Clowning Around (Flash Fiction)

Sometimes, when it’s quiet, I can remember what my life was like before the circus came to town.

Don’t get me wrong. It sucked then too, but nobody had died yet, so there were advantages.

Now I know you’re probably thinking, “Oh, God. Not another spooky carnival story.”

Well it’s not. So shut up.

I’m sick of that crap too. If this was one of those tales, I would’ve rolled over and died already rather than face the idea that I might have to write about it one day.

I promise you, no carnivals.

This is more of a creeper clown kind of thing.

Whatever you think about that old dude up in Maine who likes to try and terrify people, he was right about one thing. Clowns are a bunch of scary ass freaks. And when a few of them decide to stick around after the rest of their sideshow buddies have moved on down the road, well then you’ve got problems.

I should probably mention that some bears stayed behind too, but that really wasn’t a big deal. Well . . . they do hate it when people snoop around their house, and they go absolutely APE SHIT when they catch you there, but as long as you mind your own business and keep to your side of the street, the bears aren’t going to bother you. I mean, really, what are they going to do? There are three of them to like thousands of townspeople. Know your place, bitches.

Anyway, the clowns.

The first time I saw one of them hangin’ around outside our house, I was having an argument with my mom. I was upstairs and she was on the main floor, but that didn’t stop her from yelling up at me about something I didn’t even do.

“I never said that,” I shouted back at her.

I’d called her a twap, not the other thing, and she knew it. She just didn’t like me.

You weren’t allowed to say the “T” word in our house. It was, like, a big time rule with her, and if I’m honest, she was being kind of a twap the day she’d come up with it.

At that particular moment, when that frizzy-haired weirdo was poking around below my bedroom window, my mom was lecturing me about the kinds of things ladies should and should not say. And for the record, ladies also should not sneak into bears’ houses, but . . . whatever. I’m tired of people living in the past. I wish she’d get over it already.

What I really wanted to say to her, what I knew would just stick in her craw, was that I was pretty sure ladies also should not do it in the back of a pickup on prom night. You know, ‘cause then they end up marrying the guy because of a happy little accident.

You see, I’ve seen my parents’ wedding photos, and I’m really good friends with math, so whenever she wanted to drop the Virgin Mary act, I was ready.

But I didn’t say any of that. I was too distracted by Baby Bozo skulking around outside. He was the smallest of the three clowns who’d moved into our neighborhood, and his shtick was dressing up like an infant (complete with diaper, bonnet, and pacifier) and pitching a fit whenever somebody stole his lolly.

My family and I had seen his act whenever the Big Top was in town, and at the time I’d thought, “There goes a guy who’s turned his fetish into a career. Good for him.” Now that he was on our front lawn, it seemed less okay.

“Mom!” I called, interrupting whatever pearl of wisdom she’d been in the middle of screaming at me. “Do you know we’ve got a clown outside?”

She was silent for a long moment, and the less-than-Christian part of me wondered if she’d thrown a clot of something.

“You know . . . uh . . . you know they live in the neighborhood, honey,” my mom said.

Her voice was shaky and for a minute I was actually scared for her. Maybe something was wrong. Luckily, bitchier heads prevailed.

“They don’t live under my window,” I said.

Outside, Baby Clown crawled around the side of our house and disappeared from view.

“He’s headed for the backyard,” I said. “You might want to get the hose.”

My mom made an irritated sound, and I heard the click-clack of her heels on the hardwood floor as she went to investigate.

Those were the last words either of us spoke on the subject that night. At the time, I’d figured the little degenerate had been long gone before my mom reached the back door, and when the subject of clowns didn’t come up at dinner, I let it slip from my mind.

If I’m honest, though, I shouldn’t have let it go that easily. Dinners at our house had always been silent affairs. I sulked, mom glowered, and dad kept his peace until mom told him he was allowed to leave. You know, your standard Brady Bunch kind of stuff.

When I think about it now, I wish I’d at least said something to my dad, even if we didn’t talk about clowns.

A scream woke me later that night. It was a piercing sound, savage and anguished, made all the more chilling by how abruptly it ended.

I lay frozen in my bed, the covers pulled up to my nose, hoping the reason for that scream would pass me by. I fought the urge to call out to my parents and instead willed myself to breathe slower and quieter. In my heart, I knew who had voiced that scream, but it was knowledge that I would not accept, so I lied to myself and wept and waited until dawn.

