Disco Luxury by Richard Soos

Disco Luxury by Richard Soos

(Note: This story follows ‘When the Circus Comes to Town’ and will not make sense separate from it’.)

Archie’s Primary school was one of the last clinker brick primary schools in the district. Built when the country was still building for Empire. From his experience, it was just a feeder school to a non-selective private school, stylized as a Grammar school.

A Grammar School by definition teaches Latin, though this principle hasn’t any idea of it. It is Just another faded empire.

In the assembly hall, the principal spends 15 minutes teaching them Pig Latin instead and then pretends to explain the Motto on their blazer ‘caestu non est tabernus’. Scratching his head effusively he translates it as ‘Up here for thinking; down there for dancing. And to prepare you for the dancing’, he smirks, ‘how about we have a class of Aerobics? – Miss Petty?’ Archie takes this comical translation literally, not realizing he has just been hand-balled ignorance.

At the low-rise stage, Miss Petty strips to a hot pink leotard and Jazz ballet leg warmers. Archie is overwhelmed as she jiggles to her 80s music home cassette. He claps when told to and stomps as well until the home-mix ends and the original disco songs recorded well before the 80s music continue through on the cassette. To this, she busts out some ‘John Travolta Points’ and encourages Archie to strut his stuff.

E.R. is incensed. Somehow he stole her Arrow chase game in back seat diplomacy, and now, just for being a front-row perve, he wins again! This doesn’t sit well with her at all!

With that thought, E.R. storms off on her heels to the school counselor’s window…

The door has a sign that says – My window is always open. Oliver had once scratched below it ‘please don’t jump!’. School kids pop in their heads from the schoolyard to say hello, without any legal concern or impropriety for the councilor, Errol.

Errol finds that most of his fieldwork is just listening to the tempo of the schoolyard. That and finding the male figure of each household – which even then was getting harder.

Like a giraffe at a zoo, E.R.’s head and neck extend unannounced through his window, ‘Errol!, would you believe it!’ she starts.

‘Oh, Miss E.R? how wonderful to have your wheel by. Watch out for the tea pot. If you don’t mind drinking from the cup your ringlets were just in, I’ll pour you a Russian Caravan Tea’.

With great affectation, Errol keeps a samovar of hot water so as to spoil the students. Languorously he breathes out his greeting so as to slow her down while he pulls a long draw into her cup.

‘It’s not me though, this time. E.R. begins. ‘You know I saw on the weekend Archie doing rebirthing classes through a slot in his trampoline. He did this ceremony where he made everyone look while he let out a string of farts, then he took that Russian girl and taught her how to rebirth as Siamese twins. He obviously has some trauma to deal with.’

The counselor has no idea what she means and after a pause drawls out – ‘Are you sure?”.

‘Oh, and he says a U.F.O landed in his backyard and has now flown off to Malaysia.’

The next day the counselor has Archie help the art teacher collect empty medicine boxes from the chemist while he addresses the class in his absence.

Errol tells the class that Archie is going through a developmental phase and must be given some time. Any fanciful talk of aliens is just grandiose stories.

‘Like saying you won the Lotto?’ one of the kids asks.

‘Yes, like someone saying they won the Lotto’.

‘How much did he win?” the kid follows up his question.

‘That’s not important right now Oliver‘.

Oliver was the same kid who took a perverse interest in Health Class. He asked the teacher what sex was like and she replied it was like Sport.

‘A ball sport?” He pressed further.

The counselor asks if anyone from the class will take him under their wing and E.R. duplicitously mumbles, incoherently enough for the counselor to take that as assent. In reality, Nobody does, though Oliver has a great idea…

Curiously Oliver starts to put his unfinished UFO chips in Archie’s chair bag on most days. Little extruded cheese chips pressed into spoked circles. Archie’s eyes bulge when he finds these tributes, and wonders if they think he is poor. Or does he have a secret crush?

If it was Nadine, that would be too easy. But if it was E.R., well that would be alright. It must be her. Did she hear about the u.f.o story I told that day?

The end of the lunch period carries its own school-yard funk.

Kids leave their sandwiches to the rats, and at night on the Eastern seaboard of Australia, the Tawny Frog Mouths swoop in. Like owls, but with feeble jaws, they use their talons for the kill.

Oliver botts a chip off Archie who hands over the near-empty packet.

‘Archie!, watch this, says Oliver as he rubs the chips’ packet between his hands vigorously until the packet’s glitter rubs off onto his hands. To his amazement, the glitter separates from the foil in a heavy powder coating.

Archie accepts the empty packet and rubs the foil between his hands in a mad flurry.

Archie thinks he is The Disco King and performs his ‘Travolters’ with his glittering hands. Oliver assures him if he just extends one golden finger, he looks a little bit like E.T.

This becomes Archies’ end of Lunch routine, after skulking to his chair bag to find his tribute of UFO snacks he starts to preen to the ladies. ‘Hit Me’, he says as his friend Tim ties a yo-yo around his metallic fingers and then makes way for him to shuffle into a MoonWalk.

‘You’re coming along well Archie’, E.R. tells him brightly, before she and her friends burst into giggles.

As much as males are wrong-footed by giggling, Archie is sure it’s her.

