Saturday, March 12, 2011

Homespun Tale

The Gymnast

Short Story Fiction

Jessica was a modest looking twelve year old girl with long colt-like legs.  At first glance, she appeared to be clumsy.  But, on closer observation she had a natural grace that belied her gangly pre-teen body.

She mounted the balance beam for the fifth time that morning without much elegance or vigor.  She was thoroughly disgusted with herself for not being able to work the kinks out of her routine.

Once she got into position and gained her stance she slowly raised her right leg, knee bent and toes gently pointed downward.  Her arms rose elegantly outward from her sides, wrists slightly bent.  Her head was held upright proudly.  Her concentration was intense.  She raised her arms above her head and turned her palms upward.  She was the image of a virgin making an offering to her god.

Her next movement was sudden and swift, lithe but not as ethereal as her previous motions.  Her back arched, her hands fell flat on the beam, her legs flew into the air and over her head in a perfect back hand sprain.  She finished by slipping into a split, arms outstretched and wrists slightly bent.

She grasped the beam from beneath her body and lifted herself upward, maintaining the split.  She moved her right leg forward to meet the left one.  Still holding her body up, legs now in front of her suspended in mid-air, she carefully lowered herself to the beam.  She, then, bent her knees and brought her feet behind her, toes flat on the beam.    She grasped the beam in front of her and regained her original posture.

She began to walk slowly forward.  Taking a deep breath, she prepared to do the stunt that was causing her so much trouble.  In a fluid motion, she crossed her arms over her chest with her fists clenched.  A determine expression spread across her face.

“I have to do this stupid aerial,” Jess thought desperately.

She took a short leap forward.  In the momentum, she lifter body into the air, kicked her legs over her head and with her arms still crossed over her chest she landed as lightly as an angel.

Her face beamed, but she maintained her composure.

“God, please let me finish this perfectly.” She prayed.

With two ample split leaps she reached the far end of the beam.  She lifted her right leg, knee bent slightly and toes gently pointed downward. She raised her arms above her head and completed her routine with a flawlessly executed round off with a one and a half full twist.  She landed solidly on the mat and extended her arms to signal the completion of her routine.

Applause couple be heard from several yards away as a woman of about came striding up to the beam.  “That was incredible, Jess!” Coach Michaels exclaimed excitedly.  “Absolutely wonderful!”

“Thanks, coach,” Jessica replied with affection.  “Was it the way you wanted it?”

“Was it the way you wanted it?”

“Yeah!  It’s the best I’ve ever done.”

“I agree.  Do you think you can do your routine that well for the competition tomorrow?”

“I sure hope so.”

“Don’t worry, kiddo, you’ll be great!”


“I promise!  You’ll be the greatest!”

The conversation was interrupted by a commotion at the far end of the gym.  A group of young girls was crowding through the entrance of the gymnasium.

“Gotta go, Coach.  See ya later.”  Jessica said apologetically.  “I’ll be with you guys in a minute, I’ve got to change,” she shouted to the other girls and dashed off towards the locker room.

At dinner that night, Jessica and her family were discussing the upcoming competition.

“Jessica, I want you to wear your light blue leotard tomorrow,” her mom said.

“Aw, come on, Ma!  You know the blue one makes me look porky!”

“Pork!  Pork! “Jessica’s six-year-old little sister, Mary, snickered through a mouthful of hamburger-mac.

“Up yours, short-shit.”

“Maaaaaaa . . . “Mary whined.

“Jessica, watch your mouth!”

“I’m sorry, Mom, but the little twit gets on my nerves.”

“Maaaaaa . . . “

“Jess  . . . “her mother pleaded.

“Okay.  Okay.  Can I be excused?  I wanna go upstairs to bed.  Coach Michaels says that I need all the rest I can get for the meet tomorrow.”

“Nighty-night, pork-pork,” Mary giggled.

“Watch it, brat, or the bogeys will come out of your closed to get you tonight.”

“Maaaaaa . . . “

“Jess, just go to bed.”

“ ’k, ‘night, Mom.”

Jessica lay awake in her bed staring at the ceiling.  Her thoughts were completely focused on the competition.  And winning.

She lay in the same position for almost two hours.  Going over her routine again and again in her head.  Thinking of perfection.  Thinking of winning.  Thinking of making her mom (and her coach) proud.

Win . . . win . . . win . . . she finally shifted to her side and drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.

She awoke the next morning to her mother shouting up the stairs, “Jessica!!”

“Mmmmmm . . . “

“Jessica, get your buns out of that bed right now!  You have to be at the gym in an hour.”

“Alright! Alright!”

“Don’t forget to take your blue leotard.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she mumbled to herself.

Jessica rolled out of bed and tread wearily, feet clad in fuzzy bunny slippers dragging and long hair in a tangled mess of a halo around her face.

She stood in front of the bathroom mirror and stuck her tongue out at her reflection.

She leaned over, reached her hand through the shower curtain and turned on the water.  She kicked off her bunny slippers and pulled her nightgown over her head.  She tossed it into the corner as she stepped under the steaming spray.

