about the author

Tina Hyland is an English teacher in South Korea. She writes short stories, and she sometimes tries to write a novel.

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The Greatest Show on Earth

Tina Hyland

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Ladies, these are my eyes, he said. He plucked them out of their sockets and showed them to the crowd.

Ah, they said. He pushed them back and rolled them side to side until he could see the shapes of the women.

Show us more!

He took a knife from the table and held it over a flame until it glowed red. He sliced open his abdomen and reached inside.

Ladies, these are my intestines, he said and pulled them out a little at a time. He piled them up neatly on the table.

Ah, they said. He eased them back inside and stitched the flap shut.

Show us more, they shouted.

Show us more!

He took an ice pick from the table and pried open his chest.

See my heart, he said. It really goes.

He walked along the edge of the crowd and the ladies pointed up at his heart.

See it go, they said.

See it go!

He patted his ribs back into place and lowered his shirt.

The crowd was frantic.

Show us more!

Show us more!

The man picked up the knife again and held it over the flame. When it glowed with heat he cut a long line from the top of his head, down the middle of his face, back through his chest, and down around his waist.

He shook his bones past his organs. He jiggled them through his muscles and stepped outside.

This, he said, is my skeleton. He dropped the suit of his skin in a neat pile and danced.

Yes, yes! they shouted.

He picked his body off the ground and stepped into his legs. He shimmied until they fit right and pulled his belly and arms snug around him. He wiggled until they fit just so and slid his face over his skull.

As he stitched his bottom together a woman shouted.

His hair! His hair! I want a bit of his hair!

She jumped up and tugged at his scalp until she had a clump of it. The right side of his face fell limp at his shoulder.

His nose! another woman screamed. I need that nose for my son!

She jumped up and tore at his face until the nose came away.

Stop! Stop! shouted the man, but he had shown them too much.

His left eye! screamed one.

His right! shouted another.

I want his toes!

I want his lips!

I need his voice!

I want his heart! It goes!

The ladies clawed and pecked until they had all the pieces they wanted and ran away laughing with arms and thighs and toes.

The skeleton of the man stood in the sad pile of what was left. He tried to pat a bit of his calf into place but it fell away.

One woman stood where the crowd had stood and a tear ran down her cheek.

Will you take something too? he asked when the wind blew through his jaw.

No, she said, but I will take you home.

Here, she said and pointed to a hole carved in the ground.

The skeleton crawled inside and she crawled after.

She took his knife and cut her blankets. She cut her sheets, her pillows, and her bed too.

She took his needle and thread and sewed up a body. She filled it with stuffing and straw.

Here, she said when she was done, and he settled his bones inside.

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