Feet moving graceful as birds skimming still waters, he whirled and swooped, bending Mother backward. She laughed, lips parted, mouth open, light tangoing down her black curls.
He woke. He could no more have moved than stopped the sun. He could not even raise his hand to wipe sleep from his eyes.
Mother sat by his side, watching, waiting. Her hair was grey, her face lined as a skinned week-old apple.
“Vanquished Dreams wants to publish your story, ‘Dancing Like Gene Kelly.’”
Father smiled. It was a good story, his story. The story of a man, who danced all night, fluid as water, unfettered as imagination, only to awaken in a frozen body.
He’d never danced like Gene Kelly, never danced at all. His whole life he’d been plagued by illness like a tree infested with heart rot. It might lie dormant for a while, but it was entwined in his bones and blossomed forth with the depressing regularity of winter. Finally it had hardened the liquid in his joints, leaving him a spine of solid bone
“What are they paying?”
“No pay . . . and one other thing, they want to cut the end.”
“They want to cut the end, where you wake up and realize you’re paralyzed.”
“But that’s the whole point of the story.”
“I won’t do it,” he said. “There’s no point in a story about a man dreaming he’s dancing. What makes it a story is that it’s the dream of a cripple . . . a man who can’t even . . . ” He blinked.
She wiped away the hard yellow crystals in the corners of his sleep-crusted eyes.
“I know,” she said. “But you should do it, just to publish again.”
“No,” he said, “without the end it’s nothing.”
She laid the contract on the table and pulled out a pen.
“What are you doing?”
“One last publication.”
“It’s not the last. I still have stories in me.”
She shrugged. The pen wasn’t working.
“I don’t want to die.”
She shook the pen and tried again. This time it worked.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, closing the door softly behind her.