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   f r e a k

--- R U T H   K N A F O   S E T T O N

Some old guy paid me twenty bucks for a kiss. Amazing, right? Just one kiss, no tongue, nothing. At the entrance to the fair, where the red and gold sign is so faded you can hardly see the name: GREAT VIRGINVILLE FAIR. Someone scratched off letters so now it reads: EAT VIRGIN FAIR. This is something the stupid farm kids here would find funny. They are so fucking immature. I'm still a virgin, at fourteen, but it's not because I want to stay pure or any of that shit. That's Mom-language. It's because of my breasts, that's it. The right one is bigger than the left one. I stuff the left cup of my bra with three pads to make them look even in tee-shirts and tops. Same with bathing suits. I first noticed it last year. I showed Mom, and she freaked--of course. She phoned Grandma--we were still in Houston at the time--and I could tell Grandma was giving her ingredients for a spell, or whatever, cause she was sitting on the floor, phone pressed between ear and shoulder, and writing like crazy. She st arted feeding me weird green milkshakes--puke shakes, I call them. And all kinds of pills in the morning. And juices with extracts poured in that she thought I wouldn't notice. And grainy brown vitamins, bigger than the ones we give Niko, and he's a German Shepherd, weighs over seventy pounds. I weigh about one hundred myself. I hope I'll grow this year. In height I mean. I'm about 5'3", too short. Mom says don't worry about the breasts, she's sure I'll outgrow it by the time I'm twenty or so. Well, fuck that. I want surgery. I want them the same size. I want a normal body like everyone else's in the world. Mom refuses, says I just got my period (very late, only started a few months ago) and we have to let my hormones kick in. I want to know why this shit couldn't happen to her if she's so cool about it, why it had to be me. She told Dad, and now he thinks I'm a freak, I can tell by the way he looks at me. In his eyes Mom is old and I'm a freak, like a circus midget, or something. He does this thing with his eyes, looks at me without seeing me. Or sees me without looking at me. Hard to explain, but he does it. I bet if he ran into me now, walking past the pierogie and French fries stand, he'd pass right by and not recognize me. I hate him. He's trying to be young, the stupid stud in his ear, tight jeans. He's going bald and pulling what he's got left in this tiny-ass ball of frizz. He went off to Woodstock II with his supposed student. Brandy. Big tits and hips. Big blonde hair and big pink lips. Big blue eyes. A Barbie doll girl. They're doing research on today's teenagers. Yeah, right. I hate Mom even more for letting him go without putting up a fight. For being so tired-ass. At least now we're staying at Grandma's. There's food in the house, not like with Mom. Mom starts reading and gets lost in her work and forgets people need to eat. She lost her job, didn't get tenure this year at Rice U., where Dad teaches too. We're a fucked family. Everything's fucked. This fair sucks. The Great Fair. Rinky-dink and hokey. Country women selling rounds of pale farm cheese and twisted pretzels and foaming blue birch beer. Strutting bikers in sleeveless black leather. Farmers with Swiss-cheese mottled skin and large yellow teeth. Tight-lipped Amish women, hair and eyes and mouths pulled back. Their husbands, with black hats, and beards without mustaches. The smells of food are tempting: burnt sugar, fried funnel cakes, powdered sugar and dark molasses shoofly pie, pierogies frying, sweet apple dumplings, hot corn pies. Even the thick pork sausage. Mom says we shouldn't eat it cause we're Jews. According to Mom, there's a lot of shit you can't do--and look where it got her. I got me twenty bucks: I'm going to have fun.

I eat three pierogies from a paper cup, drink birch beer and walk around. The field to my right is lit up with spotlights. Through the crowd, I see an enormous green chair rising at least ten feet in the air, held up on long stilt legs. A guy and girl mount the stepladder to the chair. They turn and smile down at the crowd. That's Jess Bauer up there, with his red blazing ear. He's saying something, but the wind carries his words away. I stare from his scuffed work boots to the round black hat tilted back on his head. The girl with him is Rosalie, tall and blonde, one of the most popular girls around here. She's wearing a bonnet and white apron over an ankle-length gingham dress, dirty sneakers peeking out from under the hem. She yells: I, Rebecca, promise to honor and obey you, Reuben! I promise to work for you! To keep your house clean, to cook for you and raise your children! To mend your clothes when they're torn! To be true to you and to God! Not to think wicked thoughts about other men and to be satisfied with my life with you! For as long as I shall live!

