like the breath in a balloon pricked with a needle. Now all I’ve got is dreams frozen on the surface of a picture – a reminder of a long lost promise.

  28. Your Little Ballerina

    As the tiny dancers twirl by, you see her. Pink balloons in hand, she pirouettes; her curled hair bobbing with every swirl.

    Amid the crowd you are invisible to her. A pang drives through your heart when she passes by without noticing you.

    It’s better this way, you remind yourself, easier for you both.

    The crowd opens as you move away from the parade and toward your car where Heather is standing.

    “Clara will never forgive you.”

    “I’m not fit to be her mother,” you say. “She’ll be better off without me.”

    “Better for who?”

    “I didn’t confide in you so that you’d guilt trip me Heather. And I’m not going to stand here and try to make you understand now.”

    Heather steps away from the car. You get in before she can make you feel worse with her teary eyes and disappointed frown and drive off.

    And what you’ll never know is that your daughter saw you walk away.

    160 words

  29. Rising Star

    They were friends once, but a distance had grown between them. Effort was no match for talent, and Marsha would never be more than a footnote in Anjelica’s rise to fame. So long as there was a little reflected glory for Miss Lance’s other dancers though, she was content.

    Then she overheard Anjelica and Miss Lance plotting to put her in the wings or the booth, anywhere really, to ensure that she couldn’t embarrass them.

    Marsha thought carefully and volunteered for props and costumes. She threw herself into it, sewing and sawing and inflating balloons for the big day.

    When the other girls marched onto the outdoor stage, balloons tied to their wrists, the crowd gasped in admiration.

    When Anjelica rose through her trap door though, the gasps turned to shouts and outright screams.

    Marsha was rather surprised at how much lift the helium provided, but she was still very proud to see her friend going up in the world.

    160 words

  30. Brisé

    Saturday mornings in the Methodist hall. We pointed and pliéd and arched and arabesqued. Pale blue leotards, opaque pink tights, leather practice shoes with the elastic across the instep. In the corner, Mrs Bailey bashed out tunes, reading the paper as she played.

    I inhaled library books. Learned how you cross-hatch stitching on the toes of shoes, how you reinforce them with shellac. Exotic names pirouetted through my daydreams. Tchaikovsky. Prokoviev. Fonteyn. De Valois. Pavlova.

    In the end-of-term show, Wendy was the tangerine, transcendent in her orange tutu. Pale ribbons held her satin shoes on. I wept, a damp liquorice allsort.

    The teacher said I was ready for pointe work, but Mum said no. I was too young. Put her foot down.

    Now my boys plan to pilot spacecraft, invent supercomputers, solve ancient mysteries. I steer an unsteady course between stunting their dreams of beauty, and protecting their precious feet.

    151 words excluding title

  31. Title: Blind Ambition
    “And here comes our next contestant!”
    A young brunette walked onto stage holding a boy’s hand, wearing a blindfold. I was a little confused to see this to say the least, but I believed in my performance.
    As she was led to the center, the boy whispered into the girl’s ear. He then walked off stage and stood next to me.
    The girl twirled and tumbled about the stage with a mix of gymnastics and ballet. At one point, she spun dangerously close to the edge of the stage. Then she posed like a bird before spinning back to the center.
    I found her and her assistant afterward. I was slightly angry about being shown up by some… carnival act.
    “What was the point of that?” I yelled. “That blindfold’s the only reason you won!”
    “You’re right,” she said. “I didn’t need the blindfold. But I wanted to dance on stage just once.”
    Her eyes were gray and dull.
    159 words – @JSHyena

  32. Looking Down

    Miserable little twits.

    In my day, we could dance and smile. We knew the importance of pleasing the crowd, eliciting their cheers and chants, and cries. We were proud to be chosen, to be honored by the Council.

    I used to run to practice in my little leotard — never a second late. When they doled out our immaculately white dresses with the poufy skirts, I listened to every word of their instructions. We never got those pretty bows for our heads, but we still knew to smile.

    The parade down the streets was our beginning. All those years of classes, the dedication; we were the best, and that dance was our farewell to the humdrum life.

    Nothing like this year’s girls — undisciplined and unappreciative.

    Our parents cried too, but we knew to smile, dancing as our city’s only hope.

    These wretches aren’t fit to sacrifice.

    (145 words; @AriaGlazki)

  33. Dark Rhythm
    Chris Milam

    Mother wasn’t the bashful type when the Percocet and vodka mingled and eased into her desirous bloodstream and yanked her out of her usual perch, the bed. They were shock paddles to a fading heart, she became electrified. Alive. Bizarre.

    My friends and I would be munching on butter-drenched popcorn and watching a horror flick when music would erupt. Ice Ice Baby pulsating from the boom box as mom sauntered into my private world.

    She wore her antiquated and moth-ravaged fuchsia tutu, a baggy Led Zeppelin shirt and a pair of abused flip-flops. And she danced. Hips gyrating off the bookshelf, arms flailing, head swiveling and her belly flopping grotesquely. A hopped-up ballerina chasing absent memories as I cringed, it was an alarming scene. I’d silently plead for her to stumble back into bed.

    Mom was a distressed woman. Maybe her spastic dancing was an homage to her spirited and gypsy-like youth, before her mind dissolved. Before her essence withered away.

