Charles Beaumont - Selected Stories Part 65

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Off out of the arena, back into the movement.

And out into the very heart of the s.h.i.+ning motion.

Lars stopped fighting. He let his eyes see and his mind fill.

Last one there is a sissy and Father seated in a small car, b.u.mping the car into others and howling. First one to the trestle and the slow circling ferris wheel with the squealing dots.

_Just try and catch me, just try_ . . .

"Come now, Lars, we rest."

The horror in the washroom and out again, feeding the Feeling, sending it along the spiral. The music bellowing and even in the little car in the blackness of the Fun House--movement there. Sudden lights on painted monsters, cotton bats squeaking along invisible wires.

And then-- _Here we go, folks, the experience of a lifetime. Yah yah hear! See 'em all--the Frog Man, Queenie the Fat Girl (three hundred pounds of feminine loveliness!), Marco the Flame-Eater, yah, yah, all inside, all inside_ . . - "Come, Lars, after this we will go. But if it is like last time--you never saw anything like it. Funny looking crazy people. It's good, good."

_And as a special attraction, ladies and gents, we have Jackie the Basket-case. No arms, no legs, but he writes and plays cards and shaves, right before your very eyes. Science gave him up as lost, but you'll see him now. Jackie, the Basket-Case. And the headless girl, who defies doctors throughout the universe! Nurses in attendance! Heah heah heah! Only ten cents, the tenth part of a dollar_.

Square canvas flags with strange pictures on them. A man with a sword in his mouth, a woman with an orange beard, a ferocious black man with feathers. And in front, high on the platform, a man with a striped s.h.i.+rt and a cane, hitting a pan.

"So, we go in."

Lars said nothing. He listened to all the sounds and how they seemed like the swift rush of cold wind and rain across his face. His heart beat and his blood pounded against his temples.

_I'll beat you, Lars_ . . .

Lars felt his chair being pushed forward. Out of the sunlight and quickly into the dimly lighted interior, he could see nothing at first. Only what he had been seeing for hours.

There was the sudden quiet, for one thing. Nothing to see yet, but like dropping from a close, hot hay-loft to freshly watered earth. Damp and cool, like perhaps a grave.

The Feeling stopped growing for a moment as Lars focused his eyes. He wondered where all the people had gone, what had happened, if he were back in the silent unmoving room. The cold stillness and then the soft muttering of voices, strange and out of place.

"Here, Lars, don't you see?"

Mr. Nielson ran his hand though Lars' hair and touched his shoulder. The chair moved over ploughed ground.

"Papa, what--"

Mr. Nielson giggled no louder than the other people in the tent."Ha ha! Look, boy, look at the woman!"

Lars saw the object that Father had called a woman. The product of mutant glands, a huge sitting thing with mountains of flesh. Flowering from the neck down the arms and looping over the elbows, dividing like a baby's skin at the hands; the thighs, cascading flesh and fat over the legs down to the feet.

And over all this, a metallic costume with purple sequins attached and short black hair, cut like a boy's.

"Have you ever seen anything so big, Lars!"

Lars looked from his wheelchair into the eyes of the fat lady and then quickly away from them.

Over the ground. Stopping.

The sign reading The Frog Man, and four people staring.

"Look! Ohhh!"

Shriveled limbs with life sticking to them. Shriveled, dried-up, twisted legs, bent grotesquely. And the young man with the pimples on his face crouching on these legs, leering. Every few moments, the legs moving and the small body hopping upwards.

Lars tried to shake his head. The Feeling started from where it had left off, but it traveled elsewhere now. It traveled from his mind to his eyes and from his eyes outward.

"Come, it will be late. We must see everything. Oh, look, have you ever seen such a crazy thing!"

Lars leaned his head forward painfully and looked.

The face of a very old man, but smooth along the creases and over the wrinkles. Wrinkled hands, thin hair. An old man standing three feet from the ground. But not merely small. Everything dwarfed. The false beard and the gnome's cap and the stretched-gauze wings.

The Feeling went into the eyes of the midget.

"There, over there! There was no such last time!"

