Aidan Baker

Freak Show, Geek Love

There's a freak-show aura about the rag-tag group. I passed them on my way to work; a couple jugglers, an acrobat, a contortionist, camped out in the corner of the park for a couple weeks over the summer, randomly performing for certain select passersby in the hopes of a handout or spare change or food or something. They were always lying around on the grass, when I walked by, and never gave me a second glance.

There was a girl in the group and she was quiet and shy and kind of pale and I thought for awhile that she might have been a mime until one day, walking by, I saw her sitting on the grass outside her tent with a bucket beside her. The bucket was full of some liquid that I presumed, from my sidewalk vantage point, was blood. There were a few white chicken feathers floating in the liquid. 'Oh,' I thought, calmly enough, 'she must be the geek.'

It didn't seem at all problematic to me since I'm not an animal rights activist and there has to be someone to bite the heads of chickens. Plus there was something fascinating about her. I found myself watching for her every morning on the way to the office. She had a sort of ill beauty, as if she were inexorably dying from some drawn-out terminal illness, and that somehow made her more beautiful. A few times I waited to see if she would perform with the others, when someone more deserving of their talents than me would walk by and they'd tumble into action and fling fancy china around or form human pyramids or tie themselves into knots; but she never did anything. Just sat there on the grass with her bucket looking forlorn and big-eyed sickly sad. And I always wondered where she kept her chickens because I never heard or saw sign of them except for the occasional sprinkling of feathers in her bucket.

So one Friday I was early and unconcerned about the boss yelling at me for being late again and I passed the rag-tag group and they were all asleep in their ratty tents or under tented newspapers on park benches. Their corner of the park was looking worse for wear; someone would kick them out soon, I figured. And the sick girl? Only she was awake. She lay half-in, half-out of her tent, her head hunched over her bucket and her hair hanging over her face so I couldn't tell what she was doing. She must have felt my eyes, for she looked up quickly, and our eyes locked for an instant- a frozen instant in my mind: vision of this girl with long black hair raggedly framing white pale face lips dark with some liquid the corners of her huge eyes yellowed like smoker's fingers- and she just as quickly, frightenedly looked away, ducked inside her tent.

I don't know where the courage came from, but I started across the grass, walking carefully and quietly so as to not wake her compatriots. I crouched at the entrance to her tent. Her bucket sat there and I couldn't help looking in. It wasn't blood filling it; I don't know what the liquid was; dark but not thick or red enough for blood; and on closer inspection the feathers floating in it turned out to be pigeon and not chicken feathers.

The flap of the tent rustled. I could see the shape of her, the silhouette of her, behind the thin fabric. 'Hello?' I said quietly. An edge of the tent flap slid aside and I could see her eyes staring out at me. 'Hi,' I smiled and the eyes seemed to relax and she pulled the rest of the flap back and I could see her entire face.

'You schink I'm beausiful don's you.," she whispered, lisping sibilantly. I nodded because she was. 'Loss of men do.' and she looked sad. Her lips glistened and liquid pooled in the corners of her mouth; dark like blood, but not red or thick enough.

'Are you alright?' I asked and she nodded quickly, fiercely, and shot her hand out towards the bucket. At first I thought she was wearing mittens; but it was her hand, the fingers fused together into one lump of flesh, the skin yellowy-green and almost scaly.

She grabbed the bucket and pulled it towards her, leaned her head over the edge and spat into the bucket the digestive fluids or whatever it was pooling in her mouth. Strings of the viscous substance hung from her mouth. Unconsciously, I reached for my handkerchief, reached for her, and wiped the goo from her lips.

'Schank you,' she whispered, looking up at me, an expression of surprise on her face. I folded my handkerchief around the substance, already feeling the cloth stiffening as the excretion hardened, gingerly returning it to my jacket pocket.

'You're welcome,' I whispered back, smiling at her. 'I have to get to work now,' I explained to her, 'or I'll be late. Will you be here on Monday?'

'Yesh,' she answered. But Monday they were gone, disappeared sometime over the weekend. None of the passersby seemed to notice anything was different. I stopped a moment and watched as the city workers tidied up the corner of the park in which they'd camped; erasing all traces of them; then continued on my way to work.

Aidan Baker is a writer and musician from Toronto, Canada. He has had two books of poetry published, Fingerspelling (Penumbra Press) and Wound Culture (Unbound Books), and has released numerous albums on various independent record labels around the world.



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