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Memoirs of a Sword Swallower Excerpt: Setting up; Jolly Daisy; the Clem

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“Did you get the fat lady?” asked Bronko.

“Yes, she’s out in the truck.” Mountmorency poured himself a cup of almost boiling coffee. “Krinko and Jake are laying planks against the tailboard so she can get down. I don’t know if she can make it in here. She’ll have to walk a couple of hundred feet.”

“What’s the matter with her?” demanded Lu.

“She’s just so damned big it’s hard for her to walk.”

The blackflap was lifted from outside and Jake, the ticket seller, slipped in. He tied the canvas up to a sidepole, leaving a triangular-shaped opening. Through this came the fat lady, gripping the staggering Krinko to steady herself. She weighed almost seven hundred pounds, nearly half a ton, and was dressed in a fantastic imitation of a little girl to exaggerate her huge size. Her fluffy pink dress was through with sweat and her thick legs, only partially covered by her socks, were barely able to support the great mass of her body swaying uncertainly above them. Her fat baby’s face looked around despairingly as if seeking some place to drop her vast bulk.

“Where’s a bed?” she gasped, her breath wheezing in her over-taxed lungs. “For God’s sake, leave me lay down!”

“Right here, lady!” called Captain Billy. He had produced a folding iron bed from somewhere and was opening it up. The fat lady stared through him vaguely through short-sighted eyes, running a spongy hand through her blonde hair and automatically adjusting her blue hair ribbon. Supported by Krinko and the wiry ticket seller, she staggered across the tent and collapsed on the iron cot. Instantly all four legs disappeared into the ground. The woman lay there, a mountain of exhausted flesh covered with pink silk.

“Oh God, I think I’m dying!” she moaned. Perspiration was trickling off her nose and the ends of her fingers. She had only lain on the bed a few seconds and already it was wringing wet.

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