The Feet of a Dancer

When Mr. Kleen comes home at night, he takes out his silver hoop earrings and lays them on the desktop by his expensive computer, home page beaming a cross-hatch of light onto his ballet magazines. He runs a hand over his head and feels stubble breeding there like cancer. It is like chemo every day, that scrape of blade across his smooth skull, like his wife Charlie dying again, her mouth a gray swale of cancerous rot. He regrets his long-ago decision to shave it for some silly television gig.

He is old now, his trousers must be rolled over his bony ankles, yet the scene must play over and over again: he wakes from sound sleep, perspiring, and hopes again this day to be someone else, to not be the man who must salute a row of a thousand commodes or mug for morons at a store opening in Chillicothe before he takes his midday meal of gin.

Money has not been an issue for some time for Harry Kleen. His place in popular culture is secure, he knows, the products he hawks still first in line at toilet-cleaner sales conventions. He has lifted his brawny hands to the Lord and has been blessed. But now he wants more.

- - -

Old Harry Kleen still calls himself Harry Blenkowski when he is twenty. His limbs are long and muscular, his concave chest bone a tiny bird, wings outstretched and fluttering under his flesh, most prominent in the very center where his girlfriend Charlie kisses him before he leaves to teach his ballet class. He loves his life and his full head of brownish hair.

As he approaches the barre, he sees a man in a suit with a checkbook and stops cold. "Young man. I have never seen such grace, such ballon. I need you." Harry thinks to himself, yes you do.

In an hour, those honeyed words have his signature on a contract, and Harry tells himself afterward as he holds a grand plie that it will be a boon, that he will be self-sufficient, an artiste, that Charlie will have a dress, no two, of the finest cuts of silk and already he can see Charlie in a large and floppy hat waiting for him in their new car, her smile a porcelain fount of joy.

- - -

It is almost noon now of another working day, and the phone rings once and then cuts off half-through the second ring. Is this the end, Harry asks himself? Will they miss him when he is gone? He feels of his head, the stubble grown large, he thinks, though his mind know it is not true. Somewhere Charlie is. But he does not know her anymore, nor his own face as it stares besottedly from his face in the mirror, gin-roses plain to see.

He rises and on gimpy old man knees turns to face his mirror and lifts his arms allonge'. He feels the first pull of his groin as he slides left, his feet still sure underneath him, and he sees himself in a grand jete. The music in his mind is strong , and it lifts him up and brings him down -- his bald head and frail knees, the wide smile that pays his bills -- swaying gently in front of his mirror, knowing in his mind that he is graceful and true, that his feet are the feet of a dancer and have always been.

About the author:

Rusty Barnes is a founder and Fiction Editor of Night Train ( Send missives of praise to