In the Mind of the Screaming Clown
First published online on 2005 October 31.
Bobo drank the tears of children. As a clown, she understood that,
in a child, joy and terror were emotions that stood close together.
She used this knowledge to make children cry. Then she swallowed
This nectar of fear and sadness gave her relief.
Cry and you can go away,
Cry and I wont make you stay.
Years ago, as a girl, before the disease, before the decay, before
the deterioration and decomposition, Bobo heard drums and trumpets.
They were the sounds of the circus parade heralding the arrival
of the Greatest Show on Earth. At the musics invitation, Bobo
ran away from the dim lights and gray lives of the town where
she was born. She ran away with the circus.
On the road she learned the things she needed to learn. She dined
on satire. She gorged herself on irony. She consumed pratfalls
and slapstick and commedia of the soul. She devoured these abilities
until they became a part of her.
On the road she evolved from an old girl to a young woman. As
each town passed the circus caravan, she discovered that in order
to make strangers laugh she had to give of herself. Every performance,
she gave away something. It was something she required, something
she could never get back. Something like dignity, but not quite.
And on the road, due to this charity, she picked up the illness.
Somewhere in the crunch of the sawdust, in the stench of the greasepaint,
in the laughter and desire of the crowd, Bobo developed an unnamed
woe. A malady of the skull, an infection to assault the head of
a jester, in clown lingo: a cranium-in-painium. The inner symptom
of this difficulty: boiling corrosion, the outer: unstoppable
There was only one remedy, one resolution, one release. Outside
of her tent, with her appeals for relief in the air, Bobo found
a lost child. Frightened by the night, the toddlers tears called
They were ambrosia that tasted of honey, arsenic and lost dreams.
Like joy and terror, comedy and sorrow also hold hands.
Bobo understood the exchange. Crowds could take what they wanted
from her, but she would take what she needed from them. In each
town, after every performance, she would procure a therapy: a
child to heal her, a child to cry. In the solitude of her tent,
surrounded by pillows and scarves and shackles and chains, the
child found a new home. And Bobo found a momentary peace.
So cry and I wont make you stay
Just cry and you can go away
To a place where youll hear people pray
Because my medicine is your dismay.
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Illustration by Matthew Laznicka of Basement Productions.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any informational storage or retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
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