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The Lady In The Box
Not All Boxes Are Meant To Be Opened
Another short story from “A Dress For A Queen”.
It sprung forth from A Rebel Without A Bra———-an extra scene that I couldn’t use. So I decided to make it into a short story instead, inspired by my time at the Edinburgh Fringe.
We were sitting in a restaurant in Edinburgh, working our way through a selection of curries as hot as Bunnie’s temper, when Woody suggested we carry on to the Edinburgh Festival. My stomach was on fire. I was burning up, sweating, not something a robot often does.
“What is this stuff?” I said.
“It’s an Indian,” said the blonde at the next table—like that explained everything.
Normally I’d have been enjoying the background music, but I was feeling all tight and crunchy, like one of those packets of crisps. What I needed was a long, lean stretch followed by a position of great twisting that would help my digestion.
Then I heard of the Lady in the Box.
Apparently, there was a lady who could squash herself into a box, and I was curious. I am an Android of great flexibility, a yoga expert, and if a woman can squeeze herself into a box, I want to know about it.
“We’ve just seen a contortionist,” said the blonde at the next table.
“Cartoonist?” said Mex.
“No, contortionist—street performer,” said the blonde. “She folds herself up into a square box.”
“Whatever for?” muttered Mex.
“And she can twist,” said her partner, “into knots that would turn a seaman’s hair.”
He produced a video that stopped the restaurant and almost put Mex off her jalfrezi.
“All you could see in the end,” sniffed the blonde, “was her leotard.”
I had to go; I couldn’t stand another minute. I wanted to leave, get out into the cool air to trot away my stomach gas and meet this so-called Lady in the Box.
As the blonde gave her partner what for about the seaman comment and Woody explained to Mex the difference between seamen and semen, I took my chance. I headed for the back door as the waiter appeared, attempting to shut them all up with free mints.
As I entered the festival, I could hear the roar of applause, the drilling of machines mixed with music.
The street was chock-a-block with people, cars, buses, and people speaking languages and accents I had never heard.
I was buzzing off my Teflon tits.
The only music played on Planet Hy Man is the sort of elevator music that puts everyone into a coma, and the only cars we see are driverless limos.
I gazed up at the castle; a piper blasted into the street.
“Am I near the Royal Mile?” I shouted.
“Just around the corner,” said the teenager, “you’re almost there.”
I continued past a magician with a dog, skidded on a leaflet, righted myself on a drunk, ignored the insult, and continued.
It was slow work pushing through the crowds, but I finally made my way onto Mount Pleasant. I passed a seedy-looking man with dreadlocks yelling into the crowd.
“You ain’t seen nothing like this, me hearties,” he yelled and pulled a bunch of flowers from his pants.
“Jesus!” muttered someone.
I walked on: past two men playing drums, past a dark man in a duffel coat sniffing into a bottle in a bag.
“Pound for coffee?” he said.
I gestured to my empty pockets, then, reading the brown man’s upright-middle-finger gesture, quickly moved on.
The street was lined with performers competing for the attention of the crowd; it was hard to keep moving. I ended up sandwiched between a young girl lamenting about men in general and an elderly woman moaning about her bunions, right in front of a man wriggling about in a locked straitjacket.
“Let me tell you a story,” grunted the performer, “of Alcatraz and my escape.”
The crowd muttered and jolted forward. I was about to move on when I heard a loud rumble. I turned to see a large, hairy, masked juggler posing with a chainsaw.
The sound drowned out everything.
“Alcatraz the inescapable,” shouted the escapologist.
The juggler tossed the chainsaw into the air. The crowd gasped as he caught the saw with his thick muscular arms.
The escapologist, watching his audience dwindle, nodded to his sidekick, who wheeled out a unicycle . . .
“Alcatraz, oh Alcatraz, the place where no bird sings.”
The crowd was silent as he leveraged himself onto the unicycle, his arms still twisted in the straitjacket. He was a whisper of a man with a thin ponytail and birdlike features, which at the moment were pinched with discomfort as he balanced on the unicycle.
The older woman cheered, bunions (I assume) forgotten.
“This is way better than the Lady in the Box,” she said. “I mean how long can you stare at a box?”
“Is she still there?” I said.
“Oh yes, she’s still there, with a sidekick for comedy.”
“Comedy in a box?” said someone from behind. “Hardly call it that.”
I marched up the steep hill of Cockburn Street, past more food shops and the smell of waffles, chocolate, and chips.
“You see the lady? The one in the box?”
“Aye, something else.”
The young man whistled through his teeth. “Just keep going. Ignore the assistant, he’s as funny as herpes.”
The street was lined with tables and chairs, people sitting and talking, artists drawing or manipulating balloons into weird shapes.
I pushed through the crowd, skidded to a stop, and stared at the Perspex box. Her limbs folded about her body—all I could see was her leotard.
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