Illustrat3D Man

Two boys at the fair, Miles and Jericho, run down the concourse — past the Whirlybird with its diamond strings rigged to dozens of children doused with antigraviton powder; past the midway, where $100 buys you five shots with a tickle lazer at a small cloned lion, who roars and jumps, and if he jumps above the neon line, you win a prize, an xray wand, a singing sunflower, or one of those miniature robot butlers who always power down after a couple of days — they run past these minor entertainments, headed for the freak tent.

“Step up, step up! Quickly, now!” cries the Bonewrecker, a burly, muttonchopped man who snaps each of his fingers in two with a series of grisly pops, giving Miles and Jericho a scare, only to shake his hands out to reveal that each finger has fully rejuvenated. The boys move. into the dank, narrow folds of the tent. They pass the Needle-Bearded Lady, her face full of razor sharp steel wool. They pass the Bat Kid, whose leathery skin rattles and flaps, whose eyes glitter blind and yellow, until a high whistle sounds, and he explodes into a hundred pairs of hairy wings and clutching teeth, a hundred raving screeches.

They find the man they’re looking for. He sits crosslegged on a table in the center of a room with walls of pitched canvas. Three dim glowballs hang in the air. He’s naked except for a pair of black shorts, bald, and he fixes the boys with an inscrutable gaze that flashes, suddenly, like unexpected lightning, into a leering grin. He puts his palms on the tabletop, lifts himself up, throws himself to the floor, where he stands, fists on his waist, his body covered entirely with dark shapes and colors that appear, at first, to be still…

Above the line of his waist sits an enormous, purple Jabba, who licks his lips and mutters gutturals and reaches toward a pink bulbed tank centered over the navel, and draws out a squealing black crustacean he pops into his slimy mouth. Along his chest hangs a flock of blackbirds. They burst into action, recede, vanish into a sudden, twilight darkening, until the birds disappear, a pink sky trembles…and the boys jump as the same flock reappears out of nowhere, flapping and cawing and receding, once again, toward the hint of a setting sun.

Snakes and dragons and squids writhe up and down the man’s arms. Trees sway along his hairless legs, and when he turns around, on his back, a burlesque show is just getting started.