Come to the Fair 
drawings by Fritz

I 

 
For the first time since he had been sentenced by the court's-martial, Rick Lammers had his National Guard uniform on. This time he knew it would be the last time he wore it -- whatever happened. Jack Lacour, his cell-mate for the past five days, was also dressed and waiting. 

One of the goon-like deputies snapped handcuffs on both of them -- too tight, pinching Rick's left wrist so tight his hand started to go numb. The goon-guards then marched Rick and Jack down stairs to the garage -- taunting them all the way. 

Rick and Jack were then shoved into the back seat of an old Dodge Diplomat squad-car by a gorilla of a man -- with an apparent IQ of 50 or less. The deputy was so rough, Rick chipped a tooth on the cage separating the driver from the prisoners. 

With siren screaming and lights flashing, the car lazed down Ludington Avenue -- stopping at the yellows rather than rushing through. Shoppers and pedestrians pointed and stared, laughing and chittering like monkeys. At Lincoln Road, the squad-car turned right and headed out for the Upper Peninsula State Fairgrounds. 

A good sized crowd had already gathered round the main gate. When the Dodge stopped, the deputies and some Michigan State Police shouldered a path through the crowd for the two prisoners. Everyone was trying to get closer -- a better look -- shooting pictures, shouting and laughing. 

Rick kept his head down. He heard a girl in the crowd say, 

    "He's kinda cute." 
Rick glanced over and grinned nervously. She was a college co-ed, maybe. Homely, with buck teeth and country-bumpkin braids -- blond, of course. Her friend poked her and snorted -- more like she was talking to Rick than to her friend, 
    "I can't wait till they take off all his clothes and we get to see everything
Rick felt a shove as someone else shouted, 
    "These are the last two." 
A high-pitched male voice sniggered, 
    "Let's hurry inside for the big 'peel off'!" 
Except for their names, Rick knew very little about the other three prisoners. They were all from the Upper Peninsula.footnote And they'd been held in county jails for the past week or so. Billy Richmond, from Menominee, had been convicted of beating his girl-friend up. And Billy complained that she was there for the "festivities" -- 
    "To see I get 'what's coming to me'! -- The Bitch!" 
Jed Watal, from Chippewa County, had been found guilty of possession of cocaine -- a quarter gram. He complained that he was innocent and passed his blood tests, but the zero-tolerance crack down didn't have any room for "set up" or "planted". Examples had to be made! 

Greg Merrill's conviction for breaking-and-entering had been his third. And that made him a "career criminal" -- that's why he was here. 

Although Rick had been staying in the Delta County jail with Jack Lacour, convicted of selling cigarettes to a minor, he was technically a "military prisoner". He had been on duty with his National Guard company when the "accident" happened. He'd been drinking -- he admitted that. But he insisted he wasn't "drunk" on duty.

Still, the jeep he was driving did hit that old guy walking along the highway, breaking his hip. Rick said the guy tripped and fell onto the road, but the man's daughter insisted that the jeep had swerved and Rick struck her father deliberately. 

Everyone demanded that "something" be done about "drunk guardsmen who were more dangerous than the criminals!" That was the outcry. And the court's-martial board had found Rick guilty of "vehicular assault under the influence of alcohol". Rick was sentenced to die, of course. But, since it was a civilian he had injured, it was decided to have the execution at the Fair -- "for the entertainment and edification of the public as a whole."

Rick and Jack were escorted to the big enclosure outside the livestock building. Though it was only about ten in the morning, the Fairground was filled with people. Through the din, Rick could hear, from time to time, snitchets of conversation -- some of it directed as much to him and Jack as to the apparent "recipient". 

A nasal, twangy voice caught Rick's attention, 

    "I was down in Detroit last week for their executions...." 
Rick looked over at the speaker. It was a guy about his own age -- fat as a pig, sporting a Detroit Tigers baseball cap -- his blue T-shirt stretched snugly over his beer belly. The sight of him made Rick sick -- to think, this was the kind of slime he as a National Guardsman was supposed to have been protecting -- and now demanded his execution for a little accident that would have been thrown out of a civilian court! 

