Monday, February 1, 2016

If I Were You - Part 4 - A Cold Welcome

So hey, turns out stealing someone's body involves more difficulties than the actual theft itself.

After the first shock of the transition was over, Little Tom Little felt very much like a bean in a bass drum.  When he took a step, he went about four times as far as he thought he should have gone, a fact which occasioned his stumbling over a guy rope and almost losing his dignity in the lap of Matilda, the World's Fattest Woman.  He bowed with great difficulty and again misjudged his distance, almost knocking out his brains against a wagon side, so much further had he gone than he had expected.

Tom should have been more methodological in his soul transfers.  Start with a dwarf, get used to that sort of stature, then work your way up to an average human, then go for a towering German fellow.

Our... hero?  Has a moment of doubt when he sees the cool and distant look Matilda gives him, since as Little Tom Little he was doted upon by the woman and given lots of cookies, as if she were taking him for a boy.  Which means that once again a Hubbard hero is being coddled with sweets and motherly affection by a woman noteworthy for an exaggerated physical attribute.  Hmm.  If we had more cases I'd call it a trend.

But whatever, right?  Tom's big now!  So what if he almost loses his hat on low-hanging obstacles?  So what if people are scowling at him, almost as though they don't like or respect the ringmaster?  And so what if the real Schmidt is still out there in a little person's body?  With a bit of patience and the power of stature, Tom will now be able to fulfill his destiny as a lead performer in the circus.  Because when you have the power to swap bodies with anyone you come across, why settle for the sideshow, eh?

Despite his mental bluster that everything is going to work out, Tom grows more and more paranoid, particularly when Betty shoots him a strange look and Gordon the lion-tamer gives him a suspicious and hateful glare.  Perhaps Maizie talked to people about the magic books, warned them of Tom's plans?  Maybe they all know that inside the towering figure of Hermann Schmidt is the puny soul of Little Tom Little, and any minute now the whole circus is going to "fall upon him en masse and eat him up."  Suck that midget soul right out of his host body and nom nom nom all over it.

And then he bumps into Mrs. Johnson.  Or rather, she calls out "Hermann!" and it takes awhile for Tom to remember to answer to that name.  Tom is worried at her approach because of how differently she's treating 'Hermann' from Tom, and he doesn't really want to talk to her because he fears his "somewhat midgetish voice would betray him."  Huh.  We can't take this to mean that Tom-in-Schmidt sounds just like Little Tom Little, otherwise everyone would know instantly that something was up.  So how exactly does one speak in a "midgetish" manner?  Is Tom not making the most of his borrowed lungs?

While trying to talk like a big person, Tom makes idle conversation about how today's crowds look good, so "we'll all be rich in no time."  This gets an unusually interested reaction from her, and Mrs. Johnson presses Tom-in-Schmidt for "some good news of some sort," to which he can only stammer that "you can never tell" before bidding her good day and retreating to the main tent.

Sheesh, this guy didn't think his whole body-snatching plan through, did he?  It's like Tom expected everything to just work out for him, like magic... wait.

He takes a moment to collect himself, running a hand through "the unaccustomed bushiness of his physiognomy, and decides that if he can just make it to showtime, his natural talent will shine through, everything will turn out fine.  But until then, there's work to do.

Although he had the routine of sawdust land at his fingertips,

I have no idea.

it made him very uncomfortable to be called upon for so many decisions at once.  Joe Middler was taking too much "strawberry shortcake."

Is that Depression-era slang for cocaine or something?

His shill wasn't getting a long enough string of coconuts.

I'm just going to assume that the author carefully researched circus jargon and all of this makes sense.

The pup opera was minus its canine star, who had wandered too near a gravedigger's cage, and it was either a new mutt or a dead hyena.

Why would you keep a cemetery worker behind bars?

The payoff was too high on a juice joint, and if John Law objected to the kife, what else could a guy do but howl?

"Kife" at least seems to be slang for 'steal,' and not a racial slur.

A kinker had a twisted wrist, and he figured Bill had had it in for 'im anyway since that dame in St. Looie had shown good sense, and he wasn't goin' to get a broken neck over any fool dame!

Look, what you fellows do with your kinks is your business, just try not to do it so hard you miss work with a hand injury, alright?

Despite these baffling sentences, Tom rises to the challenge, dispensing a big man's justice and, to the surprise of several, refusing to be bribed in the process.  So he's in high spirits when the circus ground fills with the sound of customers and barkers and music and petty conmen.  Soon it'll be showtime, an Tom's big break.

Tommy felt better.  This was his element, and of this element he was now king.  So delighted was he at the thought of at last snapping the lash in the hoople to the admiration of all, that he quite forgot to think at all of what was happening to himself, erstwhile Little Tommy Little, now Hermann Schmidt - in the flesh, at least.

Yeah, there is a little flaw in his plan: somewhere in this circus is six feet of angry Prussian gentleman compressed into a three-foot frame.  That's a lot of Prussian-per-pound to deal with, especially when he's within biting distance of your crotch.


Back to Part 4 

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