"Taking himself seriously, so you don't have to."

Vulcanized Rubber Soles

I was wondering when something like this might happen.

 

I had had a fear of clowns ever since I could remember, fanned by an early memory: clutching my father’s hair, balanced on his shoulders, watching a motley crew of clowns frolicking through crowded streets, makeup running smeared on a hot August day, following the trail of the antique horse-drawn fire engine of our town’s parade.

 

I screamed as one approached with a flower outstretched. I gripped my father’s hair tighter and tugged, screaming again, “No! Go away!” I still remember the sad look on the joker’s face, exaggerated but all too strikingly real.

 

My father, annoyed, took me down with some struggle. I was balling as only a 4 year-old could, blubbering out hiccuped fears and frantic questions: the one my father caught and that I remember: “What was that?”

 

He knelt down at this point, and in the most tender tone, full of both concern and incredulity, he said to me, “It’s only a clown.”

 

As I’ve grown older, they have appeared to me less and less. I cannot tell if they have gone out of style or if the prevalence of clown-fear amongst children have scared them off or if there were just too many little boys and girls out there who screamed true terror in their faces; these jokers living for mirth could not have stood many such reactions before throwing in their shoes.

 

Maybe I have learned out of habit to avoid where clowns are prevalent, to shun the circus and the fairs for no small whim of the moment but for a deep-seated fear rarely brought to mind. I have certainly never sought them out, and for all of this avoidance I’ve been rewarded with a mostly clown-free existence.

 

How strange, and yet just, life can be, however. For every day deprived of a particular thing or idea in small amounts seems always to weigh the scales toward fewer jabs, but more punch.

 

A day, alike others in so many ways, finally came when the clowns had run out of days to give me. When the scale had become so unbalanced as to topple, spilling its contents all at once.

 

I was walking home after a late lunch with a friend. We had met in mutual grievance over the death of a man well-known to us both. He was a gregarious, well-liked man, but with some proclivities that tended to lower his reputation in some eyes of the community, but which seemed to me to give him that much of a richer, earthier quality of character. There is something about a man of vice that makes him “endearing”.

 

It was in this pensive mood that I embarked home, a brisk walk through a few blocks of my small home town. The streets were empty, as school was still in session, and few neighbors felt the need to brave the August heat.

 

There, cresting a rise in the street, cloaked in the waves of the heat, steadily rose a shambling figure. With long, loping strides, a head, bald on top, with hair spiked stiff and long, came bobbing up hazy above the crest. I stopped and hid by a nearby tree and watched the figure advance. It seemed not to advance, however, but to lift, and lift it did until it reached a full height of eight English feet. As it loomed closer, I clung tighter to the mighty oak, but curiosity kept the thing in sight.

 

The biggest clown I had ever seen: long blue shoes tightened round tiny ankles, a one-piece red and white polka dot suit, puffed around the legs and arms with white doily ruffles at the ankles and wrists, short of its colossal hands. Its hair was orange and spiked all around its bald dome. But that face! It was longer than wide, but too much for both, bulbous around the eyes, sockets sunk deep and tiny, the nose drew from the forehead, long and flat and down-turned. Its chin was as an oblong coin laid flat and nearly reaching its chest. And its mouth! It remained open, motionless, lacking lips or teeth. I could see no trace of makeup, and it seemed no mask, for the body, the head, and all skin was as one, and the gullet depth allowed little room for a human within.

 

I clamped my hand over my mouth and grasped my chest. I stifled a groan, a yell. I quietly turned away, putting the tree between myself and the creature. I listened to the slow, rhythmic slaps of the shoes on the pavement, getting closer and closer.

 

This monstrosity was coming closer. Coming for me. I slipped away from my hiding spot, swift and silent, and ran in the other direction. Around the nearest house, and concealed, I flew. I forgot about all other concerns, which strike me now, but were not present in my fear-addled mind.

 

When out of sight, and on a straight stretch of road, I simply ran.

 

I don’t know how long it was, but some amount of time passed before my lungs and legs ached and I bent to my knees. Exhausted but relieved, I shortly pondered what tomorrow’s newspaper might say when the neighbors and police saw the conspicuous creature. But my ruminations ended when I heard another slap of a shoe.

