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Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Flash Focus - Send in the Clowns, by James Kelher

Send in the Clowns

by James Kelher

I shake my head, the red wig slipping free. I raise my hands to my face, staring dumbly at the plain white gloves that sheath them. The blue and yellow stripes of my costume and the giant red shoes cladding my feet all seem part of a surreal dream.

“Buddy, you ok?” the dwarf asks again, dropping the bucket and taking a step forward. “That was quite a knock you took.”

I wave him away, attempting to rise to my feet. The effort proves more a wish than a reality and I find myself on my rump again, a sharp piece of straw poking me in the thigh.

“Easy there, fella, get your equilibrium back first.”

“What happened?” I ask.

“Elephant,” the dwarf says, looking away.

“What?” I ask.

“Elephant,” he says again, pulling a cigar from his back pocket and clamping his lips firmly around it. He crosses his arms across his chest, signaling, I know, that he will say no more on the subject.

“Ok,” I mutter, carefully feeling my body for broken bones or elephant tracks. Finding none I begin to rise to my feet again. This time I am successful and I stand there, unsteadily, unsure of what to do next.

“So what do I call you?” I ask.

“Name's Peter,” the dwarf said, extending a hand.

I shake it, noticing the roughened palm and the week of stubble that adorns the small mans chin and cheeks.

“I'm.....” I stop, realizing I don't remember my name.

I don't actually remember being the circus, either, but the clown suit and the rubber trout in my pocket would seem to indicate that I might be a performer of some kind. I shrug it away, casting my gaze around tent, looking for the exit.

“Um....” I begin. “How do I get out?”

“When you're ready,” Peter replies.

“What does that mean, when I'm ready?”

“It means when you're ready, the exit will become apparent to you. The fact that there is no exit means you're not ready.”

“Ok,” I say. “How do I get ready?”

“It simply takes time,” Peter says. “Have a seat, take a load off. Read a book, if you like.” Peter gestures to a shelve stocked with books I am sure wasn't there earlier. “You'll probably be here for a while.”

“But where is here? “ I ask. “How did I even get here?”

“Elephant,” he replies mysteriously again.

“Ok, stop with the elephant thing. Just tell me what I'm doing here.”

“Everybody comes here eventually,” Peter replies. “This is the waiting room.”

“The waiting room for what?” I ask.

Peter smiles, folding his small legs under him and settling into the straw.

“The waiting room for everything,” he replies. He sighs as he sees my confusion.

“Look, some people, the true believers, the truly faithful, get the clouds, the pearly gates, and straight-on admission. People like you, that maybe waffle a little, maybe question things a little too much?”

He gestures around grandly.

“You get the tent and the clown suit.”

I blink, not fully understanding but not really sure I wanted to anymore.

“Ok, fine, than how long do I have to wait? How many people are ahead of me?”

“Just one,” Peter says. “But it could be a while.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, when you finally get to leave here you have to tell your life story, at least as much of it as you can remember.”

“Ok,” I say. “So who's ahead of me?”

“It's the elephant,” he says. “And they remember everything.”


A. Catherine Noon said...

I love this one, James! Lots of fun. My favorite line: "They remember everything." I won't look at an elephant the same way again!

Debbie Cairo said...

Really great. I didn't see that coming from the beginning, which I love. Thanks for sharing!

Jason Runnels said...

This is a great story, James. It reminds me of a novel I haven't read yet (if that's possible). I love the premise. "The Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin Brockmeier is a novel that features a place called the "city" where people go when they die. They stay there only as long as people on earth remember their lives. your story here.