Safety First, Roger by Nathan Peterson

“That’s my baby.” Barney stood as if he were riding a horse, his hat tilted back, enthusiastically pointing out the bar room window. He nodded to those nearby, his gaze returning outside; he just stood there. He whispered it again, more to himself, an assurance it was true, his smile never dimmed.

“Just looks like a car to me,”  someone said.

“Shush Roger, you’ll crush the poor boy’s spirits!” The words came from a middle-aged couple across the room.

“Don’t you worry ma’am,” said Barney, whirling around. He held his head high as he strutted, proud as a lion, stopping in front of them. “Nobody could taint my spirits today! Not today, not ever, long’s I’ve got good ol’ Ruby Jewels.”

He held a hem of his brown, striped vest in each fist as he swayed about. His faded blue jeans, pulled up almost to his rib cage, were held by a pair of rainbow suspenders, and a red leather belt, with a buckle the size of a Bible, orange, with a big Gatorade® logo on it. The jeans traveled down his long, skinny legs, until they tucked into tall cowboy boots covered in American flags. Under his vest was his favorite shirt, a Captain America t-shirt, with that big ol’ Vibranium shield right there front and center.

“Ruby Jewels, eh?” The man called Roger was wary of this enthusiastic character. He tried to smile as he chanced a glance toward his wife, who was frankly enjoying this happy fellow in front of them. “Cherie, wasn’t your sister wanting to see us today?”

She stared up at Barney, who kept standing there, beaming, full of energy. Roger was nervous. He leaned a little closer and muttered, “Cherie…?”

“Oh! Uh, no…? I haven’t heard from her all week. Where did you get that idea?”

Roger gave up.

“You know what? I feel like dancing!” Barney shouted, “Hit it Mike!” The D.J. in the corner coolly replied, “You got it, Barney.”

He played Barney’s favorite song, “The Safety Dance.” Barney gave a whoop and clicked his heels with such gusto, the crowd lit up like a firecracker. Barney whipped off his cowboy hat and smashed it right onto Roger’s head. “Uuhhnooo,” Roger moaned, as Barney took him by both hands and started leaping like a flamingo with flaming feet! The crowd and Barney sang together, Barney the loudest, “Cuz your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine!”

They marched in circles around the room, bouncing and singing, Barney dragging Roger like a cloth dummy. The crowd laughed, clapped, and sang along. Suddenly, the door burst open and in came a stout, bossy looking woman. “Barney! What are you doing to that poor man? Stop right now!”

Barney let go and shouted “Momma! You found me!” Roger doubled over and hurled.

“I’m sorry sir, he’s just got so much energy. Since he’s grown, I can hardly keep track of him.” She straightened Barney’s hat and wiped a smudge off his cheek.

“It’s ok,” Roger stammered.

Cherie came to his side, hiding a smirk, and suggested they go home for the evening. “Yeah, I think I’d like that,” he said.

Barney’s mother took her boy’s hand and said, “Come on bud, we need to find your father.”

“Will we take the new car?” Barney straightened like a pencil.

“Yes, of course,” said his mother.

He was delighted. Barney turned and waved, “Bye everybody!”

“Goodbye Barney,” they cheerfully replied.

Barney and his mother went their way. Roger, a bit shaken up, headed home with Cherie. Cherie put the whole thing in their Christmas letter, which was a hit. And although so many lives were changed, it was just another day in the good ol’ life of Barney.

The End