 

There he was. As tall and gangly and goofy and inhuman as I’d left. Not thirty feet behind me and still shambling at his slow gait. I shouted for help and none came; I grabbed my chest and backed away, feeling for my heart beat, steeling the nerves, seting for another run. As he advanced, and I stumbled backward, then twenty, then fifteen, then ten feet, so close that another step might allow his grasp, I turned tail again, with renewed vigor, and ran faster and further than my young self had ever known.

 

By the time I came crashing to the ground, I had passed beyond the town’s limits, lying amongst the spotty grasses, weeds, and stones of a cattle pasture. I wheezed and groped about, by now completely out of my mind, with only the vague sensation: his grinning, toothless, engorged face burning through my mind.

 

I staggered to my feet, grasping a patch of grass, and once up, spun my head to blue skies, a gravel road, a herd of dairy cows, a country house, and… it. Once again.

 

The creature stood. It just stood and looked, if you could say it saw anything through those eyeless sockets. It spoke. “Huh huh,” it laughed.

 

I fell backward and scrambled on all fours. I groped about the field for… something. It advanced with me, as I saw with hurried glances. I found a sizable stone and threw it. It bounced off the creature like hitting a tree. I grasped a larger one and heaved at its head, hitting near the left brow, knocking the head back slightly. “Huh huh,” it repeated.

 

I ran around it toward a barbwire fence, near the road, perhaps to find help or get away or to find another implement to fight. I tripped on a steel post, partly buried under grass. The creature advanced. I hefted the post, six feet long and bladed at the end. I gripped it tight. I swung with all the force my body could muster, with a grip and angle for maximum damage, with the bladed end as the sweet spot, and hit the clown just above the left jaw. It lurched and tottered like a bottle and fell to the ground with an enormous thud.

 

Huh huh,” it said again. It swung its arms ineffectually. Walked its feet. “Huh huh,” it said again. It reached toward my leg, but could not grip. “Huh huh,” again. Twisting it’s sightless head, squirming mechanical motions. My fear abated, and yet twisted, and at once with such triumph, the beast became mocking. Anger and hatred flooded through me, a swell of righteous indignation took hold, for though standing above this helpless enemy vanquished, to be derided, and and by that one thing which had caused such fear, to see it beaten and yet alive… and yet mocking, I could not stand. I could not control.

 

I swung the post like an ax, striking with every bit of cold forged steel I held, and every ounce of strength left in me. Again and again, into that face, into that body, the neck, its upper arm, severing it, ripping the nose out, spilling and leaking an oily black fluid, flowing over grasses and spattering my livid visage.

 

And still, though bleeding, gushing woulds and rubber cuts, black fluid spurting from a headless neck, it spoke, “Huh huh, huh huh, huh huh” in its guttural deep tongue, a shuddering chuckle from its chest…

 

At some point, I stopped. No fear nor rage can overcome such exhaustion of the body. I sat near the corpse and found a cigarette, somewhere, and a lighter. Still it shuddered; the mutilated, dismembered mess quivered in its own black soup. It tried to laugh. I watched the torso fidget and twist in reflex and felt… I don’t know. So pathetic, this thing, this “monstrosity”. Still trying to laugh in that state. To think it can… now it was my turn.

 

I rose and pointed and jeered and said every manner of curse. I saw it flounder like a fish and slither and flop its useless limbs; I laughed at it! I laughed above and beyond its silly chuckle, more and wider and louder and longer than it ever could! I poked it and dropped another stone on its severed head. I lit a fire and danced about it. I squeezed bits of the shredded body and slathered the oil on my body; I scooped out the innards of its skull and wore the face as a mask. I impersonated the laugh, that “Huh huh”. I stripped off the skin and buried the rest.

 

By now it was night. The full moon had come out and the stars with it. I suddenly caught myself and wondered what I was doing there. Should I not be at home? I jumped the fence to the gravel road, carrying the severed, mangled head with me. “Would be nice for Halloween,” I thought.

 

A car pulled into a country house as I passed. It was Greg, just off of work. I had to tell him what happened!

 

He stepped out of the car and nearly had a heart attack of fright, seeing me so suddenly of course. I held up the mangled, disfigured beast’s head and said, “Greg! You wouldn’t believe it, there was this clown-”

 

But before I could even finish, he yells, “What did you do to my cow?!”

One Comment

  1. And to think I was going to talk to soomnee in person about this.

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