Excerpt from “Chang & Eng” by Darin Strauss ~~Synchronized~~

picture-ChangEng-StraussThe night after our first performance in New York, we sat with the promoter Hunter in our room at Mrs. Sachs’s house. He congratulated us on “a good beginning.” Still, he muttered, things needed “to get quite better.”
“First, our little financial question,” he said, pulling from his pocket a large leather wallet. He took out two bills, unfolded the joined halves, showed the money to us, and put them in his pocket carefully. “These I will send to your mother.” And then he fixed his eye on us strangely. “And I now need to talk with you two,” he said, “for literally about three minutes.”
Hunter took a hasty step toward us, and winding up, smacked Chang across the face. Chang yelped, fell backward, and I followed, yanked along. We landed, in a stack, on one of the piles of laundry in the opposite corner. I could feel my brother’s chest heave as he fought off tears.
Hunter adopted a stance of a pugilist posing for a daguerreotype after a match – knees bent slightly, striking arm still extended, his hand above his head, as if frozen in the last moment of the slap – but his eyes gave him away, especially the left one, in which indecision was magnified through his monocle. Hunter was not comfortable with brutality.
“Do not contradict me, ever,” he hissed, bringing down his arm to wipe his lips. “Especially not during a performance. If I say you had three parents, you had three parents.”
Chang and I got to our feet slowly. My brother was moaning.
“You boys understand me, what?” Hunter asked, a catch in his throat. Meanwhile, Chang and I assumed the tiger and crane positions. Hunter could not keep his eye on us for more than a second. We took a step toward him, another.
He seemed to realize his size advantage suddenly. He stepped toward us. He was a grown man. We were fourteen.
But he did not understand much about Chang and Eng. With our smaller girth came a quick agility no adult man could match. Not to mention that we were two, in sailor’s suits maybe, but ready to strike in perfect synchronization. Hunter’s face was mottled red. He was shiny with sweat.
When I started into my flip, I knew Chang would be doing the same. As one, my brother and I tumbled shoulder-to-shoulder through the air toward Hunter. Each with an arm around the other, we both touched the ground with a hand as we somersaulted to our destination. Hunter likely could have moved out of the way or at least put up his fists in defense. But as Chang and I were cutting circles over the drab fluffy mountains of Mrs. Sachs’ underthings and in the direction of his head, he did neither.
At the apex of our last rotation, we twisted in mid-flip and kicked at the same time. We had judged the original distance between Hunter and us perfectly, and our kicks – mine angled a bit downward, toward Hunter’s throat, Chang’s straight out, hitting Hunter across the face – struck at the same moment.
Hunter’s raw frightened cry buffeted among the peaks and valleys of Mrs. Sachs’s underthings, and by the time Chang and I had alighted on a corset, Hunter was lying on his back with his four limbs in the air, stiff and groaning.
The door was locked, the window was bolted. We could not escape just yet – but this was good news: we could handle him, and that would make for an easier getaway. But for now, we needed Hunter even more than he needed us.
Chang and I shuffled over to our vanquished master and helped him to his feet.

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1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “Chang & Eng” by Darin Strauss ~~Synchronized~~

  1. Chang and Eng Bunker were conjoined twins born in Thailand on 11 May 1811, and died in North Carolina USA on 17 January 1874, aged 62 years.
    Darin Strauss wrote a fictionalised interpretation of their life from the personal perspective of Eng Bunker.

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