The Hunch-Back (in the style of The Hitman by T.C. Boyle)
By Katherine Horrex
By the age of nine the Hunch-Back is aware that he has no place. He questions the existence of everything he sees and it is not until he grows shady from first stubble and hard with distracting pubescent bulk that he gains any sense of purpose, or raison d'etre if you will, for he is half French.
It is his mother to which the French in him must be attributed, and to his mother alone
that he returns in the evenings, his purpose now throbbing against the confines of his conscience.
They never talk except to make phatic exchanges regarding their activities, or to discuss the
next trifling meal.
This continues until the Hunch-Back hits eighteen, or rather eighteen hits him.
He comes in from the claustrophobic sky and stands; a squat shadow in the cavernous hall.
The old walls return his "I'm home" threefold and he finds no note of explanation.
The Hunch-Back is nineteen and works two jobs. He needs both since moving to the city. During the day he assists Mr. Binary in the running of his small grocery business. In the latter hours the Hunch-Back collects glasses for Bernie of Bernie's Bar. Though more adept at his PM job he prefers the company of vegetables. For one thing, potatoes are indifferent towards him, viewing him squarely through muddied eyes. Artichokes at least have hearts.
Leaving his den for work on Tuesday morning, the Hunch-Back spies his purpose on a brick wall.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! What you have all been waiting for- the incredible, the immortal, the all-seeing sage!" This is the Hunch-Back's cue. He finishes feeding scraps to the restless beasts and shuffles into the big-top's ring. His face is smeared in cloying green powder and he is almost suffocated by a dirty shroud. The crowd gasps and people crane from their seats to see him. "You will make much money", he says to one man, "You must leave him" he says to a woman who faints.
He is twenty-two. He sees the newspaper stand- its shelves act as branches to the outside world. On the front page of every paper is a photograph which arrests the Hunch-Back. It is the dumb moon of his mother. He asks the man to read the article to him. It says she has been dragged from the Severn.
The Hunch-Back is still twenty two when the ring-leader introduces him to the Goddess of Plenty; a lady named Esmerelda. She invites the Hunch-Back in and smiles as he gazes into the eyes of her six breasts. "Here you alone can look. Here you alone can touch".
There is the smell of incense. The Hunch-Back tells the rich lady her future and she invites him to her bedroom. Four rouged women lie panting across the bed, the shadows of three men cast across their pale bodies.
The Hunch-Back has realised his purpose, having made much money in exchange for the caresses of the rich,
and his surroundings reflect this.
He does not care for books and yet he owns three oak cases filled with names such as Balzac and Turgenev. He never entertains guests at his apartment and yet owns three easy-chairs and two chairs with high-backs.
But now he lies ill, hot beneath the thick quilts of his bed and tormented by the fingers of pallid, insipid women- fat, jewelled fingers running across his body, its raw scabrous flesh no longer fit for touching by anyone. His nose is rotting and held in place by a rough mask. On the table beside him stands a photograph attesting further to his completion. It features two well-known visages; that of the Hunch-Back's, and that of the Queen of England's.
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A final power chord growled through the Marshall stack, reverberating triumphantly and the lead
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'Sorry, Sal. I shouldn't have done that.'
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I put two large lumps of coal
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Sandy (tears in her eyes): But, Jonas, I love you.
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