“Vince Tickleman’s ‘Dancing Out of Your Comfort Zone’ with Lana del Ray,” by Audrey Clark

Aug 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“You don’t just need to step outside of your comfort zone!” shouted Vince Tickleman, “You need to leap out of it!”

Vince was the type of middle-aged man who looked flushed and sweaty no matter what he was doing. He could be reclining on a deck chair sipping a glass of milk and he would still have a forehead full of throbbing veins.

“In fact, don’t just leap out of your comfort zone!” Vince exclaimed, “Dance out of it!”

Pathetic disco beats pumped from the speakers, and Vince shimmied his hips, as if trying electric slide away from the spotlight. His feet didn’t move, so he was just sweatily gyrating in place.

“Come on, everybody!” Vince cried, “Dance with me!”

The crowd clambered to their feet, rows of divorcees and pensioners creakily bumping and grinding along with him.

Vince’s face clenched. He danced harder and harder, feet rooted to the ground, trying to slide himself away with the momentum of his hips alone.

“Gnngh!” he grunted into his headset mic, “Hurrrgh! Ughhh!”

At the back of the crowd, two young men were sitting in the seats, watching with horror. The taller one was gay, and his name was Nick.

“Aidan,” said Nick, “What the fuck is this?”

Aidan was also gay, but that didn’t necessarily mean he and Nick were a couple.

“Okay,” Aidan said, “This is, admittedly, very bad. But I promise, Lana Del Rey will be performing as part of this seminar.”

Nick frowned, “You’re sure about that?”

Aidan glanced up at the stage. Vince was wearing an oversized blazer with the sleeves rolled up, like a 90s comedian, except he had rolled the sleeves all the way up to the shoulder. His pants legs were rolled all the way up to his crotch as well. He had fat rings around each of his limbs and looked like a doughy tortoise.

But the program definitely said Lana Del Rey would be performing as part of this seminar. It didn’t make sense, but…

But he hadn’t seen Nick since high school, and he missed him.

“I’m sure,” Aidan said.

Nick sighed, “I really need this right now. All my friends have settled down, and I’m the last person who’s single. I’m free, but I’m alone.”

“Oh,” said Aiden, “That’s… a complex feeling.”

“Uh-huh,” said Nick, “It’s like I’m a bird that is sad.”


Nick shrugged, “I don’t know how to express it in words. But Lana would. That’s why…”

He trailed off.

“What?” said Aidan.

“Sorry,” said Nick, “There’s an old lady daggering someone behind you, and she looks so much like my aunt.”

“Dance!” Vince bellowed, “Dance! Dance! Dance!’

All of a sudden, his feet slipped on the sweat pool beneath him. He splatted onto his back a few feet away, sending out a splash of sweat drops that was visible from the back row.

“Right out of my comfort zone!” Vince wheezed.

The crowd applauded. Nick and Aidan shook their heads disapprovingly. They didn’t like seeing the sweaty man fall over.

“She’ll be here,” Aidan said.

The crowd sat down. Vince went on, pulling a saggy lump of plastic from his jacket.

“When you leave your comfort zone,” Vince announced, “You need high self-esteem. Now, imagine your self-esteem is this beach ball.”

He held the lump up and waggled it around. He pointed at it aggressively, demonstrating that this was the beach ball he was referring to.

“Not a lot of fun, is it?” Vince laughed, then held his microphone out to the crowd.

“No!” the crowd chanted, laughing along with him.

“Haha!” Vince shimmied his shoulders with glee, “Doesn’t look like it would bounce very well, does it?”

“No!” laughed the crowd.

“Doesn’t look like it would be much use for a game of beach volleyball, does it?” said Vince, waggling his eyebrows.

“No!” the crowd giggled again.

“Doesn’t look like you have a very enjoyable game of catch with it, does it?” said Vince.

“No!” the crowd snickered.

“Doesn’t look like it would be a boffo bonanza of bumbling bombasticism, does it?” said Vince.

“What the fuck?” muttered Nick.

“No!” the crowd chuckled.

“Doesn’t seem like a bouncy-bouncy ball bouncing blast-off, does it?” Vince pumped his fist in the air a few times.

“No!” the crowd chortled.

“Seriously, what is happening?” said Nick. Aidan shrugged helplessly.

“Bingo bango ball ball bouncy?” said Vince.

