I have a confession to make, and I won’t be able to sleep until I get it off of my chest. So here it is. I went to the ballet the other night. There, I feel better already. A weight has been lifted. It’s good to get these things out into the open. Otherwise, they’ll just eat away at you.

A lesser man might try to convince you that the whole thing had been a mistake, that he thought he was going to the tractor pull, or maybe to Wrestlemania. But I’ll be honest. I meant to go. Attending the ballet was actually on my bucket list, that list of things I intend to do before I die. I couldn’t believe it either, but there it was at number thirty-seven.

The fact that this particular activity was on the bucket list in the first place was where the actual mistake came in. I have another list—the Just Shoot Me Now, ‘Cause I Ain’t Goin’ list—and going to the ballet was supposed to appear on that one, but there was a filing error. You just can’t get good office help these days.

By the time I figured out the blunder, the folks at the Fox Theater had already locked and bolted the doors, and armed guards were posted to keep anyone from escaping. So since I was stuck there for the next three hours, I bought an eight-dollar bottle of beer and tried to make the best of it.

This particular ballet was named Coppelia, which ironically means just shoot me now, ‘cause I ain’t goin’ in French. It was written in France in 1870 by a couple of French guys, and I guess that’s all we need to say about that.

The story line goes something like this. For no particular reason, a crazy toymaker invents a doll that looks like a real girl, and everyone dances happily around the stage. The guy who played the part of the crazy toymaker must have been a senior man with the ballet company, because he was the only male member of the cast who got to wear pants. It’s probably in the union contract: time-and-a-half after forty hours, thirty minutes for lunch, health insurance, and pants.

Anyway, to continue our synopsis, one of the local village boys falls in love with the doll, which leads everyone to dance happily around the stage. This infidelity sort of ticks off the village boy’s real girlfriend, and you can’t blame her for that. I mean, her fiancée has taken up with a windup doll, for goodness sake. That’s kind of scurrilous behavior, even for a French boy in tights. To demonstrate her ire, she and everyone else dances happily around the stage for a while.

Following that is a comedic episode wherein the crazy old toymaker loses his keys while winking twenty-seven times at the audience. This loss eventually leads to the discovery that the doll is just a doll, after all, which prompts everyone to dance happily around the stage for an extra long while.

And finally, the village boy dumps the doll in favor of his jilted girlfriend. She takes him back, and everyone dances happily around the stage. The end.

I don’t claim to be a French historian, and I’m certainly not an expert on the psyche of the human female, but I feel safe in making the observation that here in Georgia, very few women would take back a man who had left them for a doll.

The ballet was performed by the Moscow Festival Ballet. I have been told by people who know about these things that this troupe is an excellent ballet company, and from all of the leaping and cavorting that went on (and on, and on), I am sure that this is true. To tell you the truth, though, I had already figured out they were from Russia, or at least from somewhere nippy, because all of the male ballerinas had apparently tucked an extra pair of tightly-rolled socks into their drawers in case they encountered some cold weather.

Russian ballet has a long and distinguished history. Names such as Anna Pavlova and Marina Semenova are well-known. Indeed, almost everyone recognizes Mikhail Baryshnikov, a famous dancer who fled to the West in 1974. Everyone believed at the time that he was defecting from the Soviet Union, but new facts have emerged that prove conclusively that he was just out looking for someplace to buy trousers. Unfortunately, it was dark, he got lost, and the troupe inadvertently left town without him. But just try explaining that to the KGB.

A male ballerina, by the way, is called a ballerino, which makes sense, I guess, even though the name sort of sounds like something you might come down with a case of if you don’t boil your drinking water on a camping trip.

Camper 1: Are you okay? You look a little pale.

Camper 2: I think I might have a light touch of ballerino.

Camper 1: I told you to boil your water, but would you listen?

If you ever make it all the way to the end of a ballet, the first thing you notice is that they take bows. Lots and lots of them. And these are not just the regular little bows like your mama taught you to do back in the old days when she wanted you to be polite. These are the bows that come with arm sweeps and dramatic hand gestures, like the bows they have down at the circus. First the main ballerina bows and flourishes. Then the main ballerino follows suit. Then they bow together while flourishing each other. Then they bow separately again. Then they join ranks with all of the other dancers, and they all bow and flourish awhile. Then just the boys bow. Then the girls. Then the tall ones. Then the short ones. Then the ushers. Then the guys who sweep up after the show.

With all of that hoopla going on, you’d think they had won the Super Bowl or something. It made me want to pour a cooler full of Gatorade over the whole bowing bunch of them.

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Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.