Surrounded by the walls of a stadium, the masses screaming
I look up from my sandals and see the crowds calling, their curses falling down upon me like arrows. Blood stains the sand beneath my feet; to my right is the disembodied arm of a fallen foe, his hand still twitching, searching for the sword. I bend down and pick up a spear that has been placed for the victor. In the box the politician smiles and tips his cup to me, the slave, the unwilling gladiator of a captive people. Give us the Israelite's head! says a voice full of wine and spittle. The gates raise and I turn to see him coming out, a mountain of a man, clad in leather armor and wielding a javelin. He raises his shield and pounds his spear against it, summoning me forth. There will be no escape, I hear someone shout, and I know these words to be true. "There is no courage in defeat," I say, taking my spear and venturing forth to meet him. The crowd lets out a roar. I have always been an entertainer.
Playing in a ballpark, next to seas of corn
Jones steps to the plate, a burly farmer's son. He spits a mouthful of tobacco juice, the black fluid flying as a mass, and then places the bat on his broad shoulders, his expression mirthful, his eyes mean and confident. Our pitcher starts him off with a fast ball that misses the outside corner, hanging over the plate, and Jones smashes the pitch into right field, where I am with my glove. I break early on the ball, heading backward, my eyes focused on the tiny spec arching toward the warning track. As I go back the shadow of the corn falls upon me, a chorus of insects humming their constant song, and I leap for the ball, my arm outstretched, my glove making contact. I fall into the corn, crashing through the stalks, landing in the dry, soft dirt. Have they seen my catch? I think when something places a hairy claw upon my shoulder. The fingers are long and black-nailed; they are hands that have seen decomposing earth, and a smell wafts up from behind me, as rotten breath stains my cheek. Others are behind it, whispering like jackals. They are hungry; I am flesh. It is after they finish that I realize my true nature.
On the streets, a saxophone in my arms
The people pile down the streets clad in red, all shapes and sizes, large, fat, bowlegged, many in need of a shave. Most are drunk and full of bile; they take time to spit on the homeless that beg for change and cigarettes. I play my horn, filling the air with little ditties stolen from commercial jingles and children's songs. Someone pours a beer into my change jar, and they laugh, all of them, the huge mingling crowd, they chortle as one, as a monster. I play and play, my embouchure weak, my body plagued by shakes. I keep playing while the sour beer sloshes in my jar, speaking to me in the one language I understand. It is possible for even the beaten to have dignity. I have to remind myself that.
Before a crowd of willing disciples, the microphone at my command
I step onto the stage, and they greet me with their cheers. My guitar feels heavy; I feel as though I haven't slept in days. Lodged in my left nostril is a chunk of cocaine. Already the stage hands are looking for girls, bright, young, eager girls. They cannot know how sad I am. We play a loud music, the chords coming out of the amplifiers like molten lava, my voice a harsh, high-pitched scream. Someone tosses a chicken on stage, and I throw it back to them and watch in horror as they tear it apart. No one stops the song. It is just an animal. We are all just animals.