TUBE, DRAFT 1, CHAPTER 22. THE UNFOUNDED ACCUSATION (EXCERPT)
Alla Borisovna began twisting the only remaining button on her cardigan, the very top one, as the others were gone and lost in the disorderly scuffle of the recent events. “I want all eyes on me, please. All eyes on me.” This was her typical studio call at the beginning of class, and by habit every head turned in her direction, attentive, catching her every word.
“I’m not sure what phenomena we’re dealing with,” she paused importantly, letting her words sink in, “and I’m not sure I want to know—”
A murmur rose from the corner where the girls sniffled.
“Quiet! I would appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt me until I finish. Then you can have your turn to talk.”
“But Alla Borisovna—”
“I’m talking!” She screamed, a vein pulsing on her forehead, and whoever spoke hushed quickly.
“It won’t do to fall apart now. I won’t have it, you hear me? Over my dead body.” She glared at them in semi-darkness. She meant it, and they knew it.
There were no objections, only frightened intakes of air, the type they resorted to when Alla Borisovna had one of her fits. Torn out of familiar environment, sitting in the dark on a possessed empty train in the middle of nowhere with no solid chance of getting out of it, they were unable to tell how bad her conniptions might get, and that frightened them more, girls especially.
At ballet practice it was easy to tell when she had one of her bad days. She’d show up with a pair of sharp scissors and demonstratively clicking the blades in the air inspect their hair and feet, her two pet peeves. If, God forbid, she noticed any wispies sticking out of the girls’ buns, she’d swoop on the victim like a harpy and snip off every strand, screaming insults and reminding them of the existence of a cheap and simple tool called “hair spray.” If she saw ribbons loose over pointe shoes, if even the tiniest bit of them peeped out, she’d bend and chop them off as well, demanding a ten-ruble banknote for each offense. It was more expensive if they were caught neglecting their attire during an actual performance, from a hundred rubles to a thousand, depending on her mood.
The assaulted girls would cry. Someone was always crying, every day.
This habit only strengthened her reputation as an “old crazy bitch” in the company, and yet she choreographed and directed the best pieces that brought Bolshoi a new surge of interest and, with it, money. Her rendition of Serenade was hailed in the press as “fresh, a comeback of Russian ballet in the best of its tradition,” and so forth. She felt at the height of her career, invincible, irreplaceable, and the invitation to tour America only confirmed her conviction
(Painting by @aronwiesenfeld.)