We support nekkidness in any form, especially in wintertime and on Sundays, especially near libraries and schoolchildren.... In fact, we encourage it, and we encourage you to define nekkidness for yourself, whether it be a complete lack of clothing, or outfits lacking certain elements, such as pants, underwear, or a red angora sweater during the Christmas holiday.

If you would like to be fully clothed and nekkid, that is your own choice, but we encourage nekkidness in its most raw form, just as we encourage religion, which to us is the very essence of nekkidness....

Perhaps you have already heard of our beginnings, of how I was kicked off the baseball team for no reason really, and spent an afternoon kissing a girl who was mostly in love with my sister, and between sips of banana milkshake, how we changed the course of the world, etc. all before the age of 18....

But even if you know that already, you might not have heard the full story. You might have heard my mom's story, or the checker at Albertson's, both of which, though nice enough, are incomplete -- lacking, if you will. This is our history -- Delores, her cousin Cherry May, and me: the Freaks. It is written in Cherry May's Bistro Burgundy lipstick, as all things should be, on a roll of yellow butcher paper -- although in future editions, we recommend that it be transcribed to ordinary white typing paper, with one word per page, and glued, in order, to a series of Volkswagen Vanagons that will parade down Main Street, honking and throwing unwrapped candy to the pesticide-glinting asphalt of Quagmire, Washington.

It was Delores who decided we should practice kissing sometimes, like in my basement laundry room or on weekends, when her mother, Alice, was at work. Of course it didn't happen that way. It happened in the Junk Horse (my '82 Mustang) at Ed's Drive-In, with the entire baseball team looking on.

"Who's the fag now?" Delores shouted out the window to Frank Barker and the rest of the starters who witnessed it. They shifted uncomfortably in the back of the Chevy, shoulder to pin-striped shoulder.

"They're gonna kill me," I said, and sunk into the cow-print seat cover.

Frank ripped into his Whataburger and spit a mouthful onto our sunroof. The shadow from his baseball cap darkened his uni-brow (as if he needed anything to accentuate his resemblance to the missing link).

"You want me to tell Coach about Silver Mountain?" Delores yelled at him. Frank scanned for Coach Whitman, who was inside, hitting on waitresses. "Why, you want more?" he yelled, adjusting himself. This drew snarls of approval from the stubble faces. Fred Dugan, the new shortstop, stared directly at me through the smears of secret sauce on the sunroof, mouthing "fuck you" over and over again.

I pretended not to notice him. "Can we just go now? All I want to do is eat my French fries and not do anything and not talk to anyone."

Delores rolled her window up, as oblivious to the Neanderthals as she was to the spots of mustard that made an umlaut over the "a" on her "Eve Was Framed" T-shirt. "Cherry May gets off in 10 minutes," she responded, but this was mostly a guess. Neither of us wore watches, and the clock in the Junk Horse perpetually blinked 12:01.

She slurped the last bit of her banana milkshake and leaned in to kiss me again.

All the other guys would've died to be where I was, but all I could think about was how huge her head looked, and nostrils, NOSTRILS. She stopped after a few seconds. "Nothing?"


"Me neither. How 'bout this?" she said, pressing my right hand against her breast. It felt a little floppy, actually. I couldn't imagine trying to throw a baseball with two of those in the way.

"Do you think it makes a difference that I'm left-handed?"

She wrinkled her nose. "I don't think so, Noah."

And we sat and waited, hardly aware that underneath us the earth's crust was moving and that somewhere people were being born... the regular plate tectonics and turning and motion of the world, etc. We hardly would've noticed any one thing: a French fry, a single breath, a life.

(You are now watching the past, a moment in time and the future as it whizzes/crawls/otherwise lurches by you, suspended from the frame of a blue/white/red Volkswagen.... Take a moment to marvel at the wonder of technology.)

Building the apparatus was actually more work than we had anticipated. We began, instead, with the idea of writing poetry -- disgusting poetry, something that exposed the darkest truth in our hearts, and also the world. "It should probably rhyme, too," suggested Cherry May, speaking, as Cherry May always did, with a theatrical swerve of her tight curls. Of course, this was impossible. The actual construction took most of that night, most of the tempura paint in the second-floor art room, and also hundreds of issues of Cosmo. The perfume advertisements were particularly resistant to our glue solution. Also, there was the matter of the wiring, the clock, things specific and general, essential in any explosive device.

