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Around The Sun: Illustrated Man

Sreve Harrison tells of the most honest man in the world.

I met an illustrated man. He was tattooed from head to foot. The insides of his ears and his eyelids were tattooed. His teeth were silver-plated. His finger and toe nails had been removed so that he could be tattooed before they grew back again.

Two pieces of coral had been implanted in his scalp. They seemed to grow and looked like a pair of horns.

He wasn't a banker, that's for sure. Or an accountant. He was a street performer. An escapologist. To draw a crowd he took rocket fuel into his mouth then blew it out in a great gust of fire. Then he swallowed an enormous sword. After that he got a member of the audience to fasten him into a straight jacket, chain him up then tie him into a large hessian mail bag. There was writhing and wriggling, moans and groans, then he would emerge from the sack triumphant to great applause.

A hat was then passed around. Hands went into pockets. Then he would wander off while some other entertainer held the crowd.

I saw him a number of times. I was fascinated by his act. I thought he would have quite a story to tell.

Ine day I literally bumped into him as he was walking away from Circular Quay in Sydney. "Great show,'' I told him. "Fancy a beer?''

"Are you buying?'' he asked.

"Sure.''

I asked him why he had so many tattooes. He became animated. He had started out with one small tattoe, and it had escalated from there over five years. Even his manhood had been tattoed. I can't say the conversation made me feel comfortable.

“You’ve got to be the most honest man in the world,'' I said.

"How's that?'' he asked.

"Well if you snatched a handbag, or shoplifted, or whatever, you'd be easy to spot. Have you seen a man with horns tattoed from head to foot run this way? There won't be three geezers fitting that description.''

I don't think he liked my line of reasoning.

"Gotta go,'' he said and headed off up George Street.

I was on the point of saying he disappeared into the crowd. But he didn't.

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