The pig's bean-pole wimp friend looked straight at Rick as he commented, 

    "I hear they were all black." 
The pig just stared at Rick's perfect body, snorting, 
    "Yeh -- but they were real hunks of beef -- all muscle -- like body builders. They'd make that boy look like a kid!" 
Still looking at Rick like he was a bull in a pen or something, the bean-pole questioned, 
    "I heard they do it up big down there in Chicago?" 
The pig snortled, 
    "You have no idea! They put up at least five at a time -- three times a day -- morning, afternoon, then at sunset -- so there's fresh 'meat' hanging there all the time. 

    "You go there and you really see some good display -- every stage -- just hung, half cooked, nearly dead -- every stage." 

The bean pole sighed, dreamily, 
    "Yeh!" 
The pig wisted, 
    "Like I said, all real hunks of beef -- only the best for the fair ... the rest they just hang around the court house and at Daley square." 
The bean pole grinned. 

A first-generation from Sweden woman yahooded, 

    "Well we won't be ahaving so many here. And they may not be musclemen, but our boys are white boys -- good, white farm boys!" 
Her friend in leopard-spot leotards and hoot-owl glasses poked her finger into the pig's blubbery chest, 
    "It's worth the trip up here to see our white farm boys! They may not be as big, but they've got big, fat pork hanging between their legs as good or better than any nigger!" 
The Swedish woman yahortled, 
    "And it's all good, fresh, pink meat! Not that brown shit!" 
The pig stood up, like he was taken back, then grinned and laughed, looking at Rick, 
    "Yeh, I see what you mean!" 
Rick knew the rules. 

On each of the four days of the UP State Fair, one prisoner would be selected for execution. That meant one of them would be left over. That "lucky fifth" would get a pardon -- and walk free. So there was hope. 

The deputies led Jack and Rick into the enclosure. At one end were the other three prisoners, already stripped -- naked. The guards grabbed Jack first. They ripped his shirt off and ordered him to pull off his jeans and shoes. In less than a minute, Jack was wearing only his jockey shorts. They were drenched with piss -- he must have just peed in them while stripping. His face was red with embarrassment. The guards laughed and made him keep the jockey-shorts on instead of stripping naked like the others. 

The guards now turned to Rick. Two National Guardsmen came forward. The guard would conduct the process on their own man. Rick knew both of them -- Private Bill Carr and Sergeant Tom Vacello. Both were real bastards! Rick knew they had to be loving every minute of this! Sgt. Vacello twittered like a bird -- a big, ugly, raucous vulture -- 

    "Hi, Rick -- sure hope you're ready. I've been looking forward to this for a month, now!" 
Rick squinted his eyes and snarled, 
    "Fuck you, pig eyes!" 
Sgt. Vacello grinned, 
    "Sticks and stones, Rick -- you're gonna die!" 
Rick started to swing at him, but held his anger. Vacello smirked, 
    "Should have held your anger before, boy -- that's what got you here in the first place!" 
Rick breathed hard, his pulse throbbing in his neck. Sgt. Vacello glanced to Pvt. Carr then snortled, 
    "Start unwrapping this 'package' --" 
Vacello pointed to the crowd with his head, 
    "They've been waiting long enough! Let's see what he's got." 
If he had been honest, Sgt. Vacello would have said, he'd been waiting long enough -- not the crowd. 

Pvt. Carr unlocked Rick's handcuffs and ordered Rick to keep his hands on top of his head. The soldier unbuckled Rick's belt and pulled his pants down over his combat-boots. He pulled the pants off, then gave them to Sgt. Vacello -- who draped them over his arm. 

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The spectators clustered behind the wire-mesh fence watched the stripping -- the boots, the shirt, and finally the shorts. Someone in the crowd shouted, 
    "Keep your cap on, boy! So's people will know you're the Guard's boy!" 
Sgt. Vacello laughed and nodded. To the crowd, 
    "OK -- We'll make him wear his cap." 
Pvt. Carr grabbed Rick by his shoulders and turned him round and round, then stopped him to face the spectators -- so they could get a good look. Rick, usually proud of his body, was embarrassed. 

But the crowd liked it -- seeing the young soldier's well-developed physique -- thick muscles packed firmly onto his six-foot frame -- quite a contrast to the generally sad state of physical development flaunted by the spectators. 

Sgt. Vacello stretched out a pointer and poked it at Rick's bicepses -- they quivered a little. Vacello pointed at Rick's pectorals and abdominals and thighs, waxing eloquent on how the military builds men from boys -- how the guard had specific exercises to build this muscle and that. 

