MILLENNIAL BASH by John Enright
“When there were no electric lights,
When moon glow took us through the tribal nights,
The priestesses would raise their chants
Toward that heavenly body in the sky,
And all the men would have to dance
At their command and never ask the reason why.”
He watched her raptly as she spoke,
Then asked: “Is that supposed to be a joke?
That was the age in which men ruled
By virtue of raw strength and sheer aggression.”
He squared off for a verbal duel.
“Let’s go out on the floor and dance,” was her suggestion.
“I want to dance the New Year in
With someone, and you’ll do.” A twisted grin
Of friendly challenge crossed her lips.
“I’ll do?” he asked, and rather seemed inclined
To match the music and she said, “You’ll do – just fine.”
The bass line pulsed. The party swirled
Around them, and the words, “O brave new world
That has such people in it!” hung
Above them on a holographic banner.
Somehow these haunting words stay young,
Facing the future in an awed but fearless manner.
Beyond the ballroom’s walls of glass,
The city sprawled beneath them in a mass
Of twinkling multicolored lights.
At ninety-six floors up you get a view
Which, if you’re not afraid of heights,
Instills a sense of godlike vision, clear and true.
The music slowed. She came to him
In closed frame dance position. She was slim,
He felt, but not just skin and bones;
Some pleasant padding overlaid her form.
He caught her scent; her pheromones
Washed over him like bubble bath, coaxing and warm.
He led. She followed. “By the way,
He said, “I’m here to make the light bulbs stay
Lit up. The dreaded Y2K
Will be here in five minutes. Do not say
Technology is now passe.
We’ll squash that bug if it dares crash this fine soiree.”
She laughed. “One man against a double
Digit millennial dragon of trouble?
It sounds like a job for a hero!
How did you get appointed to this task?”
He said, “It’s just a lousy zero,
No big deal really. But it’s funny you should ask.
“I got the offer in my e-mail,
From C. J. Murphy, probably a female
Hiding her sex behind initials.
Never did meet her. Anyway, it seems
That C. J.’s one of the officials
Of the Society for Making Little Dreams
Come True – that charity that tries
To give a dying kid, before he dies,
One wish that…” Here he had to pause,
Unable to go on. She watched his eyes
Mist up. “It's quite a worthy cause,”
She said, and gently kissed his cheek, to his surprise.
The music changed. Not “Auld Lang Syne”
Quite yet, but “Like It’s 1999,”
By someone who was once called Prince
And now is known by his own hieroglyphic.
He reigned in days of old, long since
Grown dim. But for this night his song was just terrific.
Fearing that he’d appeared pathetic
In front of her, he welcomed the frenetic
Pace of the music which erased
The prior moment’s mood. They danced apart
And yet together, since they faced
Each other knowing each had felt the other’s heart.
She said, “My name is Carol Jean.”
He suddenly stood still. “And does that mean,”
He asked, “as Murphy’s Law would say,
That you’re the C. J. Murphy whom I slammed
As hiding out behind ‘C. J.’?
She curtsied and he blurted out “Well I’ll be damned!”
“I don’t think that your spirit’s fate
Has anything to do with your long wait
To meet me in the flesh. A friend
Gave us your name. She said you were the best
At systems work, was glad to lend
A hand to us. To me. Hear that? Here comes your test!”
The dance had stopped, the chant begun –
The chant that ends with 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!
“Happy New Year!” the crowd yelled out.
He pulled her close again and kissed her sweetly,
Putting aside hesitant doubt.
But then he heard a siren blaring indiscreetly.
“Should old acquaintance be forgot…”
Resounded round the room, but he did not
Join in. Instead he cocked his ear
And listened to the siren’s wailing call.
He said, “It’s coming from in here,”
Then bolted, ran across the floor, and down the hall.
She followed, slower in her heels,
Thoroughly baffled by his hell-on-wheels
Exit. She found him stabbing keys
On a computer, in the little room
Where wires join in tapestries,
Woven together on an electronic loom.
