Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Writing Exercises

I've never taken an actual creative writing class. EVER. I've written poetry, plays, stories, a novel, and taken far more college writing courses than I care to remember. But I've never actually been officially schooled on how to write a publishable short story. This summer, our local library is offering a creative writing class for adults. This week's assignment was to focus on details in characters by delving into my own life for substance. Hope you enjoy my hastily written first scene.

Releveing en pointe, I clutched the barre. The muscles in my legs cramped, screaming in protest. Whose dumb idea was this, anyway? Some dreams were not meant to be recaptured.

“Lift the chest and port de bra to the side and recover. Rond de jambe to the front. Now to the back. Lovely, dears.”

Rond de what? Looking in the mirror I could see the other girls, perfectly matched in their grace. I hate them. I wasn’t always this way, capable of mimicking the posture of a gazelle. My zipper-like scar stretched from just beneath the tendrils escaping my tight bun and disappeared beneath my leotard, ending at my waist.

There was a time when the teenage version of me stood crooked; cursing the back brace I wore to control my scoliosis. Teased by just about everyone, my clothes were at least two sizes too big for my body just to accommodate the additional mass of my brace. One shoulder rose a full inch above the other, causing all my bra straps to be mismatched when tightened to fit. One side of my ribcage jutted out defiantly giving my bikini-clad body a weird contorted look to it. My first boyfriend nearly became an ex when he innocently teased me about my condition. My over-protective friends practically tarred and feathered him for his flippant remarks. In retrospect, I suppose I should have let them do it. Lord knows, I would have been saved from the many tears I cried if I had realized what an ass he was from the start. Young loves makes for young fools.

I grimaced at myself in the mirror. Eighteen years after surgery, I had poise, but still had the grace and flexibility of a hippo. The little girl next to me looked at me in mock horror at my less than ladylike stance. She tittered while I teetered. I stuck my tongue out. Brat!

I hated to admit it but she was right. Thirty four year old women were not meant to stand on their toes for extended lengths of time surrounded by hormonal preteens preening in front of a mirror! Their joints might be made of putty but at least I don’t have to spend hours checking my face for zits. It was a dumb idea to fulfill every single girlhood dream of mine. I mentally reminded myself to fire my therapist when class ended. Maybe hula would be more appropriate for someone who can’t bend but can shimmy with the best of them.

I checked the mirror brushing my hair from my forehead. Drat, a zit!

“Pique, pique, pique, chaînés, chasse, and jete.” Our ballet teacher passed by, giving her nod of approval as each girl sashayed on by. Her crepe skirt swished lightly against her tights with each step. All she needed was leg warmers and a stick to pound the ground with and it would be like watching a rerun of Fame in real life. “Darlin’,” she said to me, “you’re doing it all wrong.”

Down the hall, a door slammed shut, distracting the ballerina from chastising me. I breathed a sigh of relief as she stepped into the hall to discipline the children running by.

From the corner of my eye, I saw him enter the studio and disappear into a music room. Dear God in Heaven. It can’t be. I’d know that bald head anywhere. I watched him. Poised with palm arched, his right hand fingers tapped. Nothing had changed. Index, index, pinkie, hold. Index, index, thumb, pinkie. With a subtle flourish, his left hand rose in the air, hovering before striking a counter rhythm. A silent syncopated beat emerged.

Through the window, locked in his soundproof room, I recognized the tune and smiled. I didn’t even need to hear the melody. I’d memorized it long before our wedding night. He was playing our song, the song he wrote for me.

The first time we met, his hands spoke to me. To the untrained eye, they were unremarkable for the most part, but I knew better. Long slender fingers capped by short nails tapped the top of the table as he waited for me. I was late for our blind date and would have chickened out if it weren’t for his hands. The moment he straddled the piano bench, and smiled at me, he transformed from an unassuming accountant into a confident and powerful musician. He was capable of wooing a crowd, turning normally shy, responsible adults into a frenzied throng of adoring fans.

Six months later, we married, walking down the aisle in time to music we’d created together. Three months after that, I was left holding a suitcase and divorce papers. He’d found a new adoring muse to play for.

“Again!” someone shouted. The soft thuds of the girls’ shoes echoed the sudden pulsing of my head. When I looked back, he was gone, his song haunting the air before fading away into the dark recesses of my mind.

“I quit.” Time to fire my well-meaning, misguided, quack of a therapist. No way was I ever going back to my ex no matter how many ways she tried to set us up again.

No comments: