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Damarcus Drops The Beat
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"Mmmbop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop
The humming was coming from nowhere in particular. It was getting louder and filling all the space that was left in the tiny, messy, dull, dark, creaky, croaky closet between the charred rocket socks and the broken jumping clocks and the striped shirts and the stuffed Ernies and Berts.
"Mmmbop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, Ba du dop
Ba du bop, Ba du dop
"Go away! I've had enough!" yelled Damarcus over the zippy tippy tune, even though he had already started tapping his toe in the spilled Rainbow Tango paint by his foot.
"...Ba du bop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop..."
"I mean it!" he screamed, slamming his palms over his ears and scrunching his toes to keep from tapping. The candy-crusted closet door, which had been the unfortunate target of the candy crashers, rattled to the juvenile beat as it got even louder.
"Go! A! Way!"
Just as Damarcus's shouts were drowned out by the unbearably jiggy jive, there was an eruption of sound that ripped the music out of the air like a record yanked off a turntable.
"Heyyyy little buddy! What's movin'?" said the voice coming from the space suit now hovering in front of Damarcus.
It was about the same size as Damarcus, if not a tiny bit smaller. It was shimmery white with red and blue knobs around the head portion. A shaded visor covered the front where one would imagine the eyes were hiding. The closet was now noticeably larger, something that always seemed to happen when the space suit appeared.
"Nothing's moving" he replied miserably.
"What's got your galaxy so anti-orbital?" said the space suit.
"Nothing. I'm just not moving." he sulked, "I tried to dance like you and I can't."
"What about the Rainbow Tango paint? Did you paint six stripes across the top of your left foot and seven stripes across your right foot?" asked the space suit.
"Yes, I did that," answered Damarcus.
"Well, did you try the candy crashers?"
"Yes, and you can see how much good that did." Damarcus slammed his fist against the sugary-stiff closet door.
"The rocket socks?"
"The jumping clocks?"
"Well that's no solar flare in July."
"No, no it's not, Ali. And it's all your fault! The school talent show is the day after tomorrow and I still have nothing but a tiny, messy, dull, dark, creaky, croaky closet, and a big mess! All I want is to be able to dance like you do."
Damarcus began to cry, though he tried to stop himself.
The space suit crumpled empathetically towards him, arms outstretched.
Damarcus lunged to latch onto the gleaming exterior of the space suit, letting tears bead off the left sleeve. Just at that moment, footsteps could be heard coming down the hallway towards his room.
"Quick!" whispered Damarcus as he wiped at his eyes. "It's mom!" He pushed himself up to his feet and fought the crunchy closet door open. Shutting it tightly behind him, he dove for the bed where his Moon Blaster comic awaited him. He flipped the book open under his bedside lamp and stuffed his face in it. The door opened a foot, flooding light into the dim room, and his mother's head popped into view. She remained in the doorway, as if she didn't mean to impose, but Damarcus knew better.
"Hi sweetheart. Are you almost ready for bed?"
"Yeah, can I just finish this part? Moon Blaster's about to destroy Bezunka Bob."
"Of course, but straight to bed after that," replied his mother, smiling her perfect smile.
Damarcus's mother was very proper and proper people didn't like Ali's sort of dancing. Ali's dancing is loud and bright and spectacular. The sort of dancing that Damarcus's mom enjoys is quiet and tidy and is best seen in black and white.
It was time for bed, time for real things like sleep and dreaming.
"Good night, Ali," Damarcus whispered as he flopped sleepily onto his side and pulled the covers up to his ears. There was no response, but no matter, Damarcus was already asleep.
Damarcus was heading outside for recess by himself, as usual.
He was taking a detour to pass by the principal's office, as had been his routine for the past week.
A pair of the most magnificent moon boots any kid had ever seen was on display in a glass case outside the office. They were the grand prize awarded to the winner of the school talent show. They were silver as armor with black leather trim. The boosters on the bottom let the wearer hover just a few inches off the ground. Tilting them forward propelled them to a maximum of 5 km/hr, just enough to give an 11 year old kid the rush of his life. They were a novelty toy that came out around the Christmas release of the movie, Moon Blaster: Space Slide.
To Damarcus, they were the only possession worth owning.
He had watched the movie probably 100 times. Moon Blaster was his all-time hero.
He was going to win those boots, even if he had to spend all night practicing with Ali.
"Damarcus, I asked you a question," said a stern, but faraway female voice.
The class turned to look at Damarcus. He had his arms out in front of him, palms facing forward and elbows bent. He was frozen in his signature move. His eyes were closed and his lips were pursed contentedly causing his eyebrows to furrow in funky fashion. The beat was pulsing in his head, and he was lost inside it. This wasn't the first time that Miss Henley had felt the need to rap Damarcus's desk with her meter stick, and it wouldn't be the last time.
His classmates often caught him daydreaming himself into twisted positions that vaguely reminded them of pop stars their mothers told them were a bad influence.
At the crack of the ruler in front of his nose, Damarcus started in his chair, lifting himself off the seat so quickly that he knocked his knees on the underside of the desk and yelped embarrassingly loud.
"Damarcus, the math problem is on the board. What is the answer?"
"Seven?" guessed Damarcus.
The girls in the class giggled and several boys scoffed. Damarcus looked to his left where, there was no other way to describe it, the love of his life sat, looking shyly sympathetic.
"You just forgot to carry the one," she whispered
"Thanks, Delia," Damarcus mumbled, feeling ridiculous.
