Thursday, April 21, 2011

G. Edward Snipes' I Called Him Dancer

G. Edward Snipes is a freelance writer, president of the Christian Authors Guild, and founder of Exchanged Life Ministries. He has had five award winning short stories, and regularly has articles published on several online ministries. Visit his ministry site at exchangedlife.com or his personal blog at eddiesnipes.com.


I Called Him Dancer

For a moment, Michael danced on top of the world, but one bad choice turns his life upside down. The once promising Broadway star now washes windows for tips and lives among the homeless. When his former dance partner recognizes him behind the fray of whiskers, shame drives him away from her. Angry at God and the world, the Dancer refuses to allow anyone into his life. When everything is stripped away, three things remain: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.

I Called Him Dancer is a story about how one woman's enduring faith and unconditional love drives her to reach out to a homeless man who has given up on life.

Here's an excerpt of I Called Him Dancer:

Chapter One 


A homeless man pulled his tattered coat closer to his neck, trying to block out the early morning chill while walking toward Central Park. A woman stood before him, looking at a display outside the Majestic Theater. His eyes were drawn to the display and saw an actress in the picture wearing a fancy ballroom dress. A chilling cold ached through his body, and his legs froze in place, but forgotten memories warmed away the chill as he admired the posters outside the Broadway theater.

“It’s a good play, isn’t it?” The man in rags turned to face the woman. By her stylish long gray coat, he could tell she was accustomed to the finer things of New York..

The woman gave an uncomfortable smile and walked away.

With trembling hands, the man ran his fingers across the theater display. Grime smudged onto the clear sheet of acrylic guarding the words, Return of the Phantom. A High-energy sequel to Broadway’s longest running play. He started to leave, but stopped again at the next poster. A gold frame held the lovely picture. With the tip of his finger, he outlined the face of Christine DaaĆ©.

“Alina hasn’t changed.” He tapped his finger on the man wearing the phantom’s mask. “Looks like there’s a new Erik.” Leaning close, he examined the picture. “Yep. That definitely isn’t Antonio.”

A deep sigh escaped from the pit of his stomach. “Things should have been different.” He tried to imagine his face in the picture, half hidden behind the mask. Patting the display like the shoulder of an old friend, he turned and lumbered down the street toward his favorite tipping spot just off Broadway.

 * * *

The vagrant stood at the corner of 54th Street, looking at a marquis with a longing stare. The picture of the Return of the Phantom still lingered in his mind. The glamour of the Big Apple and the names in lights proclaim the success of those who have reached stardom. In this place, dreams still come true. The entertainment industry may have changed, but here, the golden age of theater spills into the modern day.

Pedestrians covered the sidewalks, peeking into windows and hoping to glimpse one of the celebrities that bring the theater district to life. The vagrant stood on the corner of 54th and Broadway, watching as people hurried past, and hoped someone would show a little charity. Each person hurried their pace when they neared the bearded man in rank clothing.

The homeless man shrugged off their indifference. He would earn his keep without them. Hunger pangs stabbed at his stomach, but the agonizing craving in his body always took priority over meals. His body screamed for relief and he felt as though his chest would implode from the weight pressing on him. Trembling fingers ran through his matted brown hair, and the man shifted from one foot to the other while watching cars creep by. He leaned against the building and again ran both hands through his hair. He rolled the snags through his fingertips. Jumpy legs wouldn’t give him a moment of rest, so he walked a few paces and waited for the light to turn red.

When the light changed, he walked to the first car and raised his spray bottle. He ignored the woman shaking her head and dodged her angry stare. He sprayed the window, cleaned it with a squeegee, and repeated the process on the other side of the windshield before walking up to the driver. The woman refused to roll down her window.

Heartless wench.

He reached across the windshield and pretended to flick off a piece of dirt, dragging his muddy sleeve through the driver’s line of vision. Looking at the smudge, he said, “Oops.” He smiled and raised his hands in an innocent gesture. “Maybe you’ll be homeless one day and see how it feels,” he grumbled under his breath, and walked toward the next car.

* * *

Raquel neared the end of her drive from Tennessee to New York. Traffic stopped, and she took the opportunity to review her directions. The next turn is the Lincoln Tunnel. Her heart beat faster, and she wondered if it was excitement over her new opportunity, or the hope of finding Michael, who had been missing for more than two years. He’d been the inspiration behind Raquel’s dream to perform on Broadway. 

