I wrote this in a hotel room one morning while on business travel, watching myself making dancing movements in a mirror so that the description would match the motion. To listen along as you read, click on the triangle in the bar below. The text follows.
Each day, Yaakov Shraga goes to dance in the woods in secret. He stands perfectly still, his arms at his sides. He listens to the birds chirp and the wind rustle the trees. He watches the rays of morning light filter through the branches and leaves. And as he takes a deep breath of cool, fresh air, Yaakov slowly lifts his arms from the wrists. When his wrists reach his shoulders he begins to sway. First left, then right, left, then right, his arms gently flowing back and forth.
Yaakov begins a nigun. As he stretches his fingers toward heaven, his hands and wrists, elbows and shoulders lilt with the tune. And his feet, compelled by the joy of the song and the rhythm of the dance and the glory of creation, carry Yaakov step-step left then step-step right. He twirls and sways, his body becoming a prayer. And the birds listen. And the wind cools him. And the morning light bends toward Yaakov Shraga to see. He dances and sings until he falls asleep. In his dream, Yaakov continues to dance and sing and spin and pray with all his heart, all his soul, and all his might.
Each day Yaakov Shraga the Cripple goes to dance in the woods in his mind, where only G-d can see him.
© 2010 Alden Solovy and http://www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.
Postscript: My dad’s Yiddish name was Yaakov Shraga, z”l. He lived with chronic pain and crippling rheumatoid arthritis first diagnosed when he was a boy. The story came, in part, from witnessing the power of his mind over pain. I’ve struggled with calling this character “the Cripple;” it flies in the face of social conscience — and my own — against using negative terms to describe the handicapped. As a writer, however, it’s clear that this usage drives the story’s impact. Here’s a link to my other short, short stories.
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Photo credit: Save Our Woods