When The Lights Go On
When The Lights Go On
Charles M. Bidwell

Raymond was ecstatic. A dance contest at The Flash on the weekend before Christmas. He hadn't won one yet, but this time he had a brilliant idea for a novelty dance act. He was certain he would impress the judges enough to win at least third place.

Terry had given him the seed of inspiration when he had observed that someone was all dressed up like a Christmas tree, except for the lights. Well, what about getting dressed up for his dance number with lights.

Raymond rummaged about in the locker for the Christmas tree lights. His room-mate, Dan, had carefully wound them around cardboard to keep them from getting hopelessly entangled during storage and placed each string in a separate Safeway bag. Raymond noted that Dan's planning had paid off. The lights were in excellent state he noted, as he unwound them on the living room floor.

He plugged them in to check that all the bulbs were still alive and then unplugged them and tried wrapping them about himself in different arrangements. He had to make sure that the wires did not restrict his frenetic movements and gyrations. He was often complimented on his lively stepping on the dance floor and this time he wanted nothing to hamper his expression.

Terry dropped by and was sworn to secrecy before Raymond would reveal his plan and ask for Terry's help.

"You're crazy, Ray. But you know, it just might give you the edge to win. We'll have to pin the wiring in strategic places so it doesn't slip out of place. What are you planning to wear under the lights?"

"My personally designed tie-dyed tank top and redhot short shorts. Why?"

"I think something dark would contrast with the bright lights. Do you have anything forest green? You know, like the evergreen boughs of a Christmas tree."

"I've got my dark green gym shorts from Harry Ainley High, but nothing so dark for a top."

"Doesn't Dan have something dark green?"

"Well, let's look."

The two men went scavenging into the tidy territory of Dan's room and clothes closet. They found a dark green tank-top hung on a hanger among its mates of other colours. They whisked it away and matched it with the gym shorts.

"Close enough. Now let's get the wiring placed on you."

"I had one staring wound around my arms, but it was hard for me to get the string to stay at my wrists."

"Hmm. We need something small at your writs. Elastic bands would cut off your circulation and heaven knows, that's not what we want. Is it?"

"Definitely not; I want to win this contest to increase my circulation, you fool."

"Tell me something I don't already know. Okay, how about sweat bands?"

"Like tennis players use?"

"Yes. Do you know any?"

"No, but I can swing the expense. Let's go shopping."

"Music to my ears, especially if we're using your money."

The trip to Sports World was filled with news of who was hunting or dating whom and the disaster that Terry's last night out had been.

"Get the darkest band you can find. Even black won't look out of place in the lighting that'll be on you during the dance."

"These terry cloth numbers should do fine. We can safety pin the wiring to them and anchor the string of lights that way."

"It's a wrap. Let's go."

They made their purchase and raced back to the apartment to test it out. The sweat bands did their duty and the lights were strung. Terry started with the plug at Raymond's waist in the back and then up and around his neck. From there the string wound around his right arm was pinned to the wrist band and wound back to the left arm band and back to his neck. The second string was plugged in there and wrapped around Ray's torso with pinning at strategic points in the back of the tank-top to keep the string from being so tight that it would not slump down in a bunch. The wrapping around the shorts followed the same strategy. The third string was plugged in and wrapped around each leg and pinned to his sweat socks. The whole set of strings would be plugged into a long extension cord to give him power and scope for his dance.

After the wiring was in place, they put on the disc that Raymond planned to dance to and set about on a test run. There were some glitches and pinning was adjusted. But, on the whole, the design worked well.

"You're gonna wow them, Ray. I can hardly wait to see you up in lights."

"You will be there won't you, to help me get rigged?"

"Does a queen wear lipstick? Of course, I wouldn't miss this event for anything short of a come-on look from Marco Zencar!"

"Dream on."

"I gotta run, Hun. Do you want me to unpin you or are you gonna twist and turn a bit more?"

No, I've got my moves down. Besides, I need to get these off before Dan gets home. I want him to be as surprised as anyone else at my number."

