A stranger appeared from across
The alley and though he wore
A plastic army helmet he assured
Us that he came in peace. Others
Had thrown rocks at him, he confided,
More puzzled than hurt, gesturing
Vaguely toward the neighborhood
Around Grand and Western Avenues.
But he had not put a curse on them,
He said, though he did possess that
Power. He mentioned that the power
Of flight was also his: that night he
Would fly across Lake Michigan.
The boy called King Fat then stepped
Forward. He said, 'Stranger, you
Have done well. What is your name?
But really 'tis no matter, for now you
Are one of us, and you will be called
The Cross-eyed Double-jointed Freak!
Look here: we have buried a dead turtle
And each day at this hour we dig it up,
To show what is usually kept hidden.'
But the Freak, sighing and glancing
This way and that, demurred. He said,
'The macabre fascinations of childhood
Exert no hold on me. Death especially
I shun! You see, friends, I came down
With rheumatic fever a few years ago
Which irreversibly damaged my heart,
And it is my fate to die soon.
But perhaps my death is not
Wholly a bad thing, for I am
One of those beings who in the
State of nature -- in primeval forest
Or primordial soup -- would have
Perished after a month or so,
Leaving everyone better off.'
And with mirthless laugh he
Added, 'Everyone, including myself!'
Taking this in and mulling it over,
King Fat said, 'Then let the dead turtle
Be forgotten, nor have we further need
Of anything along morbid lines beyond
The Cross-eyed Double-jointed Freak
Himself! His androgynous quality, his
Peculiar turns of phrase, the dark mystery
Of his origin, and his self-proclaimed
Tragic destiny will satisfy our interests
For a very long time. Whatever he wants
Therefore -- ice cream, comic books,
Soft drinks -- he shall have, and though
We are of a peaceful kind we shall wage
War against anyone who annoys him!'
Now King Fat addressed the Freak:
'How can we serve you, brother?
What can we give you today, or
Tomorrow, or in some future time?
Pez dispensers, bean blowers,
Jawbreakers, candy bars, ball gloves,
Slingshots, ladyfingers, atom pearls,
Jujubes, sparklers, punks, even
A Daisy brand Red Ryder bb gun --
What does your heart desire? Speak.'
The Freak considered this proffered
Bounty, booty, abundance, overflowing
Cornucopia of whatever he did not want.
And here I aver that at no time during
These proceedings had I spoken
One word, nor had I in any way
Drawn to myself the stranger's
Awareness much less his sharp
Attention. Slouching, I stood off
To one side, hands in pockets,
Shifting from foot to foot uneasily,
A minor player, neither first nor last
In the brutal pecking order, yeoman,
Burgher, middle class citizen, small
Shopkeeper, non-com, union plumber,
Rabbi of reform congregation Shmelke
Pinchas in Elmhurst or Lombard,
Chipping ice from the temple's front
Steps on the first night of Chanukah
Lest an old Jew fall and sue. Think then
How my blood froze when the Freak
Seized my T-shirted arm with fierce
But fragile grip, crossed eyes
Milky through thick lenses, voice
Shockingly like that of Jerry Lewis:
'You would give me popsicles, which
I care nothing for! Remember me!'