art by Void lon iXaarii
The Strongest Man in the World
by Nathaniel Lee
The strongest man in the world is trapped inside the closet. The doorknob rattles and shakes, but I have placed a chair beneath it, angled like so, and the rug has kinked beneath it and it will not move. That is how you do trapping people in closets. I know the trick, and I have used it against him.
In the bathroom, the clown is still sobbing into the toilet bowl, into which I flushed his bright red rubber nose, the one that goes honk-honk when you squeeze it, and into which I further flushed his electric handshake joy-buzzer and squirting flower, which is visible peeping out from the dark shadows of the U-bend and emitting periodic bubbles. Strings and other such items--for example plastic flower stems--are tremendously bad for toilet pipes, and I should have remembered better. Still, it is enough to trap a clown. It is possible his nose would have been enough, but a thing worth doing is worth doing well, as someone once said to me. I believe he had a sweater, the man who said it.
The clown's tears have filled the bowl. If he cries much longer it will begin to overflow. Clown tears are not salty, but sweet and sticky, like the liquid in the carnivorous pitcher plant that lures and traps the insects that are its food. They are harmless, once you have removed their buzzers and disarmed them of any paddling sticks, and their tears are an important source of antioxidants and Vitamin B. This is a useful thing to know about clowns.
When I return to the hallway, the strongest man in the world is crying, too. Strongmen's tears are not good for much of anything, and it annoys me to hear him.
I walk to the basement, where I have thrown the tightrope walker and the trapeze artist, first tying them tightly with their own wires and ropes. They would be able to escape, of course, if left to their own devices, for the wires and ropes are theirs. They have mastered these objects and may bid them to obey. However, they are creatures of the heights, and the basement is anathema to them. I open the door enough to peer into the depths and ensure that they remain in place, wedged between the washer and the dryer. They whimper and moan when the light touches them. A cockroach scuttles across the trapeze artist's oil-slicked hair.
Cockroaches are a good source of protein, but you cannot bring yourself to eat them until you are desperate because you fear and dislike things that remind you of uncleanliness. This is how your culture has poisoned your mind. I eat three cockroaches every day before breakfast in my continuing efforts to pursue total intellectual freedom. I recommend this practice strongly. They are crunchy.
Back in the hallway, the strongest man in the world is mumbling something. I can see his lips moving through the keyhole when I lower my eyes to peer in, but I will not listen. I hum loudly to myself, a jaunty and mocking tune, so as to block out the sound of his voice. The strongest man in the world cannot escape from his closet, no matter what he does, and if he cries again it will go the worse for him.
A thump from upstairs draws my attention. I maneuver past the spreading puddle of toilet water/clown tears with an agile little leap--perhaps I too will be a tightrope walker one day and be thrown likewise into the basement with the cockroaches, which I will eat with relish (but only metaphorically, as it is important to eat your cockroaches without adornment or processing)--and climb the stairs to the master bedroom. That is where I have chosen to keep the elephant because my mother has a waterbed. Elephants, once tipped onto their backs upon a waterbed, are helpless to climb down again. This is how all of the biggest and most popular elephants were once captured for the traveling circus shows, before the invention of the coal-fired mecha-elephant which now serves the same purpose. Fortunately for me, the elephant attached to this circus was a relic of the old days, and as a flesh-and-blood beast was easily suborned with peanuts and tricked onto my mother's bed.
However, I am displeased to discover that the lion tamer has successfully escaped from beneath the toppled bookshelf and is attempting to haul the elephant back onto her feet. I had thought him defanged, shorn of his bright jacket and vibrantly masculine mustachios, but clearly I have underestimated him. He has thrown his whip to her, and she has grasped it with her trunk, and he is in the midst of pushing the vanity under the elephant's derriere for a fulcrum (thus producing the thump which, you will recall, attracted my attention just as I was contemplating the plight of the strongest man in the world, whose pleas for mercy I was in imminent danger of unwillingly hearing).
The lion tamer sees my shadow stretching out upon the ground before him. I was desirous that he should do so and had turned on the hall light expressly for this purpose. I knew that the light would operate as I wished: we have replaced all of the bulbs in the house with compact fluorescents and so they rarely burn out.
My hundred-watt shadow falls before the lion tamer, and he quails. The elephant trumpets her distress as she rolls willy-nilly back onto the waterbed/elephant-trap. It is a measure of the excessive esteem in which I hold myself and the vanity which always I am striving to overcome that I initially attribute the lion tamer's reaction to my imposing presence. I speak here with irony, for I am and have always been short of stature and reedy, though I hope one day to achieve a fuller figure in my final growth (but never, not even in my wildest flights of fancy, have I believed that I will become as muscular and virile as the strongest man in the world, whom I have trapped in the downstairs hall closet with the mop and the bottle of Pine-Sol).
But no. It is not I who causes the lion tamer to reel in sheer monkey-piss terror, but rather he whose shadow in turn usurps my own in the harsh glare of the upstairs hall light, he whose power was likely the source of the lion tamer's untimely escape, having long been used to aiding that once-boldly-mustached man: to whit, the lion.
Having felt some kinship with the great beast, so unjustly caged, I had left the bathroom window open and given him a knowing wink, trusting that he would understand my intimation and steal for himself the freedom long denied him.
Alas, he did not.