The Moment Is Now
March 21st, 1981
Greensboro, North Carolina
One last 6:00 a.m. session in the cold, damp air of that filthy hockey arena. Alone, she finds the solitude of being the only one in the building at this ungodly hour somehow perfect.
It’s just her and the ice.
Given how this day could potentially play out, nothing about it will be remotely normal, but that doesn’t seem to bother eighteen-year-old Ally Sullivan one bit. She knows that despite her anxiety, nothing can dampen her hopes.
Today is the day. The day she’s looked forward to, obsessed over, and feared for the last three months.
Not Suitable For Children
A major challenge with writing this book series was making sure a non-touring entertainer could follow and relate to the inner workings of the industry.
This meant strategically salt & peppering every aspect of the story arc with observations, things only understood from first hand experience living on the road.
Below is the jumping off point to the series. Given how ultra conservative the figure skating world is, the first two chapters have been carefully constructed to ease the reader into the true voice and style of my writing.
My point being, it gets raunchy, so consider this fair warning before making any purchase if your not comfortable with vulgarity and twisted humor.
Ready or not, at 5:45 p.m. Ally will audition for one of the largest touring ice show companies in the world.
Lost in thought, Ally stands at the boards looking out through the glass. Every ounce of who she is couldn’t possibly want anything to be different. Yes, it might be 6:00 a.m. And yes, this rundown old hockey arena might be unbearably cold, but in her imagination she is somewhere else entirely.
Stepping forward, pressing her full body weight down on the large steel latch, Ally pries open the heavy door to the ice. It releases with a loud snap that echoes around her.
Slowly, in no rush, Ally begins to skate the perimeter, appreciating the complete isolation. She knows full well that no one is watching. She’s embraced by the rink that has seen her grow from toddler to teen. That very same rink which through the years has seen her at her very best and her absolute worst. This is her last opportunity to connect with the dream of a little girl that began under these very same old rusted beams.
Detached in every way from the outside world, the arena is mute but for the sound of her blades cutting deep as she builds speed and flies across the vast open ice. Effortlessly she reaches, arching her back into a beautiful Ina Bauer, soaring at full speed like a boat skimming above choppy waters, the wind filling its sails.
Ally knows that today is her chance. Most likely her only chance. Giving a strong audition later this afternoon is the key to unlocking everything in life she’s ever wanted.
The moment—her moment—is now.
The end of March. Just another Saturday for the largest touring ice show company in the country.
Raleigh, North Carolina. Another hectic three-show day. Each and every show two-and-a-half hours in length. Three shows in one day, a ridiculous schedule that somehow always seems to fit perfectly on paper, but in reality leaves performers stretched far beyond what they can handle.
Struggling to maintain any grasp on sanity, each performer digs deep, individually and collectively searching for a way to somehow make it through just one more fucking show.
Overwhelmed, the mind switches off and artistic dementia ensues. Pupils dilate and a zombie-esque presence takes over. Every face smiles, never revealing the truth that lies under the two inches of heavy show makeup and lashes the blinding lights, the music and the choreo take demonic possession. The brain is temporarily locked in a scary state of nothingness until the final bows. Then comes the euphoria that at least for now it’s
over. I can relax, have a smoke, and finally take off these goddamn skates!
Saturday’s second show finishes. Forty-five minutes later, the stadium has been abandoned. Another open call audition is about to be forcefully squeezed in between shows two and three.
“Tina…Denise…Leslie…Michelle…Alice…Hannah…Tracy… (a slight pause)… David…”
Ally looks toward a man standing at the edge of the ice. The sound of his voice has replaced the thunderous applause that earlier had echoed through the large now-empty venue.
She reaches down for her skate guards, then takes a deep breath trying to shake her overwhelming anxiety.
“You will be fine, Alice.”
Her mother’s presence at her side and her attempt at reassurance only add to Ally’s agitation.
She tries to collect her thoughts as she joins the small group of hopefuls who are surrounded by an almost visible sense of fear. They make their way across the open ice toward the man whose face is now buried in papers on a clipboard. A lanky character dressed in a company tracksuit, he is of average looks, short, and has a bushy mustache that fails to mask an obvious aura of femininity.
The man nods and smiles automatically at Ally as she approaches, then his eyes widen as he registers the
five-feet-two-inch, 105-pound, dark-haired beauty standing in front of him.
Crap, he thinks to himself. Right look…too bad she’s so short.
Then he shifts his focus back to the group and introduces himself as Denis, the men’s line captain.
As other young hopefuls gather round, Denis’ eyes glance distractedly toward a group of people gathered higher up in the stands. Ally follows his gaze. The onlookers all seem at ease, as if this massive steel and concrete space offers them a sense of normal.
She assumes they’re skaters from the show.
Ally finds herself beginning to wonder about the life they live.
To me this is all so amazing, so unbelievable, she thinks. But what do they feel when they look over at that enormous set? Do they feel anything?
I wonder how they really feel about skating.
To her surprise, Ally, for the very first time, begins to ask herself whether wanting this job and having this job— this life—might turn out to be two different things entirely.
As more cast members gather in the seats high up under the rafters Ally turns her attention back to Denis, the mustache with the clipboard. She can sense his exhaustion and abruptly realizes that while for her this audition
is a life-defining moment, for him it’s probably nothing but a hassle. Just one more thing he has to do today.
“Okay, folks,” Denis begins. “I know from my own experience standing in your shoes that this process is nerve-racking.”
Denis’ words, meant to put the group at ease, fail entirely, but he continues, giving the same speech he’s clearly delivered a hundred times before.
“This is what’s known in the industry as a cattle call. No one has priority. We’re looking for strong skating, a high level of performance and lots of confidence.”
Ally and the rest follow Denis toward the set then stand in a line behind him and begin to learn a fairly simple step sequence.
“Shoulders back!” Denis yells, and without saying the words he gestures flamboyantly for them to proudly show off their breasts.
Right, thinks Ally. I get it.
She smiles and closes her eyes, remembering the show she’d seen just two days earlier. The lights. The costumes. The music. The roar from the crowd. She imagines herself among the performers, and skates the steps perfectly on count.
Denis, stunned by the quality of Ally’s skating, momentarily can’t take his eyes off of her.
A voice from behind the set interrupts him.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry—that took way longer than it should have!”
The voice belongs to a beautiful woman about thirty years old. Also dressed in a company tracksuit, wearing full show makeup and enormous fake eyelashes, she quickly skates out from backstage and down the ice toward them. Her smile is automatic and tinged with fatigue. Denis introduces her as Tara, the women’s line captain.
“Where are we?” she asks, looking at him.
Denis scans his clipboard as if searching for the right answer.
“North Carolina?” he replies sarcastically.
Tara glares at him, giving him a look that could only be interpreted as “fuck off.”
Denis smirks and fills her in on what they’ve already covered. Tara picks up where Denis left off and begins taking the small group through the next phase of the audition.
Though she doesn’t realize it at the time, Ally is standing at the pivotal threshold on which every performer— famous or struggling—has found themselves. A lifetime of perseverance and sacrifice all hinges on this exact moment they will never forget. Ally is in a place and time in her own unique journey where a doorway to chance can open onto almost anything.
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