“No!” the crowd guffawed.

“Baba bibble bobble bongo?” said Vince.

“No!” the crowd hooted.

Aidan felt Nick grab onto his arm for support. He laid his hand over Nick’s, comforting him. It wasn’t necessarily romantic, just because they were both gay.

“Ball!” shouted Vince, “Ball, ball, ball?

“No,” the crowd said in unison, completely stone-faced. All the energy disappeared from the room. Nick quickly let go of Aidan’s arm.

Vince nodded, “It’s not a very good ball. That’s why we need to pump it up!”

The crowd applauded.

“Or, even better!” Vince said, tossing the ball to the ground, “We need to dance it up!”

The crowd cheered and clambered to their feet. The same awful, tinny disco music blasted from the speakers as Vince began swinging his hips to the beat. Aidan realised, with horror, that Vince was going to continue dancing until the ball somehow inflated itself.

Nick turned to him, “This is really fucked, Aidan, and I don’t think Lana Del Rey is associated with this at all.”

“She is!” Aidan protested, “You know me. I wouldn’t lie about this.”

Nick sighed, “Fine. I need this. I recently went back to my hometown, and discovered that everything looked exactly the same, and yet, completely different.”

“Wow,” said Aidan, “That’s… an intricate sentiment.”

“Yeah,” said Nick, “It was like seeing an old photo that is sad.”

There was a huge cheer from the dancing crowd. The boys looked up and saw that somehow the ball was sitting in front of Vince, completely inflated. The disgusting disco music cut out.

“What the fuck?” said Nick.

“And that is self-esteem!” said Vince, “Now, let’s get serious. A few days ago, I was in a dark place. My mother and father had just died. Even worse, I was the one who killed them.”

The crowd gasped.

“Yep,” Vince nodded solemnly, “They were relaxing in the jacuzzi—I call it the jacuze. I thought it would be funny to throw a toaster in there with them. I thought, hey, this will spice up their jacuze. And the toaster cord isn’t that long. It’ll pop out of the socket before it ever reaches the jacuze. So I tossed the toaster towards the jacuze, and it sailed through the air, right into the jacuze. My mother and father looked up at me from the jacuze, and do you know what they said?”

“No!” the crowd laughed.

“They said…” Vince flailed his arms in the air and thrashed around, “Gubluzublluzibblubluzzizzle! Battery-power toaster! In the jacuze!”

Disco music pumped from the speakers again. The crowd leapt to their feet, and they began dancing along with Vince.

“I can’t,” Nick said. He stood and glared at Aidan, “This is sick. This is some kind of sick freak cult. Fuck you for bringing me here.”

“Nick, wait!” Aidan said.

Nick ignored him, and started pushing through the horde of dancers, heading for the exit. Aidan followed.

“Nick, I promise, she’ll be here,” Aidan said desperately, “Come on, dude. You can trust me. We were so close back in high school.”

“Were we?” spat Nick, “Or were we just the only two gay kids, and everyone assumed we were best friends, even though that wasn’t necessarily true?”

He reached the door and rattled the handle. It was locked.

“Fuck!” he yelled, “I got betrayed by someone who I never really liked in the first place! I feel like a victim who is sad! How am I meant to process these emotions without—”

“And now!” Vince boomed, “To perform an original song, please welcome… Lana Del Rey!”

Nick whipped around. Aidan followed his eyes to the stage where, sure enough, the melancholic young chanteuse herself was sauntering over to the microphone.

“Oh my god,” Nick whispered, “It’s her. It’s really her.”

“I told you,” Aidan said, “You can trust me.”

Nick looked at Aidan, eyes shining, then pulled him close and kissed him. Aidan froze. Just because they were both gay didn’t necessarily mean that he wanted this.

But… he did.

Aidan kissed Nick back, holding him tightly. In the background, they could hear the voice of Lana Del Rey.

“I used to be so sad before I met Vince,” Lana said, “I was full of these complex emotions that I could only express through my music.”

Nick pulled back and smiled at Aidan, tired and teary.

“But now…” said Lana, “I’d rather dance my feelings!”

Disco music blared out, and the crowd roared.


Audrey Clark is an actress, writer, and comedian who likes to sing and dance and is really good at both of those things. You can follow her on Twitter @audreynotfunny, on Instagram @audreynotphotos, or on the street in Sydney, Australia.

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