Excerpt from Chapter 1, Art:
Little Sandy then stepped the few feet to the stage and placed her phone, an older Apple model, on a small square of carpet at the edge of the stage, just below the mic stand at the center of the stage. She then stepped back and, nodding to the emcee, gave him the signal to turn on the old iPhone’s music.
The tension in the air of the venue was thick with anticipation as the old emcee, his hands nearly trembling, took a tissue from a box hidden behind his podium and, carefully wiping the fingers of his right hand, approached the old phone. He stepped over to the device and held his index finger just above the screen. The old man seemed to take a deep breath and, with a swift movement, pressed the music play button and then staggered back into the arms of two waiting volunteers, strong, sturdy young men who had stepped out from the wings when the old man had stepped to the phone.
The entire venue held a collective breath, yet again.
Then, the little girl danced.
Sandy’s ponytail, instead of its usual frantic bobbing up and down, now swayed slowly from side to side. Her steps were more fluid than earlier. Less clogging and more…more floating was the only word that truly captured the child’s movements. She remained in the same spot, but danced in a way that seemed to encompass the entire dance floor and stage. Her skinny back to the audience, she swayed and moved like a cross between a miniature ballerina and a tango artist. Even as only a child, a long line of history’s more expressive dances seemed to be embodied in her tiny, weaving frame.
The audience, to include the bus visitors, was dead silent, many even holding their breaths as the child’s out of character dance unfolded.
Suddenly, almost as one, the locals released a collective sigh and, silently, in ones and twos, began to join the little girl on the dance floor. The earlier clogging had also been replaced in them, giving way to more swaying and near swooning.
As they danced, the celebrants, for no other word could describe the manner in which the dancers had taken the floor, seemed to lose themselves in the music. No wild hollering or winking looks between couples. Whatever was happening, the dancing was done with grace and a certain level of what appeared to be piety.
The other dancers carefully avoided dancing or stepping in front of Sandy, to avoid getting between her and the source of the music. To the observers still in their seats, the dance floor looked like a sea of bodies, divided down the middle by the presence of the tiny little girl.
Several of the more enthusiastic celebrants reached out toward the old phone, as if touching the device would bring some release they were seeking. However, each time someone, or a group, would get close to the phone, the two burly youths who had helped the old emcee would gently redirect the celebrants back into the mass of swaying and dancing bodies.
As the dancing continued, celebrants began to exhibit more animated behavior. One dancer would suddenly spring into a frenzied, self-absorbed ballet of the soul, while another would began to jerk uncontrollably, as if some unseen hand was flipping an electric switch. An older woman began to weep uncontrollably and was helped to her seat by two youths, a girl and boy who both had nearly identical, angelic expressions of contentment on their faces. A middle-aged couple, who had earlier been playfully dancing with friends during the band’s first songs, suddenly cringed and began stooping and looking about wildly as they scurried from side to side, looking the world like animals being hunted as prey. Several of the older men, who seemed to be of the cloth, managed to corral the two and, after some well place splashes from water bottles, the two were escorted to seats at the edge of the stage.
The audience was not spared as several people swooned in their seats, causing ripples of conversation to move back and forth across the hall.
One of the bus visitors, a small, dark man began to slowly tear at his clothing as he rose out of his seat and backed up the aisle, his eyes deep, black pools mesmerized by the scene on the dance floor. A woman, probably his wife, followed after him on her knees, shielding her eyes from the dance floor with her scarf as she silently tried to coax her husband to calm himself. Only when the man had backed all the way until his was pressed against the far wall did he then stop tearing at his clothes and allow his wife to gently turn his face from the spectacle below. Several locals came to the couple’s aid, handing the distressed man a bottle of cold water and comforting his wife.
Several of the men who seemed to be clerics of some sort also fell under the spell of little Sandy’s music and the celebrants’ dancing. One normally staid and proper gentleman was trying to escape the grip of his colleague to leap over the aisle and seats to join the exuberance of the dancers on the floor. Several others were in various stages of emotional distress, swaying about in their seats like so many others in the audience.
Of the first two of the obvious outsiders noticed earlier, the one sitting closest to the dance floor was videoing the entire sequence, while the one sitting higher up frantically typed away on his huge phone and checked a second phone that he had plugged into earphones. Both men seemed to be fighting fatigue or sleepiness as they continued to record and do whatever on the small handhelds.
The three outsider women were huddled to the left of the stage, near the restroom alcove, the older one and the Asian-American woman trying to console the third, who was sobbing uncontrollably and, after a few moments of little Sandy’s dance, had dropped to the floor and sat, almost in a fetal position, rocking back and forth, mumbling in the coastal South Carolina Gullah tongue of her grandmother.
Of the out-of-place outsiders, only the man in black descended to the dance floor, seeming to mimic those around him as he made his way to the edge of the groups closest to the stage and closest to the old phone. The man, obviously out of place as his dancing seemed more in control and contrived than the natural rhythm of the locals, looked like a dark swan weaving its way through a stormy pond of diverse celebrants, who seemed to all be lost in personal or collective ecstasies.
Once the man in black was within several feet of the phone, he remained in that position, presumably waiting for the music to stop. He had joined a group of overzealous, middle-aged couples writhing about quite close to each other, seeming for all the world to mimic a prelude to some sort of Roman orgy.
All the time little Sandy had been dancing as if alone, lost in her own interpretation of the song’s intent. But, at what would turn out to be about the halfway point in the music, she turned to grasp the hand of whomever was near her, but just for a moment, and then, dancing softly and adding a little more bobbing to her ponytail, she wove a light-footed path through the crowd, touching the hand of each of the dancers, whether they were aware of her or not. Even when she came to the man in black, she didn’t miss a beat and gently touched the man’s hand before dancing on to the next celebrant.
Sandy’s touch on the man in black’s hand seemed to give the man a sudden shock and he staggered back, grasping the spot where she had touched him. As the man watched the girl dance away, his face grew suddenly beet red, his knees seem to shake out from under him as he bent over in apparent pain and, grasping at anything and everything for support, staggered off the dance floor. The last anyone saw of the man in black was his stumbling out of the western entrance into the cool night of the hollow. ...
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish