The Dance
by Robert Alan Silverstein

It was only when she played her flute that she could see them. She would turn out the lights, sit in the corner by the noisy old radiator, and close her eyes. She'd sit there feeling the warmth run up her legs and arms, filling her with a calm, silent peacefulness. Then slowly she'd raise the flute to her lips and begin to play.

She never had any particular melody in mind, but always something would come, and the notes would fill the darkness like rays of shimmering light. And then she'd see them dancing. Slow and graceful, they waltzed and turned and sailed upon the glimmering rays that drifted out of the flute she played.

Tiny people they were, clothed in pastel colors that glowed around their delicate bodies. And her once lonely room was ablaze with colors that blended and blurred like mist on an endless field, illuminating a peacetopian vision of life and hope and love.

The very first time it had happened she had stopped playing in awe, and they were gone just as she took the flute from her lips. The room was black. She was alone. She tried to play again, but the notes sounded cold and lifeless and nothing happened. So she sat there and stared into the darkness with tear-filled eyes, and begged them to come back. But the room was silent, and she cried herself to sleep that night.

The next evening she sat with nervous excitement in the dark, fidgeting with the flute, her eyes wide and wild. Had it all been a dream? Maybe. Or maybe it really happened. Carefully she repeated everything she'd done the night before. She closed her eyes and began to play. And there they were. She played on and on, with a bursting joy in her heart, and she watched them carefully as they danced and danced. She played well into the night -- until she finally fell asleep in exhaustion.

In the morning she awoke with a smile on her face. She longed to call them back with a melody once again. She tried, but the magic wasn't there. She sighed as she readied herself for work. But her eyes sparkled with hope. Perhaps they would return again that evening. And they did.

She played every night after that, and as soon as she thought she saw them starting to fade, she wished them good night with her eyes and took the flute from her lips. She didn't know what the rules were that would make them return again and again, so she didn't want to be too greedy and lose them forever.

And so each day she'd awaken and begin her day. And though all she really wanted to do was to come home and play and see them dance, she tried with all her might to put all of herself into each thing that she did. She had to be the best person she could be to please the tiny people.

Once life had been a boring affair for her -- something she had to force herself to plod through each day. But now she was filled with energy and animation, which everyone around her felt. Life itself seemed happier and brighter, and she found herself becoming more and more involved with the people she knew. Soon there were people she cared greatly for, and things that mattered deeply to her. Days would rush by before she even had a chance to play her flute. But whenever she really needed reassurance or comfort, the tiny people always came when she called them with her music.

Weeks and months drifted by, and she played less and less. Even when she played, she never played as long or as desperately. And she never played alone anymore, when she took her flute out from time to time. It was always for a child or a friend. In their shining eyes of joy, she'd see the tiny people dancing round and round.

But soon even those times were few and far between, and suddenly she found herself an old woman with a family and grandchildren and a heart full of memories of all the lives she had touched with her gentle kindness and all the love they had shared together. Then there came the day when she longed to hear the music once again, and to see the tiny people dance. Not because of the desperation and loneliness that had brought them there in the first place -- for her heart was full now -- but for the sheer joy of watching them dance.

So she sat quietly in the darkness and slowly brought the sparkling flute to her old, dry lips, and she began to play. The music filled her ears, and there they were, dancing and gliding on rays of shimmering light. Oh, how beautiful and wondrous it was to see them dance once again, after so very long. As she watched them it seemed they were beckoning her, "Come and dance with us," the music seemed to whisper.

She lowered the flute from her lips and placed it carefully inside the case, and she noticed that music still filled the air. And they were still there, dancing and calling her to join them. Her eyes were filled with tears of joy as she lifted her tired body and walked slowly towards them. As she stepped into the glistening lights where the tiny people swirled and twirled, she felt lighter, and soon she was gliding across the room. Round and round she waltzed, stepping from a ray of gold to a ray of shimmering blue. The tiny people smiled with her as they danced and danced, and all around there was music.




© 1984, 1994 Robert Alan Silverstein


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