Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ash Dance

A response to Deb Markanton's "May I Have This Dance?" in Flashy Fiction and the striking of a certain proposition in California.

A light machine flashed red and green as Jake tapped a folding chair beside Zach. "Mind if I sit here?"

"Go ahead."

All the Lovers blared from the speakers. Couples danced mashed together on the court floor as hands raced with a wild hormonal rush. "It's a meat market out there."

"Not my scene."

Three simple words. Jake swallowed the saliva in his throat thick with syrup as he looked into Zach's green eyes to find a face he'd never appreciated. Never considered. Possibilities. "Didn't you come with Olivia?"

"Just friends." Acknowledgment in Zach's smile. Subtle, so the piranhas wouldn't notice. "It's hot in here, talk outside?"

"Sure." Jake rose into a cloud of cheap perfume and cologne. Crap, crap, crap. Vanessa Turner, fire in her eyes, bounced across the gym to the beat of Kylie. Jake turned, hoping to get out the door with Zach.

A tap on Jake's shoulder.

"Hey Jake, word has it you know how to twirl a girl."

Iron balls rattled within Jake's lungs. Years of being dragged to dance parties by his single mother had taught him one thing, you never said no when someone asked you to dance. Unless you had an excuse. "Zach and I were talking."

A hiss as the fire in Vanessa's eyes died.

"No, no," said Zach. "You go ahead." Ice.

No excuses. Vanessa smoldered as Jake took her hand to squeeze through the bodies onto the floor.

Right, left, backstep. Right, left, backstep. Vanessa moved with him following the beat, following his leads. A twist, a turn and then two arms yanked to catch her spun in close, her breath smoky. A space emerged around them. A dip, a slide. Right, left, backstep. The other couples circled to watch as Jake walked Vanessa through the first steps of an aerial. Tasting, teasing. A perfect follow. Words he'd learned at the dance studio. It doesn't matter how you dance; make the girl look good, make the guys want her and make the girls want to be her. Over their heads, Jake saw the gym door open to the blackness beyond; the clang of the door drowned by the electronic beat. The music ending as Jake lifted Vanessa into a toss.

Jake fled the dance floor, Vanessa billowing in his wake. Hands, cool hands, touching him but none of them slaking the thirst. He pushed through the door, but outside it was empty.


  1. Well done, even with a sad ending.

  2. So simple but complex. I loved your description of the dance. Just before I read yours I read this weeks #Flashfriday by Mazz in Leeds. There was a piranha in hers, too. Funny how we all connect in some way. Give us more, Aidan.

  3. A nice, terse bit; loved the implication of conflict throughout. Well done. :)

  4. Valerie, J. Dane, Thanks.

    Susan, thanks. I missed the piranha; I'll have to re-read Chieftains. Yes, I enjoy the connections that play out (sometimes coincidentally in this case; and sometimes deliberatively).

  5. The smartest part of this story for me is how the dance studio mantra "make the girl look good" and its insulting undertone "it doesn't matter how you look" send the not-so-subtle message to a boy in dance class that the ladies are the prize, a message which, for this boy in particular must be bitter news indeed.

  6. Well done. I really liked how you contrasted Jake's thoughts on what he should do, against what he actually did.

  7. David, thanks for your comments. Yes, that is a squirrelly mantra.

    TS, I'm glad that Jake's conflicted nature came through.

  8. You captured the uncomfortable itch of social expectations at odds with personal desires. Well written.

  9. Aidan, I so loved this piece. And reading it again here was even more compelling. I also liked how you incorporated the actual prompt into the middle of the piece instead of at the beginning.

  10. GP, thank-you.

    Deb, I'm glad you liked it. This was a little different stylistically than some of my writing and was amusing to touch on a more YA story than I usually approach. I also slightly modified the prompt, but loved the turn of phrase "twirl a girl" which really led to the dance paragraph description.