Hidden Freak, Part 3

And now, the conclusion of this week’s story-in-the-round, Hidden Freak. If you missed the previous installments, authored by S.C. Green and Amy K. Nichols, respectively, part one is here, part two here.

Hidden Freak, Part 3

A man lounged at the Gulfstream’s cramped kitchenette, shuffling a pack of cards between webbed fingers. A rainbow clown wig sat askew on his head, a half smoked Marlboro Red smoldered in a tin ashtray at his elbow.“Hello Robert.”

“How do you know my name?” blurted Bobby.

“It’s my business to know.” He flicked a card at Bobby, who caught it on reflex.“Not bad, Robert. You know, you could play basketball, if you really wanted. But you don’t want to.”

Bobby turned the card over.

DR. GIGGLES, ESQUIRE. MD PHD PHARSEE

— was scrawled over the joker’s face.

“My calling card,” said Dr. Giggles. “Ah, Cecil, I see you back there. Don’t be shy.”

Red-faced, Fix shouldered his way past Bobby. “Don’t nobody call me that.”

“Hmm,” said Dr. Giggles, setting aside his pack in favor of the cigarette butt.

“Where’s my card?”

“You don’t get one, Cecil. You’re not a freak. In fact, I’d venture to say you’re perfectly, completely, hideously normal.”

“Who you callin’ hideous, you frog-palmed weirdo?” Fix started forward, raising his fist. Bobby winced, but Dr. Giggles caught the punch in one of his webbed hands.

“And now, for my vanishing trick.”

Fix disappeared.

Dr. Giggles banged on the wall of the Gulfstream. “Send in the clowns!”

The forest outside echoed with laughter. A chainsaw roared to life, and the laughter redoubled.

Dr. Giggles pushed aside a frowsy curtain to peek out the trailer’s window. “What delight. I love a good laugh, don’t you?”

“What did you do with him?”

“Oh Robert, don’t fret over your miscreant friend.” Dr. Giggles snubbed out his butt. “I only gave him what he really wanted.”

“Fix only likes breaking stuff.”

“Precisely. He wants to break. Now, he is breaking.” He picked up his pack of cards and cut. “So, my seven-foot friend, would you like to see the show? More importantly, would you like to be the show? You can join us if you want. The wages are paltry, but I promise you this: No one will ever laugh at you again.” The cards made a ripping sound as he shuffled them. “We don’t tolerate that sort of foolery here.”

“I just want to be smaller,” stuttered Bobby.

“As small as your courage,” murmured Dr. Giggles, his eyes gleaming, “As small as your wit.”

“No,” cried Bobby. His skin crawled, itched, burned as he fumbled for the door handle. The lever would not give.

“Good luck, Robert Thumbkin,” said Dr. Giggles. “Enjoy your adventures, and remember I promise you this: As your soul grows, so shall you. And, to paraphrase a song about a far better man than I, if you ever wish to receive me, only say the word and I shall be there.”

The door swung open and Bobby bounded out of the Gulfstream, no longer needing to crouch, and ran through the forest. His shoes tripped and plopped right off his feet. His pants fell down, catching around his knees. Bobby kicked them off and kept going, his sweatshirt dipping down to cover his nakedness until it too slid off, the neck hole slipping down his belly. Shivering, Bobby looked for a burrow to hide in.

It was twilight, and the owls were waking.

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