'The Biggest Rat In The World' by Cassandra Parkin
Fried onions and diesel-fumes, fairground scent like smoke, a pounding soundtrack, and the hydraulic hiss of mechanical arms flinging screams into high darkness. Jamie slides past blue-spark Dodgems and the hanged Basset Hounds at the shooting gallery, towards the seamy spot where some years, there’s a Freak Show, over-eighteens only and no touching.
No freaks, but this year, a caravan:
Believe It Or Not! – Traditional Travelling Attraction! Three-Eyed Fox Genuine South-Sea Mermaid The Biggest Rat In The World STRICTLY NO CAMERAS £1 admission
Shards of nickel in his pocket - the caravan or a bag of chips? Chips means homeward, back to his street-lit bedroom and picturing Shaun’s hand in her knickers, October trade-off for an outsized plush Basset Hound. Yellow hair, St Tropez skin, gel-tipped nails, nylon eyelashes, processed and coloured like candy-floss and to him, just as sweet. All her colours dyed strange by the bright bulbs of the carousel, her head on Shaun’s shoulder. Ask too soon and you look like a loser, ask too late and she’s going with someone else. The girl on the door looks pure Romany, all black curls tobacco skin nicotine fingers, barely glances up from her diamante iPhone, and he knows she’d never in a million years look at a gorga like him.
Pale conjoined piglets floating in greeny jars. He doesn’t want to look but acts cool just in case she’s watching somehow - remote-viewing, hidden cameras. In a glass case, dried-out stitched-together doll-thing, shrivelled fish tail and fierce little face:
MERMAID. They lure sailors into there watery lairs but cannot satisfy there desires, for they have only a fishy tail. This one captured in the South Seas.
Is she satisfying Shaun’s desires? Horny and angry, dangerous mix but his brain won’t switch off, forehead pressed against cold glass holding the thoughts in. Bet she’s slippy like a mermaid, salty and sweet down there, God he’d love to put his hand there, just for a minute, just a second, then the scent on his fingers afterwards –
GIANT RAT – CHINESE LEGEND A rat once made a bet with an ox that he could make people say he was bigger than the ox. Before they went for there walk, the rat asked a God to make the contest fairer by turning him four times bigger than normal. The ox agreed, for he would still be many times larger. When they walked down the street, everyone exclamed, Look! That’s the biggest rat in the world! And so the rat won the bet.
Shaun. Long-lashed cow eyes, thick neck, broad shoulders, man-shape even though they’re only fifteen, all three of them. While Jamie’s still rat-skinny, rat-featured, testosterone delivering only greasy skin and unplanned erections. Same molecule, why not the same results? So fucking unfair…
He leaves the caravan wondering how he can make himself four times bigger, make her notice, make her point in wonder,
“Look! Look at Jamie! He’s the biggest rat in the world!”