“Well, what is that annoying squeal?”
She asked, “Some false alarm?” “I think it’s real,”
He gulped. “The systems all look good.
But that alarm is from Security.”
His voice was racing now. “We should
Do something right away. I’m not quite sure, but we --
“It looks like -- are about to be
The victims of a well-timed robbery.
The guard’s not answering downstairs.
Here, take my cell phone. Dial 911.
They meant to take us unawares.
Let’s hope the cops get here before the thing’s all done.
“They’re busy? Figures. It’s the New
Year and they’re always busy then. And you
Know this one’s got to be the worst
Ever. We’ve got to hold them off a bit
Until the cops get here to burst
Their bubble. Do you think the guards are in on it?
“Who else might be? Maybe the waiters?
Damn it! I know! I’ll stop the elevators!”
His mouse’s arrow flew. It flicked
Through windowed screens as if it were alive.
Reaching the goal at last, he clicked
The button that was labeled “Disengage The Drive.”
“Drive Disengaged” a message square
Declared. Some hum they had not been aware
Of stopped. Quietness. Then a bell
Repeating at electric pace began
To clang as if from down a well.
“They’re stuck,” he said, “We’ve put a crimp into their plan.”
They walked together toward the bank
Of elevators. She asked, “Could you rank
Your certainty from one to ten?
Honestly, now. Perhaps it’s just a guard
On his way up, to say that when
The clock struck twelve his system software went down hard.”
“Could be,” he answered. “Let’s find out.”
He pried a tiny crack and gave a shout,
Forcing the sound between the doors,
Echoing through the elevator shaft.
“Are you stuck in between the floors?
Hold on! The cops are coming for you!” Then he laughed.
“I’ve gotten through to the police,”
She whispered, covering the phone’s mouthpiece.
Just then a champagne cork went POP,
Except they also heard it ricochet
Metallically. “You moron, stop!”
Somebody screamed. “My goddamn ears! Put that away!”
“They’re shooting at us while we speak,”
C. J. explained, “So please don’t take all week
Sending us help. I guess I should
Mention that Mrs. Langston, yes, the wife
Of you-know-who, is here. I would
Expect him to be grateful if you saved her life.”
After she flipped the cell phone shut,
He said “I don’t mean to sound stupid, but
Could you tell me who Langston is?”
“He’s the police commissioner,” she said.
“It’s good you’re such a systems whiz.
Regarding city politics you’re not well read.
“Her hubby is required to
Spend his whole evening at police H.Q.
Making a show of standing guard,
Protecting all of us from Y2K.
But Mrs. Langston’s working hard,
Drinking and flirting and dancing the night away.”
Four hours later, bleary eyed,
They left police headquarters side by side.
The air was clear and crisp and still.
He took her hand. They were alone. The crowd
Of journalists was gone. “I will
Always remember this,” he said. She laughed out loud.
“Of course you will,” she said, “Because
Now that I’ve got you in my tender claws,
I don’t intend to let you go,
Much less let you forget the night we met.
I’m way ahead of you, I know.
Trust me. I trusted you. I haven’t been wrong yet.”
“It’s good to hear you’re always right.
Now, how about those jewel thieves tonight?”
He asked. “As I recall, you thought…”
She put a finger to his lips. He took
It firmly off, and slowly brought
His lips to hers. And in his heart the world shook.
Later again, they watched the sky
Brightening in the east. A lover’s high
Swirled sweetly within his mind.
“Happy Millennium to you,” he said,
“And many more!” “What shall we find,”
She fondly asked him, “in the years that lie ahead?”
Among the stars, when this amazing race
Of hairless apes extends its grasp
Beyond the planet’s reach, at last we’ll see
How vast our plans should be. We’d gasp
In awe if we could guess one half our destiny.”
He stopped. She grinned. “Your vision’s clearer
On what is far away. Now let’s get nearer.”