"I'm telling you, Rob, one more instance of this crap and you're going to be gone," Linda warned, turning to him with her thin, orange eyebrows harshly slanted above her eyes. She lowered the Xerox machine's top, and Rob pressed the green triangle button for her.
"Okay. It's not crap—" Rob began in defense, but Linda pressed the red button on the copy machine and it stopped spitting out papers.
"What do you call 39 counts of public disturbance?" she hissed through her coffee-tinted teeth. "For God's sake, don't you learn your lesson?"
Rob pressed the green button. "Look, whenever I've been in court, I've been let off the hook, all right? It's not a big deal."
Red button. "Jesus H., Norman the Mormon's going to friggin' fire you if you act up again in Dallas this weekend! I—"
"Don't freak out," Rob said, half calm and half wary. "I'll be fine. Just be cool, all right?" He pressed the green button and walked back to his office before Linda yelled back, "I'm not the one who needs to be cool!"
Rob found, upon descending into Dallas, that he disliked the city greatly. Only the promise of a much-needed paycheck from Dime Magazine kept him moving to his cheap motel and then, the next afternoon, to the curb so he could flag down a cab.
"That JFK museum – the Sixth Floor Museum, I think it's called?" he told the cab driver, then settled back into the plush seat.
Once inside the museum, Rob slipped a hand into his jacket pocket and removed a memo pad and piece of paper. But before he could ask the security guard where he could find the curator of the museum, he felt it. He could feel... the urge.
"You okay?" the security guard asked, eyeing Rob's involuntary jerking motions with suspicion.
"Uh – yeah – just have to use the – restroom—" Rob nearly ran toward restroom sign, dropping his pen on the way but not caring.
"Keep an eye on that guy, Jim," the security guard commanded the other man who was watching the screen of security camera feeds.
"We... don't have a camera in the bathroom," Jim said awkwardly, looking up from his seat.
"Well, I want you to go into the bathroom, then." He gave a sideways look at Jim. "That guy's a weirdo, and you know what kind of guy shot Jack 40 years ago, may he rest in peace? A weirdo, Jim. A weirdo."
Jim shrugged, feeling it was easier to comply than argue. He entered the bathroom, hand on the bulge in his leather jacket. "Hey, man," he called out, figuring the weirdo was in one of the stalls.
"Y-yeah?" Rob called back from the handicapped stall. "What?"
"Just, uh, checkin' to make sure you're not, I dunno, shooting up in here or whatever."
"Shooting up?" Rob had to suppress a snicker. "No, I, uh, I just got some food poisoning, I think. I ate at Joe's Crab Shack the other day."
"Yeah, that'll do it," Jim replied, feeling distinctly awkward about having a casual conversation with a guy who was quite possibly relieving his constipation in a nearby bathroom stall. "Well, all right, man, I'll let you be, I guess. Um... Hope you... feel better." He shoved open the door and strode back into the foyer of the museum, rolling his eyes at the other, uptight security guard. "He's freakin' constipated. Why do you always do this?"
But back in the bathroom, Rob rested his head against the stall door. He had almost done it again, after he'd promised and repromised Linda that he would control himself. He felt his cheek twitching to some strange beat, and then his foot followed suit, and then his arms – but with a grunt, he brought his limbs to normalcy by humming The Blue Danube waltz in his head.
He followed Jim's footsteps out of the bathroom and into the foyer, plastering a fake smile on his face, all the while humming the Blue Danube in his head. He found that, upon speaking, his words took on the tune slightly, but it couldn't be helped if he wanted to act normal. "Hi, again," he said with a tiny chuckle, bending down to pick up the pen he'd dropped. "Sorry about that. I got crabs yesterday. I mean—! I went to Joe's Crab Shack yesterday, and uh, heh heh, I won't be doing that again. Sorry about that momentary lapse, gentlemen, I meant to ask where I could find the curator of this museum?"
"Mr. Abram? He's not here this month," Jim answered before the other guard could. He felt he connected with Rob better. "He's vacationing in Majorca with his family for Thanksgiving."
"Ah. I see," Rob said, the waltz almost waning in his head. He whistled a few notes to get it going again, and then said, "I suppose I'll just tour around the museum for a bit, then. May as well, eh? Good day." He suddenly felt very British. At least he hadn't bid them "Cheerio."
