One afternoon near the end of summer, while George Pavel stood alone by a snack booth dribbling malted vinegar into his paper cone of fries, he looked down and saw something nearly inhuman—a creature in a stroller—staring back at him. It had eyes like soft-boiled eggs, a mouth like a shmoo. It gurgled.
“Whoop,” said Pavel, as if he’d tripped or knocked something over. For a moment he felt heads turn—as if he had done something wrong or embarrassing. But all he had done was look; and gripping the damp cone, he kept looking: the horrible wonder of the deformed child numbed and electrified his mind, like a plunge into freezing water. He couldn’t help the momentary thought that some sea-monster, some prodigy from the abysmal regions, had slithered up the shore and been placed a pram. How naked, how exposed—prostrate and oblivious, paraded shamelessly into this throng of Labor Day fun-seekers, the child snored sea air through tiny oblong noseholes.
As the stroller moved away through the crowd, Pavel stared at the back of the man—presumably the father—who pushed it. The man had browned and muscular arms and wore a tight black tank-top decorated with a Christian slogan: “CHOOSE THIS DAY.” He nipped at a pink cloud of cotton-candy as the crowd parted around him.