Rees' Pieces

Ben Rees

Uncle Ben’s Story Time

It’s that magical time of the week again, where you grab your apple juice, your world map placemat, start peeling the aglets off of your shoelaces and sit on down for Uncle Ben’s Story Time.

This week’s installment is about Ben and his friend, Gary. A few months ago, we went to a roller rink. Why, you ask, were we at a roller rink? It’s fairly simple really. Gary’s father wishes he were back in 1968 (the height of the bellbottom and medallion era), so the most logical place for he and his wife to have their anniversary party was at the local roller rink. That said, let the reader be warned: nothing good comes out of 50+ people occupying a place that operates solely on aerosol afro-sheen and leisure suits—but I digress.

One would think that the obvious thing to do once at the roller rink is to skate; however, nobody wants to be the first one shredding across the linoleum to “Car Wash.” So, Gary and I decided the appropriate thing to do was to get the party started, repress any semblance of shame and head to the skate rental desk. Once there, we were subjected to the words: “rad, mad, fab and 10 dollars” far too many times. It was nothing short of a Bee Gee’s barrage from a man with “Sagitarias” (spelled that way) across his exposed chest.

Once obtaining our footwear, we glided out onto the floor and thankfully, the rest of our geriatric entourage followed wide-lapelled suit. As did Gary’s father, who proceeded to call for a “skate off,” which is essentially a gyrate-off on rickety skates. Of course, as it was his special day, Gary and his wife, Helen, soared into the center of the rink more smoothly than a hand through Jermaine Jackson’s Jheri curls, and proceeded to twirl each other around to what I think was a German disko cover of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” When we thought nothing could get any more pathetically nostalgic, Gary shrieked, released his sweaty grip on Helen’s forearms and pointed furiously into the rafters. Helen flew through the crowd of elderly onlookers, shrieking like Aqualung, while toppling over family members like a dented bowling ball through shaky, decrepit pins.

Gary, with his face as pale as Pete Moon after a few too many horse tranquilizers, shouted repeatedly: “Up there!” The entire party craned their necks to see what he was yelling about. The disco ball—the beacon of pixelated light that many of our parents shimmied to—was spinning out of control. All of a sudden, the funkadelic orb detached from its suspension and came plummeting to earth faster than every collective tear shed to “Sixteen Candles.” Gary’s father leaped towards the hurtling sphere and in a miraculous moment of fleeting agility, he caught the disco ball, sheltering it in his chest from shattering on the floor.

As he stood up, taller than Sean Connery after frying Dr. No, he stared into the crowd of awestruck spectators, friends and family alike, opened his mouth and said: “This has been the most—oooffff.” At that moment, the front-left wheel on his skate detached, and while struggling to regain balance, he inadvertently heaved the ball in the air. Everyone looked on in pain as the floating sphere smashed on the rink floor. Without missing a groovy beat, Gary exclaimed to the stunned crowd: “Well, Dad, looks like you dropped the ball.”

Thanks for coming to Uncle Ben’s story time! See you next week.

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