He tucked his memo pad back into its pocket, paid the admission, and began to stroll around the museum, all the while humming the Blue Danube. He got a few dirty looks, but he couldn't risk losing it here of all places, so he hummed all the louder as he examined the Zapruder film and the newspaper headlines from November 23, 1963. As he stared at a photo of Jack Ruby, a girlish voice piped up from behind him.
"I love that waltz!" it exclaimed.
Rob whirled around, shocked out of humming. "Oh! Hi. Yeah, so do I."
The girl was actually a young woman. She was a bit shorter than he, a bit plump, and she had a pretty face framed with deep brown hair that reached her chin. "I haven't heard anyone humming it in a long time," she said, blinking slowly, taking in Rob's acne-scarred features. He got that look a lot, which probably partly explained how he managed to remain single for most of his life.
Nevertheless flattered at her attentions, he replied, "I guess only the cool kids know the Blue Danube."
"Guess so. Do you waltz?" she asked, cocking her head to the side and fingering an amethyst pendant.
"Well, I—" Rob suddenly took in the absence of his humming in the air, but he couldn't start up now, not when he was talking to a pretty girl. He had to keep it in – he had to control himself – but he felt the familiar throbbing in his veins, a pulsing that seemed to thud to some beat only his brain knew. "Oh, God," he whimpered before the inevitable came.
"What?" the girl asked, still smiling.
"Um..." Rob could find no possible explanation for what he was about to do. His feet began to shuffle slightly on the floor, and without his permission his arms drew themselves above his waist. "Well, I don't waltz, per se," he said, sweat beginning to squeeze out of his forehead as he felt his shoulders moving to the strange beat. "I usually don't even dance. But sometimes – I – sometimes I can't help myself—" His eyes screwed shut as he heard himself yell, "STEALTH DISCO-O-O!!!"
And then he began to dance.
Night Fever Hustle, the Bus Stop, the Rollercoaster, the Body Wave – Rob knew it all, and his body demonstrated them without his command. The strange beat he felt in his arteries dissolved into some variation of the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive."
Rob danced around the museum, dancing between poster displays and lurking behind people before breaking out into disco dance moves that became progressively more rigorous.
He danced in front of the museum's TV screens. He danced on the staircase. He danced in a janitor's closet. He danced at the corner window, where over 40 years ago, Lee Harvey Oswald had crouched and aimed.
He danced in the museum store and in the street and behind lampposts and in someone's private orchard and in the post office and through what he thought in retrospect must have been an altercation between gangs in some alley near his motel.
Finally, he reached his dingy motel room and, after shutting the door, collapsed onto the carpet, utterly exhausted from hours of Stealth Disco. He crawled up onto his bed, his face reddening as he recalled the shocked look on the waltz girl's face. Then his face purpled at the look that was sure to be on Norman the Mormon's face back at the Dime Magazine office when Rob had to explain why he couldn't quite get the story.
"Oh, God," he murmured, wiping the sweat off his face with the bed sheets. He took off his sweaty collared shirt and methodically removed his shoes. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he let out a breath and turned on the TV, wishing only to escape for a few minutes before calling Linda.
But no sooner did he click past Nickelodeon and QVC before he reached Dallas News 8, which was airing a story that made his stomach churn particularly sickeningly.
The screen was filled with his own robust disco moves. Rob's face now turned pale as he watched himself pull a couple of pelvic thrusts at some old ladies before loping over to an innocent street vendor, whom he nearly decapitated with more energetic dancing.
In his motel room, he began to hyperventilate. "Oh God oh God oh God oh God—"
The newscaster was chuckling. "Looks like someone's having a good day. Our cameramen followed this happy guy all the way down the street and in fact obtained footage of our man dancing through a gang fight, dodging quite a few bullets and in fact—" she pressed her fingers to her earpiece "—oh, my! News has just come in that the two large gangs you see on the screen now have resolved any and all differences, claiming that 'Super Disco Man' helped them see the lighter side of life!" She offered the camera a wide smile. "I guess we've all got to thank Super Disco Man for making the streets of Dallas a little safer. And now we go to Ben with the weather—"
Rob slid off the bed and landed on the industrial carpeting with a painful thud, but he didn't register the pain. So, he thought, I'm on TV. It's only a matter of time before Norman the Mormon calls me. He couldn't figure out whether the fact that he'd become a hero in Dallas overshadowed the fact that he couldn't get the JFK museum story or not. He could understand his boss' aversion to such rigorous dancing, but as the newscaster had said, he had made the streets of Dallas a little safer...