    160 words

  34. Earth Day on Ark Ship 1173
    (154 words)

    For the Elders, the 10th Earth Day is a nostalgic celebration. Not for you.

    All of this is alien to you, who have never seen Earth. As artificial as the light from the sunlamps illuminating this cargo bay. As restraining as the ribbons tying up your golden locks of hair, which usually fly as freely in zero-g as the helium balloons you’re inflating.

    The Captain talks of the importance of remembering tradition, now that Earth is gone forever. The Elders applaud.

    You fidget in your ballet dress. “How can I teach dance in weightlessness?” your teacher has often complained.

    Now your lanky friends struggle as the power-hungry gravity generators enforce up and down. Your frail legs struggle with the weight imposed on you. A music box melody plays the Elders back to better times. Back to Earth.

    Your dance begins. But, my little girl, how can you dance with your feet on the ground?

  35. “Shoulders!” Clementina gasped, her outrage apparent in the placement of her fingers over her not-so-demure neckline. “They’re only eleven years old, and we can see their shoulders!”

    Emmaline gazed longingly at the dancers. Apparently she would NOT be signing up for ballet class today as she’d thought.

    Six months later, Emmaline was dressed in eight yards of wool, a velvet jacket hiding her shoulders. It might not be ballet, but she had fallen in love with Scottish Highland Dance. Mostly because her mother accepted it as a respectable creative outlet, and didn’t question any further once she saw the costume.

    Emmaline got up on stage. The music began, and she bowed. She said the rhyme in her head as she danced. “Round and round the cobbler’s bench, the monkey chased the weasel…”
    Then she got to “Pop.”

    Her pleats unfurled, and as always happens when a Highland Dancer turns, she flashed God and all his creation.

    Clementina fainted.

    158 words

  36. And yet (160)

    Nobody noticed. That’s what the balloons were for. And the white dresses. And bows. And the skin above our kneecaps.

    But we felt them, pulling a leg one way, an arm that way. There wasn’t anything touching our faces. That seemed to be an oversight on their part.

    Clap, clap, clap, they would, hollering for an encore. Always wanting more. More than we could ever give.

    One time, a fellow dancer’s string snapped and her arm was free. Yet, she still held it in the air as it was because that’s how it had always been.

    After the money was collected and the clapping subsided, we were corralled and cleaned.

    Encased next to my friend, Charlotte, I brought it up again.

    “What if we broke the strings?”

    “Then what?” she responded, as she always had.

    As Issa said, the world of dew, a world of dew indeed, and yet, and yet; I would dance again.

    Not for them.

    For me.

  37. The Wish Fields
    (160 words)

    “She was something,” Edna said while overlooking the dry fields from her porch. “Wasn’t always the great ballet dancer she turned out to be. She would let frustrations get to her too.”

    Emma’s legs clanked as she walked over to her grandmother’s side. “How did she deal with them?”

    “She went into the fields one day–came back–became the greatest dancer ever known.”

    Emma craned her neck. “How did the fields help her do that?”

    “Emma!” Emma’s mother called as she shuffled out the door. “Found your jacket. We’re running late to your therapy, so let’s get going.”

    Emma hugged Edna. “Bye, Grandma.”

    “Bye, sweetie.”

    Emma’s mother waited until her daughter was in the car before glaring at Edna. “Stop it!”


    “There’s nothing in those damned fields! All just fairy tales!”

    “Beg to differ,” Edna’s eyes shifted toward Emma, then to her daughter. “Remember, she came from the fields too, honey.”

  38. Dance Forever (Or Until You’re Dead)
    160 words

    Ballet was a dance of passion and pain, this was what her master had told her, so she danced.

    She danced before the masses who could not know the difference between a Pirouette and a Brisé.

    There wasn’t a single fault in her step. The movement of her body was perfect; her balance impeccable just as she had been taught.

    The world had no place for imperfections. People did not pay to see a dancer stumble and if she did stumble she paid in blood.

    The master wasn’t foolish; he would never cause them visible damage.

    People expected a flawless face and a perfect body but no one looked at the soles of her feet.

    Sometimes she thought of leaving, of fading into the night like the audience did at the end of her performances but she knew he would find her so she stayed.

    She danced, and on the day that her heart stopped, the world danced for her.

  39. The City as Ogre
    (160 words)

    “Bring me virgins!” a nightmarish voice commanded. The ogre’s mechanical mouth gaped, freeing fangs and plumes of stinking gas.

    The maidens twirled before that oppressor who, each decade, devoured the choicest. It was the final show, and Mary relished one last time her role as Distrea, the svelte dreamer whose father forced her into ballet with hopes she might spare their village the ogre’s wraith.

    A spotlighted Distrea danced, transitioning from reluctance to triumphal permanence no brute could destroy.

    Following flowers and farewells Mary exited through the stage door. She found a phone booth.

    “Hi, Sam. Mind if I crash awhile—until I get work? My agent’s sniffed out some parts,” she lied. “Oh…thanks anyway.”

    The nighttime cityscape surrounded her as a menagerie of foulness. She resurrected Distrea, striding past windows with neon lips and fliers seeking “talent.”

    She ordered coffee at a diner, saw herself in the counter’s mirror and smiled. “I can do it. Everything’ll be roses.”

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