Funky Penguin waddled out onto the dance floor. Peopled cleared out of his way with each step of his webbed feet. They knew what was going to go down, and that they needed to give this bird some room. Funky Penguin wasn’t a handsome penguin, or a particularly smart or funny penguin, but baby, he could dance. If tonight was like any other night at Sal’s Discotek, then Funky Penguin was about to cut a mean rug except in the metaphorical sense because the dance floor wasn’t covered in carpet and he didn’t have any sharp objects.
The room came to a grinding halt, the people stopped boogieing and all eyes were fixed on Funky Penguin. He pointed a flipper at the band and the bass player slapped out a funky groove. Yeah. Ooooooh yeah. Funky Penguin bobbed his head to the beat. He was feeling this funky groove like a blind person reading Hamlet. He got to work.
The rhythm flowed through Funky Penguin. He danced all the dances. The Cabbage Patch. The Worm. The Benghazi. The Macarena. Funky Penguin was at the top of his game and he knew it. He danced his funky dance for hours, showing no signs of stopping until the sun was up and the chairs were on top of the tables. Funky Penguin danced the last few steps of his final dance, the infamous One Man Conga Line, and walked off the dance floor, swatting a single bead of sweat away with his flipper. The joint was empty, besides the owner swabbing the countertop and a couple at a booth in the far back corner. Funky Penguin figured he’d chat them up, maybe fish for a couple of compliments.
“Hey, brother, that dancin’ was outta sight!” the man said. He was probably in his early fifties. He wore a white suit, aviators, and a gaudy silver fedora to crown his long, greasy hair.
“Thanks, it was my pleasure. Do ya mind if I sit down?” Funky Penguin asked. The man waved him forward and Funky Penguin slid into the booth.
“So, Mr. Penguin, dude,” the woman said. She was probably a third of the man’s age, but was dressed in the same stark white getup and black glasses sans the hat.
“Please, Mr. Penguin was my father. Call me Funky Penguin.”
“Far out,” she said. “You seem like a cool cat, dancing around up there like a… uhm… dancing little penguin dude or whatever. Do you, like, do anything else for fun?”
“What do you mean?” Funky Penguin asked frantically. “D-dancing is still cool, right? Th-the kids still think I’m hip or with it or whatever they call it?! Oh, Jesus Christ, I don’t even know what they call it! I-”
“Whoa, dude, chill,” the woman leaned forward, lowering her voice. “I was askin’ ‘cause I wanna know if you smoke the weed.”
“The weed?” Funky Penguin was taken aback. “I don’t roll that way, daddy-o!”
“Funky Penguin, dude,” the man interjected. “That’s just what the man wants you to think. Nothin’ bad will happen if you just smoke one tiny blunt of the weed. Besides, it’s what all the kids are doing.”
“Well… if it’s what all the kids are doing…”
* * *
“So what happened to this poor motherfucker?” Detective Gutierrez asked the coroner. She walked up to the sheet draped figure that lay on the slab.
“EMTs brought him to Saint Joseph’s at about 2:34 AM. Doctor pronounced him dead on arrival. Looks like he,” the coroner threw the sheet off of the corpse, revealing a shrivelled, penguin-esque husk, “had a run in with a weed.” Its arms were pocked with needle marks and it looked like there was blood coming from its eyes, mouth, and… whatever.
“Jesus Christ,” Gutierrez exclaimed. Bile welled up in her throat as she turned away. “I’ve seen enough, Frank, put him away.”
Frank threw the sheet back on top of the body. “Sources say that he was some hotshot dancer down at all the discos. Someone offered him a weed, then within the hour he hooked on every drug on the planet. You name it; crack, smack, dope, ludes.”
“Damn it. If only he knew that weed was the most dangerous gateway drug of them all. I mean, why else would they call it Ellis Island Icky? How many young, talented Antarctic-Americans are we going to lose to this epidemic before the government does something about it?” Gutierrez covered her eyes. She couldn’t let anyone at the office see her cry like this over some stiff in a morgue.
“It’s okay, Maria,” Frank said. He removed his gloves and apron and wrapped his arms around the detective. “It will all be okay once President Christie is elected.”
“God help us if he isn’t.”
The two walked out of the room and shut off the light. Funky Penguin laid there in the dark. The only dance he would dance now is the dance of the dead.