Shoot the Freak

Broken Pencil - - Zine Reviews -

Tomkins’s speaker feigns a high­fa­lutin’ voice whilst bump­ing shoul­ders among old New York’s most ratty car­ni­val bark­ers. What re­sults is a con­stant, creep­ing snap-shot of what he would call ‘low’ New York, in all its freak­show (some­times lit­er­ally) glory. This short story is short and de­lib­er­a­tive, with the bulk of ac­tion tak­ing place behind the nar­ra­tor’s eyes.

An il­lu­mi­nat­ing ex­am­ple: chap­ter four does not de­tail a girl in bikini, but rather, de­tails the speaker’s see­ing of a girlin-bikini: “Now I’m stand­ing in line for a hot dog. There’s a girl in front of me in a bikini. She’s way too dewy for the likes of me but then il­licit thrills are half of what Coney Is­land is all about and as I try not to stare at the fine down run­ning south from the nape of her neck I feel some­thing like love welling deep in­side me”. Tomp­kins’s use of the present par­tici­ple, paired with sen­tences that seem to hop­skip be­fore run­ning off by them­selves, places the speaker squarely be­tween the

reader and the scene, shift­ing the fo­cus from ‘re­al­ity’ to ‘ap­pear­ance’.

The story cul­mi­nates in a re­veal of The Freak’s iden­tity, he be­ing the masked man hired to dodge paint­balls and taunt the customers who fire them. The scene reads: “Ei­ther with re­lief or dis­ap­point­ment we note that the sci­ence-fic­tion refugee who held us all mes­mer­ized a minute ago is a white kid who looks as if he can’t be more than eigh­teen years old. … with im­pres­sive non­cha­lance he pulls a pack of ci­garettes and a lighter from one pocket of his over­alls and lights up, stu­diously ig­nor­ing us as we pon­der this lat­est il­lus­tra­tion of the gulf be­tween ap­pear­ance and re­al­ity”. A lit­tle on the nose? Maybe. But “Shoot the Freak” is well-writ­ten and even bet­ter-con­sid­ered. (Joel W. Vaughan)

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