I actually made it! The thought of being on stage in New York caused a bright smile to sweep across her face, but the cheer receded into heartache. She needed to find Michael. Only then could she fill the hole in her lonely heart.

After exiting the Jersey turnpike, Raquel followed the signs toward the Lincoln Tunnel. Traffic slowed as a flood of cars trickled through the tollbooths blocking the entrance to the tunnel. While she inched along, her thoughts raced back to her hometown of Bristol. Her stomach knotted at the thought of Robert. A shiver crawled down her spine and she had the urge to glance over her shoulder. He couldn’t be following her, but she still couldn’t resist the urge to check.

What’s the stalker doing now?

She could envision him dialing her old cell phone number, and shrieking in rage when he found it disconnected. She had played Robert’s game, letting him believe he controlled her while she planned her escape. How long did he sit at the cafe before realizing she’d given him the slip?

Is Robert calling her parents, demanding to know where she had gone? Hopefully, her mom wouldn’t slip up and tell him she'd moved to New York.

“Man! Traffic is rushing like molasses on a cold morning,” she complained as she thumped the steering wheel.

Raquel pulled into the tollbooth, paid, and sped into the tunnel. Another clog of taillights and exhaust stopped her. She glanced at her watch. 

Good thing I gave myself an extra hour. Can’t take a chance on being late for my first meeting with my new producer.

Her attention returned to Tennessee, but she forced Robert out of her thoughts. It would do no good to escape his iron grip if she left her mind in his grasp. She pushed her long brown hair behind her ear and thought about Michael. How her heart skipped the first time they danced together. When the quiet and shy boy took the stage, an awe-struck class watched him become a different person. A horn honked from behind, startling Raquel out of her musings. She pulled ahead.

I need to keep my focus on the road.

“I always knew he would make it big.”  Raquel’s own voice almost surprised her. Her heart lifted at the idea of finding him in one of the Broadway theaters. Does he still love me? Did he ever truly love me? She couldn’t keep the doubts from digging at her heart.

Accustomed to the fresh air of rural Tennessee, Raquel almost gagged at the smell of exhaust in the tunnel.  She tried to focus on something positive, hoping to distract herself from the suffocating smell.

Michael’s talent had placed him on the fast track to stardom, and Raquel had spent four years trying to catch up. Their goal was to dance together again. Excitement had filled his voice when he called to announce his new leading role in the Return of the Phantom, but soon after his calls quit coming.

Why? Did he have a new life and love? Her heart ached at the thought, so she pushed it away. There must be another explanation.

* * *

The scruffy man approached another car waiting at the red light, cleaned the windshield, and garnered a tip. He gave a dissatisfied stare at the money. A dollar? The guy is wearing a suit. I know he can afford more than a buck.

At this rate, the day would end before he could make enough money to survive. He felt his rage growing, fueled by his desperate cravings. An almost overwhelming urge to smash through the window and strip drivers of their valuables came over him, but he wrestled down the feeling. When would he get a break? There were few friendly faces to greet a man down on his luck on Broadway. 

* * *

Traffic continued at its agonizing pace, but Broadway crawled into view. Raquel’s shoulders grew tense at the passing of each minute. With her extra hour gone, she now feared being late for her meeting.

A man near the intersection ahead distracted Raquel from her frustrations. She watched the vagrant in rags as he bounced from car to car with a squeegee and a spray bottle, cleaning windshields, and gathering tips.

A friend had warned her to always tip street washers. Though cleaning wasn’t invited, they expected payment. Raquel grabbed her purse and fished for cash. She pulled out a bill.

I doubt he has change for a twenty.

Other than the money she needed for parking, Raquel could only produce a dollar and some change. She poured the change into her palm and wrapped it in the dollar as the vagrant drew near. With the precision of an experienced windshield technician, the man rushed to the passenger side, sprayed the window, and drew the squeegee across it.

When the man reached for the center of the windshield, Raquel's heart stopped, frozen in a moment of shock. The window washer's crystal blue eyes looked familiar. Excitement and confusion gripped her heart, causing her pulse to quicken. Filth and a burst of whiskers obscured his face, but did she know him? Her mind rebelled at the thought, but her heart trumpeted with recognition. She tried to get a good look as the vagrant hurried to the driver's side to finish the job. In a moment, he stood at the car window with an extended palm.

Raquel brushed her hair aside and looked up, examining the man’s face, searching for Michael’s features behind the grime. The man refused to look at her, but glanced back and forth as though scanning for unknown threats. She started to hand him the money, but held it for a moment and tried to get another look at his eyes.

