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Ghost Girl Ballet

After Edgar Degas’ “Dance Rehearsal, 1874”

People say ballet theaters are haunted by the dancers who died tragically young, but that’s not true. Theaters are haunted by bored ghost girls. They’ve spooked everyone worth spooking. Wandered Paris, Rome, Tokyo. Lasted lifetimes in ineffectual transparent bodies. Now they strive for perfection, unity, grace. All the things they didn’t have time to achieve when alive. So they plié and jeté and pirouette in formation. They don’t sweat or stink or strain muscles. They can’t turn on music, so they hum along to whatever song they all know, usually Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” When they dance, they don’t think about their deaths or their final moments or all the fluids that creep out of an unattended dead body. In the darkness, the world is black and cold except their glowing grey bodies and tutus. Again! the tallest ghost girl demands. They race to their marks, afraid for the first time in decades that they might miss something. While their feet sprint across the stage they thank the tall ghost girl for imposing order, for asking anything of them, for giving them something to think about. All their remaining life force has to go somewhere, and they had a half century of juice still in them—stymied life like AAA batteries that leak battery acid.  Their transparent bodies pulse bolder—becoming almost visible to the living—on stage until the janitor backs in wearing big headphones blasting The Notorious B.I.G., flicks on the light and kills the magic. Until the next night.

Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. Her flash fiction appears in CRAFT, Gone Lawn, Tiny Molecules, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. Breaking Points, her debut chapbook, is available for pre-order from Black Lawrence Press (October 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com and find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.

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