A melia Eckhardt watched her son Johnny as he balanced himself on a table and made delicate brush strokes on the canvas. She was afraid he would tire of painting now that he was, as his twin, Robert, said, "a genuine movie star." She looked at the lobby card from the Baltimore movie house. There was Johnny--"Johnny Eck" now--consorting with the pinhead, the living torso, and the Siamese twins, as they rabidly pursued Cleopatra, the beautiful trapeze artist, intent on butchering her.
Johnny's mother refused to see the movie; she thought Mr. Browning was evil. Johnny tried to console her--he had made more money from the film than he could ever make getting sawed in half by Robert and that crazy magician, Rasha. Besides, he told her, it was not so wicked to mutilate someone who took advantage of the deformed.
Johnny liked to read about Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted the Folies Bergere and Moulin Rouge dancers so beautifully. The artist was an integral part of cafÈ society in Paris, in spite of his deformed legs. But Johnny Eck could no more fantasize what it was like to walk around on Toulouse-Lautrec's stumps than he could imagine what it was like to have Robert's legs.
Mrs. Eckhardt stayed in the room a while longer, watching Johnny paint the details of a tree trunk in a landscape. She recalled the picture of Olga Baclanova, carved up into a human chicken by the knife-wielding mob.
Shuddering, she left the room.