“Dancer?”

The man’s eyes widened for an instant, then narrowed. The whiskers around the corners of his mouth raised slightly. “There ain’t no dancers here, lady.”

Raquel stared for a moment. “You just look like someone I know as Dancer. Aren’t you Michael? Michael Camp?” Suddenly, she felt embarrassed by her question. How could Dancer be a vagrant? He is certainly a Broadway star by now.

“I’d do the Tennessee two-step, but it will cost you extra.”

The voice and the eyes seem like Michael’s, but that’s impossible. Raquel refused to accept the thought and began to deny her heart’s realization. Her thoughts warred against reason, trying to decide whether to accept the reality standing before her, or the image of Michael she’d expected to find in New York. She opened her mouth to speak again, but a blowing horn interrupted her. The car ahead had moved thirty feet.

The driver behind her rolled down his window to voice his complaint, but the sounds of car horns obscured his words as more drivers joined the protest. Words fled. Raquel handed over the money and pulled forward, followed by the line of impatient drivers. The man walked toward the traffic light, preparing for a new line of cars and reluctant tippers. When Raquel turned the corner, she adjusted her mirror to keep the man in sight until a building obscured her view. 

* * *

Raquel parked her car and took a final glance at her watch. “Ten minutes late,” she moaned, then slammed the car door. Racing to the production office, she fought to push down her emotions, but she couldn’t get her mind off the windshield washer. Raquel wanted to reject the idea that he could be the man she loved, but couldn’t mistake those blue eyes. Could this be why she lost contact with him two years ago?

Her mind raced through the possibilities—and the impossibilities. Is it possible that one of the nation's top dancers is now homeless? If it is Michael, how could he have ended up cleaning windshields off Broadway?

Chapter Two


The biting New York wind stung Raquel’s face, sending chills through her body. People strolling down the sidewalk didn’t act cold, but to her the temperature felt ten or fifteen degrees colder than Tennessee. She pushed through the office doors, and a young lady directed her to her meeting room.

Raquel regained her composure. She understood the need to have stage presence, even in a meeting. Willing the homeless man and the stress of being late out of her thoughts, she focused on showing herself to be a professional caliber dancer. A deep breath helped her conjure up a face of confidence, and she headed down the hall to meet her agent and producer.

Clacking heels announced her approach to everyone within earshot. As if being late weren’t enough, now I sound like a wounded horse. The office door stood half opened, and she peeked into the room. “I’m looking for Joseph Rodney.”

“Come in,” Joseph said as he rose to meet her. The talent agent had first introduced himself after her performance at the Knoxville Theater. He wore a blue long sleeve shirt and black slacks. With his sleeves rolled halfway up his forearm, he had a rugged look. To her, his look seemed out of place in New York. But she liked it. If he’d been wearing jeans, Joseph would have looked like someone from her hometown of Bristol.

“I’m sorry I’m late. This is my first time driving in New York and finding parking was harder than expected.”

Joseph gave a warm smile. “So what do you think about New York traffic?” Raquel gave a wry look and shrugged. “The first taste of traffic is a big culture shock for most people,” Joseph said. He ushered her toward the table.  “Raquel, you remember Marcus Davenport? He was on the panel when you flew in for your audition. He’s the producer you will be working for.”

Marcus had a wiry frame, a thick black mustache, and curly black hair. His light brown eyes were focused with intensity, but when he smiled, it gave Raquel a sense of reassurance. Before speaking a word, the producer’s kind eyes and intense expression communicated assurance, confidence, and control.

The producer stood and offered Raquel his hand, “Good to have you on board with us, Raquel. I don’t like a lot of social distractions when I am evaluating new dancers, so I don’t say much during auditions. Some call it a quirk.” He motioned for her to have a seat before sitting back down. “Let me start by making it clear that in this business, promptness cannot be over stated. I know this is your first day in New York, so I will give you a bye, but from this point on, if you are scheduled for a meeting at four, be prepared at four,” he looked at his watch and said, “not fifteen after four—not even two after four. Be early and you’ll be safe. If I can’t trust performers to be on time, I can’t rely on them in the production.”

Raquel opened her mouth to speak. She wanted to explain how she planned to give herself more than an hour to spare, and could not have known it would take so long to get from the Lincoln Tunnel to Broadway, but the man’s intense gaze disarmed her. Words fled, so she just gave a quick nod.

