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 take offense.  She rocked her hips

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?”        


“When human beings take their place

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.”