It’s tough being a clown these days. Gigs are scarcer than ever since the pandemic began, with most live entertainment events cancelled. To make matters worse, many people are coulrophobic. It’s almost enough to make me throw away my costume and wipe off the greasepaint. But I just can’t picture myself doing anything else. Clowning is in my blood. My parents and grandparents were clowns and I’m proud to carry on the tradition.
Yesterday I went to the clown conference that takes place every year, in a town not far from where I live. Several rather unsavoury things happened on the way.
I’d parked my brightly-coloured little car on the edge of town so that I could walk to the conference centre. As I slammed the door, there was grumbling from the small crowd which had gathered. They were of course expecting a ludicrous number of clowns to emerge one by one from the car.
‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘There’s only me.’ I felt bad for disappointing them, so I turned a cartwheel and did a silly dance before picking up my stuff and continuing on my way.
I was looking forward to the networking, presentations, the buffet and the free bar. Especially the free bar. But then my bladder started complaining. I realised that I’d forgotten to go to the toilet before leaving home. Luckily, I spied a fast food restaurant up ahead and decided to pop in.
Well, I caused a sensation at the restaurant. Half of the customers cowered in their seats, while the other half rushed up to me, phones aloft, for selfies.
‘Ronald, Ronald!’ they shouted. I tried to explain that my name is not Ronald and that I needed to urinate, but there was too much noise and no one could hear me. Good-naturedly, I posed for some pictures before trying to extricate myself from the crowd. It was most unfortunate that I tripped over in my oversized shoes. There was uproarious laughter. As I stood up, I gasped. Red stains down the front of my shirt and on my white gloves too. I lifted one hand to my nose and sniffed. The tang of tomato ketchup, not blood.
I fled to the bathroom, which luckily was empty. I couldn’t get the ketchup stains out. A glance at my reflection showed that my greasepaint smile had turned into a grimace. Determinedly, I straightened my wig and checked my watch. Half an hour until the conference. I had plenty of time yet.
‘Excuse me,’ I said firmly as I pushed through the customers, ignoring their requests for selfies. I left the restaurant and marched along the street until I reached the crossing. A mother with a pram and three children was also waiting to cross. When the traffic paused, we all went together and reached the other side. One of the children, a little boy, suddenly darted back into the road. I ran after him, caught his hand and brought him back to his mother. Instead of thanking me, she screamed.
‘Get away from him, evil clown!’ I was so surprised that I let go of the large red balloon that I’d been holding in my other hand. It floated away on the breeze. The boy smiled and waved at me as she herded him along with his siblings.
I was getting a lot of stares from passers-by and even some honking from cars, so I decided to avoid the main road and go a quieter way. Trying to lighten my mood, I hummed to myself as I passed the houses. As I approached one, I could hear a regular thunking sound from behind a fence. Peeking through a gap, I saw an elderly man chopping wood. Sweaty and puffing, he was obviously finding the activity a strain. He mopped his brow.
‘Lemonade, dear!’ a woman’s voice called.
The man sighed. ‘I’d rather it was beer,’ he muttered. He put down the axe and went into the house. I felt sorry for him. In the mood to do more good deeds, I squeezed through the gap in the fence, ripping my trousers on a nail in the process. I picked up the axe, anticipating the man’s delight when he returned to find the wood already chopped for him.
A shriek interrupted my thoughts.
‘Oh my God! There’s a clown with an axe!’ It was the lemonade woman.
‘What? A clown? What?’ The man spluttered.
‘Get your gun, dear!’ she said, very loudly and clearly. I put down the axe and scrambled back the way I came. I wasn’t going to hang around to explain and risk being shot.
Nothing else of note happened until I reached the conference centre. My outfit was ruined, my makeup was smeared, my mood was dark. I’d only wanted to help people and it had backfired.
I really needed that free bar now. I was a little late, but it didn’t matter. At least until something sloppy and white temporarily blinded me. Ah, of course. Traditionally, the last clown to arrive gets a custard pie in the face. Well, I’m afraid I lost my temper. After the journey I’d had, it’s understandable. A red mist descended – the red of clown noses, the red of balloons, the red of the ketchup stains on my gloves – and as a result, I was barred from the conference. I’m not worried. I know they’ll let me in next year because there are so few of us now.
As I said, it’s tough being a clown these days.