H In the Mind of the Screaming Clown

Editor’s Foreword

Ah, so this is why some people are afraid of clowns.


    “Are these little chains too tight?
     Your prison is for my delight.”

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 their tears.

This nectar of fear and sadness gave her relief.

    “Cry and you can go away,
     Cry and I won’t 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 music’s invitation, Bobo ran away from the dim lights and gray lives of the town where she was born. She ran away with the circus.

    “I’m just a sad and lonely clown
     Who only wants to see you frown.”

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.

    “Sharp red nose and makeup smears
     See my face in all your fears.”

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.

    “Noble deeds don’t get me laughs
     Disgrace and shame are my true crafts.”

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 screams.

    “When my skull begins to leak
     The sound I make is one long shriek.”

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 toddler’s tears called to her.

    “Your tears will stop the horrid pain
     That’s stabbing me from in my brain.”

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 won’t make you stay
     Just cry and you can go away
     To a place where you’ll hear people pray
     Because my medicine is your dismay.”


About the Author

The Undertow of Small Town Dreams, a collection of John’s short stories, is currently available from Twilight Tales Publications. For more information about John, check out his website.


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