Freak From Mozambique

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Jeremiah meets a bearded lady traveling en route to Detroit in the late 1800's

Submitted: March 22, 2011

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Submitted: March 22, 2011

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The Freak from Mozambique The morning sun had barely burned away the nighttime fog when Jeremiah Benson arrived at the train terminal. He was travelling to Detroit by ways of Cleveland, named this year’s “Industrial Capital of the Nation of 1872”. He was expected in Detroit by a large steel company to order materials and meet with executives. Jeremiah was a handsome young man and had an air of confidence about him; he had a wife, a steady job, and was told by many he had excellent style and grace. He checked his gold pocket-watch and began reviewing his notes. He sat himself on a leather seat and removed a pack of cigarettes, patting himself down looking for a pack of matches, but finding none. Turning to the monocled man beside him, Jeremiah asked him if he had any matches. “I do indeed, my good man,” the man said. “However, sir, can I bother you for a cigarette? The wife took mine, says their bad for the heart.” Examining his pack, Jeremiah took out another cigarette and gave it to the man. Simultaneously, the man lit a match and Jeremiah turned his head towards him to ignite his cigarette. As he lit it, he noticed a woman in the background. She had dark black hair, a colorful dress, and an olive skin tone. Taking a smooth drag from his cigarette, Jeremiah turned back around and crossed his legs, relaxing back in his seat. However, he could not help but think there was something interesting about the woman. He took another glance in her direction; she was not there. He wondered if she had even existed, or if she was a figment of his imagination. However, quickly glancing several feet to the left, he saw the back of her body. He examined her more closely for something notable. Her shoes were standard, as well as her dress, hair, and stockings. She stood normally, was of average height, and was not obese or stick-thin. She turned around and Jeremiah quickly averted his gaze, as to not catch her attention and appear ungentlemanly. However, Jeremiah looked back almost instantly after observing her strange trait; she had an enormous beard. Jeremiah’s eyes became transfixed on the lady, who was rather good looking with the exception of the gigantic beard that covered most of her face. The beard that rested upon this woman’s face was thick, full, and meticulously well groomed. Jeremiah could hardly believe a woman could take pride in any kind of unlady-like feature, never mind a full beard. His eyes strained and his brow furrowed, Jeremiah took a large drag and turned to the gentleman beside him. “Have a look at the woman over by the newspapers, Sir. Do you notice anything strange about her, or am I losing my wits?” The gentleman puffed his cigarette and lazily looked around the wooden terminal. Catching a glimpse of the woman, he coughed up smoke from his last drag in shock. “My word! I’ve never seen one of them in public!” he exclaimed. “Have you seen a woman in a cage, Sir? What do you speak of?” Jeremiah asked. “Why, a freak! A monster of science! They travel the country putting on grotesque shows for the public! This lady is undeniably a member of such a troupe.” “Well, my good man,” Jeremiah said, taking a long drag of his cigarette, “I should certainly hope not to sit next to such an abomination.” The men continued smoking their cigarettes, often glancing at the woman, until the train was announced to depart. Jeremiah boarded the train and found his seat in Car Four, seat three. The passengers shuffled down the cars, and eventually Jeremiah was able to see the lady. His hands began to get clammy; as the seat next to his had not yet been filled. However, to Jeremiah’s relief, an old woman stopped at his seat. “Oh goodness,” she said, with a confused look on her face. “This is not my seat at all.” Jeremiah felt anxious as the old woman passed him by, leaving his neighboring seat open once more. He saw the bearded lady approach, and hoped with all of his heart that she would not sit next to him, and that another passenger would have to cope with the grueling, awkward experience. However, as fate would have it, the bearded lady took a seat right next to Jeremiah Benson, in Car Four, seat four. Jeremiah rested his cigarette in his lips and stared at the chair in front of him. The lady sat politely, her eyes relaxed and glancing forward. As the train began to move, the woman turned towards Jeremiah. “Hello, my name is Esmeralda,” she said, as she extended a feminine hand. Jeremiah stared at the hand, and then at Esmeralda. Not wishing to lose his sense of chivalry, he awkwardly took her hand and lightly kissed it. “Jeremiah,” he said. “What brings you on a train on