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THE SWORD SWALLOWER was looking for a volunteer. She sashayed around the circle of onlookers, up to and away from a succession of likely males, eventually selecting a young man with a shock of springy hair. An Italian. He was instructed to go down on all fours. She placed a collar on him, attached to it a chain and arranged around his neck the round, white fluffy thing.
He was invited to take the cucumber in his mouth, lengthways. This feat presented mouth filling difficulties. His wild hair bobbed with the effort. (One feared for any chosen ones with dentures.) The sword swallower suggested that he took one end into his mouth instead. Then, SSSWWWISSH! she demonstrated the savage sharpness of the sword.
It seemed a prolonged, methodical build up to the swallowing itself. The sword was cleaned with surgical spirit and wiped with olive oil, at her direction, by another volunteer. This second initiate, a very young man whom she detached from his bicycle, was ordered to his knees and instructed to repeatedly fling out his arms, in the manner of a Flamenco dancer, as the climax approached.
At last! She was ready. The music changed to Prokofiev. The sword was raised above her tilted mouth and slowly, slowly, she played it down her throat, like a long, long outsized string of spaghetti. The blade disappeared entirely. Right up to the hilt. Giving an urgent, physical meaning to that phrase.
There was an audible gulp. Not from the sword swallower swallowing but from the crowd. It seemed that, after all, this was something they did not see every day. I had certainly never seen it. I was rather moved.
Perhaps you're wondering, was Anna Chancellor one of those enlightened spectators? And was she carrying a copy of the Erotic Review, which she waved enthusiastically as the sword went down? No, no, too casual.
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