Just then the bell rang and Mrs. Henley let out a relieved sigh as the class noisily grabbed their backpacks and lunch tins and roared out the door. Two boys made a point to pass closely by Damarcus and chuckle as they said:
"Thinks he's going to win the talent show..."
"Doesn't know how silly he looks..."
More stifled chuckles and giggles followed him down the hall and out into the schoolyard. They didn't fade completely until he had rounded the corner of the grounds and turned east onto his street.
He lived near the school, something his mother thought was very "convenient".
Damarcus would have liked to live on the other side of town, at least then he wouldn't have to see all of the other kids whose mothers also fancied convenience.
He saw the kids from his class on the weekends and in the evenings, they never wanted to play with him. They would just pass by his house on their way to the park, making jerky, mocking dance moves and laughing.
From his perch on the window seat in his bedroom, he could see them now.
Damarcus flailed his arms like they were vacuum tubing. He knocked over two of the jumping clocks that were perched on his sock pile. Ali tolerantly clapped his hands in time.
"That's it, Damarcus," encouraged Ali. "You're a supernova!"
Damarcus lifted his knees in a soldier's march to the hip hop beat thudding through the more-spacious-than-usual closet. The look on his face was one of deep concentration, rather than enjoyment. Miniature lights hovered around Ali's head like tiny swirling galaxies, illuminating Damarcus's private dance floor.
"Ali, where did you say to start the pop, again? At the left wrist, and then lock at the right wrist?" Just as Damarcus finished asking the question, Ali twirled the index finger of his right hand in the air, and the music stopped abruptly.
"I heard footsteps," said Ali quietly.
Damarcus could hear them too. Damarcus threw open the closet door, which was now candy-free, and dove for the bed. Glancing back into the closet, he saw that it had gone dull and dark once again, and Ali was nowhere to be seen. He picked up the comic book from its resting place and turned it over to stare at the page it had been folded open to.
Ali danced a very galactic hip hop, the likes of which no earthling had ever seen. The music was definitely borrowed from earthly hip hop, but the moves were out of this world. The other kids in the talent show played piano, sang, or did tap dance.
What Damarcus intended to show the judges was going to knock the rocket socks right off their feet.
Stepping up to the stage in the packed gym with a squeaky lunch table full of judges waiting for him, Damarcus was panicked. He could see all of his schoolmates seated cross-legged and fidgeting in neat rows below him. Ali wasn't there with him. What if he couldn't dance without Ali's help?
From stage right, the long wrinkly finger of Mrs. Wherthers, the school music teacher, pressed the play button on a very out-dated, dusty black tape player. The out of place hip hop music suddenly blared and echoed against the strung up volleyball nets and folded basketball hoops. A small, dazed-looking boy in the front row blew an impressive bubble with his gum then popped it with his finger.
Damarcus was a statue.
Visions of what he'd practiced with Ali in the closet were flashing through his mind, but his body remained frozen. The judges stared at him disapprovingly, and the children on the floor continued to fidget. The music pulsed.
After nearly a minute, Mrs. Wherthers reached for the tape player and the gym was silent again, aside from a few shuffles and coughs.
"Was that it, Damaracus?" she croaked.
Damarcus could feel his face getting hot. He still could not move a muscle, even to release the pressure in his locked knees. His head began to feel light, and the gymnasium dimmed a little.
Suddenly, he heard the music playing again, only much quieter this time. Was Mrs. Wherthers trying to give him a second chance?
"You're a supernova!" a familiar voice bellowed in his ear.
He could feel himself slowly losing his balance, but the music was getting louder. It was now thudding all around him. Something nudged him from behind and he snapped fully upright. His arms shot out in front of him, palms facing forward. His knees began to pick themselves up repeatedly, one after the other, in time to the fast beat.
The music was now so loud that he couldn't hear the stomping of his own feet on the wooden stage floor. His arms flailed like vacuum tubing beside his body, only this time it was an impressive, flowing progression.
A wave of excited gasps rippled from the audience below to the long table of judges on stage. Mrs. Wherthers was looking puzzled as she repositioned her eyeglasses and examined the dusty black tape player. She didn't remember hitting the play button a second time.
From somewhere backstage, blue-silver and green-gold lights hit Damarcus. They weren't beams of light but rather seemed to swirl around him like small galaxies. He slid across stage on his knees and effortlessly popped sideways onto one hand. His pants billowed at the ankles above his head. The music seemed to anticipate his every move, tossing him just the right rhythm.
Glancing into the audience from his inverted position, he caught Delia's eye. She was sitting on the right half of the gym, two rows back from the front. Her eyes were wide and she was smiling up at him. Before he knew what was happening, his legs were being taken by gravity, up over his head, pushing him backwards.
The music sped up as his falling legs forced his body into an arch. When he crashed down flat onto the stage floor, the music exploded in a final note and the orbiting lights shone at their brightest before going out.
A deafening roar of applause filled his ears as Damarcus lay there, dazed, but unhurt.
Swimming above his head was a vision of Delia handing him the marvelous moon boots. Beside her was Ali giving him the thumbs up.
Wait, he thought. Where was Ali? He blinked several times and the image of Delia, Ali and the moon boots faded. He lifted his head slowly and looked around.
The lunch table of teachers had managed to mobilize themselves in his direction; concerned looks were etched on their faces. His schoolmates in the audience were shuffling in their seated positions on the floor. Some were cupping their hands at a neighbor's ear, whispering with wide eyes.
Damarcus could not see Ali anywhere. He was sure he must be there. How else could he have managed a performance like that?
From inside his head, he heard the words again: "You're a supernova!"
This time, though, the voice he recognized was not Ali's. It was his own.
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