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by Elizabeth Schultz
“This isn’t going to work, Chad.”
“Come on, all we need is a little bit of paint, some bags…” Chad’s voice faded as he lost his train of thought. Angela grabbed his shoulder and spun him around.
“Did you hear what I said? This won’t work. This place is a dump.”
“Are you kidding me? This will be the sickest party you’ve ever seen. Sure it needs some work, but that’s the point. No one wants to hang out at the Frampton Ballroom or wherever the hell Mac and his dickweed friends are having their afterparty. I mean look at this.” He gestured grandly to the dark empty hall.
“I am looking.” Angela was trying to do only that. The station had only been out of service for a few months and already the floors were littered with damp trash. The walls looked suspiciously slimy and reminded her of the video games Chad was always playing with his friends. As soon as she let go of his shoulder she shoved her fists back into her sterile pockets. “Jesus, can you smell that?”
Chad waved it all away with a hand. “That’s nothing.”
She hated it when he got like this. He was lost in his own world, placing lights, hearing thumping music, already partying with his friends. Angela found his pipe dreams amusing half the time, and frustrating the rest of the time.
“Do you have any idea how much work it’s going to take to clean this place up? By Friday?”
“No worries. We’ll get a couple of buckets, some soap, a few garbage bags. Ryan and Eric will help too.”
Bullshit. Angela didn’t say it, but she knew it.
“And what about the cops? We could get arrested for just being here now. You think they’re not going to hear the music blasting out of this place? Nobody from school is going to come if they think they’re going to get caught.”
“Angela, would you relax? The whole reason they’re bulldozing this place is because no one lives around here anymore. Have you seen anyone else in the last hour?”
Angela could admit he was right, but she didn’t feel like it. “Not exactly the safest neighborhood either.”
This time Chad gave her his full attention. “Would you listen to yourself? Not safe? That’s the whole point. This is it, the end of high school. It’s now or never, Angela. Live dangerously, why don’t you?”
“I am. This place is probably crawling in bacteria.” Although she meant it, her response lacked feeling. The year was almost over and soon the whole class would be shooting off in different directions. Even Chad was going to a different college. “Fine, I will help make YOUR dream a reality. But we are NOT doing this alone. Agreed?”
“Yeah…” Chad had already turned away and was running his hand over a dull brass “Watch Your Step” sign screwed into the wall. “Awesome.”
7 bottles of liquid soap
17 tall trashbags (5 had to be double bagged)
6 trips to the hardware store
14 cloth rags
1 bucket of paint (surprisingly little was needed once the dirt came off)
And 64 pairs of latex gloves later…
“Ange, go out to the car and get me another extension cord.”
“That was the last one.”
“No, there was an old brown one still there.”
“Eric ran that one to the turntable.”
“I thought he was using that orange one.”
“You swapped that one out. It goes to the blue lights.”
“We cut the blue lights.”
“I want the blue lights.”
“That’s why we don’t have enough cord. Bring me the orange cord.”
“I WANT the blue lights.”
“If I give you $20 can you go to the store and buy some more extension cords? Please?”
“I would be happy to do that, Chad.”
“Thank you, Angela.”
“Are you sure we don’t need anything else?”
“Umm. Yeah, see, Ryan was here with me this morning setting up the speakers and we kind of discovered a minor flaw in the plan.”
“What a surprise. I think our teachers would be scared to know how much we’ve learned this whole week. Generators, chemical burns, biohazards, acoustical nightmares, and how to stuff 36 chairs into a Toyota. Even my parents were impressed.”
“Don’t be stupid. They don’t know anything.”
“What did you tell them?”
“We’re helping decorate for the actual dance.”
“Hey, I was helping decorate. For a few minutes. I stole some crepe paper.”
“Nice. And speaking of paper, back to the minor flaw thing I mentioned. I need you to buy one of those big-ass stacks of toilet paper and some of those disposable wipes.”
“Gross. I’m going to need more than $20 for all that.”
Chad reached into his jeans and pulled out a grubby stack of bills. “So much for that August road trip.” He cautiously leaned down from his ladder and handed the money to Angela. “You’re not even going to ask?”