People clap, and Jess grins, pushes the hat back on his head, and sees me. He's only thirteen. That means if Mom and I end up staying here past the summer, without Dad, he'll be a year younger than me in school. Like I'm going to hang out with a younger guy. Even if he's hot, really hot. I don't like how his eyes see through me. Yesterday I got bored and hitched a ride to the mall in Allentown, and got caught lifting a bottle of blue nail polish. Fucking Matt Eckert was there, watching, and he must of come back and told everybody because when I went down to the hangout by the old drive-in movie, Jess was there, with his older brother Mike who I hate, and Dave and a couple other guys, and Jen and Jodie, the Bausch twins, and he came up to me the way he always does, and he said, I heard what happened, and I said, yeah what? And he said, you were caught shoplifting. No I wasn't, I said, thinking it's Matt's word against mine. The cop didn't even call home after I cried in his office and told him it was my first time and swore I'd never do it again. He didn't know I was caught in Houston the week before we came out here. The cop in Houston called Mom, and she had to pick me up from the store and drive me home. That's when she cracked: right in front of me, crying and screaming that's it, I can't anymore, I just can't! So we came to Grandma's and Dad took off and now here we are in limbo, and school starts in like two weeks and I don't know if we're going to be here, or there. I don't mind being here, even though Virginville is so straight-edge and farmer-heaven it sucks. But Houston sucks in different ways. I don't have any more friends there, no one I trust, and I hate my school, everyone knows me there, and I feel trapped like I can't breathe.

Jess just looks at me, real hard, the way he does, the way nobody looks at me anymore. His eyes are green and brown, like the fields here, like a tree. He's only a kid but he's solid. Dad's old but he's flimsy. Mom said it once: he's not here, he's not present. Jess is present, too present, too much here. I step back and say, what's the matter, don't you believe me?

He moves closer again until he's in my face, he's got guts for a kid, and he says, I wish it was true.

I'm sputtering. You wish I was caught? Why?

Not that you were caught, but that you did something like stealing. It would make you more real. Like someone I could--

He stops, and that red ear of his is blazing, and he blinks, and I say, could what? and he doesn't answer, just reaches towards me and puts his hand on my shoulder, a light touch, that's all, but the craziest thing happens.

I don't want to think about it now, watching him marry Rosalie, who's at least sixteen. This sucks. The whole fair, this town, my life. I leave the fake wedding couple behind, as they climb down the ladder to ride away in a black horse and buggy, and cop a smoke from a kid I know, Dennis Wheeler, who hangs out at the drive-in. He asks if I want to hang with them, but I say no. It's weird, but I just feel like being alone tonight, pretending I'm in a strange city or an airport all by myself and no one knows me and I can be whoever I want to be.

I walk past a row of games that are impossible to beat: a basketball you have to squeeze into a tiny hoop, pennies to drop into Coke bottles, darts to puncture the exact center of a painted balloon. I like the betting games more. Last year I put a quarter on my favorite number: 7, and won three Hershey bars. And the year before, at the birthday wheel game, I put two quarters on my birthday: November 18th, and I won a stuffed raccoon.

I'm way over on the uncool end of the fair, where the craftsmen show their work. No kids here, only old geezers and fat women with hair cut so short it shows the backs of their wrinkled red necks. I've been thinking lately about becoming a beautician. May be dropping out of school and going to Beauty School. I suck at school anyway. Mom is such a snob. Just because she's got a Ph.D. Who needs it? It didn't teach her anything. I bet I can make more money than she does. I'm good with my hands. She's not. I wish she'd let me comb her hair. She needs a complete makeover. I could see doing that as a job. Giving people makeovers. Turning them new, into someone else. Giving them a new start.

I enter a tent. Two men with chin beards stand by their blown glass vases. A tall thin man wearing a netted helmet shows off his swarm of bees and offers spoonfuls of honey. Two women with braids wound around their heads weave baskets while they gossip. A couple other women give free samples of jams and jellies and relishes, piccalilli, even pig intestines. I find myself in the next tent and see hex signs. Oh shit. Reminds me of Grandpa Royal. A hand-painted sign, decorated with twisting vines and flowers, stands on an easel: Johnnie Schumacher's Hex Signs, Bring you Good Luck&Love. There's white-bearded old Johnnie, a bald spot the size of a silver dollar on top of his head. I quick turn to duck out, but he sees me: Say now, isn't that Royal's grandkid, little Nell?

