Swing | Rosalind Goldsmith

At the inquest they establish cause of death and you stand there in the courtroom, your eyes watering, your arms twitching, your hands flapping.

You look up at the coroner behind her high desk and say: “Listen to me. I’m breathing. I’m here.”

But she looks doubtful. And you sigh and turn to the witness and say: “What did you see?”

And the witness, an old retired lawyer, tells exactly what he saw: how you fell under the knife, how you got carved up and quartered, how he had to turn away from the tragic scene so as not to see the gore.

And you step up to this witness and say: “Sir. You are mistaken. Here I am, ready to do whatever is needed to prove it.”

And once, when you were a tiny thing, you learned to tap dance. You had the shoes, the black ribbon, the metal tips – you have them now – and the steps come back to you. You dance lunatic in the courtroom, swinging those arms, Shirley Templing it in front of this damn old retired lawyer – shuffle toe, shuffle heel, slide tap, slide tap, step, ball change.

“Come on! Look!” you say, and muster up a drum roll of taps, tripping the light fantastic.

And he’s staring at you like you’ve lost the thing that makes you human.

And so you reach out and take his hand and say: “Be my witness now.” But he turns away from you. He studies the charts and the x-rays of broken things, smashed things, things torn apart. And he looks convinced by the evidence of the gravity of the situation. He’s just waiting for the coroner to pronounce – any second – that’s clear enough – unless you can put a stop to this.

So in your tap shoes you Fosse up a whole roaring lost generation of a routine – clickety, clackety, kick, ball change, your arms flying – it’s showtime! And you’re selling it with a wide-ass grin, you’re killing it, hoofing it up in this Razzle Dazzle routine, the cake walk drive of it, stretching out your arms, and beckoning him to join you.

And yes – now – the old lawyer in his creosote-coloured suit slowsteps down from the witness box and starts to shuffle and thrust his hip replacements from side to side – he’s with you! He’s doing the Charleston, segueing into Lambada, his arms twitching and swanning – and it’s – fantastic – he’s wholly involved in this – dancing the life out of it – dancing the life back into it.

And the coroner is watching all of this from up there behind her high desk, and finally – finally – she brings down the hammer hand with a grave thud and yells: “Insufficient evidence! Case dismissed!”

And you laugh you cry you bow to your witness you tap your way down the aisle past the empty seats and waltz out of that old courtroom and push open those coffin lid doors and let them swing and swing and swing behind you.

Rosalind Goldsmith lives in Toronto and began writing short fiction six years ago. Her stories have been published in journals in the USA, the UK, and Canada, including Litro UK and USA, The Blue Nib, Filling Station, the Chiron Review, Fairlight Books, Into the Void, and Fiction International.