A Glimpse of Life in the Fat Lane

This is an excerpt from my short story, “Memoirs of a Fat Ballerina,” which I’ve entered in a few competitions (don’t worry, I checked the rules and I’m allowed to post on here) and which I’m currently thinking of turning into a full-length YA. Let me know what you think! – Love, V

“Memoirs of a Fat Ballerina”
Written by [& Inspired by the Actual Childhood of] Veronica Park

My tights are going to burst, I know it.

Like pressurized dough in a can of Pillsbury biscuits, they’ll split open and spill out bloated bands of leg fat, and everyone in the front row will scream and scream. Instead of Swan Lake, it’ll be like the Bay of Pigs. I’m not even sure what that is, but Grandpa’s always talking about it like it was a really horrific thing. I picture hundreds of pigs, floating belly-up in the ocean like chubby pink ice cubes. Horrific, as my mother would say. Just ghastly.

Kind of like my recital. It’s going to be horrific. Just ghastly.

And if my tights don’t burst, the leotard probably will.

Lining up behind ten little sticks in pink spandex, I try to breathe. My leotard is too tight. The bun in my hair is even tighter. Even my brain feels fat. How am I supposed to dance with such a fat brain? The other girls giggle; they’re excited. They can’t wait to go out there and show off everything they’ve learned.

Half moon, half moon, full moon. Fingers like feathers. How hard could it be, anyway?

“Girls, line up,” Frau Schneider says, but it’s stupid of her because we already are. She looks at me, and I can see frown lines between the giant gray caterpillars she calls eyebrows. She hates me, I know it.

“Amanda, where is your tutu?”

I don’t have the heart to tell her that my tutu broke in the dressing room fifteen minutes ago. My mom told me not to sit in it, but I didn’t listen. I sat down to eat a Lunchable–just one, because that’s all I’m allowed–and the cheap elastic snapped.

It was bad enough that they ran out of pink leotards in my size. Now I’m this majestic eyesore, the proverbial White Stag. Everyone’s going to know that I was too big to wear a pink one, that I’m not special at all, just way too fat for an eleven year old.

“I told my mom I wanted acting lessons,” I tell Frau Schneider.

Frau doesn’t know what to say to this. Besides, the music is starting. So she gives me this awkward sort of pat on the head and shoves me toward the stage.

I follow the other girls like a zombie lurching after a flock of sheep. The spotlight stabs me in the face, and I freeze. All around me, the other girls are posing in place. They look perfect, like they belong up here. Then there’s me. I’m supposed to be on the far end, stage right, where no one will really notice me. But instead I’m this great white whale, beached smack in the middle of center stage.

The intro music ends. Everyone waits. I can’t see the audience, but I’m pretty sure I can feel my mother’s eyes drilling holes in me. I can almost hear her whispering, “Amanda, what have you done with your tutu?”

“It fled,” I whisper back, to the spotlight.

The dance is supposed to start now, but I can’t remember what I’m supposed to do. All the other girls start to move, planned and perfect, like blades of grass in the wind. Me, I’m just a fat little tree trunk in the middle of the meadow. Maybe if I stand really still, they’ll think that’s the plan.

But after the first girl bumps into me, I realize it’s a bad plan. I’m rooted at center stage, like an idiot…meanwhile everyone’s trying to cross to their next places. So I do the only thing I can think of. I improvise.

Slowly, I raise one arm into the air. I start to hum quietly to myself.

It helps.

Before I know it, my eyes are closed, and I’m singing words now, too. “I’m a little tea pot…”

Singing helps even more. I’m swaying my whole body; against the music, with the music. Mom is probably freaking out, but it’s the best I can think of. I’m twirling now, slowly in place. I forgot to leave center stage, but it’s probably too late, anyway. The damage is done.

“Tip me over,” I finish, even more quietly. “And pour me out.”

The real song, the one from Swan Lake, keeps going for a while. But I stay put, stoically hugging my legs like a fat little tea pot. I might be a terrible ballerina, but my acting skills are amazing.

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