I'm nodding and smiling (Mom: when you smile, you look so sweet no one could guess how vicious you can be), but the hex signs hit hard. The best summer I had was two years ago when Dad and Mom went to Mexico to do research on the Huichols and I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa, and he and I sat in his barn everyday and painted hex signs. He showed me how and taught me the difference between the distelfink and the rosette and what the tulips mean. He said he was counting on me to keep this lost art alive. I wander around the tent, looking at the familiar painted circles, the colors of children's books, bright reds and greens and yellows and blues. The sixteen-pointed Rosette. The good luck Distelfink, with its blue-tailed, red-winged bird sitting on a red and yellow heart, two tulips twining around him. The mysterious blue tear-drop Rain Sign. The Marriage Sign: two blue birds kissing over two touching hearts. Grandpa Royal's favorite, the one he painted over and over: the Mighty Oak, with fern-like leaves of every color surrounding a blue and white star center. And the one that used to scare me: the great big Daddy Hex, leaves the color of fall twirling like a kaleidoscope around a yellow and green rosette. I see why it scared me: too perfect, too symmetrical. Nothing off-balance there. When I asked Grandpa, can't you play around with the birds and tulips and borders--draw through the borders, paint a rose, complicate the figures, he put his index finger, nearly as stubby and thick as my whole hand, to his mouth and said, that would be chust fine, Nell, but it wouldn't be a hex sign. We're here to bring joy--like you, child. Not to enter the gray.

They're not magic, they're chust for nice, I can still hear him and Johnnie tell me. But try and tell that to a Dutch farmer who called Grandpa at night and said, Royal Becker, I need you. My cow's giving bad milk. It's the hexing time of year. I need a Haus-Segen and a Double Distelfink. And make me a Sun, Rain and Fertility sign, too. We'll plaster them over the barn.

Grandpa would head to the barn and paint all night, and at dawn bring his pals a brand-new hex sign gleaming with bright colors and smelling of fresh paint. Not like Grandma's spells, with herbs and hard-to-get ingredients and prayers in the dead of night. Truth is I don't believe in any of it. After all Grandma's spells, my breasts are still lopsided. Dad's playing at being a rocker with Brandy and ten thousand teenagers while Mom mopes at the farm. And Grandpa died last year. I'm a Scorpio, and the day Sydney Omarr told me I'd be in the right place at the right time is the day I got caught stealing in Houston.

I leave the hex signs and walk over to the attractions and shows. It's dark now, stars dancing above. When I was a kid, I believed Mom when she told me one star was mine, moving over my head every night (invisible by day), making sure I was okay.

I pass the fortune tellers: two women in torn gauze who look like they were born under a bad sign. The Haunted House and the Hall of Mirrors. The Strip Show: three long-haired women in sequined gowns, shaking their boobs in front of a black curtain. Bobo, the sadistic clown who makes fun of everyone who walks by, trying to get them mad enough to pay for the chance to knock him into a vat of water. I stop in front of the Freak Show. A large tent with paintings of the attractions inside: The Alligator Boy. The long-necked lady, with a dozen gold rings around her throat. The Siamese Twins ("never separated," it says under their picture). The Bearded Lady.

A real-life dwarf with a rough, stubbled face stands on a ledge while a man barks through a megaphone: Look at Tiny Joe! He's one of the original Munchkins in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Show the people what you like to eat, Joe.

Joe strikes a match and sets the long stick he's holding on fire. He pokes the stick into his mouth and swallows the flame.

The barker gasps loudly into the mike and says: Oh my God, can we believe our eyes? Come and see the wonders of the known and the unknown universe! Marvels you've never dared dream of. See the two-headed Egyptian princess. And each head is a beauty. Would I lie? And the Fattest Man in the World. Seven hundred twenty-nine pounds of pulsating pulchritude. You've never seen a jollier, happier man than our Henry. When he shakes his rump, the earth trembles. He's all meat, no potatoes. If his dancing doesn't make you laugh, then you need a doctor. And the star of our show, the Amazing, the One and Only Rubberman. I guarantee you've never seen anything like him.

He lowers his voice: Yes, my friends, other shows promise wonders, but offer only pictures and photos. Not us. That's why we have the largest tent in the fair. You go in, and you'll see people, living people, and genuine oddities. Now who's ready to pay two dollars to see the wonders of God's creation on earth? Two measly dollars!