Terry helped Raymond get out of the outfit and then left him to hide the evidence.

On the night of the contest, Terry and Raymond slipped out of the apartment with the excuse that they had an errand to run and would meet Dan at the club later.

At The Flash, they stowed the dance gear behind the counter of the ticket-taker at the entrance.

When the time of the contest came, they retrieved their bag and headed for the washroom that was serving as a dressing room for any contestants who needed it.

The garbing went smoothly and Raymond was out on the dance floor before he had much time to get more nervous than he had been all evening. Adrenaline was good for an outstanding performance he had been told and he felt he had plenty coursing through his arteries now.

The announcer introduced him. The DJ started the music. Raymond entered at a trot and Terry plugged in the extension cord. Raymond danced and the crowd cheered and clapped.

"Ouch," yelped Raymond. The lights were getting very hot in spots where they touched his bare skin. He thrashed about trying to get the lights to move around and not burn in at any one spot for more than a second. He stomped and twisted, flailed his arms and shook his head.

The crowd went wild. The music blared and Raymond's cries to Terry to unplug him went unheard. Finally Raymond could bear the pain no longer. He whipped back to where Terry was and yanked the plug out of its socket. The crowd was still whistling and cheering when he returned to take a bow while the DJ turned down the song.

Raymond was nearly in tears. The pain of the Christmas tree lights stung almost as badly as the embarrassment of making such a fool of himself in front of all those guys he had hoped to impress. Well, he'd impressed them all right. He'd given them something to laugh at and tease him about for months, if not years to come. What a night to remember. What a night to forget!

"Wow. I mean Wowzie! You were stupendous, Ray. You grabbed that crowd's attention and never let it go. They'll be talking about you for days." Terry was wrapping up the extension cord and hurrying after Raymond as he shouted at him amid the noise of the next dancer's music and the crowd's clapping.

"Yeah, I can hear it already. 'Did you hear about the night Raymond Sellers got lit?', he yelled back at Terry as they made for the washroom.

The crowd parted respectfully and Raymond felt several congratulatory claps on his back and shoulder (and one on his butt) but he was in no mood to acknowledge them. He wanted out of this place as soon as was humanly possible. Where were Dorothy's red shoes when you needed them, anyway?

When they had all the wiring unpinned, Terry stuffed it into the gym bag along with the extension cord. Raymond took off his sweaty shorts and tank top to put on the ones he had originally planned to wear. On other occasions, wearing sweaty clothes from dancing had never bothered him. Some guys found the musky scent of male sweat attractive. But tonight he was glad he had brought 'fresh threads', as Terry had called them.

Dan burst in as Raymond was taking off Dan's tank-top.

"I thought that top looked familiar. Boy did you dance up a storm out there. They loved you, buddy. You won't have to pay for another drink tonight, I'll bet."

"I'm not staying."

"Are you crazy!" said Terry.

"Why not?" asked Dan.

"I feel too embarrassed. I didn't dance out there; I was writhing in pain trying to get the damn hot lights off my body."

"Well, they didn't know that and it went well with the frenetic music. They think you were the best out on the floor tonight and I think the judges will agree. You have to stick around and see."

"Dan's right, Ray. You've put a lot into this and it's only fair that you stick around to get the crowd's opinion and the judges' decision."

"I will, if you two stick beside me--one on each side. I'm not convinced they weren't just laughing themselves silly at me. If they only knew how hot those lights get!"

"I don't think I want to find out. I'll take your word for it."

The trio slipped out of the washroom and stashed the gym bag back where it had been, before returning to the bar and dance floor area.

Now Raymond had the time to hear the compliments and accept a drink from an admirer.

At midnight, the judges declared Raymond as the first prize winner. When he went up for his prize, the crowd called for an encore.

"Thanks, but no way will you get me back in that rig when it's plugged in. Those lights are hot, let me tell you."

Raymond sometimes smiles when Dan dusts the trophy and recalls the night when the lights went on all over Raymond.

Copyright © 1995 Charles M. Bidwell