BY DR. AGONSON
Ducking out of the boisterous fair when I saw approaching me a band of feathery dancers, which excited a somewhat lude compulsion within, I suddenly entered a quiet tent of curiosities. At a glance this seemed the place one would find sabers engraved with, “Presented to H. in World War I,” a photograph of men assembling the first camera, or an aerial shot of the Wright Brothers about to take off. Indeed, I was an incredulous visitant, a disbelieving ghost, but paid for the relative peace by keeping my own. I also was wont to pay some five dollars, a sum derived not from an entry fee but a certain bribe to the wizened curator. Without a further word than what my money spake, did he busy himself elsewhere. Thus I could mostly count myself alone, and nurse my aching heart.
The dancers, their well-formed and energetic legs shining with oil, and their abundance uncovered in certain quick ducks and weaves, all choreographed in their continual invitation—what should a carnival dance mean to me? I interrupted myself. A table of rusted metal presented itself to my eyes, and I studied the prematurely aged labels and their bleeding penmanship reminiscent of a felt tip—anachronism upon anachronism. Here, I learned about a twisted rifle, reading off its cue-card some laughable tale regarding a general famous for his hunting. The little cannon seemed to have gotten plugged, and an unexpected rupture had destroyed his family. A good story, but I didn’t credit it any more than I thought those women’s smiles represented their hearts. It was the smile of a body, a contortion of muscles designed and practiced to mimic the real, and this was just as manufactured.
I thumped my knuckles against the stained tablecloth and wandered on. Here was a glass case, Excalibur within, no doubt. Ha! The old man was not so crude. Just a sword of some imprecise date which I could read off the card. Let the imagination, let sick romanticism, fill in the rest. It had no scabbard, but I’m sure it did once. I’m sure it was drawn from its comfortable home only to penetrate the flesh of some stranger. Did the soldier remember to clean his sword, protect its dignity, before returning it to its mate? Yet it never got so dirty that it could not go home. How ludicrous, I wanted to hold the thing. I dreamed I would chop to bits some ogre with my dauntless steel, and afterwards were the thankful, smiling dancers I saved.
What was this noise within me I could not avoid? Was not there some distraction from this fruitless yearning? Why did everything lead back to those poor girls with their bright feathers? I tired of life then, and amid this tent of lies wished to add my own, to put forth some article of my own history for some quiet wanderer to spare a brief glance over.
Silhouetted by the sun against the canvas tent was a solitary dancer. Her limbs exploded from her as she leaped and twirled. The sun must be low now for the light to be cast so, my day coming to an end. Yet I owned the carnival. The people would leave the dancer and return home, yet I would stay here with her. I was of the body, and all I could return to is dust.