I follow the crowd, pay my two bucks, and enter a world so far from Grandpa's hex signs it's like I've crossed the border into another planet. Blue babies in jars. Siamese twins: tiny, curved bodies attached by flowing black hair, floating in a small jar. A tiny, grinning skeleton, half-man, half-fish. A sign at his side reads: MERMAN found by Ray Otto, Fisherman off the Gulf Coast of Galveston, Texas, 1994 On another table are cat intestines, a pygmy skull, a bleached brain. The Egyptian princess turns out to be the skeleton of a unicorn. The horn looks glued on.

We pay another fifty cents and are herded into a back section of the tent, where a circle, like a boxing ring, is marked by a fraying green velvet rope. The tinny music starts, and the World's Fattest Man twists his way through a blue curtain, gulping down a sandwich while dancing. Everyone is laughing, but he gives me the creeps. Next is The Leopard Lady. Her spots look like they were made with my Maybelline eyeliner. The Alligator Boy marches out, looking pissed off. His skin is all bubbles and crusts, like a bad case of sunburn. The Giraffe Woman and the Bear Boy do a weird dance around each other, clapping their hands over their heads. The Bearded Lady comes out wearing a nurse's uniform. A coarse brown beard sprouts from the center of her throat, like the one growing from the Amish men's chins. Her face is pockmarked, her eyes seamed as if they've been sewn to her face--a ragdoll's eyes. She tries to dance to the same tinny, rusted music. A hole in the back of her uniform reveals a pointed hump. I'm ready to leave when she holds out her arms and shouts: And now, the star of the show! Rubberman!

Rubberman leaps into the center of the ring, somersaults a few times, and lands almost on top of the bearded blonde, who scurries away like a mouse. The tinny music moves faster, as if someone's turning an old-fashioned gramophone, the kind Grandpa had in the barn. Rubberman has long, wavy red-gold hair, and he's tall and very slim. Very hot, in an older guy way. He's only wearing black tights. And some kind of plastic guard for his prick I think. He looks like an alien. And it's not just the way he moves, double-jointed and twisting and leaping in every direction at once. It's his eyes: they're pale blue ice. Like Dad, they look through us and don't see us. But with Rubberman, I understand. We're gaping at his nakedness. He's turning himself inside out for us, while we're burping up funnel cake and sausage, and the two girls next to me are talking about going on the roller coaster when the show is over, and the bikers on my other side want to see female mud wrestling in the next stand. I feel sick. Is there a way to get out of this circus? To go to sleep and wake up and find yourself in a different skin, with a new fresh body--painted fresh and clean as the hex signs, no mistakes, no imperfections allowed, no careless artist who got lazy and slipped over from one boob to the next.

Rubberman pulls out his chest, and it stays out like silly putty. Bends over backwards and touches his feet from behind. He does a split, lifts his legs around his neck. The freckles on his shoulders, chest and back stand out as he ties himself into a knot. He rolls into a ball, a fucking rubber ball, before our eyes. He pulls himself to his feet like a rubber band, snaps and stretches, closes himself and opens again. His nipples are the color of chocolate milk, pale brown, they point like little guns aiming at us. Shoot, shoot, kill, kill. Kill us all, Rubberman. I won't mind. Kill us the fuck off. His ice eyes lock on mine. He nods once, twice, then flips over backwards and writhes like a snake on the ground, twisting and teasing his body as if he has no muscles, joints, bones, nothing to define him as human. A reptile. Mom told me about a tribe she studied who worshipped a reptile god, and all the women of that tribe dreamed of a snake lover who entered them at night in their dreams. Is that what doing it with you would be like, Rubberman? Not like a human guy with a red ear and sad hazel eyes, but like a lizard, a snake winding around you, fastening onto you, cutting off all means of escape, and then plunging inside you.

Ice eyes sweep the crowd. The tinny music stops. The clapping is loud--but it doesn't fool me. Everyone here is scared to death. He's too far over the edge. Too different. Before they can crash out of the tent, the announcer's voice informs us that for one buck, one George Washington, we can see the ultimate wonder: Rubberman squeezed into a box no larger than an shoebox. While he speaks, Rubberman disappears behind the curtain. No bow, nothing. He hates us. At this very moment, says the announcer, Rubberman is entering a box so small no human being can even contemplate...

