Flash Fiction: Would You Care to Dance?
There goes the old Mr. Jeffries, now strolling along the grounds with his cat Schubert on a leash. I’m actually hoping he’s part of my imagination, but then he stops in front of me and says:
“Your garden reminds me of Paris. Would you care to dance?”
He softens for a moment and when I don’t answer, he turns to walk away with Schubert padding along beside him. My heart stands still, suffering a twinkling of unabashed love for the old codger. I wonder where it came from. Love, I mean. And why am I surprised? I’ve heard it’s called unconditional love when we can go through life and feel compassion for others without the expectation of receiving something in return. My own heart could not possibly be so generous that it would reach out to a tattered old man with an expression of love. Or have I misunderstood my own way of being? Have I thought so little of myself that the artistry of a man’s clothes deems him worthy of love? My heart suffers a moment of melancholia over this possibility.
It’s as though Mr. Jeffries is a commodity of sorts and his value depends on packaging. Even Schubert is a victim of bad packaging. Now, I see myself as a shallow thing with a tiny heart that cries for love yet does not know how to give it. I read somewhere that the more you love others, the more you will experience it for yourself. But even that sounds like a contrivance. I mean if you set about to love everyone walking by just so you can feel it yourself, then aren’t you still back to being a muddle of self-absorption? I realize these questions can only be answered by a saint.
Scientists offer little in the way of answers to monumental questions prickled by the notion a divine source powers our universe along with our hearts. Scientists play with numbers in laboratories and base their answers on a flurry of calculations. Only scientists profess to understand the human heart while at the same time inventing its synthetic replacement.
Thinking too much makes my head hurt. When I stop thinking, suddenly I can see Mr. Jeffries and Schubert as beings worthy of love. I glance beyond the gardens and catch a glimpse of them sadly walking into the distance. Then Schubert stops to ponder a flower, bends toward it and shoves his nose against the petals. Mr. Jeffries picks the flower and wraps the stem around Schubert’s collar. They continue walking with a lighter step. God must have smiled at them. Something I failed to do when asked to dance.
Bonnie Jae Dane
Author of ‘The Book of Husbands — a mostly comic memoir’