She listened as he reviewed her portfolio, and explained her starting role as a secondary dancer. He explained his fair approach, and that many opportunities existed to move up for those who worked hard and performed well. She had thought a single theater made up Broadway, but Marcus surprised her by explaining it consisted of about forty theaters, each producing their own musical at any given time..

Marcus wasted no words. The producer gave Raquel a quick information dump, said for her to be at the Belasco Theater at seven in the morning, then excused her from the office. A sense of awkwardness filled the air, and she looked at Joseph. The shrug of his shoulders said what she needed to know. It had only been five minutes, but the meeting had concluded.

Mixed emotions flooded her mind. The feeling of letting Marcus down needled at her after she arrived late for the meeting. Sorrow shoved her earlier excitement aside. She would have to make up for her disappointing first impression. The earlier encounter with the street washer also came to mind. Leaving home, horrible traffic, the street washer—she’d had enough for one day. And she still had to find her apartment in this confusing city. A sudden longing for home came over her, and Raquel felt her lip begin to quiver.

Was this a big mistake?

Raquel blinked back a tear trying to escape, and allowed herself to be distracted by the photographs adorning the hallway walls. A faint odor indicated the place had recently been painted. She touched one of the gold trimmed pictures, then worked down the hall, looking at the plaques, awards, and history decorating these walls. For a moment, she stood there, soaking it all in. Raquel wondered if she was standing where many great stars once walked, and where many dreamers desired to stand.

How did a girl from Bristol end up in the theaters of Broadway? She wondered if Michael had stood in this hallway. What would she give to stand here with him? She let the thought soak in. Her heart felt weighed down by the thought of the window washer being Michael. Maybe it wasn’t him, but just someone who looked like him.

“It’s a special place, isn’t it?” Raquel jumped and turned to see her agent, Joseph, standing nearby, and studying the displays. She hadn’t seen him come out of the office. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s okay. I was just lost in thought.”

Joseph gave a pleasant smile and turned to the wall again. He ran his hand along the edge of a plaque. “I remember the first time I walked down these halls. It is inspiring, isn’t it?”

Raquel looked at a picture of a beautiful woman she didn’t recognize. In the photo, a line of dancers adorned the stage behind the woman. They were out of focus, but she could tell they were soldiers from The Nutcracker. “Yes, it’s magical.” She pointed to the photo and said, “I’ll be dancing The Nutcracker. It must be special to be on center stage like that.” She ran her fingertips along the carved gilded picture frame.

Joseph nodded while he moved to examine the photo with her. “It’s still a work in progress, but Marcus is turning this new office into quite a museum.”

“Oh? This is new? I thought I was walking the hall where these dancers once walked.”

“You’ll do that when you step into the Belasco. But then again, I don’t know what this space was used for in the past. It might have been a star studded walkway years ago.”

Raquel stepped down to the next picture and her eyes returned to the wall. “It still feels magical. Seeing the stars framed in gold. I can almost see them dancing.”

Joseph stepped forward to join her. “Every performer wants to see their legacy displayed on these walls.” He looked at her and asked, “How do you feel about your new opportunity?”

“Excited. Maybe a little scared.” She shifted her eyes from the wall to Joseph. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Have you ever heard of a dancer named Michael Camp?”

Joseph’s eyes looked upward as he searched for any memory of the name. “It doesn’t ring a bell. Has he been on Broadway?”

“Yes. He came here a couple of years ago. He was once a Grand Prix winner and was recruited out of Pahl School of Dance. He’s from my hometown in Tennessee.”

Joseph stroked his chin and said, “The name doesn’t ring a bell. But then Broadway is a big place.” He turned to face Raquel. “Is he a friend of yours?”

Raquel nodded. “Yes, and I thought I saw him.” She looked down at the polished floor. It was like glass. Hardly a scuff in sight. “He was washing windows. I lost contact with him about two years ago and thought the man cleaning my windshield looked like him.” She lifted her eyes from the floor and looked at Joseph. “It doesn’t seem possible, so it’s probably someone who looks like him. Is there a way to find out if he’s performing in any of the theaters?”

“It is. I know some people in the other theaters. I can ask around.”

“Could you do that? I really would like to find him.”

“When I get a chance, I’ll ask if anyone knows him. Michael Camp, right?” Raquel nodded. “I’ve got a dinner engagement. Would you like to join me?”

Raquel gave a kind smile, but shook her head. “I truly appreciate the offer, but no, thanks. I’ve got to get moved in to my apartment.”

