A deep beat rattles the dance floor at the college town’s newest gay bar, Spun. Daft Punk blends into Beyonce, then swells into Kylie Minogue.
Hank’s a sophomore majoring in Opera Performance, but he loves all music. Tonight he’s a diva dressed up in his own pseudo-Pirates of the Caribean ensemble; bright red hair, purple leggings, tall boots with a wide cuff, and a white, puffy poet shirt belted at the waist. His nails are painted black and his eyes are lined just like Johnny Depp.
The plan is to dance his ass off at Spun. He’s a few cocktails into the night and nothing’s inspired him to move. The DJ finally gets his attention with a mashup of the vintage Adam Ant song Goody Two Shoes mixed with Katy Perry’s Roar. It’s a blend of old and new that makes the pirate-diva go crazy.
The sound is intense, and Hank’s moves are jarring. He’s swinging his arms and head around like a maniac. The pirate-diva likes the fact that everyone’s watching him on the dance floor. After all: opera is his major. He’s a natural scene-stealer and is used to being the center of attention.
Another new mix is spun by the DJ and Hank begins to dance like an angry windshield wiper. Since he knows people are watching he adds an extra jerk here and there. He’s managed to clear a circle around himself on the dance floor. What he doesn’t realize is that the patrons are not watching him with admiration; they’re gaping at him in horror. It appears he’s been shot. No one actually heard a gunshot, but there’s blood flicking off his head.
For some reason, the pirate-diva’s unfazed despite what looks like a serious injury. He keeps dancing with such determination that no one dares to stop him: they might get hurt or splattered with blood.
Spun’s DJ calls 911 but doesn’t kill the music for fear it might create a panic at his disco.
“Maybe he’s having some sort of seizure standing-up?” he tells the emergency dispatcher.
By now, Hank’s the only one dancing. He pulls out all the stops thinking he’s somehow been granted a solo recital.
The paramedics arrive quickly and stop him mid-groove.
“WHAT’S GOING ON? IS EVERYTHING ALRIGHT?” he shouts.
They can’t hear him and make him lie down on the dance floor. Questions are asked trying to assess the problem. They pick though his clothes and his hair looking for the source of the blood, but all the confusion is making it difficult.
“I CAN’T FIND ANY WOUND ON HIS SCALP!” one paramedic shouts to the other.
A penlight up is held up in front of Hank’s bloody face and he’s asked to follow the light with his eyes. He doesn’t do this well.
“I’M JUST A BIT TIPSY!” he insists.
A SWAT team in full riot gear bolts into the bar prepared for a mass shooting.
“ALRIGHT, EVERYONE THIS IS NOT A DRILL!” a cop yells through a megaphone.
The DJ finally turns the lights up and the music down. The pirate-diva’s trembling. Not only has he never seen the bar fully lit. All the patrons have their hands on their heads and are fleeing the bar in terror. He hears a discussion over police radios about a gunman. But the words “Spun” and “gun” have turned it into a Laurel and Hardy sketch.
“Spun gunman at Spun with a gun, 10-4?”
It isn’t until he sees his white pirate shirt soaked with bright red streaks that Hank finally gets it. He’s not covered in blood: it’s his hair mousse. He used a whole can of “Flame Red” this evening mixed with a packet of cherry flavored Kool-Aid to give the color an extra boost (a recipe he’s never tried before). The exceptionally vibrant color has been sweat right off his head onto his clothes and floor. It’s still running down his face and torso.
The police start screaming at the paramedics, “GET HIM OUT OF HERE! WE’VE GOT TO SECURE THE BUILDING ASAP!” Their weapons are drawn and they are canvassing the area like roaches.
“Shit! This could be another Columbine! He at least has a concussion. Let’s just get the fuck out of here and take him to the ER,” the paramedic says.
Hank says nothing as he’s quickly strapped to a gurney and loaded into an ambulance outside. He sees out the window that the entire area around Spun is barricaded off with saw horses. Helicopters are heard in the distance.
There’s nothing to do but tell the truth when he the ambulance door is closed. But it’s not over: the mass-shooting genie is out of the bottle. Within a few minutes, Hank has officially become a “case” just shy of the FBI’s attention. The scanners and media don’t miss a beat. The pirate-diva’s cleaned up and stripped of most of his outfit (as evidence) and interrogated for hours like something out of a film noir.
“…red hair mousse …with cherry Kool-Aid,” he says over and over and over. Eventually, a handsome detective-apprentice gives him a ride home.
His case is passes back and forth between the paramedics and the police department. Both are humiliated for their misjudgment, but there’s no scapegoat to be had. They just want to sweep the whole under the rug.
Hank, however, quickly becomes a media darling giving interviews for local TV, radio, and print wearing a more flamboyant pirate ensemble and a better recipe for his signature bright red hair.
The biggest honor of all is being asked to be the Grand Marshall of his university’s gay pride parade. The Friday night’s drink special at Spun during pride weekend is called “The Pirate-Diva”: a blend of Everclear, Red Bull and cherry Kool-Aid.
Dennis Bensie lives in Seattle, working professionally in theatre. He has published numerous essays online and four books through Coffeetown Press: Shorn: Toys to Men (2011), One Gay American (2012), Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature (2015), and Thirty Years a Dresser (2018).