Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Thirty-Eight.
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Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we present a rumination on the future of effort.
Flash Pulp 038 – The Dance, Part 1 of 1
“I’m surprised she has any students at all. She started swinging that cane and I swear, I near started crying. One to the calf: “not extending high enough”, one to the thigh: “not taut enough.” I mean, come on, I’d just finished showing her a Martinique beguine to a jitterbug that led out with an Irish stepdance! What more does she want?”
Fiona had been eating lunch when Marty had stepped up to the opening of her cubicle, and as he finished, she rubbed bread crumbs from her fingers.
“What it sounds like is that she wants it done right.”
Marty glared down at her.
“Well, I say it IS right.”
“Well, I say you hovering over me while I’m eating my lunch is ruining my twinkies. Either sit down, get back to work, or go be the guy that complains that the consultant is wrong – and risk revealing that you’re a lazy whiner.”
Marty and Fiona had encountered each other in the parking lot, and Marty was taking the opportunity to finalize a day’s worth of complaining.
“She’s like my fifth grade teacher, no matter what, she’s never satisfied. At least back in math class I could show my work – the woman has no interest in listening, she just tells me to do it better.”
Overhead, an irritated flying security camera circled their animated discussion.
“She was dancing professionally at an age when you were still sleeping off Jagermeister and cheeto benders in your Mom’s basement: I think she knows what she’s talking about. I don’t blame her for being a bit ornery considering she spends her day in a wheel chair teaching tomorrow’s ballet queens.”
“Who hires a cripple to instruct dance anyhow?”
Fiona, shaking her head, hit the starter on her car.
She climbed in.
As she reversed from the lot, Marty could see through her windshield that she was still looking at him, shaking her head.
Marty and the woman were in the studio again. It had been their longest session yet.
He’d spent most of the time sweating, and wishing the woman, in her crisp black leotard, would call the proceedings to an end.
“Yes – now hold it, hold it.” The woman wheeled her chair about his ballerina posture. “You’re getting closer.”
Still striking a perfect second position arabesque, Marty protested.
“What? What more is there?”
“Your transitions are sluggish. When caught by a sudden tempo change it looks as if the dance is being conducted via satellite from Baghdad.”
“Listen, I thought you might say that, and I’ve compared tape with amateurs – we’re talking well within error constraints, shouldn’t that be good enough?”
“No. If it isn’t worth doing perfectly, why bother doing it?”
“What do you know about it? You don’t understand the work.”
“I understand that if you were as good at your job as I am at mine, you wouldn’t be receiving complaints.”
She stared up at him, her pointer across her lap.
He was surprised to find her seated on the floor as he entered. Her wheelchair rested against the wall, and he guessed that she’d used the barre to lower herself before crawling to the center of the room.
He suddenly felt guilty about his fifteen minutes of pre-planned tardiness.
She skipped the traditional introductory beratement.
“I will dance today,” she said.
There was a hitch to her voice that he thought might be the edge of tears. Setting down the big blue duffel, he began to remove the exoskeleton.
As he helped the dead weight of her legs into the suit, he realized he’d never been this close to the woman before.
Somehow, at this range, she seemed younger than he’d previously thought.
He placed the sensors at the base of her neck and helped her upright.
They’d had music at every session, but it had always been held low enough to allow chatter. She wobbled at first, but her opening baby-steps within the suit were to move to the stereo. By the time she’d crossed the room, each stride was firm and sure.
Her thumb spent a long moment against the volume button.
The clack and whir of the rig was lost beneath the thrum of the beat that filled the space.
She began to dance.
After an hour the battery began to wear low, and she was forced to return the volume to a conversational level.
With the last of the juice, she grabbed a white towel and gently settled to the floor.
It was only then that she allowed the concentration she’d shown to be broken.
Finally, she spoke.
“Yes, now it is right.”
Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.