the pearl

Freak Show

I built this cage over fifty years ago, y'know. The wood's still the same from when I had my first geek, back when we toured all over the South and the Plains with a sharp eye and a wide smile. The chains are loose and rusty, but that's okay, 'cause they're just for show. If you're gonna have a wildman in the show, you gotta have the chains, even if he's the most mild-mannered one you've met, even with that goddamned scary half-dog half-man face of his.

He's smart. And artistic, if the pictures he keeps on drawin' on the wall with charcoal and ashes prove anythin'. Pictures of people and places that there's no way he could've ever seen...not if you believe his story of bein' born in the Washington forest, away from all civilization until a kind elderly trapper found him and taught him to read and write and love the Good Lord, Jesus Christ.

That part always gets the old folks. Nothin' like a God-fearin' freak to make them sentimental. Wherever we go, they just sit there, right up next to the screen, with their rosaries and crosses and when he says it, in that rough Spanish of his, they smile and nod.

Yeah, it's a class routine he's got goin' right now. I've been tourin' for nearly fifty years now, and I ain't seen anyone with a spiel like his — ain't ever seen anyone with a face like his either, but, hell, with all the crap that's been in the air and the water and everythin', I suspect we'll get a few more freaks, 'specially down here in Mexico... And there ain't nothin' like a home-grown freak show to draw in the rubes, let me tell you.

'Cept I ain't gettin' rid of this boy. I don't care how many goddamned hombres with infinite number of eyes and tails I pick up...this boy is special.

I know I've said that about a lot of the kids I've had...and hell, if I didn't I wouldn't be workin' in this line of business, 'cause all the kids're special...but this one...

It's like he's had everythin' in the world. Like he was livin' the happiest life wherever he was, whatever he's been drawin' on the walls of his cell, and then, suddenly, it all just stopped.

So now he's here, and he can spend hours just talkin' to people — he likes talkin' to the kids and the old folks most of all, but he just talks to them, talkin' about everythin' from the way the crops aren't growin' or how the government's rippin' them off or which doll is the prettiest. Just sittin' there, talkin' to them, like the educated savage he's supposed to be, and then, like he's turnin' a switch or somethin', it's time to toss the chicken into the cage and it's all teeth and snarls, white feathers and blood, and...

None of these kids have ever scared me. But the smile this boy has — that sharp vicious grin covered in blood and chicken guts — that still scares me. After tourin' with him for over a year, it still scares me.

And the rubes all see it too. They see what he is, and what he ain't, and it changes their...whaddya call it...their perceptions of what they are. 'Cause despite all the shit that they're goin' through, they ain't him, ya know?

And they can go home and pray to Jesus that they never turn out like him.

Never turn out like Oz, the Wolfman of Washington.


This Angel/Buffy the Vampire Slayer story was written by Kate Bolin. If you liked it, there's plenty more at And you can feedback her at