California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch
2015 Short, Short Story Writing Contest
DANCING WITH TIGERS
by Nicholas Ilacqua
I watched her sip coffee and turn the pages of one of the books from the café’s sagging bookcase. She looked at the snow outside the door and exhaled slowly. Then she laid the book on the table, stood, swung a green canvas satchel over her shoulder and walked towards the door.
The way she walked reminded me of Suzanne, like a ballerina floating from one step to the next, touching the ground just to say she had been there. Suzanne would walk like that, with a fragile purpose.
I closed my eyes and went back to Suzanne and me on the beach at sunset, her head nestled in my shoulder. Then, her eyes opened wide and inhaled the view in one deep breath, before sighing and closing them. She said, “The day ends before we’re ready and starts again whether we like it or not.”
I looked at her. Jostled by my movement, she took her hands out of her pockets and pulled tighter her coat as a big wind came up off the waves.
I said, “I never know what to say when you say something like that.”
“I just like you to listen.” And so I paid attention to her breathing.
I smiled. The water lapped at our feet and we listened to each other’s breath, as the sun hesitated above the horizon.
She would come home with stories about fairies in the park and I listened to her beautiful words of red noses and tall hats circling trees. I could see them in my mind and she could take me there. It was like seeing crystal castles formed out of sea foam. It was like turning the block and seeing the sun set over the ocean. It was like the world I always wanted. I would look into her eyes and see the world part to reveal its beating core.
Then one day she looked out the back window and told stories of the fairies in the yard, narrating their movements in a whispered monotone. I followed her eyes, but they stared out over an unkempt garden.
Charcoal drawings of sad and angry faces started showing up on the refrigerator, followed by rosaries hanging from the bedposts like sagging eyes. There were late nights of her crying, her face contorting with her words and dry silences. I’d watch her get out of bed, walk slowly to the back window to look out, and go back to bed, while I sat at the table eating lunch. She would disappear for days and come back with scars. I would see in her eyes the fire reaching for kindling but already being blown back. Then, finally, the day I dyed my suit black and saw her in the ground. It had been like dancing with a tiger, beautiful until the end.
I looked up to see the woman in the café push the door open. In the silence, between ice scraping, I saw her lips part and say “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, I’ll be with you.”