Joseph flashed another smile and touched her shoulder. “No problem. I’d better run, then. Maybe I could show you around New York some time. It can be a bit overwhelming when you’re new.”

“I might take you up on that.” Joseph’s eyes sparkled above his smile. She could tell he wanted to be helpful.

“Great! I’ll get with you sometime next week. Good luck on your new opportunity, and call me if you have a need.” Joseph gave a final wave and disappeared down the hall.

“I think he likes you.”

Raquel’s eyes darted to a man wearing a full-length black leather coat, also touring the hall of memories. When Joseph left, he stepped toward Raquel. “What?” she asked.

“I’m a pretty good observer and I think he likes you,” the man said.

Raquel felt herself blush. “No, he’s my agent. He’s just being helpful.”

“I see,” he said. His knowing smile said he didn’t see things the same way as Raquel. The man stepped closer and extended his hand. “Hi, my name is Richard Barnhouse.” She instinctively reached out and he gave a firm handshake. “I’m a reporter doing a behind the scenes story on Broadway and have a few minutes before a meeting. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?”

The man’s face had chiseled features, and his shining smile made her feel more at ease. A warming fragrance caught her attention. I’ve got to give him credit. He has good taste in cologne. She inhaled deeply. “Okay, I guess. But I’m about to leave, and need to take care of some things.”

“Great! I won’t take up much of your time,” he said while pulling a voice recorder out of his pocket. “You don’t mind if I take voice notes do you?” When she hesitated, he followed her eyes to his recorder. “I can write things the old fashioned way if you wish.”

After looking back up, she shook her head. “No. That’s okay.”

“Great! I couldn’t help overhearing you talking about a former Broadway dancer who’s homeless. Can you tell me a little about him?”

Something tightened in the pit of her stomach. The idea of humiliating Michael caused bile to rise in the back of her throat, and her thoughts rose onto her tongue like a bad taste. Bitter words spit from her mouth. “No. I don’t want to talk about it. Sorry.”

Unfazed, he continued probing. “Did I hear you say he was a former Grand Prix winner? What type of competition is that?”

The decision to speak with this man had been a mistake. Time to make a polite exit. “I’m sorry. I have to go take care of some things.” Noise from her heels clacked as she hurried down the hallway.

“His name was Michael Camp, right?”

Regret pounded her while hurrying away. Caught up in her own world, Raquel hadn’t thought to look for anyone else when talking to Joseph. Now she had to get as far from the reporter as possible—and hope the damage hadn’t already been done.

If I had only known he was nearby. In this city, I need to learn to keep my mouth shut.

Outside the office, traffic packed the streets. The thought of weaving through the tangle of cars unnerved her, but the new apartment awaited. This was turning out to be a long day.

After a good rest, I’ll be able to think clearer. Maybe I’ll run across Michael again.

In vain, she tried to put herself at ease, but in her heart she knew rest wouldn’t come until she found the truth, and discovered what happened to send the dancer’s life into disarray.




You can purchase I Called Him Dancer from Amazon.

Eddie is giving away a copy of I Called Him Dancer. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a very good read!
Sunny

Linda said...

Sounds like a terrific book! Please enter me.

desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Linda Kish said...

This sounds like an interesting story.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

amber said...

Please enter me!!

afren07[at]gmail[dot]com

ann said...

Sounds like my kind of book please enter me

windycindy said...

I do like the beginning...
Thanks for the excerpt!
Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

lgm52 said...

Enjoyed the excerpt. Now I want to read the entire book!
lgm52@hotmail.com

Jo said...

This sounds like quite a book. Please enter me in the drawing.

Blessings,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

Judy said...

I Call Him Dancer sounds like a good book that I would like to read. I really enjoyed the interview as well!

God Bless!

judyjohn2004@yahoo.com

Christian Speaker Services said...

Win 1 of 3 Amazon $15 gift cards from the author. Simply rate I CALLED HIM DANCER on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or another bookstore and post a note at http://www.facebook.com/pages/CSS-VBT-G-Edward-Snipes-I-Called-Him-Dancer/114632421953404.

You will receive an entry for each site. One name will be drawn at the end of each month through June. Be sure and follow Amazon’s requirements or your rating will not be listed.

Meredith said...

Sounds like an interesting read!

meredithfl at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Just found his blog and then found yours. Sounds like a great book! Please enter me in the contest.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful book. Just found your blog. Can't wait to see what else you have on here. Please enter me in the book drawing.

juliecranford@hotmail.com

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