Age: 14, Grade: 9
School Name: Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY
Educator: Jake Wizner
Category: Flash Fiction
It’s a clear night, and a thunderstorm looms, the dark clouds heavy on the horizon. There are potholes ripped through the blacktop of the parking lot, and trucks pass by heavily. Through the parking lot, there is an empty strip mall, the storefronts all desolate and clearly empty except for one. A neon sign blinks in and out, but the door handles don’t have so much of a speck of dust on them. The sign reads, “Discotopia”.
It’s an industrial neighborhood, and trucks can be heard whizzing by, going too fast to even see the scenery pass, perhaps because they don’t want to see the grey buildings that are full of dust.
Inside Discotopia, there’s a skating rink. There are clear patterns carved in the dust, like someone’s been skating around, like someone has been exploring and continuing the almost religious pastime of roller disco. There is a record in the record player, it’s grooves overused and it’s edges fraying. The record is from 1977, and the player is even older.
Leotards hang, velvet full of dust, on hooks next to the rink. Pink, purple, green, blue, yellow, and silver, they are all adorned with rhinestones, old yet new, out yet in, found, and now abandoned.
The rink smells of mold, and the skates in the rental room have pictures painted on them, tiny murals, remnants of another time, when everything wasn’t so white and pristine and perfect. One can practically see the skaters, with their eyes closed, skating in tandem with the music, just letting go. The skaters would have been regulars, not tourists, protesting and weeping in the bathroom when Discotopia announced it was closing. They would have cried for their freedom, for the place where they were not judged.
They would have cried for the air Discotopia created, and the air it lost. They would have cried for their only release.
And now it’s closed, and the dust covers each surface, except for the places where a person walks, every friday. They skate, freely, unabashedly, in the open area, listening to the soft ringing of the disco records.
In the end, Discotopia would make one more person free, and that’s what would truly clear away the dust.
Ignore the parking lot covered in potholes. Ignore the empty strip mall, and the blinking, broken sign. Ignore the dust, and in the end, covet your freedom.