Since my childhood, my friend, Larry, has always been passionate about river dancing. He was obliged to be in the closet about his love of the Irish modern folk dance because he was raised in a strict Baptist household that held the view dancing was a sin. To Baptists, dancing was right behind axe murder and stealing thy neighbor’s wife and making off to Las Vegas.
When Larry had openly expressed an interest in river dancing to his parents, they responded by visiting Pastor Klumpath, the minister of the Perpetually Burning Souls Baptist Church. He told Larry he had been planted with the demon seed of dance. Dancing was vainglorious and evil. He was placed on a junior league football team to toughen his senses and get him on right track. But instead of blocking and tackling, Larry river danced a fifty yard pass through the goalposts for the opposing team. Congregants prayed over him, and Larry was forced into a cold tub of ice water where he wasn’t released until he swore on a stack of bibles he would never point-hop-toe ever again.
The ice water bath did not deter Larry. He spent long hours in his room secretly practicing river dancing and even stole his sister’s plaid skirt to wear as a kilt. Although I never saw a river dancer wear a plaid skirt, I never mentioned this to Larry. Hey, whatever blows your dress over your head is my motto. Or should I say blow your plaid skirt over your head. Larry would practice for long hours with his arms super glued down to his sides and his legs would knee-jerk up and his toes would crisply land between cardboard swords. Heaping into the air with the grace of a NBA center, Larry would come down hard with a loud thud. Pieces of plaster would fall on Larry’s parents’ heads as they watched the 700 Club. They furiously pounded on his bedroom door screaming, “Larry! I pray to God you’re not dancing in there.” Larry would breathlessly respond, “No, mom, we’re praying hard for those lost souls who dance.”
I’ll never forget the time the Irish river dance troop performed in our city. To attend the concert, Larry had fabricated an elaborate lie, telling his parents we would be attending a Christian rock concert. I wore an entire outfit of green, figuring I couldn’t go wrong for the occasion. Larry wore his sister’s plaid skirt. A mean guy came up to Larry and told him men wore kilts only in Scotland. Larry was unfazed. We both enjoyed the performances of the river dance troupe—especially Michael Flatley. In his skin-tight pants, he was a sort of a Pan coming out of the Irish mists, simulated by fog machines to set the mood for the audience. Then disaster struck, a few members of the Perpetually Burning Souls Baptist church recognized Larry and I in the audience. Later, they would tell Pastor Klumpath and Larry’s parents that their presence at the concert was only for the purpose of saving souls. “We were trying to dissuade those dancing sinners from their evil ways,” they said. “We didn’t enjoy the performance at all.” Not only were Larry’s parents upset about lying about attending the river dance concert, but they went nuclear about Larry wearing his sister’s plaid skirt. Larry was grounded for the rest of high school. TV cameras were installed to monitor his room twenty-four hours a day. He was pulled out of public school and sent to a Christian boot camp, where medieval torture practices flourished upon the wretched sinners who even thought about dancing. Several years went by and I had not seen or heard from Larry. It didn’t surprise me that we had grown apart. Some mutual friends told me he was an over-the-top religious zealot. When I asked them specifically what Larry was doing they giggled and didn’t divulge any details. One day I was driving down a busy highway where I spotted Larry carrying a huge timbered cross and river dancing at the same time. He wore a plaid skirt, but at least it wasn’t his sister’s skirt from long ago because Larry had gained substantial girth. Those point-hop-toe steps weren’t the same from Larry’s youth, but he had a strange smile on his face, and he seemed content in his combined love of God and river dancing.