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This story was inspired by the recent recess in the economy, but it's actually taking place in the 1930s America during the days of Great Depression.
The brothers Jim and John Hoods had to suffer an extremely poor life, having to live and sleep in an old, dark and dusty room, sometimes having nothing to eat at all.
But one day in the street they met a travelling circus troupe and one of the performers talked to them and practically changed their whole lives. That was a lady wearing a disproportionally small belt around her waist and she introduced herself as the Wasp Woman.
Seeing how poor they are, she said that just by begging for money in the street they'd never attract many passers-by and would only annoy the wealthy, but they're still so young they could learn some spectacular tricks that always easily attract a lot of people. And what's great, they're already given the most precious gift a man can be given - the human body itself. With that, you have infinite possibilites, without having to spend a penny.
Of course it's easy to say "infinite possibilities", in fact she could only actually share what she knew from her very own experience with waist cinching... She suggested that taking into account their situation, ideal for them would be to train Jim to be a "wasp boy". Pros: his stomach was always empty anyway, so he could work on it all day and most probably gain a marvelous waist rapidly;animal-people were pretty popular these days in America, e.g. snake woman, elephant man, etc; so why not a wasp boy?.. remember it was long before the hollywood blockbusters, computers and special effects, so people would readily pay to see something that was out of the norm;she might have suggested contortion, but considering Jim wasn't young enough and never really stretched in his life, he'd never be able to compete with most of these Chinese bendy beggars;she would have suggested acrobatics but that would take much stronger bodies than the brothers had, that would, in turn, require eating well which they often couldn't afford.
She was a very smart and kind woman. Well, she was "kind" to a certain extent, because Jim's training wasn't something easy at all, for the first couple of weeks he had the constant feeling that someone just kicked him in the stomach and he had nightmares about weird things happening to his waist pretty much every night, like getting attacked by a huge Boa constrictor who for some reason was more interested in challenging Jim's waist than actually eating him. Little by little, though, he started getting a lot more positive dreams like the one about the kingdom of strange tiny-waisted creatures who gave him a broad golden belt and after Jim finally managed to fasten it, the creatures were overjoyed and accepted him as their prince.
And so they decided to go with the "wasp boy" career. Indeed Jim progressed rapidly and after making several street performances, they got hired by their first circus.
Their circus performance was only a few minutes long and was mostly received as a freak show, but "freaky" tricks were a pretty well-liked entertainment in the Yunited States in the first half of the 20th century: dead broke American contortionists pushed themselves to the extremities not known in the times of wealth, sword-swallowers kept experimenting with their deep throats, and there was even a certain enthusiast who could pierce a rapier through his body (youtube link). So the Wasp Boy wasn't even the freakiest but had a certain success, enough to help the poor brothers survive the years of the Great Depression.
After several years of exercises, waist-cinching was no longer a challenge and Jim could fasten the tightest belt very easily, so to make it more challenging he turned the show into a form of bellydance, grew his hair very long and started masquerading as Gem, the Persian prince, to make it more exotic :3