When morning came, there was very little left of my father, and his blood painted the walls of the room he had shared with my mother. Of her, there was absolutely no sign, and at the time, I couldn’t decide which fate seemed worse.

I’m more certain now.

What puzzles me more these days is why the clowns left calling cards. The wig, the flower, and the baby rattle: one memento from each of them, placed at the foot of my father’s bed.  I can only assume the clowns got off on the idea of leaving behind a terrorized little girl, one who would forever be robbed of the safe harbor called home.

I still shake my head about it. You see, that’s the problem with the best-laid plans. You never quite know when they’re all going to turn to shit. As my mother was fond of saying, “The sociopath is strong with you, child.”

I began hunting clowns later that day.

It seemed all three had pulled a vanishing act right after they’d taken my parents from me, but I took a chance that they’d try and hook back up with the rest of their Big Top buddies, and I began following the circus route.

It took me all of a week to find the first painted freak. I stumbled upon him by accident in the middle of the afternoon. I was behind the wheel of my dad’s Bronco when I saw the tall, lanky asshole crossing the street. He was wearing big floppy shoes and a stupid, tiny hat, and whatever homicidal thoughts he was entertaining were enough to keep him occupied because he never saw me coming.

In a white-hot rage, I floored the accelerator and ran him down. It was over in a matter of seconds and it was the least satisfying thing I’ve ever experienced.

Lesson learned, I thought. That one was too fast.

Fool number two bought it in a motel on the outskirts of Harlequin County. I drugged him and beat him to death with a bat, but my God, it took forever. My arms got sore, and I had to stop and take breaks.

Lesson learned, I thought. That was WAY too slow.

As it turns out, weird-ass baby clowns are relatively hard to find. Eventually, though, they run ads for parties and you end up following them back to their apartment complex after a seriously screwed-up gig at a nursing home. The term “crimes against nature” doesn’t even begin to paint that sordid picture.

By the time we reached Baby’s sketchy neighborhood, I was pretty much ready for anything. I kept my distance but made sure I could see which unit the diapered deviant went into. I told myself I was going to wait thirty minutes before knocking. I had wanted him to get settled and feel safe before I barged in there. But sometimes when you want something badly, you just can’t wait.

I quickstepped across the courtyard and drew the gun I’d earned by participating in some very unladylike activities. When I reached Baby’s apartment, I stood to one side of the door and pounded on it three times with the base of my fist.

There was no answer, so I did it again. And then a third time.

“We don’t want any!” a squeaky voice shouted.

I knocked again.

“Go away!”

I knocked a final time, somehow knowing this was it.

“God damn it!” he said.

I held my breath and waited and eventually heard the shushing sounds of his knees across the floor as he crawled toward the door.

What was wrong with this guy? I wondered. Then I smiled.

Said the clown killer, I thought.

There was a momentary silence after Baby reached the door, and I assumed he had gotten to his feet and was studying the hall through the peephole. I gripped my gun and waited, hoping this guy was full of bad decisions.

A couple seconds later, I heard the deadbolt disengage, and I watched the doorknob begin to rotate. Somewhere between a quarter and a half turn, I threw myself at the door.

Now I’m not a big girl, but I do know that fortune favors the brave as well as momentum. When my shoulder connected with the wood, the door swung inward and then immediately connected with something.

Someone on the other side grunted and then there was a thump as something hit the floor.

I stumbled into the apartment and found Baby sprawled on his back. He was naked, except for his bonnet, and he was struggling to get up when I placed a foot on his chest and pointed my gun at his forehead.

His white-painted face turned ashen, and his chin began to quiver.

An excited chill ran through my belly at the sight of his fear and I thought maybe killing this one would do something for me that the previous two had not. I started to say something, hoping it would come off as either cold-blooded or witty, when I heard a voice from the other room.

“Huey, are you okay, honey?”

I glanced toward the bedroom in time to see my mom fill the doorway. She wore only a robe, and it fell open to reveal her naked body.

“Goldie!” she screamed as she tried to cover herself.

I looked from my mom to the creep on the floor and back again. Stars twinkled at the edge of my vision and my hands shook as a cold fury began to envelope my body.

“Oh, this is just not right,” I said.

But I made it so.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.