“Chad, I was on that page four days ago. By this time, I don’t much care. This will be a party that people remember for many, many reasons. And this might be the big one. I’ll grab us some tacos too.”
“Ryan, where is that marker you had?”
“You know, the one you used to make the drinks sign?”
“That was Eric. I think he made that sign on his laptop. Did you see the sweet fliers he made? I think the whole class got one.”
“Yeah I saw them. I’m just glad he didn’t make the address too obvious. I want people to come, but the right people, you know? I think I saw someone peeking in while Ange was getting lunch earlier today.”
“Who knows? Oh, here it is.” Chad pulled a marker out of his own pocket in surprise. He had changed earlier and briefly wondered how it got into his dress clothes. He quickly scribbled onto two pieces of scrap paper and handed them to Ryan.
“Go hang these on opposite walls down by the rails.”
Ryan looked at the simple “Gentlemen” and “Ladies” signs with raised eyebrows but only asked,
“Do you have tape?”
Chad made a sound between a grunt and a moan. “I think it was in the car. Angela went home to change and should be back soon.”
“Whoa!” Both boys jumped back as one of the lights crashed to the floor and shards of glass and metal skittered across the floor.
The sound echoed in the cavernous space. They looked up at the same time and saw that the metal pipe they had wired the lamp to had broken, half of it coming down in the crash and half still swinging gently from the ceiling.
“We’re lucky that wasn’t plugged in.”
“Was that one we rented or borrowed?”
“Do I know anymore? That was Eric’s job. Where’s a broom?”
“All we have are mops. Go get a bag from that pile—.”
“I know where the bags are by now.”
“Well go get one and I’ll start…mopping the glass into a pile.”
“Hey, do you guys think we should have some signs out front or anything? I don’t know if people will be able to find the place. I know that’s a good and a bad thing but—.”
“Angela, do you have tape in the car?”
“It’s in the trunk.”
“Ryan, I thought you were getting a bag.”
“Keep your shirt on. It’s still an hour before anyone will show up, and they’ll just be the early weirdos anyway.”
“No, we’re organizers. We’re in charge. We’re different.”
“Speaking of which, where’s Eric?”
“He’s getting the food and stuff.”
“I hope he’s getting napkins too.”
“Chad, did I just hear you mention napkins? What’s happened to you?”
“Shove it, Angela. You look sexy, by the way.”
“Awkward. I’ll just get the tape from your car, Angela.”
“Are those signs for out front? Oh, no. I see what they are. Classy.”
“Chad made them. I’m just hanging them.”
“And what happened here?”
“Structural failure. Metal degradation. Rusty things and all that. I don’t know. Just help me clean it up.”
Chad and Angela began collecting scattered pieces of metal and glass from what was soon to be the hottest dance floor in town. In the process Angie nicked her finger on a piece of glass.
“Where are those wet wipe things?”
“There are some in each, well, bathroom. Let me take a look.”
She held her finger up for him to see.
“Ah, that’s nothing. Just suck on it.”
“Weren’t you paying attention in class? Loads and loads of bacteria in our mouths.”
“Do you want me to kiss it and make it better?” Chad leaned in close and smiled.
“Are you deaf?” asked Angela, smiling back.
“Hold on a second.”
Angela’s smile faded as Chad suddenly pulled away and went to the DJ table. She crossed her arms and watched as he flicked switches. The five floor speakers scattered around the room hummed to life. Chad pushed one last button and then hurried back around the table and took her into his arms with a foolish smile.
“We get the first dance.”
When the music came on Angela grinned. Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ echoed off of the walls and soared through the endless tunnels.
“You know this song is kind of creepy.”
Chad began leading her around the dance floor. “Yeah.”
“I love it.”
“I know you do.”
Angela smiled and closed her eyes as they danced.
“Uh Chad, you know it’s starting to get dark. Did you think to put lights in the bathrooms?”
“All part of the experience, Ryan,” he replied absently.
The night slipped away after that. Eric arrived, the signs went up, food was spread out, and the lights flared to life. They came in a trickle and then a flood, crowding the room with heat and noise. There was awe, fevered dancing, amateur embraces, shouts of horror and squeals of laughter. And then it was over.
Within days everything was gone, buried under rubble and scrubby grass. It was so hard to drive by that empty lot years later. So hard.