19
May
10

apartment pupil

Listen, Sam, I’ve done a lot of different acts during my long career as a vaudeville performer. From the time I started out in show business as a 6 year-old juggler of flaming scimitars in a traveling medicine show, I’ve never turned down an idea for an act outright without at least trying it first, but I think you’ve overstepped your bounds here with this request.

My credentials as a seasoned professional are unquestioned, but I know when an act is beneath the little that remains of my human dignity, which after decades in show business is a part of my psyche that I had begun to think of as largely vestigial, right up until the moment you walked into my trailer to discuss this latest show idea with me. And bear in mind, Sam, that these words are being spoken by a man who once spent nine months training an actual working flea circus out of his pubic lice.

For the sake of the show, I’ve suffered it all without complaint, gladly putting myself in harm’s way so that people could come and forget their troubles for a while. No doubt you recall the time I grew my nose hair out super long and used it to play Scott Joplin songs on the piano while being lowered into a glass tank filled with poisonous snakes. Or my sold-out run of ribald, tawdry shows in which I played popular war hymns of the day on a homemade pan flute at a virtuoso level as fire ants ate away at the cotton-candy tuxedo I was wearing to reveal a fig leaf so small as to leave no doubt about the paltry size of my manhood. Of course, I don’t even need to mention my mercifully short stint as one half of the comedy duo Awful & Rancid, whose jokes fell so flat that I finally had to resort to some extemporaneous slapstick humor, rolling around naked in a pile of mousetraps just to keep the audience from rising up and drowning us in the river. Yessir, I’ve made a spectacle of myself on every stage from one coast to the other, all for the reward of an uneasy night’s rest atop a smattering of elephant urine-dampened hay in a boxcar bound for the next rube-infested hamlet.

Oh, if I only had my wasted youth back to undo the damage I have wrought to my own esteem over the years! I ran away from home foolishly seeking adventure, eschewing the luxurious life I had been leading as the tiny-sailor-suit-wearing, oversized-lollipop-wielding only child of a wealthy industrialist, and to what end? Though the roar of the crowd has buoyed me through difficult times in the past, its effectiveness as a balm has lessened considerably over time, and I have come to continually regret the decisions that have led me to a few too many of the indignities of road life, including the recent brutal killing of a squirrel who had won the last slice of pizza from me fair and square in a game of five-card stud.

I may be a toothless illiterate, Sam, but I have my pride, and this level of act just won’t cut it anymore. I’ve earned the right to a little editorial oversight. It’s not like I haven’t been a loyal soldier; I didn’t even flinch when you handed me that ventriloquist act script that called for the dummy to stab me in the leg with a pencil.

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