The Sugar Plum Valentine

sugar plum.JPG

The haunting sound of oboe and xylophone never felt so special as when Katrina danced. No one but she would know the contrarian joy of en pointe or a pirouette as if by dancing she both defined herself and defied the crowd. She turned and practically floated across the stage as all eyes beheld the sweet girl’s grace. The music turned from soothing to jarring as Sugar Plums gave way to husky Russian boys...

West Morris Central High School, Chester, New Jersey…

“Hey, you fag, watch the fuck where you’re going!” A tall young man with a pimply face interrupted the soft humming of Tchaikovsky and shoved Kenny Devuska rudely into a locker; Mark's complexion was due more to poor hygiene than the chemical he had just purchased on line. The large letters ‘WM’ seemed to embolden him, as if he was the king of the hallway.

“Leave him alone, Mark,” a voice came from behind. He turned to see a very tall and handsome looking young lady in a cutaway basketball jersey; her shoulders shone only a bit from the dull fluorescence that bathed the corridor. She punctuated her words with a slap to the back of the brute’s head.

“Fuck it, Jerri! Who the fuck do you think you are,” he said, completely missing the irony of his statement. Another voice came from his left.

“If you plan on wrestling tomorrow night, you might consider losing the huge weight between your ears. Leave the kid alone." Mark turned to see his coach shaking his index finger vigorously. A moment later he skulked down the hallway and into the gym.

“I hope you don’t mind,” the girl said as she helped the boy to his feet. She kissed his forehead almost like a big sister would her own….sister. Kenny looked at her in puzzlement until she smiled.

“I heard….your voice is sweet, and I do so love fairies.” Coming from anyone else, it might have seemed cruel and taunting, but the sparkle in the girl’s eyes and the strong hands that held the boy at arm’s length seemed to allay his fears even if only a bit. She turned to notice a few folks had gathered in the hallway, along with the beast who had accosted the boy only moments before.

“You gonna be okay?”

The girl stared at Kenny; his eyes seemed filled with fear, but it wasn’t for what might happen, but for what might not. Almost like a dream cum nightmare, he trembled until Jerri Polakowski did what any knight in a shining cotton/polyester blend might do. Pulling the boy close, she kissed him full on the lips. And just like the fiery redhead in that old John Wayne movie, he tilted his head back and actually raised his left leg in surrender.

“Happy Valentine’s day, sweetie,” Jerri said as she looked around the hallway. The crowd broadcast its approval by a smattering of applause and a mix of smiles and surprised gawking. A very large man emerged from the office across from the impromptu romance. Ignoring the scene, he walked directly to the older boy; smacking him on the back of the head in similar fashion as Jerri’s demonstration only moments before.

“Get back and you can do …oh, I guess a hundred laps after you suit up, okay Mr. Polakowski?” The coach smiled at him with a very satisfied grin before nodding at the boy’s sister. She nodded back.

“Thanks!” She said before turning her attention once more to the slight figure who stood practically in her shadow. She patted his arms with her hands in a gesture of encouragement. No demonstration for effect; she actually liked the boy; it was just who she was and what and who she saw. Her Oscar to his Felix in a way; an odd couple for the ages at West Morris. She kissed him on the cheek and said softly once more,

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Milaya….” Her voice trailed off softly as she stepped back and faded quickly into the crowd. And a moment later some swore they saw a petite ballerina dancing down the hallway to the strains of the Waltz of the Flowers….

Excerpts from The Nutcracker
by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky
as portrayed in the Motion Picture
Walt Disney Productions, 1940

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