Minutes later she emerged from the shower feeling refreshed and giddy with excitement.

She snuggled into a large, plush bath towel and padded softly into her bedroom.  She glanced at her alarm clock and noticed that she had only thirty minutes to get to the gym.


She stuffed her things into a duffle bag and tossed it by the bedroom door.  She quickly dressed in a pair of sweat pants and an over-sized sweatshirt.  She stuffed her feet into a grungy pair of old sneaker and rushed over to her make-up mirror.   She dragged a brush through her matted mess of hair, pulled it into a sleek ponytail and tied it with a white satin ribbon.

She grabbed her duffle bag on her way out the bedroom door and sprinted down the stairs.  When she reached landing she looked frantically for her mother.


“Yes, dear,” her mothers voiced drifted from the kitchen.

“Come on, I can’t be late.”

“Just a minute, I have to get Mary.  I’ll meet you in the car,” after a brief pause, “Do you have your blue suit?”

“Pork! Pork!” Mary screamed from the living room.

“You’ll see.” Jessica said as she walked out the door.

At the edge of the mat with Jessica, Coach Michaels asked, “You go out next, Jess.  Are you ready?”

“I sure hope so.”

“You are.”

“Did you see where my mom is sitting?”

“Yes.  She’s sitting in the third row near the balance beam.”

“Awesome!  I want her to see everything.  She’s never seen this routine.”

“Knock ‘em dead!”

“Thanks, Coach.”

Applause could be heard from the gymnasium as Jessica was announced.

“This is it,” Jessica said, inhaling deeply.

“Be careful,” her coach whispered as Jessica sprinted gracefully across the mat to the balance beam.

When Jessica reached the beam she turned to the audience and flashed a radiant smile.

Contrary to her mother’s wishes, Jess wore a black leotard with a white stripe that travelled from her right shoulder to her left hip.

From somewhere in the audience a small voice cried, “Pork. Pork.”  There was a rumble of laughter and then all was silent.

Jessica’s smile faltered for just a moment.  She mounted the balance beam with absolute litheness.  She paused briefly to enjoy the moment.  Slowly she raised her right leg, knee bent and toes gently pointed downward.  Her arms lifted.  She raised her head high, secure in the knowledge that her routine was well practiced.  Her back hand sprain ended in a faultless split, arms outstretched.  She grasped the beam and lifted herself up.  Her right leg swung forward to meet the left one.  She placed her legs behind her and she stood upright.  She crossed her arms over her chest and she completed her aerial perfectly.

Her face beamed, but she maintained her composure.  She looked to the audience briefly and spotted her mother.  She flashed a smile meant only for her.

“I love you, mom.” She whispered.

With two ample split leaps she reached the far end of the beam.  She lifted her right leg, knee bent slightly and toes gently pointed downward. She raised her arms above her head and took a deep breath.  She bounced slightly and brought her hands down to grasp either side of the beam, her legs flew up and over her head.  She felt her hands start to slip.

“Damn,” she thought, realizing that in her excitement she’d forgotten to chalk her hands.

Her hands slipped further down the sides of the beam.  She worked desperately to regain her grip.    Her hands slipped completely from the beam.  Her jaw slammed into the wood and her front teeth cut through her lips.  Her nose smashed into the beam and snapped her neck back.

The audience stared in stunned silence.  No one moved.  No one breathed.

Jessica’s body slid limply from the balance beam and landed on the mat with a muffled thud.  She came to rest with head cocked at an impossible angle, her bloodied face and empty eyes staring into the harsh glare of the ceiling lights.

From the third row a woman began screaming.

Cheryl (Sefranek) Lemos

I wrote this short story as the Magnum Opus for my high school junior year advanced composition class.  I got an “A”


Cher’s Amazing Truffles
  • 1/3 Cup Honey
  • 1/2 Cup (4 Ounces) Semisweet Chocolate, Cut Into Small Pieces
  • 1/2 Cup (4 Ounces) Bittersweet Chocolate, Cut Into Small Pieces
  • 1 Stick Butter, Cut Into Small Pieces
  • 2 Cups Powdered Sugar, Sifted
  • 2 Tablespoons Dark Rum
  • 1/2 Cup NonPariels, For Rolling
  • 1 Cup Powdered Sugar, for Rolling
  • 1 Tablespoon Coarse (But Somewhat Small Size) Sea Salt

In a small skillet, simmer the honey until it becomes medium brown in color and has a light, caramel scent. Remove from heat and keep warm.

In a medium bowl, combine the 2 types of chocolate and butter. 

Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and melt the chocolate, making sure to stir often.

Once the chocolate has completely melted remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the caramelized honey, rum and powdered sugar. 

Transfer mixture to a cool bowl and allow it to "set" a little, about 5 minutes.

Scoop balls by the tablespoon on to a plate and put it in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes.  This makes it easier to work with.

Combine the sprinkles and salt in a bowl.   Using your hands roll the chocolate mixture into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Roll them in the chocolate sprinkle/salt mixture until they are generously coated. 

Place on serving tray or store them in an airtight container.

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