J.S. Segol
Bump! Bump! Bump yo' ass! Bump! Bump! Bump yo' ass!

If I ran the bumper cars, I might play the same thing. All day and all night. Half the time I don't notice it. Only today the skinny kid's got my attention, walking on stilts, wearing some shiny green outfit, leaning on street signs that come up to his chest.

Now he's squatting down in front of the bumper cars, getting low enough to look in the window. I try to imagine what position his real legs are inside those stilt-pants. Is he really squatting, or is he sitting on top of his stilts? I wonder who he's looking for in the bumper cars. I picture someone whose legs don't fit in the cars. Stilts-boy looks unsteady. Maybe he's just grabbing the bumper cars window for balance. Either way I notice myself sliding over, to the fries and hot dogs place next door, with its own sound wrapping around me, deeper and fuller:

Let the music play. I want to dance the night away.

Women practically my mom's age are dancing the afternoon away, as Barry White sings it for them. They're dressed like they just got out of church, still in a singing mood. They know all the words to all these songs:

You're the first the last, my everything. Mmm.
Bump! Bump! Bump! —

I'm trying to tune out the bumper cars. The church women bumping to Barry feels more positive. I might even go to church if Barry was preaching. Two of these women see me looking at them and shout at me to come on and dance with them. The others are still singing. I'm feeling some of it but I just smile, look it the ground, and shake my head a little. They keep calling out:

—Awwww, you know you want to, big man! That's alright! Woo!
—Let the music play. I want to dance the night away. Mmm.

I back up bashfully, into the other sound:

—Bump! Bump! Bump yo' ass!

Stilts-boy is walking around again, stretching his arms out to keep his balance. The dancing church-women seize on it:

—Look who's coming to dance with us!
—Ooh, show us your moves, tall boy.

I'm trying not to smile. I see Stilts-boy thinking about it, maybe wondering if he can bust any kind of move from up there. If he tries, though, you know what's going to happen. The church-women must know too, since they don't force the issue. I back away slowly, without anyone asking me to dance or anyone tripping over me, both mixes blending around me, Barry and Bump, some of the beats landing in the same rhythm, some not.

I'm heading the couple blocks home, maybe even going to bed soon. Most summer nights I sleep right through it—the soul music, the bumper cars—but tonight it might not be so easy. Here in the twilight with the sounds coming up, I almost see it: miniature clouds of steam, smoke, and grease, well-dressed women busting loose right by the French fries, and a gangly boy on stilts close by, seven feet up, doing a silent inventory of the body parts that dance.