TAKE THEM TO ZOO STATION

It was a hot, muggy May night, the kind of environment that makes you wish you didnít have to wear clothes. I was walking up Zooropa Avenue in Popland when I noticed an interesting headline in a newspaper someone had left on the sidewalk. They read "SATURNIAN DICTATORS SOUGHT BY INTERPLANETARY POLICE".

I was shocked. Which Saturnian dictators? Not even the Interplanetary Police could bring down the rulers of the gloomy planet of Saturn, or even those in control of Wireland. All they had to do was grab someone they didnít like, which could include police officers, and throw them onto one of their prison UFOís. That was one reason Iíd moved to Popland after all. What was going on here?

The article was about some dance teachers at the Wireland Renaissance Dance School. The teachers, all of them Saturnians living in Chart Topperland, were wanted by the Interplanetary Police for breaking the Pleasure Laws of the Solar System. They had forced some of their students to leave because they were having too much fun. According to Interplanetary Law, dance students are entitled to have fun during dance practice. Therefore, there was no real reason to oust the students. One of the students had notified the police of this violation. It didnít occur to the teachers at the Dance School that this dancer might also be an expert in Interplanetary Law. No, they held their students in such low esteem itís a wonder they used hand-outs on the assumption that they could read.

The teachers claimed that the students had wanted to have too much fun at the school. "They didnít care about our rules one bit", said one teacher. "I was trying to correct their dance steps but they didnít want to learn the proper way. I do the talking, they do the steps, and thatís that. Do you know that they were telling jokes during class? We donít tolerate that at our school. We mean business."

"Look", said one of the students in an exclusive interview with Not Necessarily the News. "Theyíve been on my case about my slip-step for years. They know itís not one of my better stepsóitís tricky. So I was joking about it, and before you know it, they were screaming bloody murder to get the heck out. Itís insane. Weíre supposed to have fun, not to re-invent the wheel. Itís all criticism, criticism, never a compliment. Theyíre also irked that I walk around listening to U2 and Nirvana. Now, thatís none of their business. Yes, they are definitely breaking Interplanetary Law."

I sat down in Zooropa Park and tried to figure out what I could do. The first UFO attack on the school hadnít had a lasting impression. But now we had the Interplanetary Police with us! OK, we could do something more menacing than walk into their school with "Achtung Baby" going full blast on our handy portable CD player, which had been a gift from Venus. The Interplanetary Police would be aglow in their gold lame arrest uniforms. How would the teachers at the school respond to uniformed aliens with arrest warrants? How would they respond to the order that they re-instate the dancers? Would there be a lawsuit?

I called up the district police department in Popland and was told that the penalties for this particular violation of the Pleasure Laws was a six-month suspension from teaching. "Oh, good grief!" I said to no one in particular. "I canít imagine Catherine not having students to boss around for six months."

A friend of mine had been standing behind the bench, watching me read and respond to the report. "You know, these people need an education in having fun."

"Thatís right", I said. "Thatís what they can use the six-month suspensions for. Hey, why donít we invite them to live in Popland for six months? Weíll tell them thereís worse punishment than having to watch Zoo Station or Under a Blood Red Sky. But how are we going to get them here? We canít kidnap them, for goodnessí sakes. Thatís against the law, too."

"Iíll call the Interplanetary Police and explain the situation. Since theyíve broken Interplanetary Law I donít think it will be considered kidnapping. Itís punitiveóbut isnít this weird? They arenít going to jail or pay a fine. Theyíll be watching Zoo Station. Thatís a punishment? But on with the show, as they say".

"OK, Iíll just go by the school and tell them thereís an exhibition theyíve just got to see to believe. Weíll get them on the UFO and trick them by putting on "Amaroso" Ėyou know, the music for that Italian Renaissance dance--and get them dancing to it. Then weíll pull the plug on that, and some Venusian UFO Force people will come in and tell them where they are. Weíll take them right to the Zoo Station Bar and weíll show them Zoo Station, weíll dance to Discotheque, weíll sing with Gloria".

I grabbed my Interplanetary Cellular and called the Commander of the Venus UFO Force. "Hey, Commander, Iíve got a project for you guys. The Interplanetary Police are about to arrest the teachers at the Wireland Renaissance School for breaking the Interplanetary Pleasure Laws. Those teachers are so dumb. They knew that the cops were looking for them and they just went to the school. The police are going to know exactly where they are. Weíve got the witnesses. One of them was even interviewed on the Interplanetary News Network about an hour ago. The teachers will be able to defend themselves in Wireland, of course, but instead of jail first letís take them to Popland and teach them how to have fun. Theyíll realize itís harmless".

"Itís a sad day when anyone has to get arrested just for not having fun," said the Commander "Thatís called not having a life".

"Exactly", I said. "And they canít prove weíre a bunch of know-nothing idiots because you know what? Thereís a whole passage in "Race of Angels" about Bono having a few things in common with Umberto Eco, about using the past to shape the future. Catherine and the rest of those people think Eco is some sort of diety because he wrote "Name of the Rose". Thatís a murder mystery thatís also about late medieval political disputes and the like. In fact, I have that video. Weíll just show them what we can do".

"Hey, good idea", said the Commander. "OK, weíve gotten the UFOís to Wireland with half of our de-activating technology. The Saturnians arenít going up against that."

I walked to Surrender Square where the end of the UFO tunnel is. After about an hour, Catherine and the ousted students left the tunnel and walked right into Popland. "Welcome to Popland", I said to them. "You never thought youíd be here, did you?"

"I certainly didnít", she said. "You know, I have to give you credit for being awfully clever. Weíve been promised acquittal if we enjoy ourselves tonight. I donít suppose that will hurt anything, and we can keep on running our school".

We took Catherine to the Zoo Station Bar. We gave her a new outfit, lemon-colored pants and a blouse. She excused herself to change her clothes and came back wearing lemon from head to toe. We watched ZooTV. "Good grief, what a show", she said. "That was really well-done, you know? I can only imagine all of the hard work that went into that production. Iím sorry, Iíve always sold U2 short. You know what? I want to dance to "Discotheque". To heck with those damn pavane steps. I just want to have fun with this. You know, I think this could actually loosen up my saltarello steps. Mine are way too stiff, you know?"

It had been one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. Iíd seen a woman healed and reborn as a living, breathing human being, inspired by the power of great music.

And oh, yes, she did accept my invitation to come by my place the following evening to watch "Name of the Rose".

Patricia M. Hefner

May 2000