Hidden Freak

Pine Grove had the unfortunate claim to be one of the most boring towns in Nowhere, America. Sure, if some ambitious soul in town were to write a brochure –and Bobby was positive there wasn’t– it’d have words like “peaceful,” “relaxing” or “pleasant” throughout it’s bland pages. Whatever the spin, it still meant boring.

That was until the carnival came to town.

From what Bobby could tell, it wasn’t really a carnival. He didn’t see any rides being built up other than a Ferris wheel on the far end. It was more like a sideshow gone rogue.

“I tell you, Fix,” Bobby said for the umpteenth time. “It’s better than a proper circus.”

“Would you just listen to yourself.” Fix paused before saying what he’s also now said for the umpteenth time. “There’s no getting better than a proper circus. In fact it cain’t call itself a circus if it ain’t proper.”

Despite Fix’s protestations he followed Bobby to the clearing just outside of town where the not-circus was setting up. By cutting through the woods and hopping the creek bed they were able to get there in half the time as taking the main roads. Not to mention they might be able to get a good look before getting kicked out. That’s when Bobby first realized he planned to do something worth getting kicked out for. No sense getting around it, so he embraced it with both trouble-wielding arms.

“Everyone knows the best part of a circus is the sideshow. The freaks.” Bobby was going to leave it at that, but then felt he needed to clarify. “The freaks that don’t mind being freaks.”

“There you go not making sense again.”

Fix stopped in a bank of pines to dig in his pocket. The light that made it through the boughs wasn’t enough to make the grass grow more than tufts here and there, but the layers of fallen pine needles made up for it, making the ground spongy and easy to walk on. Fix plucked out a pouch of chewing tobacco and pinched a generous lump under his lower lip. After pitting a few stray bits out he continued.

“What kind of freak don’t mind being a freak? As sure as hell would mind if I was a freak.”

This is where Bobby had some experience in. At fifteen he was just shy of seven feet tall. Put like that it ain’t so bad. But when he started school at almost two heads taller than the second tallest kid, he got labeled a freak. And even though by high school some kids started catching up, old labels were near impossible to shake. Maybe if he could’ve land a basket more than two out of ten times, he could’ve traded labels for basketball star. Now he’s just the Tall Guy, though he could still hear the underlying “freak” in its subtext.

“If the bearded lady wasn’t okay with being a freak, she’d shave. Since she’s alright with her freakness, she sits in a booth and makes money off your curiosity. If the fat–”

“I get your point.” Fix cut in and punctuated with a brown glob of spit. “Still no proper circus.”

“I wouldn’t think a sideshow would need clowns.”

This got Fix’s attention. He hated clowns. He was always breaking his little sisters clown dolls. Said they made him angry and couldn’t control smashing them. I think they scared him, but knew better than to ever tell it to his face.

Fix might have been a foot shorter than Bobby, but he made up for it in muscle. See, Fix didn’t get his name because he fixed things. He broke things. It might have started out on accident, but I think somewhere along the way he got used to the attention and kept breaking things. He got to hearing “You gonna fix that” in one form or another so much, the name just made itself.

“It might not be proper, but it sounds like it could be better,” Fix conceded. He got up and started their journey back up.

If Bobby knew it would the last time he saw Fix, he would’ve never mentioned clowns.

To be continued…