Short stories

The Man Without Pain

Come see The Man Without Pain says a painted sign. You follow the childish finger. The Man Without Pain is very ugly. The sign says a coin only. To reach The Man Without Pain’s tent you had to pass fleas that dance; fat ladies with huge breasts and beards; a giant as strong as Samson; dwarves that fight and maybe for extra coins fuck; skeletal women that dance and show their bald – yes, like plucked chickens – cunts; balloon-headed babies preserved in Mason jars with overgrown penises. You stand in the line. Hands stuffed in pockets. Fingers fidget with the coin. You think should I, is it worth it, shouldn’t I see the skeletal women with the hairless cunts instead. You peek over shoulders and wonder what is going on in the tent. You shuffle forward. Your breathing is quick, uneven, loud.  The cigarette hardly keeps the coals orange. Two carnies, smoking rolledup cigarettes and drinking moonshine from crack mugs, stand by the entrance. Dice roll over a sheet of wood. Loose money weighed down by the moonshine jar. They converse in a bewildering argot. “Fuck me” and “I anal fucked her.” They are there to break up the trouble and look after The Man Without Pain. The queue shuffles forward. Here the air is thick with cigarette smoke and boasting, “it will be over in one” and “I am going to picture my wife”.  What you think is popcorn in the muddy grass is a molar. It is your turn to drop a coin into the battered bowler hat. A nod. Ticket. A cloud of suffocating cigar smoke. Tattoos on a big arm. You enter. Eyes adjust. Breathing hard to do. Heart beats fast. The Man Without Pain is sitting, motionless and expressionless, on an old chair.  Six or seven kerosene lamps illuminate the inside of the tent. The smell of sweat and iron confuses you. The queue jolts. “Baby slap!” You are standing not on grass but sloppy mud that clings. A gramophone plays music, fast jazz, the Devil’s music, loud.  “Next,” says a sexy carnie showing a lot of leg and breasts. Whack! “Next!” To get here you had to walk past the Ping-Pong Ball & Fish Bowl and the Dime Pitch and the Duck Pond and the Cross-Bow Shoot and the Stand the Bottle. “Next!” A doctor with the first stages of Alzheimer’s showing sits behind The Man Without Pain drinking moonshine and smoking a thin cigar. “Next!” The sexy carnie is not that sexy.  Missing teeth. A deep scar on the right cheek. Eyes crossed. You step forward. Here the crowd is rowdy. Fights break out. “Hit him hard son.” Professional fighters show up and gamble on how quickly they can knock The Man Without Pain out.  You form a fist. “Next!”  A couple in the excitement start to fuck. She drapes a leg. He slips it in. They do it standing up. You have never seen it happen like this before. You can’t watch. “Move it jackass.”  You step forward. You realize the black paint hides the coagulated blood splatter. You look at your fist and compute the damage it could achieve if connected perfectly with the face. You make-believe a Boxing Ring surrounded by cheering Multitudes. You are about to fight the heavyweight Champ of the World for the belt. Fame. Riches. Women. The fucking couple look like they are dancing. “Next!” Fighting tongues. Four hands grabbing two behinds. “Next!” Gyrating. You see an exposed breast with an erect nipple. You hear the slap of flesh.  “Next!” It is you now. Your turn. The Man Without Pain closes his eyes. Teeth missing.  Nose broken. Lips split and hemorrhaging. Skin swollen and swelling and discolored.  Breathing even. You step forward. You pull back the fist. The line behind you inhales. “Go on!” and “Make it a good one!”. You tell yourself that The Man Without Pain is a bad man. You say he is a Banker. A Politician. The Hobo that made love to your wife and stole your good coat. There are two buckets. One holds cold water. The other blood and a sponge. You see a shadow move. It could be his wife. You heard he is married to contortionist and she is reportedly beautiful. You spit. You hate the bastard! The fucker! The cunt! When your fist lands on the face of The Man Without Pain it is you that winces, that huffs, that groans, that spits, that recoils in pain. He is expressionless, motionless, void.

Larry Caomhánach

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