Bars was good at holding it in. He could really blow when he wanted, a blast of rancid wind called at will.
Of course, his audience egged and encouraged. So much glory in heralding the disgusting traits of walking upright, being foul under the sun.
Bars had no family, save the little girl that followed him wherever, whenever. He didn’t quite know her name, though she frequented most of his resting spots where he’d proclaim his talents.
“Here,” he said among a crowd of six. “Who’s brave enough to come closer?”
Heads bobbled and craned, onlookers uncertain of what their place was here on the corner of Broadway and Commerce.
“I only need one,” Bars said. He twirled a finger up into the air and then rolled it downward, a motion congruous with his awkward bow toward the onlookers.
“What do you?” a patron asked. This one was a small boy, his neck goosed up over the shoulders of the other five, his young eyes straining to leer at Bars. Or was it the girl the young boy was asking of?
“I merely tempt the brave to come forward and witness the miracle of my talents, young man” Bars said, peeling his lips back to show smiling, white teeth.
“Here now,” the boy said. “What’s she to do with ya?”
Bars frowned. “This one?”
He put a hand on the small girl’s shoulder, herding her in front of him. “What’s she to do with me, you ask?”
“You’re as dumb as you are ugly,” said the boy. “But you know what I mean, plain as I said. What’s she to you?”
Bars looked down at the girl — the girl leaning back her head to meet the puzzled gaze above. She had been there at nearly all of his gatherings over the past few months. Watching. Listening.
“I’m his fire,” the young girl said.
“You’re his what?” the boy said, stepping in closer to the man and girl.
Bars cleared his throat. “Now look, boy. I am a street performer. A man who revels in the arts of flatulence. Surely one as you can understand the beauty and humor of such arts?”
The small crowd murmured with approbation, though Bars was used to hearing more noises of anticipated approval before his climactic surge.
“I think you false,” the boy said. He pointed at the girl next to Bars, the boy’s fingers jabbing at the girl’s hair blown wild from the gusts around her. “She be the real farter.”
Laughter erupted from the onlookers. Bars grunted. “Now see here, boy. It is you who speak false.”
“Is it?” the boy dared. “Have you two show your goods, then.”
More murmurs of unrest. Bars sighed. This was not going as he wished. He would need more steam from within to woo these people, to be sure.
“As you will, boy,” he said. “A contest, then.”
“You mock me, sir,” said the boy. “She’ll not do while you stand upright.”
Bars goggled at this, his eyes then scrunching with perplexity. “Do you ask me to lie while practicing the arts?”
“You mean the farts,” the boy corrected. More laughter.
Bars looked down at the girl, her eyes knowing.
Without warning, the young girl bent forward and blew her trumpet sound across the stagnant air.
Four of the onlookers collapsed instantly to the ground, including the boy, all of them covering their faces to shield away the sound and smell.
The Maker! Bars thought. Such power in this child!
Bars walked slowly toward the panting girl, her eyes now looking at him with hopefulness. He then turned to see the boy’s eyes reel in their inflamed sockets, a spiral of brown and white swirling within reddened eyelids, eventually resting to wide ‘O’s of surprise.
“She is done,” Bars said dryly, hoping to temper his amazement. “Now.”
He raised his hand and bent in slight bow. “’Tis my turn.”
Bars strained, his abdomen crunching underneath his bellyfat. He would let loose years of untapped gas that came from the very source of his soul.
“No, sir!” the girl screamed, understanding on her face. “You dasn’t.”
“Oh, but I das,” Bars said, sweat pouring hot from his temples. The ripping had finally come.
The air grew thick, reeking of sweet rotting meat. Only… only, Bars could not stop.
He grabbed at the girl. “Help me, child. Help me!”
“To…” the girl hesitated, covering her nose with doll hands. “To you, sir. I cannot. Please stop!”
“I cannot, girl” Bars cried. He fell to the ground, convulsing as if in apoplexy before shuddering to stillness. “I have done my last, good girl.”
He rolled on the ground, writhing as songs continued to dance from his bottom. Songs of tomorrow, sulfuric and noisome.
When he was done, he breathed in what was set loose in the air, closing his eyes.
“Do you know the price for what I do?” he asked the girl looming over his body.
“Aye sir, that I do.”
Bars held his dying breath to say his final words to his successor.
“Then let go, child.