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Stop and smell the roses, for tomorrow they may be dead.
The tribal drum thumps in my head slow and steady – boom, boom, boom – and the Cherokee markings under my eyes feel heavy, but I keep my gaze steady ahead of me. Blue paint cracks on my arms as I curl my hands. My arms soon join the dance as I weave them in front of me like two snakes.
I am a snake. I am fire.
More drums join in, and the pace quickens. The flames dance to the same rhythm in front of me. I take a step sideways and bring my legs back together, executing a pirouette, and repeat the pattern several more times. After making it around the small propane-fed fire, I bow to it, willing my ancestors to leap out. I run backward; my footfalls mimic the drums inside my head.
After curling my fingers to my chest, I punch my arms out far above my head and release them into the sky. With a tiny movement, so the recital audience won’t see, I wave to the stars projected on the ceiling. Sue me.
“There’s no real music at first, at least none with a beat,” my dance instructor said a couple of months ago. “You’ll just have to imagine a regular little beat, Kara. You can do that, right?”
Can I imagine a drum beat? You mean like the ones often in my head anyway? The soft, sometimes hard, pats have been part of my psyche for as long as I can remember. At the moment, they’re the only things that keep me anchored.
I have so much on my mind right now, but I must perform. A ghost dance – how ironic. I picked this week for my summer visit with Grandpa because of the Panama City recital and now I’ll be watching my ancestor die.
Layout, ponche, forward roll. Great, I didn’t break my collar bone.
Thump, thump. The drums are real this time—electronic. My cue. I pick up the arrow and leap into the air.