Exit Music

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Exit MusicThe emergency-suggestive cop vehicle lights made the white walls and white floral-print motel curtains seem to pulse back and forth between red and blue for a while, which I didn’t mind because it reminded me of a time in my life when disco was still an option. Pretending to have a disco delivered to me made me feel a little less upset about things not working out, but I remained confused about how to proceed until people with thicker uniforms and bigger megaphones arrived to inform me it was a bad idea to keep that many hostages in a small motel room. Someone yelled in my direction from the disco night that you could be both terrified you were going to die and claustrophobic at the same time, which was a good point. They also suggested I untie the hostages first before I let them go in order to speed things up, which was also hard to argue with.

After that, when a tired-sounding, deep-voiced man called me on the motel phone and thanked me for not shooting anyone, then asked about my demands and motives, I apologized and said I hadn’t really thought it through. It had been one of those days, so I thought bringing my favorite rifle with me while I ran errands would cheer me up; but then the hostage thing kind of happened. I explained I wasn’t one of those marginal people who deserve their squalor and I wasn’t cranked on any questionable adult chemicals or indulging in motel boogie in some private, unreal world. I did say I was pretty sure I was angry. When the tired man (who said his name was Peter) asked me why, I said I wasn’t sure but I’d heard that anger is what you get when you let your fears fester. He told me there was no need for me to list my fears when I offered, even though there were only around 20 and they were pretty specific, not just stuff like “getting older” or “secret societies.” I did say my main fear was the what, and when Peter asked me to clarify, I said I meant that for the last three decades or so, since my son had died, I’d often woken up thinking what. What. What did I do wrong, and what do I do about it. I also said I’d been told by people that I was a God-fearing white male, so I had a right to be angry, though I wasn’t sure why, and I confessed to Peter I was tired and said maybe it was just the kind of thing where you have too many options but you still end up not knowing which to choose. It comes back to the what.

I asked the Peter what my options were now, though, and whether he had suffered untold insults by virtue of being a white male with a good credit score and a handful of broken relationships, but after telling me not to lose focus he simply said quite a few camera crews had arrived, so there were two options. Option one was to stop dancing and surrender without incident for an expedited punishment, and option two was to go berserkers so they could justify the fuss. Blaze of glory, Peter said. Pretend to be as angry as somebody told you you should be. Peter told me not a lot of people are lucky enough to get a blaze of glory opportunity, so after some hesitation I said I’d go for it because it sounded like the kind of thing I would do. But, I asked him, if we’re ending on a high note, can you put on some Donna Summer? Before telling me it had been a pleasure and hanging up he said, yes, and I thought it was very nice of them all to wait while I took some deep breaths. Then they blasted “I Feel Love” loud enough I could even hear it over the torn-metal sound of the municipal gunfire.


Photo used under CC.




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About Author

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Nicholas Grider is the author of the story collection Misadventure (A Strange Object) and his work has appeared in The Collagist, Conjunctions, Guernica, Midnight Breakfast, and elsewhere. He lives in the upper midwest, where he works as a freelance music transcription/orchestration assistant.

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