August. Time to sit back, drink some lemonade, and enjoy the dog days of summer. This month, we have an assortment of subjects and styles, a great mix of flash fiction certain to entertain. Enjoy.
How To Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
By Rosemary Biggio
My parents bribe and fib to me. I don’t mind when they do it to strangers, but their own kid? Of course, if you asked them, they’d deny it. I can remember that first time.
Mother always wanted a girly girl. Instead she got me. Someone put the notion in her head, probably Aunt Sally, that a few ballet lessons would make me graceful. Later, I learned my mother saved dollars from the grocery money to squander on dance lessons. Geez, that’s why we ate beans and franks for a month.
One day while I was wolfing down a grilled cheese sandwich, she bribed me. “Rae Lea, I thought you might want to check out that new bakery and visit the ballet school.”
I almost gagged on my lunch. “Heck, why would I want to do that?”
She cozied up to me. “Because if you agree to go, I’ll treat you to any pastry you want.”
It sounded like a good deal, so I agreed to look at that dopey dance school.
Monday after school, we vanished into the subway maze. It was a bit like the fun house in Coney Island, but it smelled like wet dog or worse. We reappeared in front of Schwartzman’s Medical Supply store, crouched beneath the EL where the subway limped around Frankford Avenue. Mounted atop Schwartzman’s was the sign for Madame Nanette’s School of Ballet. The ballerina’s twirl synchronized with each flash of neon.
After climbing endless stairs, we walked into the dance studio. I plunked down my school bag near my mother who busied herself straightening my uniform. My black oxfords nailed to the hard wood floor. From the doorway, I glimpsed a bevy of pink ballerinas positioned at the barre.
My mother cooed, “Rae Lea, don’t they look so beautiful?”
“That will be you someday, dear.” My mother hugged me.
I pulled away. Egad! Couldn’t she see the difference? I was built like a fireplug, my body sturdy and immoveable. The dancers swayed like flowers.
|Photo by Randy Pertiet|
A girl with blonde banana curls glanced over at us. My mother smiled. I stared her down. Beyond her performing years, Madame glided into middle age. The ballerinas continued in formation as Madame Nanette floated toward the potential customers in the doorway. No hair escaped Madame’s tight French twist, and no student escaped her watchful eye.
Madame stood Chaplinesque with the balls of her feet turned completely out. I learned from my mother, the stance was called a plie.
“Bonjour, Madame et Mademoiselle. Est-ce-que je peux vous aider?” The French charmed my mother, who fumbled with the buttons on her white gloves to extend a handshake.
“I would like to enroll, Rae Lea, my daughter, in your school. As an older student, it’s too late for a prima ballerina. But my husband and I feel it would make her graceful.”
I scowled at my mother. It was a fib. My pop didn’t care a fig about ballet or being graceful and was too smart to be conned by Frenchie. Darn, he didn’t even know about the bribe.
Madame Nanette, peering over glasses, made her evaluation. “It will be a challenge, but I will do my best.” The spell was broken when my mother heard the ka-ching of Madame Nanette’s cash register as it tallied the enrollment fee.
On the way home, we stopped at the Mayfair Bakery.
“I’ll have a Charlotte Russe.” I pointed.
“Last one,” the baker said reaching into the showcase.
Mother babbled all the way home about ballet.
“Oh, rats,” I gaped at the yellow cake flopped on the cement.
“You’re so clumsy. Madame Nanette has quite a challenge with this diamond in the rough.”
“Whatever,” I mumbled brushing the crumbs from my uniform.
Pop stood up from table and pushed his dinner plate away. “Wanda, Rae Lea and I made a bargain, no dancing school for a good report card.”
“Alright, Frank, go read your paper.”
He winked at me and left the dining room.
My mother’s eyes sharpened. She aimed the cooking fork with a pierced fried chicken gizzard at me. “You should have told me how you felt about ballet. Why, most girls your age would be thrilled that they had an opportunity like this. I don’t understand you, but I know manipulation when I see it, even if your father doesn’t. You have until the end of the marking period to make good on your bargain.”
I marched into my room. Sweat dripped from my palms. Two weeks until the marking period ended. Sheesh. I flipped through my homework pad and began reading my English assignment, “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”
Rosemary Biggio was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. A retired high school teacher and college instructor, Biggio is now a freelance writer.