E.R. is profoundly embarrassed for him but tells her cohort of girls not to let him know that his behavior is outlandish rather than cool. ‘He is going through a developmental phase’, is how she explains it. However, she is saving him for a bigger pot to cook in. The year six lunch-time ball is just around the corner.

That night at home Errol reflects on the behavior of this biggest child in his school over a nip of brandy. Archie is clearly impressionable and hasn’t yet found his genre. He is making up most of the paperwork. And that routine with the yo-yo, and Tim helping him stand after the splits as if he were James Brown and draping his blazer over his shoulders, is really becoming a marvel. Tapping his biro on his knee as he considers if he has made any headway with Archie, he turns on his television. A newly synthesized beat plays as the picture develops on the set. Lithe street dancers are taking to a vinyl mat in turn with serious glares.

He breaks out in a sweat when he discovers the new craze on his television called Breakdance.

‘Well Fuck Me, Archie will be a walking liability if he gets hold of this!’.

At work, he flips open the student files and sees as a point of Alternate Contact his Uncle, and merchant marine, John Suckerhorn.

‘What’s all this Jive nonsense you’ve gotten yourself into?’, Suckerhorn asks calmly as Archie greets him by the broken trampoline and clothesline. ‘Now take that headband off and come and talk to your uncle’.

Suckerhorn tells Archie that Disco can have some dignity and ‘Miss You’ from the Rolling Stones is a working man’s disco song. Strong and sedate with very little motion needed for a man to say that he had a dance. That’s all you need. Just enough to say you had a dance.

‘A glove doesn’t try to be a boot.’ Suckerhorn grunts.

Suckerhorn turns on his little mobile cassette player with its offset mono speaker and Mick Jagger starts to coo.

Archie looks like he may undergo some sober moderation with the introduction to this song. He wobbles his knee minutely to the beat and nods his head sagely to Suckerhorn’s approval. Until Archie discovers the wailing falsetto and can’t help but join in.

According to Suckerhorn, and wrongly, that is all Archie takes away from the discussion. In the yard the next day Archie asks Tim to ‘Hit Him Up’, and wails the falsetto as he body waves and spins his yo-yo from his golden hands.

Grimly, Suckerhorn gives the nod to E.R. and her girls.

E.R. was year 6 Captain and styled herself as perfect. Australia still had a prominent Celtic heritage in those years, and most junior balls were styled as bush dances; somewhat like a barn dance. However, Suckerhorn summons E.R. to get her friends to use a corrective fluid called liquid paper and paste in the word disco before the word Ball on the posters. She also has them on liquid paper and a crude geometric disco ball on the posters. Like a d-12 Dungeons & Dragons dice.

Tim has promised E.R. that as Archie’s manager he can assure that the talent will be at the disco ball.

E.R. pokes out her tongue in a flash at the thought of it. It looks like he is set up to play the Stooge.

Karate Katie joins Archie the next day in the schoolyard and tells him she has done a Poomsae with the Sensei. She does a flourish spin and then bucks her feet forwards like a bucking pony.

She then coo-coo’s like Mick Jagger and tells Archie with true devotion ‘Boy I miss you!’.

Archie’s heart falls. So it is Katie who is supplying the chips. Karate Kate indeed; more like Miss Piggy.

But why would you pass up a disciple? ‘Show us your Poompsy!’, Archie booms out with glee, as he joins in strutting. He has no idea that she means a Taekwondo Practice Pattern. Nor what a girl’s pumps could be!

However, E.R. sees this and has an extraordinary sense of possessiveness and jealousy.

She grabs Archie by his lapels and screams at him ‘No you don’t. I hate you! You are supposed to be punished! There is No Ball! There is No Disco Ball! It was a joke!’

Archie’s face softens into surprise and becomes impassive with fear.

She continues,’ It was to get back at you, for ruining my game. For stealing my Arrow Chase. And for mocking me, and that cruel bearded-lady dart-board poster. And.. and, for Ignoring Me!’

At this moment that defines him, he replies

‘E.R., Slow Down. E.R., It was all for you – the trampoline, the broken clothesline, the soft drink flowing like a fountain in the pool. You were always going to be the last one to come home and I just wanted the party to be at its height when you arrived. It was your party, a surprise party for you! Then you arrived when I was being scolded and I was embarrassed. Would you have come if I had simply asked? (Of course, none of this is true.)

His surrender and Her feminine wish to be seduced get the better of her. E.R. stutters – ‘Tell me that, keep telling me and tell me again. It will be enough’.

Suckerhorn was a past student of the school and instrumental in promoting E.R. to Junior Captain. Word is that Archie and E.R. have had a heart-to-heart. She has reported to Suckerhorn that a disco ball is not what people want, and has asked the committee to change it back to a Bush Dance.

‘So how did you smooth this over Archie Lad, she was white-hot like phosphorous but has become quite the Lady’ Archie explains away any implied act. ’There was no need to apologize to her. I just flattered her outrageously’. ‘Good work’, Suckerhorn approves. ‘ Pointing to Archie’s jacket he finishes,’ As it says on our old school blazer,’caestu non est tabernus’. ,‘ A glove is not a boot’.
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