Over the ground slowly, past the man with the pictures on his skin, the black creeping thing, the boy with the b.r.e.a.s.t.s, slowly past these, slowly so the Feeling could be fed and gathered.

And now, the Feeling reaching across the tent to the other side, reaching into the woman with seventeen toes, the boy with the ugly face, the alligator girl, the human chicken, reaching and bringing back, nursing, feeding, identifying. Identifying.

Then ceasing.

"Lars, look. Never was there such a thing."

Mr. Nielson's voice was low and full of deep wonder as he craned his head over the people's shoulders.

Lars tried one last time to see the blue of the linoleum, the grey of his room, all the quiet things his mind had made so carefully. But his eyes moved.

It was large, made of wicker, padded and made to look like an egg basket on the outside. There was in front of it a square card with writing, which gave dates and facts, but the card was dirty and difficult to read. The thing in the basket lay still.

A knitted garment covered the midsection and lower part. Above, the pale flesh stretched over irregular b.u.mps and lines, past the smooth armsockets on up to the finely combed black hair, newly barbered.

The face was handsome and young, clean-shaven and delicate.

When it lifted Mr. Nielson and the other staring people gasped.

In the mouth was a pencil and with this pencil, the thing in the basket began to write upon a special pad of paper. The lead was soft so that those nearby could make out the words, which were "My name is Jack Rennie. I am very happy".

Lars saw his father's hands about his side, lifting and pus.h.i.+ng.

"Look, see what it does!"

Lars' body trembled, suspended above the basket, held in air. Everything trembled and shook, as teeth held a moving pencil and the pencil made words. The limbless man thought, it--he--_thought_ . . .

The automobile came straight at Lars, and he saw it now. Saw it speeding over the trestle forhim, bellowing its warning. The brakes screeched in his head and he saw the car swerve and careen in the wet road. And then floating down the trestle, below it, onto sharp hard things.

Lars looked from his wheelchair at the armless, legless man in the cheap basket and in one explosion, the thoughts sprang from the Feeling and scattered through his brain, moving, dancing, swinging arms, jumping on legs, moving, moving with all the ecstasy of a dead child brought suddenly to life.

"It shaves, sees, talks, it writes!"

Lars rode his bicycle in the sunlight down through the fields near the river and never stopped, for he was never tired. He rode past laughing people and waved his arms at children blurring in the distance.

He pushed his young legs on the pedals and flew past all the things of the country and then of the world, all the things best seen from the eyes of a young boy on a bicycle.

The thing in the wicker basket ceased to exist. The grinning gasping people ceased to exist and Father was someone sitting in a chair, smoking his pipe.

Lars had reached the crest of Strawberry Hill and he lifted his feet, drifting and floating downward, letting the wind and rain and sunlight whirl past.

Mr. Nielson gently pulled Lars back in the wheelchair and rolled silently from the darkened tent into the afternoon.

The people were spa.r.s.e. They straggled by hoa.r.s.e vendors and still rides, yawning and shuffling.

Mr. Nielson forgot about the tent and began to talk.

"Well, we go home now. All day at the carnival, what, my son? Ah, Lars, I tell you, Mama should not have stayed home. Now you feel good, you will be a fine man and think, eh Lars?"

Mr. Nielson picked leaves from overhanging branches as he walked, feeling good and pleased.

When he got into the car, he looked at his son's eyes.

"Lars, there is nothing wrong? You don't look like you feel so good."

Lars was going too fast to hear Father, the wind was shrieking too wildly. The green hills turning golden, the leaves from orange to white, and all the boys and girls riding behind him, chasing, trying to catch him.

He turned, laughing. "_Who's the sissy now, who's the sissy now!_"

Mr. Nielson scowled.

"_You'll never catch me, you'll never catch me!_"

"What, what is that you say?"

Lars sang into the wind as the children's voices grew faint. He waved his arms and pedaled with his legs and saw the beautiful hill stretching beneath him.

"_You just watch, you just watch!_"

The beautiful hill sloping gracefully downward and without an end.

end

Charles Beaumont - Selected Stories Part 65

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Charles Beaumont - Selected Stories Part 65 summary

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