(We are not rednecks. We are not wackos. We are the Freaks, neep, neep.)

As the police will later claim, the apparatus was covered/littered/somehow imbued with pornography... nekkid women, anatomy, all of that. The management cannot claim responsibility for the visibility of any Cosmo sex quizzes -- there are some things even the slimiest coat of tempura cannot wipe out, even when you try, even when the paint crusts over or with the lights out -- or I suppose, anyway. If you look hard enough, you can see or ignore just about anything: sex in Disney movies, sex in your parent's bedroom. But let's not dwell on it.... And Cosmo quizzes -- you know you like them.

Behind it all was an ordinary student/principal meeting, an almost-cliché, a sweating boy, a crusty man in an oversized, faux-leather chair. Ideally, he would've done something regal, like smoked a pipe, but Principal Fitch (Fitch the Fish) was a chewing-tobacco man, had a bald spot and a funny smell about him, almost like scrambled eggs. It would've been nice if he actually smelled like fish, but he didn't.

The Fish begins most sentences with the word "well," as if anticipating something, as if he could catch you at any moment off-guard, revealing some profound or obscene contradiction in your own character to which he could suggest a remedy, punishment, etc.

He ate an entire bag of baby carrots while we came to our "understanding."

"Well, have you thought about your future, Noah?" Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

"Well yes, I ha..."

"I've heard about what's been going on. You see, the world's a food chain, son; there are sharks and there are fish." Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

And it occurred to me that the Fish was right for once, that the world was a food chain: If a plane crashed above the Andes, Fish would be the first to eat the victims; he would fold an oxygen bag into a neat bib covering his Mickey Mouse tie, and he would eat with nail clippers and a black plastic comb for utensils.

He would devour the victims quickly, neatly, in carrot crunches, swallowing without chewing. "Well," he would begin, and he would stare at you, probably bleeding, probably with bruises and bits of foam seat-stuffing clinging to your jacket. "Aren't you going to say grace, son?" (Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.)

My role in it was essentially the twisting and contortions of chicken wire, bending shit, cutting it in places, none of the actual arty stuff. (I don't like Barbra Streisand, either. Let's clear that up right now.) We spread out on the mezzanine, which was not actually a mezzanine but a wide spot in the orange linoleum staircase, the spot between the band room and the cafeteria of Quagmire High. During school hours, this place was populated by the scurves: smokers, members of the marching band, anyone with sandpaper-scale acne.

Cherry May was in charge of distributing supplies. "I heard they peed on you in the shower," she said, handing me scissors.

BASTARDS. Sometimes you just have to say that, partly because it's funny, like a funny word, but also because you mean it, can't take any more of it, or anyone asking you whom you're going to the prom with -- oh, did you hear so-and-so doesn't have a date? That sort of thing. As far as the power of words, individually, there isn't much to them. A word is a word, or whatever else you want to stick there that sounds like word. A fag is a cigarette. Fag backwards is gaf, which sounds like a noise, like guffaw. It could be funny, if you think about it. It's pretty short, rhymes with a lot: bag, sag, wag, lag. Not long enough for a name, really. Definitely not biblical. I might prefer it to Eustace.

I suppose it's all about sex. Thinking/ obsessing/posturing about sex, who's had it, who's given it, all of the myriad ways in which it has been exchanged.

"I heard handjob," Cherry May said, slamming her tray down at our regular table.

"Didn't happen," Delores said. I took my usual seat parallel to Frances Goldwater at the next table -- enormous, a great deflector of French fry mustard rockets.

"So you're saying you didn't have sex with Frank Barker at Silver Mountain?"

"Of course not. You're changing the subject," Delores said, stabbing her fork into what looked like a chicken strip, and leaving it there.

"Look, if you guys want to, that's fine. It's fine if you do it. I'm just saying I wouldn't do it," Cherry May said.

"Well you could pretend," I suggested. "You could just pretend to go with a girl, and then..."

"No, I wouldn't pretend, either."

"Damn it, Cherry May," said Delores.

