Twilight of the Clowns by David Raffin
(the whole short story is about 9 pages, the e-book is 160 pages)
“My father was a Clown, and his father was a Clown, and his father before him,” Bongo exclaimed as he balanced atop a snooker table.
“Preach on brother,” shouted a short Clown named Lefty. “We be a dying breed.”
Sure enough, we were a rare sight.
We were all there that day: Bongo, Lefty, Slappy, Pogo, Happy, Smiley, myself, Peterson, and the rest.
My name is Klinko. I had joined the circus at the age of sixteen, when I ran away from home to pursue my dream. It was a wild life; tramping around from town to town, eking out a living. Well, the last seven or eight years have been hard, sure; but when I got into the business fifteen years ago, the Clown was still the envy of every man. A lot of guys got into Clowning back then. Why, in the heyday about every fourth person was a Clown. Most everyone else was in some sort of a circus-based industry- even if it was only concessions. Back then, even the corner grocer knew it was to the glorious Clown that he owed his living. The circus was the gravy train; a bit of stability in the rough and tumble of life. And the Clown? He was the King! Long may he reign!
But people don’t come to the circus like they used to. Bongo says the people just don’t believe nowadays.
“They would rather be stockbrokers and car salesman,” he would often say. “They got no soul. They just hurry, hurry, hurry- chasing after the next dollar. They got no time for fun. Why, we even have trouble keeping the few circuses that are left in carnival barkers, and you know what a glory job that used to be.”
I knew it well. President? Hell, if a boy could grow up to be a carnival barker, be that he were lacking in the Clowning sciences, he would really know he had made it. Barkers got all the chicks. A fast mouth, a sense of spectacle, and a fiery spirit and you were on top of the world. You didn’t make as much money as a Clown, sure; but for a guy with a poor sense of balance or an allergy to base-white it was as close as you got. And it was nothing to sneeze at, neither. Not everyone was made to be a Clown, after all. It was a gift. Hell, give a guy the smell of the greasepaint (mixed with fresh popcorn and elephant manure, of course) and any sane man is in seventh heaven.
[so after the circus closes..]
While a lot of the guys were wallowing in their depression, Slappy and myself got on doing telegrams and parties. It was demeaning work, but it allowed us to remain professional Clowns.
This was the worst time in my life. We weren’t in high demand at the agency, who’s specialty was really strippers, and we were sent out as gags. Mind you, we were never really wanted wherever we showed up. If we were delivering a telegram we would get cursed out and have things thrown at us when we showed up at the door. More often than not we were used as process servers: delivering subpoenas, summons, and notification of lawsuit. Slappy was once severely beaten before he could sing “happy birthday.” After that we were always sent out as a pair.
We were living in a dive on sixth street when the rest of the guys were finally removed from the old circus grounds. Of course we invited them to stay with us, and so were living with twenty-two other Clowns in a one bedroom apartment with no hot water. We tried to get them on at the agency but were told that two Clowns were all that were needed, if that. The rest of the guys put out flyers advertising themselves as available for birthday parties. Birthday parties! There is nothing crueler than a child when presented with a Clown.
[eventually things really turn ugly]
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