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Around The Sun: Illustrated Man

Steve Harrison chats to a man with horns.

I met an illustrated man one day. He was tattooed from head to foot. Even the insides of his ears and his eyelids were tattooed. He’d had his finger and toe nails removed so he could be tattooed underneath them before they grew back.
His teeth were all silver-plated. Two pieces of coral had been implanted beneath his scalp. These made it seem as though he was growing horns.

He was, and still is, something to behold!

You can be sure he isn’t a banker or an accountant. He is a street performer, a colourful escapologist. He attracts an audience by swallowing rocket fuel, igniting it, then breathing out huge gusts of fire. He then swallows an enormous sword. As a finale he dons a straight jacket, gets a member of his audience to handcuff him, then His finale was to get some of the audience to handcuff him, then he gets into a large hessian mail bag.

There is writhing and wriggling, moaning and groaning…then he emerges, free of handcuffs, to great applause.

A hat is passed around. Hands go into pockets. Then he wanders off while the crowd settles down to watch some other entertainer.

I saw him perform a number of times. I was fascinated by his show. He was a terrific performer. I was sure he had a tale to tell. Then one day I literally bumped into him as he walked away after a performance. “Great show,’’ I told him. “Fancy a beer?’’

“Are you buying?’’ he asked. When I nodded he accepted the invitation.

“Why all the tattoos? I inquired. An obvious question, but it had to be asked.

He said he got his first tattoo about five years ago, a small one. Things had gone on from there. And yes, he had had his manhood tattooed.

It wasn’t an easy, comfortable conversation. After one beer I was stuggling to find words. “You must be the most honest man in the world,’’ I said.

“How’s that?’’ he asked.

“Well if you snatch a handbag or go shoplifting and run off, they are not going to struggle to give a description. A geezer tattooed from head to foot, with horns. You’re not going to get one witness saying he went that way, and another saying I saw someone just like that going the other way.’’

I don’t think he liked my line of questioning, or my conclusion.

“Gotta go,’’ he said, and waltzed off up the street.

I was about to say he disappeared into the crowd, but… A man with horns? Disappearing? Come on!

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