Before he could fathom what had just happened, a knock sounded sharply on his door. Rob looked through the peephole and, seeing a slightly nervous bellhop, turned the doorknob. "Yes?"
"H-hello, sir," the bellhop said. "I've got a few phone messages for you. You told us to write down anyone who calls—"
"Yes, all right, who called me?" Rob regretted his rudeness but he was feeling a bit dizzy at the moment.
The bellhop reached into his pocket and took out what looked like 50 pieces of yellow paper. "Well—your boss called first to tell you that he saw you on TV and was releasing your name and address to the general public. And then someone named Linda called and left a very long and loud message. And then you've got a couple dozen from the media..." He handed Rob the pile of papers. "Anything else you need, sir?"
Rob mouthed words soundlessly, rifling through the sheets of paper and seeing figures like $500 and $1,000 and Medal of Honor.
"All right, sir. Good luck, sir," the bellhop said with a small smile, reaching in and closing the door for Rob.
The next morning, Rob slipped on a dressy suit, slicked his hair back, and put on his nice Italian shoes. He made a few phone calls, and then turned on the TV to see the waltz girl being interviewed on the Good Morning, Dallas show.
"He was humming the Blue Danube waltz really loudly, and I love that waltz, so I walked up to him and we chatted for a couple minutes before he yelled really loudly, 'Stealth disco!' And then—well, then he just began to dance." She shrugged and gave the camera a half-smile. "And he danced well."
Rob smiled at the TV, surprised to see her, but glad that she was took it so well. Usually people responded badly to his bouts of stealth disco, but perhaps this was a good omen.
Someone knocked on his door. Rob opened it, eyeing the two men who stood in his doorway. Ah, yes, he said in his mind, my appointment with the adoring public.
"Are you Rob?" the shorter one asked. He carried a hefty video camera on his shoulder.
"Yep, that's me. Come on in." He stood aside and let them pass, nearly getting hit on the head by the boom that the taller one carried.
One interview and $3,000 later, Rob relaxed on his bed once more and watched himself on TV again in News Channel 6's exclusive interview with, as they called him, Super Disco Man.
Another knock sounded on his door. Rob sighed and shuffled over to the door. He flung it open, fully expecting the bellhop. "I thought I told you I—oh."
"Yes, oh," said the waltz girl, who looked up at him, slightly amused.
"Hello," Rob said awkwardly.
"So, Super Disco Man, saving the world one Moonwalk at a time?"
"Pretty much," Rob muttered.
"Oh, stop being so smug. You could've been arrested." She walked past him into the room, twisting her head to see the crooked framed pictures on the walls and the scuffed-up floor lamp that leaned against the wall.
"I have been before, but I've usually been let off," he offered, trying not to let his confusion trickle into his voice. Why was she here?
She answered the unspoken question. "I've been asked to invite you to Town Hall."
"The mayor's going to present you with some kind of medal or something." She examined her nails casually. "I'm an intern at the mayor's office," she added, looking back up at him. "So how's it feel to be a local hero?"
Rob considered. "Not bad," he said honestly. "Just can't let it go to my head, y'know?"
"Well, that's too bad," the girl said, standing up and walking herself to the door. "Because I was going to ask you to waltz with me tonight, but if you feel it would only feed your ego..."
"No!" Rob nearly shouted. "No, my ego's underfed as it is! I'll, uh, I'll grace you with my presence tonight, if you want," he said, trying to make a half-hearted joke.
"Then I'll see you at The Three Pearls restaurant tonight, Your Highness," she replied airily. Rob had to figure out how people could be so self-confident.
"All right, then," he said.
She paused and giggled, then – "Later, Super Disco Man," and with that, she shut the door.
Rob stood there, staring at the door, before he realized that a strange beat had begun to throb through his veins again...
A/N: So, the assignment was to write a short story about a person with an unusual obsession. I remembered a website I'd come across a couple years ago that featured footage of actual Stealth Disco in a cubicle-infested office building, and I went from there. That video's probably online someplace still. You should watch it. It's rather amusing.