Abbey peered through the curtain. She looked out on the school auditorium, where the audience waited for the performance to begin. She scanned the faces until she found her mom and Auntie Kate. The music started, and the other girls walked on stage. This would be her first solo performance. Abbey was excited and scared at the same time. Her tummy rumbled and her legs shook. Then she sensed her invisible friend standing behind her. He started visiting her in reading class last summer; it had felt like someone was watching her and smiling. Now, she felt warmth on her shoulders that made the rumbling and shaking inside of her stop. While she waited for her cue, Abbey rocked back and forth to the music. She felt a soft push as she walked out on stage and, looking over her shoulder, she thought she saw a soft, shimmering figure.
Nathan held the letter as he sat at the end of the bed and looked out the tiny window of his cell to the mountains in the distance. He turned witness for the Feds in order to avoid life without parole, and ended up with a twenty-eight year sentence. After the trial, they transferred him from Florida to Oregon, and gave him a cell with a view. He was in solitary confinement. As a snitch, he would never be safe in the general population. There were few people in his life: the guards who brought him his meals and took him to the courtyard for one hour a day, and Gary, the minister from The Free and Open Church of the Mind.
He looked over the letter one more time. It was from his ex-wife's sister, Kate. At first, he wrote to his ex-wife, but the letters came back. She moved and left no forwarding address. Nathan was sure Kate knew where his ex-wife and little girl lived. For two years, he wrote to her. Finally, he received a response. Now, the letters came once a month, filled with the details of his little girl's life -- softball games, learning to read, swimming, and dance recitals. The overwhelming need to be part of her life led him to Minister Gary and the practices of the church.
Nathan started his routine, laid back flat on the bed, hands at his sides, took in a deep breath, and let it out with a "hu" sound. He tensed and relaxed each muscle in his body while breathing deeply. Warmth wrapped around him and a charge, like a current of electricity, ran from his toes to his head. He thought of floating, relaxed, and let his consciousness separate from his physical body. Nathan felt himself lift, hovering over the bed. He focused on where he wanted to go, moved across the room, through the wall, and into the dusk of early evening. With all his will, he concentrated on his desired destination and glided through the atmosphere. When he stopped and looked down, he saw the school.
Juror comments: Novelist David Oppegaard chose this story as a 2009 mnLIT winner; he says, "Solo Performance covers a lot of distance, literally. What at first seems to be a cute, metaphorical story about a girl propelled by a guardian angel suddenly finds its base in a concrete, if mystical, reality."
About the author: Caroline Ore is a life-long resident of Minnesota, who resides in south Minneapolis with her beloved pug dog. She became interested in memoir writing three years ago. This led her to take classes at The Loft, join a writing group, and return to college. She is currently studying history and creative writing at Metropolitan State University. Over the years, she has expanded her writing interest to included fiction and poetry. She is presently working on a piece about her much-loved grandmother entitled Chanel No. 5. A short piece of memoir she wrote from a child's point of view, Indoor Sports, can be found in Metropolitan State's online magazine Haute Dish.
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