Don't do it, Rubberman. Don't let them lock you in a tiny fucking box. I don't want to see this. More than half the crowd moves out of the tent as fast they can. Back to wonders we can control: roller coasters and women wrestling in mud and 4-H pig shows and sweet funnel cake sprinkled with powdered sugar. I let the crowd sweep me to the entrance of the tent. Dark blue sky, full blood moon, the smells and sounds of the fair leaning me outside. I hear the sick-sweet song of the merry-go-round, the voices s hivering past me in the dark. There's this deal I make with myself. The kind everyone does I guess. If I don't get caught this time, I swear I'll never steal again. If I stay and see him squashed into a box, do you promise it won't change me? That I'll come out okay, and the fair will still be here as I left it, and when I get home, Mom and Grandma will be sitting on the porch, smoking and talking?

The red moon is silent.

No answer, no promises. You will be in the right place at the right time. Yeah.

I'm the last one in line. I don't see the people coming out. There must be a back exit to the tent. One after another, they disappear behind the curtain. Maybe this is a trap. Aliens sucking us into a UFO, and we'll never be seen again. Or we'll all turn into Rubbermen and women. Come out of the tent doing somersaults and back flips, turning ourselves into human pretzels. Into mounds of bread dough, to pound and knead like Grandma does, with knuckles and fingers, into whatever shape you dream of.

The line moves too fast for me. I guess people don't want to linger over a dude in a box. Not that I blame them. My turn. I give a freckled, pimply kid my dollar bill, and enter the dark space. For a second my heart is pounding the way it did yesterday when the security guard came up to me, and I knew it was too late, I was caught. I take a deep breath. It stinks. Sour, rotting eggs. Old and tired smell. A wood box--about as large as a boot box--sits on a low stand. I come closer, heart so loud it's crashing in my ears.

Anyone there? A nasty voice rises like smoke from the box.

Yeah. I sound like a thread about to snap.

Then show your face. Get over here.

I bend over the box. Wood slats cover it. Between the slats, I glimpse ice-blue eyes, dark gold curls, a red face. A man squashed like an egg. Flattened with a spatula. I forget to breathe. He's sweating like crazy. Drops glittering on his lashes, cheeks, in the curled space between nose and mouth. His eyes fascinate me. Pale blue splinters set in the red sweating face.

You, he says in the same nasty voice. I knew you'd come.

I almost didn't, I tell him. I like his nastiness. A cold shower.

What a cute little hiphop girl, he says. I like your nose ring. How many holes do you have pierced in your ears?

Fifteen. Or so.

Well. Is that it? Are we done? Can I go have my dinner now?

I grin. I like this guy. He grins back and says, what a way to make a living, huh?

Why do you do it?

Why not?

You could be a dancer or--

Or what?

I don't know what to say. Something better than this.

His face changes again. The curled upper lip sneers. What could be better than the freak show of a second-rate traveling fair? And what's your goal in life, hiphop?

My goal? My voice is mocking, the way it is when Mom and Dad tell me I can't live without goals. I tell them: I'm going to marry a rich man and do nothing the rest of my life. I tell him: maybe a beautician.

He reminds me of Elvis, the pictures I see of him, upper lip curled almost up to his nose. I didn't know girls dreamed of that, he says.

This one does.

Spend your life with your hands in people's filthy hair. Sounds like heaven. The lip curls again.

Better than being squashed like a bug in a box.

Sweat is gushing out of him. Don't you have a towel or something? I ask him. I can wipe your face.

Shut up. As soon as you leave, I can get out of here. Dig? So--leave.

I don't move. My "perverse spirit" as Dad calls it. I tell him: I could be in this show too. He rolls his eyes up. I lean closer: I'm a freak too. It's just that no one knows it. You can't see it just by looking at me. At least not with my clothes on.

I take a step back. What the fuck am I saying? My dead-dark secret, and I'm here blabbing it to a guy in a box.

What's wrong with you? he asks.

I can't tell you.

Who am I going to tell? The Fat Man? Pygmy Boy? Our worlds don't touch, hiphop.

They're touching now.

We collided. By accident. Tomorrow we're off again. On the road. To the next town. The next--

Girl like me? I hold my breath, praying he'll say the right thing. The ice in his eyes warms and he plays to my cue: there's no one else like you. No one else like me. So what makes you a freak? You can trust Uncle Rubberman.