this fair day, Jeremiah?” He could not remember why or where he was going. His brain had devoted all of his attention to making sense of a beautiful woman who happened to have the largest beard he had ever seen. “Cleveland,” he said. That did not sound right. He corrected himself. “Detroit.” “Sir, that isn’t quite what I asked,” she said, lightly stroking her chin. “I’m fully aware of where we are going, I’ve got a show in Detroit.” Jeremiah was pretty sure of what kind of show it was, but he wanted to be certain. “What kind of show, if I may ask? Do you sing, or act, or play the piano?” “Well sir, thank you for your kindness, but I am almost positive you have noticed my strange attribute relating to my job. What color are my eyes?” “What?” this question caught him off guard, the last thing he expected to be asked about was the color of her eyes. “What color are my eyes? You have been looking at my face consistently during this train ride, and I noticed you in the terminal as well. So perhaps you think I have a beautiful set of eyes that you cannot stop staring at. So, Jeremiah, what color are they?” He quickly glanced at her eyes for the first time. They were indeed a beautiful shade of green. “They’re green, ma’am.” “And the beard, sir? Have you noticed it?” she asked, her head cocked to one side. “Yes, I suppose I do see something resting upon your face,” he said, twiddling his thumbs. “My grandmother had one just like it,” he blatantly lied in an attempt to make her, or him, feel more comfortable with the situation. “Your kindness could be confused for blindness. I know about the beard. I know you know about the beard as well as everybody on this train. This beard pays for this dress that I wear,” she said, jovially. “I work for ‘Skip’ Rutherford’s Travelling Oddity Emporium, the most successful freak-show in the Western Reserve. Skip employs two headed men, boys with twelve fingers, ‘the mermaid’, I, of course, wolf-like children, and many other types of freaks, as we are often called. Skip himself is a dwarf. It makes for great money, at the expense of a little public disgust.” Jeremiah’s mouth hung open, completely at a loss on what to say after that job description. “I work in steel.” “Steel is dandy,” she said, “but I’m sure you would like to know some more about your dear monster. Would you like to hear a brief history concerning ‘Esmeralda, the Freak from Mozambique’?” Jeremiah’s mouth smirked to one side, his interest peaking. “Our train still has about an hour left; I do suppose I would listen.” Esmeralda turned himself towards him, like a northern lumberjack’s beautiful daughter. “I was born in 1852 in a small town in Eastern Pennsylvania, which as you may notice, is not Mozambique at all. I had a relatively normal childhood, until the age of thirteen, when I became a ‘freak’. I had assumed that all girls entering womanhood would sprout facial hair like any man or I, but I was mistaken. I would be ridiculed, beaten, stared at, and mockingly admired by schoolboys for my robust mustache. My mother forced me to leave home, stating that I ‘should not remain a wicked curse in her house’. So, travelling the road, I encountered a man with humungous ears, who told me I should come with him to meet a man named ‘Skip’ who could make me rich and loved. Concerning the fact that at the time, I was neither, I took him up on his offer. Skip worked out of an old lunch-cart, which he remodeled to say ‘Skip Rutherford’s Travelling Oddity Emporium’. He promised me a good amount of money to show the public my strange feature, and that I would be taken care of for the rest of my days. Having nothing left to lose, I joined him. We would travel to local carnivals, and people would pay hefty fees to see other freaks and I. Skip figured that there was a market in freaks, so we started travelling nation-wide in boxcars. I however, do not drink and can spend my money on luxuries such as train tickets, which is why I currently sit next to you on this train. Generally, I sing to the public in an exotic manner about my ‘homeland’ of Mozambique, which strikes a strange chord in people, not knowing whether to love or fear me. I suppose that is what keeps people coming back.” Jeremiah sat motionless, attempting to absorb her extraordinary tale. After several moments and an entire cigarette, he said, “Esmeralda, I spend my days ordering steel and people say I’m interesting. Without a doubt, you are the most fascinating human I have ever come across.” “Thank you, Jeremiah,” she said, her eyes lit like turquoise. “All I could ask for is understanding. I am no longer ashamed of myself, but proud and happy.” Jeremiah relaxed in his seat, satisfied and in awe about his strange, yet lovely seat mate. Esmeralda, the “Freak from Mozambique”, calmly brushed her magnificent beard while he puffed away at another cigarette, glancing out the window.


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