Dixie

The sideshow acts had been run-of-the-mill. I saw a bearded lady and a man who ate glass. At the end of a line of tents sat one with no sign. The barker invited me in and I asked what I would see.

“Something that must be seen to be believed.”

While I was making up my mind, three men entered. I waited a minute to see if they would come out disappointed. They didn’t.

“Why is it so quiet in there?” I asked the barker.

“Once you see it, you’re struck dumb with amazement!”

I paid my money and went in.

Behind a burlap sheet was a room, in the middle of which a man sat on a folding chair. The men I saw enter stood looking at him, mouths agape. I took a good look at him myself. He was dressed well, in glossy shoes and slacks, a fitted vest over a pristine white shirt. His suit jacket was slung over the back of the chair. The part in his black hair was straight as a ruler. His hands rested on his knees, his eyes slightly downcast, his mouth forming a subtle smile.

I looked to the men standing agape and back to the man in the chair.

“What am I here to see?” I said.

“Silence,” commanded the main in the chair.

The tent was dim, but there was a light on the man the source of which I couldn’t find. It was as if he himself glowed. There was a serene intensity in his face, and his eyebrows moved in subtle, expressive ways. I felt myself transfixed, agape like the others.

The thought crossed my mind that he was a hypnotist. That was his shtick. I leaned to the man next to me and said as softly as I could, “Is he a hypt…”, but the man raised his hand and shushed me.

I turned back to the man on the chair and again felt myself strangely transfixed. His head seemed to expand like a sponge taking on water, seemed to rise and separate from his neck. What an amazing visual effect! But it was just my own fancy, not something the man was doing. (At least I didn’t think so.) I looked at the other spectators again. One was rubbing the whiskers on his chin and leaning an ear towards the man. Another had his eyes closed.

“What the devil,” I thought. “What is the act?” I thought of things I might be doing, like sitting down for the first time that day and maybe drinking a beer. I turned to go, but couldn’t. I felt immobilized. I lifted my hand to look at it, and it seemed distant, not my own somehow. I lifted a foot to prove to myself that it could be done, but put it back down in the same spot.

“Well, this is some kind of trick, I suppose,” I thought. How had the man fixed me to that spot? But it was ridiculous. I shook my head and let out an exasperated sigh, which elicited a sharp glance from my neighbor. It was no trick. I couldn’t leave simply because I was still curious, and I could see the other three were so full of expectation. I could not miss the show after paying my entrance fee. So I stood and I looked, and waited, and tried to read something in the dance of eyebrows.

But the stillness was oppressive, and I resented the neat part on the man’s head. I resented my own lack of initiative. Was I such a sheep that I would not leave while the other men stayed?

And then a sound, a song–from within the man a faint creaking whistling song that grew louder. It soon sounded like a little orchestra, and he opened his mouth and it came out bright and tinny like an old radio. The man was playing Dixie on his internal organs. The man next to me looked at me and smiled and nodded, and when it was over I clapped and laughed with glee, forgetting and forgiving all.

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