Sgt. Vacello then whacked the pointer across Rick's nuts. Rick gasped, choking back the tears. Sgt. Vacello laughed -- 

    "The Guard gave you your body, boy, but your mama gave you thems!" 
The crowd laughed and cheered as a red-welt line raised across his nuts, just below the tip of Rick's uncircumcised cock, slowly twisting sideways, like a snake lazing in the sun. After several minutes of silent gawking, someone shouted, 
    "Let's get on with the raffle!" 
The guards and deputies laughed and nodded. -- It was time to pick today's "star of the show".

II 

The prisoners had been given a bottle of cheap whiskey and some cigarettes ... to "calm their nerves". But a swig and a quick drag were all they really had time for. 

This game of "Stud Poker" wouldn't take long. Big, oversized playing cards were placed against an elevated board -- prisoners, guards, and spectators alike could see each man's hand. Three cards were dealt each prisoner. Each one could discard one or two of those dealt and ask for new cards. The one with the worst hand would be executed that day. 

Rick prayed silently as his hand was dealt -- a QUEEN, a NINE, and a SIX. Not too good, but possible. He whispered a little prayer then discarded the NINE and the SIX. Billy Richmond had discarded two cards and had also kept the QUEEN dealt him. Now, in the second round, he got a THREE ... and a QUEEN. He had a PAIR of QUEENS! He broke into a big grin and waved to someone in the crowd! 

Jed Watal had kept his queen and discarded the rest. He got a JACK and an ACE this time. He looked worried. Greg Merrill kept the KING from his first hand. To it he added a TEN and an EIGHT -- the worst hand, so far. 

Jack Lacour kept a NINE -- because that was his best card. The second deal gave him a TEN and another NINE -- a PAIR! Better than Jed or Greg, so he was safe for today. He gave a thumbs-up salute to a girl in the crows who squealed. 

Rick watched as his second card was uncovered: a TEN. He looked over at the others' cards. All the QUEENS were gone -- he should have known better than to draw for a QUEEN when there were three QUEENS showing already! There was no chance for another QUEEN, but another TEN would give him a pair -- or a KING would give him a better bust than Greg's. 

Rick squeezed his eyes as the final card was drawn. He heard the gasps from the spectators -- then the cheers. He opened his eyes. His final card was a THREE. He'd lost. 

The tension snapped -- the other four prisoners relaxed. They had big smiles on their faces. They'd "made it" -- at least for today -- tomorrow morning there would be another game. But, for now, for the next twenty-four hours, they'd live. Jed threw his arm around Greg, 

    "Fucking good luck, there, buddy!" 
Greg nodded, then glanced at Rick's crotch and pointed, laughing, 
    "Look at that hard-on he's getting!" 
Rick looked down. His cock was standing at full mast -- thrusting up, hard and dripping. 

Jed threw back his hand and laughed, 

    "I'd heard it could happen, but I never believed it! What a boner! And no fucking use for it!" 
Rick shoved his cap back on his head, 
    "Maybe, maybe not! Come on, buddy -- fist me and let me get my rocks off!" 
Rick felt a hand on his shoulder. Pvt. Carr snorted, 
    "No time for any more fun and games, Rick, boy! Time to go!"
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IV 

The nailing didn't take long. The first nail in Rick's wrist didn't hurt that much. Rick gasped, and breathed hard, but there was little pain. His thumb pulled into his palm. There were spasms as his tendons drew tight. The spike through Rick's other wrist did hurt. It was as if his body used up all its serotin -- or all its denial, one or the other. 

Then suddenly, it felt like the spike rammed right through Rick's heart, ripping it out. Rick's breathing was hard -- each gasp hurt to the very depth of his guts -- all the way down to his nuts! Rick's powerful body twisted and jerked, trying to wriggle into some less painful contortion. 

Rick suddenly heard himself screaming, begging for mercy. He tried to stop, but couldn't. His mind raced around his body -- every place was screaming in pain -- skin and joints -- joints between his ribs, long fused joints in his skull -- every possible nerve was already screaming in pain. -- And he wasn't even propped up yet! 

Rick's mind could only vaguely feel Pvt. Carr fold his feet over the upright. But his mind was immediately in his feet when the spike rammed through one foot then the other -- slowly and inexorably, like a glacier -- but faster than he could move his feet away. 

