Vacation This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     Vacations should be stress-free escapes from thereality of everyday living. They provide an outlet for relaxation, fresh air, andspending large chunks of money on souvenir snow globes. Trips, on the other hand,usually involve a long car ride, fast food, and hotel comforters thinner thanone-ply toilet paper. And, while they might not provide the ideal tanningatmosphere, some trips have the ability to teach us things we wouldn't learnsitting on the beach.

This became apparent when I found myself amongWichita natives at a Marriott hotel. A group of young and middle-aged adultstrickled in, beginning with men in cowboy boots and Gap t-shirts. In ten minutes,a posse of country line dancers appeared in costume, ready to dance. They greetedeach other with hugs and kisses, the women commenting on each others' new hairdosand beautiful shoes. Within minutes, music was playing, and the dancers hit thefloor.

I was frozen in awe at the moves of these natives. They had theability to act as though they were performing in front of millions of screamingfans with amazingly intricate and precise footwork while concentrating on theirpartners as if no one else existed. Had I been Lord of the Dance, I may have feltworthy to challenge, but my twinkle toes sat safely tucked under our booth as wewatched their cowboy boots grace the floor. At the end of the song, the dancersthrew their hands in the air, applauded, and went back to their booths.

One lady with the silver sequined shoes and Aqua-Netted blond hair wasaccompanied by a guy whose blinding hair gel held a monopoly over Paul Mitchell.I could tell she was the queen, accompanied by her king. They owned the dancefloor, and all who dared step foot there knew it.

But suddenly, from thecorner of my eye, the corner where mascara clumps, I saw the court jester. He wasa man who had lost at the genetic lottery. Lucky to reach five foot four inches,his hairline receding, he looked longingly through his coke-bottle glasses. Hesat not at the coveted pleather booth among his fellow dancers, but at a separatewooden table. His glasses hid his wandering eyes, but he followed the dancerslongingly. He sat patiently waiting for his chance. Suddenly he got up, ready toask for a dance. Then, more quickly than he had left his seat, the court jesterretreated, perhaps afraid of rejection. He sat, staring at his Hawaiian printshirt. It felt like I was watching a bad reality show. I wanted to yell, "Go forit, you underdog," but I sat speechless, tapping my heels to the music.

Dinner arrived, and I kept my eye on the jester. He remained at hislonely table, sipping his lonely beer, by his lonely self. I almost felt pity. Iwished that perhaps he had more hair, laser surgery, or a Gap t-shirt. I wishedhe was more like the other male dancers, lively and quick on their feet. I wishedthat this poor soul would get up and dance. Then I realized that those dancersdidn't need him to be one of them. They needed to accept him for who he was,coke-bottle glasses and all. He was the epitome of the anti-hero that we alllove. Suddenly his time arrived.

With the last dance was fastapproaching, I grew jaded. I had seen enough dancing, been blinded by enough hairgel, and tapped my feet so long I felt blisters forming. I wanted to see thecourt jester dance with anyone. Actually, if he found the guts to go and bust amove by himself, I knew I could muster up the courage to give the man a standingovation.

But just when I thought his time was up, I saw the queen get upfrom the booth. She went up to the jester, bent down toward his ear, andwhispered something that made him jump up like a little boy on Christmas morning.She took his hand, the queen leading the court jester in the final dance. But heturned away from her. This is it, I thought. The humility of the pity dance hastaken over. To my amazement, the court jester had taken off his coke-bottleglasses, and turned around with a flashing white smile. He took the hand of thequeen, and as the music played, the jester closed his eyes, concentrating onevery step. When the music ended, the jester returned to his table, and the queento hers. But for that single song, their separate worlds had come together, andthe jester was no longer an outcast, but one of the royalty.

I went backto my hotel room that night feeling full, but not because of the chicken wingsthat had given me indigestion. For one night, the underdog had had his dance. Hehad succeeded not only for himself, but for all who were picked last indodgeball, for the boy with the cracking voice who longed for a date with theprom queen, and for all court jesters who longed for just one dance. Maybe nexttime I happen upon a court jester, I will remember my days at the WichitaMarriott, and give him just one dance.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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