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Memoirs of a Sword Swallower Excerpt: Billie & Bud; Cal & Daisy

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The fat woman sat staring at the ridiculous little pink bows on her huge shoes. Then she sighed,

“It’s all my own fault for trying to get married and pretend I’m a normal woman. I ain’t normal and there’s no use pretending I am. I’m a freak . . . jest like you and everyone else in a carny.”

“Everyone with a carny isn’t a freak, Daisy,” I ventured.

“Oh yes they are. Maybe it don’t show on the outside like it does with me, but everybody ‘with it’ is some kind of freak. They ain’t none of them normal. Look at May, crazy in love with her snakes, and Captain Billy having himself covered with tattooing trying to be an out-and-out freak like me, and even you – a college graduate swallowing swords and eating fire when you knew all along it was liable to kill you. I’m a freak because I gotta be, but somebody like you is making a freak out of himself because deep down inside you’ve got a craving for it. And the longer you’re ‘with it,’ the more of a freak you’ll get until pretty soon you can’t be happy anywhere except in the carny where there’re other freaks for you to be with.”

Although the fat woman was speaking a dull, monotonous voice I felt my flesh crawl as though she were delivering a curse.

For the first time Daisy raised her eyes and looked at me. Usually the fat woman’s face was young and full of life, but now the folds of fat seemed to hang from it and she looked very old.

“What country do you think you’ve been living in for the last six months?”

“The United States, I suppose.”

“No, you ain’t. The United States stops at the marquee out there.” Daisy pointed at the canvas walls in the direction of the main gate of the carnival. “You been living in a world that ain’t on any map…”

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