I'm hot and cold, dying for a cigarette. I can't tell him. How can I trust this guy? He won't always be in a box. He'll look at me differently when he knows. The way everyone else looks at him.

Forget it, he says. It doesn't matter.

I want to tell you. I just can't. I never told anyone. Only my mom. And she sort of knew.

Then how bad can it be?

Pretty bad. I picture Jess. The hand on my shoulder. Imagine it dipping to my breast. The small left one. Touching one, then the other. And his scream of terror. Revulsion. Disgust. Oh my God, he screams, and runs to the river to wash himself clean.

I look down at the pale, blinking eyes, the man impossibly locked into this container. I guess it's not that bad, I say quickly, because it doesn't really show.

The worst way to be a freak, he says, is when it doesn't show. No, the worst is to be like me: a freak on the outside and the inside.

How are you a freak inside?

I get a feeling about you, he says. Do you have some kind of psychic powers?

I shake my head. My neck is starting to hurt, peering down at him. He must be dying in there. I clear my throat and tell him about Grandma who thinks she's a healer, always doing spells and stuff. She says it passes down through the women in my family. But my mom can't do anything, and neither can I. It's all bullshit.

A healer, he says in a dreamy voice. A little healer with a nose ring.

I'm not a healer. I told you. It's bullshit.

Touch me.

I'm already leaning so far into the box my nose is almost touching the slats. I breathe in his sweat, the raw smell of him. Man, sex, something else. I think of his chocolate nipples shooting at me. I mumble that I'd better go so he can get out of the box and stretch. Inside, I'm stretching head to toe, feel every part of me arch like my cat.

Heal me.

His voice is a whisper, the ice eyes melting blue, so hot suddenly they're burning through the slats, burning through me.

Now, baby. Touch me now.

I shoot a guilty glance behind me. We are alone in the tent--with the fetuses, brains and skulls. I stick my index finger through the slats and touch his mouth. His lips are thin, dark. I don't want to touch his face. It's too wet and flushed. He opens his mouth and sucks my finger. Sucks and sucks it deeper and deeper. I'm stopping up a hole, the hole in the dam that Hans Brinker stopped with his finger. If I pull out my finger, water will burst from the box, his sweat will explode like an oil gusher, the kind we saw in Texas. Rich and thick and powerful enough to blast like a rocket to the sky. His mouth closes around my finger, lips clamp onto it, he sucks it up and down, moves it in and out. My back has a crick in it from leaning over so long. My knee is bent awkwardly. I think my right foot fell asleep. His eyes are closed. His face is peaceful--except for the sweat covering it like a layer of oil slick. Deep inside I feel wet too, a deep dark wet. Sometimes when I wake up--the alarm jangling, Mom shouting at me to get ready for school--I feel like Marsh Girl or Swamp Girl, wet monstrous creature sloshing through the jungle to earth. Knowing that I'll have to go through a whole procedure to turn myself into a human again. Shower, underwear (corrective), makeup, the whole works. But it won't be easy. Swamp Girl roots inside me. She's wet, black, fierce. I feel her in me now, down there, as if I'm getting my period again even though it was only two weeks ago, but I'm so wet I feel myself melting like his eyes. I want to suck his finger too, to take it down my throat and suck it hard. No, not hard. Just tight. So he can't pull out.

His eyes open, and he parts his lips. I pull up my finger and press it against my mouth. It's wet, hot. He smiles. I need to get out of this box now, he says.

Do you need help?

No. And you don't want to watch. It's not a pretty sight. Meet me at the blue trailer, behind the tent. Ten minutes. Okay hiphop?

What for?

What for, he repeats. For companionship. Two freaks. I won't do anything you don't want me to. We'll just talk. Have a drink. What is it they drink here? Root beer? Birch beer? We'll drink birch beer and I'll tell you how I became Rubberman--

I nod, backing out of the tent, like someone leaving a king or sultan in an old movie, and I'm out of there in a flash. It's still night. Moon, red as my blood. Maybe I did get my period. It's irregular the first year, Mom said. I need a cigarette bad. At the end there, at the end before I left, his eyes looked old and tired, the way the tent smelled, leering and needy, a dirty old man like the one who copped a kiss for twenty bucks, and my eyes burn the way they did when Jess reached for my shoulder.

© crossconnect 1995-1998 |
published in association with the |
university of pennsylvania kelly writers house |