I’ve always liked watching my neighbors.
Not in a pervy kind of way. I mean, I know how that sounds. You’re immediately like, “Oh, he’s the guy who defiles himself behind the half-drawn curtain while the single mom next door sunbathes in her backyard.”
I’m not some kind of deviant. I just like to know what’s going on along my block. It’s always been a nice, quiet kind of place. It didn’t really start to go to hell until the clown moved in across the street.
Now I’m not prejudice against clowns as a whole, other than the fact that they’re evil incarnate and largely devoid of souls. In the pantheon of creepy-ass shit, clowns rank right up there with ice cream truck drivers, because you know something shady is always going on in the back of those things.
When it came to my neighbor, the thing that struck me wrong was that he was always, and I mean always, in character. It didn’t matter if you were having your morning coffee or checking your mail at the end of the day, any time you’d get a glimpse of him, he was always dressed like Bozo’s second cousin.
It drove me crazy. I hated seeing that stupid orange wig or the red nose and the painted-on smile. Sometimes I just wanted to choke him with that oversized rainbow tie until he promised to wash off the makeup and mow his lawn in shorts and a t-shirt like everybody else.
There are ways you live and ways you don’t, and this clown was on the wrong side of that line.
In case you’re curious, his name was Trevor. Let that sink in for a minute. Trevor. What kind of name is that for a clown? And who else do you know that gets their mail addressed to Trevor, no last name listed?
(I might’ve taken a peek once.)
And while we’re at it, what kind of person draws all their shades on the first day they move in, and then never opens them again? Someone with something to hide. That’s who.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the Trevor problem. I wanted to prove there was something wrong with our friendly neighborhood clown over there. Eventually, I got my chance.
My friend, Andy, worked part-time at the local Gas-N-Go and spent the rest of his day breaking his parents’ hearts by being an artist. Somehow, some way, Trevor the Clown had gotten wind of Andy’s aspirations and had commissioned a painting.
“And the bastard still hasn’t paid,” Andy said.
“How long’s it been?” I asked. To be entirely honest, Andy’s answer didn’t matter. I already knew what I wanted to do.
“Six weeks,” Andy said. “That asshole doesn’t answer my calls or return my messages, so I’m done waiting.”
“So what’s your plan?” I asked.
“I want to kick in his door and get my painting back.”
“Doesn’t sound like the kind of thing you should be doing alone,” I said.
In the end, we went for a less dramatic approach. We took a brick into the clown’s back yard and used it to liberate the glass from the sliding glass door. I worried for a moment that we might trigger an alarm, but the people who’d owned the house before Trevor had never installed a security system, and based on my own observations, the clown had never had a single installation of any kind, cable or otherwise.
(See, people. It pays to be aware of your surroundings.)
We found Andy’s painting hanging over the mantle in the living room. It was an odd piece, featuring an orange-haired girl, a cat, and a mystery man pulling a wagon that held a shotgun.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, Andy?” I asked.
“Don’t look at me. It’s what he wanted.”
Andy lifted the painting from the hooks that held it in place. “Okay. Let’s get out of here.”
“Give me a couple minutes,” I said. “I want to have a look around. You keep an eye out for the clown.”
I left before Andy could protest and took the stairs to the second floor.
I’m not sure what I expected to find. Maybe a cage full of crying children or an altar of autopsy photos, but Trevor seemed surprisingly normal. The only thing that creeped me out was all the pictures of clowns. Sad, happy, sinister. All shapes and sizes. They crowded every inch of available wall space.
The master bedroom, the lair of the beast, was at the end of the hall, but it also looked average, in every sense of the word. It really pissed me off.
I pulled open one of Trevor’s dresser drawers, looking for anything to justify my suspicions, but it was empty. I tried the others. There was nothing in any of them. It was like no one even lived there.
“Hey, man!” Andy called from downstairs. “I think we’ve got a problem.”
I took a quick glance through one of the windows but didn’t see a car in the drive. I hurried down the stairs and saw Andy standing at the bottom with a gun pressed against the back of his head.
“Howdy, neighbor,” Trevor said. He had a broad, mirthless smile and hard, hateful eyes.
Even though the gun wasn’t pointed in my direction, I raised my hands in the universal sign of surrender.
With Andy and me in the lead, Trevor shepherded us to an interior door that led to the garage. I couldn’t ever remember having seen the clown use it. He always parked in the drive.
As we crossed the threshold, the interior lights came on and illuminated an aging van that had been converted into an ice cream truck. The panel door slid open, and two more clowns were crouched inside. They also smiled. Neither was friendly.
“I think it’s time we had a talk,” Trevor said.
“God-damned ice-cream trucks,” I said. “I knew it.”