Rick could barely breathe, the pain was so intense -- so crushing in his chest. But something inside forced his chest to breathe -- something Rick wished he could stop so he could die -- he knew he was just beginning to absorb the pain from his mangled ankles and wrists. He had seen men hang for hours and even days -- in agony that he now realized was beyond any possible imagining -- and it was all just beginning. 

Rick's eyes were full of tears. He continued to scream, despite his desperate desire to die with dignity. His voice was becoming hoarse. His body twisted and writhed, trying to pinch nerves, numb sensations, escape the pain in any way possible. His body bucked, like a bronco. His blood spurted from his wrists and ankles. Rick began whimpering, like a whipped child. 

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V 

And then they raised the cross. 

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VI 

Through the long afternoon, rick hung from his cross -- the spikes securing his wrists and ankles to the heavy timbers. His voice was gone -- all that was left was harsh croaks that scraped his throat raw. Only his eyes showed how much he was suffering -- painful resignation. 

The fence round the inner track of the arena kept the spectators at a "safe" distance -- close enough to watch and photograph Rick's agony in detail, but far enough back to protect the spectators from Ricks diarrheal farts, kidney spurts, and puke that streaked the timber and dribbled down his inner thigh. 

By evening, it was apparent that Rick was near death -- from asphyxiation. -- A smaller man would have lasted longer, but a nice, large, heavily muscled young man makes such good show, that's what the fair directors always looked for from the hundreds of prospects. 

The weight of Rick's body was pulling cords of muscle in his pectorals bicepses -- his round, full muscles had been stretched into parallel strands of rope underneath dry and cracking skin. -- Even if he was reprieved, his body was ruined -- extensive surgery would be necessary just to reintegrate his pectoral and arm muscles -- the joints and bones stretched and cracked could never heal -- even if Rick was allowed to live. 

By now Rick's abdominals had also been stretched out of shape -- one band herniated through the other, back and forth, so his belly looked more like an Italian checkerboard table cloth rather than slabs of hard muscle. Rick was no longer aware of anything but a vague burning, enveloping his entire body and mind -- like he was inside some giant's belly, being digested slowly. 

But the spectators could see, Rick's breathing muscles were fixed to inhale. About once every twenty to thirty seconds, his body struggled, his thighs quivered as they tried to tighten, as his knees strained to push him up -- accompanied by a rattling rale. 

Rick's thighs quivered until they gave way and his body collapsed with a gasp. The purplish haze over his skin turned slightly pink in the center of his chest; his face became just slightly pink. Then the purple pawl started rinsing out the pink again. 

It was nearly over. 

Spectators who had gone for dinner or to see the rest of the fair could see what had happen so gradually the "official witnesses" could have missed -- Rick's skin had been severely burned. It was now lobster red. His body glistened in the light because the sweat had become thicker and thicker as poisons built up, coating Rick's body with a clear ooze that was more like sap than sweat. 

The clouds of insects were much thicker now -- and more and more flies were biting little chunks out of his skin instead of just sucking the slime. 

It was all very beautiful -- the point so close to death.

VII 

It was just a few minutes before the second "evening show". Jack Lacour lay on the floor of the tent, trying to rest a little and mentally prepare himself for the ordeal. He and Billy Richmond were scheduled for this "performance". 

He heard the commotion outside. One of the teenagers who'd been watching the preparations for the show cursed, 

    "Damn it all! We missed it!" 
His companion was too happy to be concerned, 
    "What'd we miss?" 

    "They just dragged Lammers' body down through the Midway!" 

    "A dead body! Big deal!" 

    "That ain't it! He wasn't all dead yet! They cut him down alive and dragged him down to the pig pen and threw him in!" 

    "Shee-it!" 

    "The way those pigs go for cow guts, you can imagine how they'd go for live meat!" 

    "Fuck! Damn!" 

After a few seconds, the first one wisted, 
    "Well -- maybe we'll be lucky tomorrow and they'll do it all over again!" 
The towhead looked over at Jack, pointing to him, smiling, 
    "Yeh, maybe it'll be that ass-hole over there!" 
1989, 1996, 1998 Katharsis 

footnote:

The Upper Peninsula is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. By all rights, it should be part of Wisconsin, but it's not. It's separated from the rest of Michigan by Lakes Michigan and Huron. The Upper Peninsula is a world unto itself -- different from any other part of the US.

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