*****Read the precursor Love vs Sex 91 before moving forward.
“You just want to know you’re all right. You just want to feel all right.”
And now he dives into a sneer. Arty’s sneer could flay a rhino.
“That’s all you need other people’s love for!”
The crowd is shocked into stillness. Arty grabs their throats while they’re down and starts pumping the tempo.
“So, let’s get the truth here! You don’t want to stop eating! You love to eat! You don’t want to be thin! You don’t want to be beautiful! You don’t want people to love you! All you really want is to know that you’re all right! That’s what can give you peace!
“If I had arms and legs and hair like everybody else, do you think I’d be happy? NO! I would not! Because then I’d worry did somebody love me! I’d have to look outside myself to find out what to think of myself!
“And you! You aren’t ever going to look like a fashion queen! Does that mean you have to be miserable all your life? Does it?
“Can you be happy with the movies and the ads and the clothes in the stores and the doctors and the eyes as you walk down the street all telling you there is something wrong with you? No. You can’t. You cannot be happy. Because, you poor darling baby, you believe them…..Now, girl, I want you to look at me and tell me, what do you want?”
Arty expected her to stay tongue-tied and blubbering so he could say the next line. That’s the way it always worked. But this fat woman was so used to blubbering that it didn’t slow her down. She opened her mouth wide and, though I’ve never really stopped hating her for it, I have to admit she was just saying what all of the rest of the damp, wheezing crowd was thinking. She screamed, “I want to be like you are!”
Arty stopped dead still. His flippers froze and he began to sink slowly with his face pressed into the speaking mask and his eyes close to the glass staring out. There was sobbing in the crowd. Soft voices murmured, “Yes, yes.” Arty was silent for far too long. Had he had a stroke? Was it a cramp? I started forward, ready to run around behind the tank and up the ladder. Then his voice came.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, that’s what you want.” And I could hear his breath go in, Arty’s breath. Arty could control a mike and he never breathed so you could hear it.
“And that’s what I want for you.”
He didn’t go on with his usual talk. He said that he’d have to think how to give this gift to her. He said they should all come back the next day—though he knew few of them would—because he would have something to say to them.
McGurk didn’t know what to do with the lights. He was flickering a rainbow that made Arty almost invisible in the water. Finally Arty himself hit the switch that blacked out the tank.
The crowd started to trickle away as I ran to the back of the tank. Arty was already out on his platform and rolling in his towel.
“Arty, what’s wrong?” I whispered as I scrambled up the ladder.
“Not a thing,” he said. His face popped out of the towel and he grinned hugely, excited.
“Let’s get over to the shower quick. I want to see Doc P. right away.”
Katherine Dunn 1983