May 4, 1849
My Dearest Evelyn,
The first time I ever saw you was inside a barn.
Will you marry me?
I just crumpled up that piece of paper. What a terrible proposal! Surely, she would say no if I asked her to marry me like that. My plan was to do some sort of scavenger hunt and then at the end there’s a chocolate bar. Only guess what? The chocolate has an engagement ring baked into it. Then she bites into the bar and chips a tooth, but that’s ok because at least she got a ring out of the whole deal.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get Evelyn the ring I wanted, on a dancer’s salary. It’s gold and there’s a diamond in it except it’s actually silver, and the diamond is a piece of ice I carried down from Mt. Everest one time when I totally, totally went there.
I say I am a professional dancer, but Evelyn insists nobody will pay for me to dance for them and therefore, I am not a professional dancer. One thing my so-called girlfriend doesn’t seem to understand is that selling your labor doesn’t make you a professional. We fight about this… often.
But I love her regardless. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. Considering she doesn’t support my professional career, which is a deal breaker for me but also nobody else is around for me to be interested in so what the heck, why not marry her? We’re in love.
Life would be lonely on the ranch otherwise. What is life without love? Is it but a lonely existence in a cold, unfeeling universe? Who knows. Science will never know.
Oh, by the way, I am a cowboy. Much like my father (Joe) and my father’s father (Grandpy Joe), I till the soil with my bare hands and wrestle pigs to the ground. The wrestling the pigs doesn’t really do anything helpful but definitely the tilling is useful. Except I just use my hands and no mule, so it takes a pretty long time. I don’t mind though, what else am I going to do with my time? Read? No way.
So sure, maybe it’s overplayed, but I’m a cowboy who badly want to be a professional dancer.
Maybe I should take a break from writing down my engagement proposal to Evelyn. I’ve decided to get the mail.
Well, I just went and got the mail. You’re not going to believe this. I got a letter from the PRESIDENT. We don’t even have a president yet, but there are a lot of candidates. Many of whom were beheaded in the Great Bean Scandal of 1832.
I opened the letter and in it was an invitation to the president’s private home. And you know what the president wants me to do to him? Dance.
I can’t believe it! I’m finally going to get to do what I really want with my life. And for the (possibly soon to be beheaded) president, no less. Boy. It’s tomorrow so I really need to practice. I think the dance is ballet, mostly improvisation, but there are some caveats noted in the letter:
- You must wear flesh colored tights. And I mean, TIGHTS.
Hm, ok… no problem there.
- You must be willing to beat up the president.
Uh… ok no problem here either.
- You can bring a friend but it’s BYOB.
It was that line that almost made me throw the letter in the trash. BYOB? What does he think I am, a peasant?
But then I remembered: eye on the prize. Dancing for the president would bring me national attention. Newspapers would print headlines like, “Professional Dancer Brings President to Tears.” Also, if I got paid for it, Evelyn would finally respect me in my dancing career.
I had to do it. I had to dance for the president.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you how the dance went and my engagement speech to Evelyn. Oh, by the way, the dance is tomorrow.
May 5, 1849
Today was the day of the big dance and my engagement to Evelyn. One went ok and the other terribly. Actually, the ok one went terribly too.
I proposed to Evelyn. Here’s the proposal I gave to her:
Will you marry me?
Yes or No
(And then she circles either yes or no.)
I had come up with the perfect proposal. Finally.
We were at the president’s house, in front of everyone. It was right before my dance. I had wrapped the ring and letter in a sweater I found. I slowly walked over to her, and while everyone was on the edge of their seat, dumped the contents of the sweater on her lap.
“What are you doing?” she asked. “Why are you throwing things at me?”
“Haha! I’m not throwing things at you, Evelyn. Read the letter.” She paused. “Read it!” I cried out to our audience of politicians and aristocracy.
She read it quietly to herself. Ok. Everyone was watching. The least she could do was read the letter but ok.
“No.” she replied.
“Wh-what?” I said, heartbroken.
“Chet, I’m your cashier at the trader’s. We are not in a relationship. And will never be.”
“Come on. Just do me this one favor.”
“No. I already did you a favor by coming to your dance-off.”
I felt my soul crushing under the weight of her heavy response.
I started crying audibly. I curled up in a ball on the floor. I started screeching this horrible, disturbing sound. Like a cross between a bat and a screeching owl turning his head around 360 degrees.
But then I remembered. The show must go on.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and wiped the drool off from under my chin. I turned my head up and pirouetted to the ballroom floor. Everyone sat stunned. Probably from the beauty of my lines.
And then I twisted my ankle and fell onto the floor, wrists first. Now that I had both a sprained ankle and wrist, I imagined the show could, in fact, not go on. My guts started turning. Was this who I was? A guy who would sob loudly in front of literally dozens of potential presidents?
The answer is yes. But something changed in me in that moment. Sometimes, you only get one shot, and this was mine, to make it as a professional dancer, my highest ambition.
I got up from the floor and scurried into a perfect chasse across the room. I spun so fast several of the politicians’ wigs flew off as if pulled by the force of my gravity. I jumped ran outside and came into the house on one of the horses hanging out outside by the stable. Then for my grand finale, I jumped over the president’s table on the horse and landed on the dance floor. The horse bucked me off but I turned it into a perfect 4 second pose at the end. Nobody had even been playing any music.
The audience looked at me frozen. I started to sweat. The future of the country looked around at each other.
And then thunderous applause shook me awake. People started to stand up, continuing the clap, as if it were a standing ovation.
“Bravo! Encore!” they yelled to me. Somebody started throwing roses. One of the roses flew into my open mouth which was only open because I was crying again.
After the audience applause died down, I walked off stage, wiping the sweat from my brow and various other parts of my body that are private. I heard a voice behind me.
“I have got to shake your hand, young man.” He reached out for my hand, which I gave him, but in the way a lady does and he seemed confused by this for a moment but I turned it into a hug so I think it went ok.
“I, um, what, I mean, there’s a…” I trailed off.
“Hahah!” the president laughed heartily. “Listen, boy, you might just be a genius. Please be so kind as to return to my residence so we may enjoy your work more soon.”
That’s when my life changed forever.
He slipped me $3.
In that moment, when I received the $3, I became a professional dancer. I had realized my dreams. I could finally rest on my laurels. I could work as a dancer and if I got $3 every time I did a dance, even if I only did 1 dance, I could live off those $3 for what, 2 years?
That’s when I realized everything was going to be ok.
Even considering Evelyn and I were on a break.