"I don't understand," I said; for truthfully, there are few things about Cherry May one really can understand. If you pin down her address, she moves; her hair color, she dyes; even her sex is somewhat mysterious. Though she's always carried herself as an upstanding member of the female race, her body is an amorphous shape, handsome in a suit, shapely in a dress, shoulders the shape and size of hangers.

"I want to get into a good college," Cherry May said. "I can't get involved in this kind of stuff."

(If possible, the drivers of this section should slow the Vanagons, swerving around somewhat to imitate Cherry May's overemphasis of every syllable, as if everything she says is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Truthfully, she is expendable. I am expendable. You are expendable. The words matter.)

by J. P. Snodgrass

While certainly influenced by Italian Futurism and Dada, the Freak's first manifesto can, and perhaps must, be read as a response to T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land. It is not only a satire, but a literary exploration of their prime purpose: inversion. The text repeatedly alludes to something called "the apparatus," and one can only conclude that this is in fact a phallic symbol on the most literal level. It is very Freudian and also bourgeois, and in many ways works as a Christ figure, a spiritual twin, a symbol of the moral decay of society but also the narrow scope with which the younger generation views the world, as something to be penetrated, understood; it is a blunt attack on what they believe to be intellectual heresy. That they are homosexual (with the exception of Cherry May, who is, by some standards, asexual) is completely beside the point, and should be entertained only in as much as it brings greater understanding to the overall aesthetics. (Blah blah blah.)

What is this? you ask. So you want to know about the Freaks? Are they deviants? Do they breathe/dance/feel? Are they real? Are they wrong? Are they destroying a community near you? One can only hope!

We believe in the inversion, the radical overturning, the reversal of gravity (if that's what it takes). We believe in everyone and everything, and nothing also. It all essentially hinges on 10 Necessities -- universal, but also extremely idiosyncratic in ways we refuse to explain.

1. Nekkidness -- the removal of clothing, exteriors, presumptions... see paragraph one.

2-6. A formal apology for the removal of Noah Seuss from the baseball team for the "crimes" of presumed foppishness -- in written form, on nice stock paper, personally signed by every member of the baseball team.

7. The extensive and widespread use of profanity, not only in everyday conversation, but in phonics lessons, children's games, etc.

8-10. Girls dating girls. Boys dating boys. SEX! MADNESS! INSANITY! (This is self-explanatory.)

by J. P. Snodgrass

Numerous critics have since analyzed the handwriting, and come to two fascinating conclusions: one, that the lipstick color used to write the first paragraph in the manifesto is Crimson Crush, and not the aforementioned Bistro Burgundy; and two, DNA testing has linked said lipstick to Fredrick Dugan, son of a prominent Quagmire insurance salesman, and shortstop for the Quagmire Savages. It is also suspected that he wears BRIGHT PINK WOMEN'S UNDERWEAR.

By the time I got back from Delores' house with more boxes of Cosmo, the apparatus was looking strange -- misshapen, I guess, and Delores and Cherry May were arguing.

"What do you mean they're not separate?" Cherry May said.

"Well, have you ever seen one?"

"I'm Catholic," she said.

"Answer the question, Cherry May," I said.

"It still looks like, well, some symbol or other," Delores said.

We covered the apparatus temporarily in lilies, left over from the spring jazz band performance the night before. It looked like a symbol all right.

The thing started with the Out-of-Towners. Two guys, walking through town, prolly not knowing much better, arms locked and all that sort of thing. Two men, all the way from one end of town to the other. "I heard one of them wore lace pants," Cherry May's dentist told her.

(This isn't where you thought you were going? Where is the prom, you say? The balloons? Where is the punch bowl, the cheesy radio station DJ, the large crepe paper river and whatnot? THE PROM WAS CANCELED! The end is the beginning!)

by J. P. Snodgrass

By all accounts, however, the 1996 Quagmire High School Prom was a smashing success. The theme was Billy Joel's River of Dreams; the decorations, lovely; and though a mild skirmish over some explicit artwork and the defacement of posters led to police questioning, nearly everyone lost their virginity. (Thank you for a wonderful evening, Fred Dugan. Kiss. Kiss.)

This manifesto has not been brought to you by the good citizens of Quagmire, Washington. Invert! Before it's too late! -- The Freaks