By Brian Bosen
The sounds of smooth saxophone coming through the coffee shop speakers did not calm the tension in the room. Blank stares from the customers faded into hipster decorations behind the lanky guy at the front of the line. His gun was the only thing out of place.
“I-, I-,” stuttered the girl behind the counter. Coffee shops were never targets of crime. The occasional pocketed gluten-free cookie, yes, but armed robbery? She was hyperfixed on the dull black weapon even though she had already complimented him on how his suspenders looked – she was a sucker for fake lumberjacks – but now his commanding posture and outstretched weapon-holding hand made him much less attractive.
“I don’t want to have to hurt anyone. Just hand over the contents of the cash drawer – lift it up! I want what’s beneath the small bills.” His sculpted beard moved in awkward step with his words, a cuff link clicked against the metal of the gun every time he moved his arm.
A budding blogger pecked away at her laptop keyboard at a small table in the corner of the coffee shop, completely unaware of what was happening. Others were still scrolling through pictures of yoga poses and baby-bump countdowns while sipping their slow-drips with earbuds in.
The cashier girl’s hands fluttered in the air just slowly enough not to set the gunman off. She stared at him wide-eyed, finally looking past the pistol, but his expression seemed different. He looked slightly less menacing. Less… rigid. His hips were moving.
First, she couldn’t tell what she was seeing, but the gunman’s hips seemed to be shaking. They were shaking in rhythm – to the beat of the smooth jazz playing in the shop. But not just his hips. He stared straight at her but his shoulders found the beat also.
The cashier’s eyes narrowed and she wanted to ask what he was doing. Her own foot tap-tap-tapped just as the chorus hit. Was the music louder than before? A head dip and sway to the side and she was in full rhythm.
The music was louder. Even the customers who had been unaware of the entire scene were engaged in rhythm and melody in some form. It was irresistible. The heads of every customer bobbed along to the beat of the song. A couple near the sugar and cream station who had been awkward with each other just moments before linked arms and found each other’s gaze in the beat. Then the music faded as the song finished. The whole shop paused, not quite sure of what exactly was happening. The gunman realized he had relaxed his grip on his pistol, but the cashier’s smile beaming at him disarmed his intentions.
The next song began with a blast of bass grooves and percussion and nobody could resist the urge to dance. The people in line for their trendy hot beverages were all immersed in the moves. Spins, two-steps, hands clapping to the beat… Big genuine smiles on everyone’s faces…. The gunman set his gun near the organic bran muffins and caught the cashier as she slid over the counter into his arms. One step below an uproar, the entire coffee shop was in full musical.
A diminutive teen in a patterned collared button-down and chucks casually grooved his way to the front of the shop and nudged the disregarded pistol into his backpack. He shouldered it and moved through the glee toward the formerly armed faux lumberjack. While everyone else was overcome with the desire to dance, the teen was controlled and focused. Still moving to the song, the teen easily and rhythmically zip-tied the lumberjack’s hands behind his back while they all danced. The teen and gunman happily two-stepped their way to the exit.
As the door closed behind them, leaving the dancers inside to their merriment, the criminal finally inquired as to what was going on. He swayed and spun as he asked. The teen
looked at his prisoner and said, “The power of dance has been so much ignored in peace stories that it has come to be disbelieved in.” The criminal nodded along and the teen continued: “Few people dare now to say that peace can be achieved through collective positivity. Yet it is in this way that peace begins, and in this way only.”
The lumberjack slowed to half-time and stared at the youngster for a full measure before finally saying, “right on,” and closed his eyes to signal the end of the performance.
Inside the coffee shop, the rhythmic elation ceased and the staff and customers all hugged each other and complimented everyone on a job well done. For them, this was a first-time phenomenon; never before had any of them felt or shared an insuppressible desire to shake, twist and roll – all at the same time.
Because of their collective curtain call, nobody noticed the uniformed officers taking the lumberjack into custody outside, or the teen who had handed him over. Reverie inside the coffee shop was beginning to die down, and outside everything went on as normal. The teen, hands in his pockets, stepped through the foot traffic, around the corner, and onto the bus.
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The teen’s only dialog in this story was inspired by some narration in “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo. The literal quote is: “the power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that is has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins and in this way only.”