“There are two types of people in this world. People who hate clowns...and clowns. (Bobby Pendragon)” ― D.J. MacHale, The Quillan Games
I cannot say I hate clowns. Well, I can say it, but I do not think that is entirely true. They disturb me, from a memory of way back when. My mom, the old director of the library, used to do all manner of events for summer reading. One year when I was about six or so, the theme was “Big Top Reading.” My mom was big on summer reading having a theme and went all out, dressing the library in a tent lent by the local fumigation service, getting animals for exhibit, and setting the staff as clowns.
I remember every morning that summer watching my mother sit in front of a mirror wearing that bright, rainbow-colored jumpsuit. She would smear that white face paint on, followed by bright red lipstick and dark rings around her eyes. For flair she would paint a star or a spiral on a cheek or her forehead. And every moment I watched my mother disappear and a mask take her place. When she would stop and slide on a multi-colored wig, I would have left the room, too freaked out to face that creature with my mother’s voice.
I got over it. I can even get a laugh from clowns piling out of a small car and throwing buckets of confetti at each other. As long as one of them does not visit me in my dreams attempting to comfort me with my mother’s voice.
I can only imagine what it was like for Dave growing up around all that. I guess you get used to it. Or run away to join the real world.
“That’s all he said?” Dave said.
“Yeah. ‘Something powerful.’ Seemed pretty serious about it all,” I said.
“Well, Uncle Cai was always dramatic,” Dave said, “Mordecai Kesh, also known as The Amazing Monty, likes to make things seem bigger than they are, misdirect to the left while his right-”
Dave held out his left hand shaking it. His right hand came around low in a stabbing motion toward my back. He shook his head.
“You seem pretty, hell, I dunno, Dave,” I said, “You never really talked about your family.”
“Not much I want to talk about, boss. I just want to get through this week. If I can keep my head down and fix these computers...”
I looked at the pile of new computers in the server room, some out of the box and running a stream of updates and programs. I was impressed at how far Dave had come.
“Well, if you want to come up, I think there’s pie today if the damn clown doesn’t start throwing them around.”
“Cool, maybe I will later. Save me a piece... Wait, clown?”
“Yeah, why?” I said.
“What’s his name?”
“Um, Mallor or Malloni or something. What’s wrong?”
“Mallani. He’s with my uncle.”
Dave pushed past me and ran up the stairs. I followed him.
Dave walked toward the children’s area. He walked into the sea of children in the middle of the program and the crowd parted for him as he walked. Mallani the clown was making a balloon monkey for a three-year-old.
“Hey, Dave, long time no see,” Mallani said.
“Well, that’s not nice,’ Mallani said, his face bending downward into a sad clown smile, “If I leave, then little Forrest here won’t get his monkey.”
“Monkey George!” Forrest said.
“How about you finish that monkey and get out of here before I call the police,” Dave said, “Don’t think you’re supposed to be around children anymore, Marcus.”
“Will you shut your mouth?,” Mallani/Marcus the clown said, “That’s a technicality and you know it.”
“Still don’t make it untrue,” Dave said, “Now leave.”
“But, what about the pie?” Mallani said, gesturing toward the half dozen pies.
Ava Devillis saw he was pointing and smiled, holding out her hands in mock protection, “No pie throwing today, clown.”
Mallani laughed, “That’s just a myth populated by silly movies, dear librarian.”
The entire time, the clown’s hands had been twisting and shaping the orange balloons. When the blur of motion stopped, a monkey holding a banana sat on his outstretched hand. Forrest Devillis reached up and plucked it from the clown’s hands.
“Not too tight, little one,” Mallani said, looking at Dave, “Some thing’s are fragile.”
A horn sounded from outside. I looked outside and a truck pulled up to the curb. A decal with a big top circus tent was on the door and several boxes were in the back. Amazing Morty sat in the driver’s seat.
“Well, it seems I am done here,” Mallani said. From somewhere in his jumpsuit a horn honked as he squished his nose at the kids. Some kids let out a laugh and some groaned.
“Wait, you can’t leave. The program’s only half over,” Ava said.
“I am sorry, to you and you all,” Mallani said to the crowd of children, “You shall get a full refund and your deposit, of course.”
With little effort the clown made his way through the crowd and out the door. Running to the truck, he jumped on the back and clapped a hand on the top. The kids crowded the windows watching the magician drive off with the clown balancing on the pickup. They cheered.
Dave stood with his arms crossed. Ava huffed behind me.
Dave stiffened, “He said he was done...”
He ran from the children’s area and back to the computer lab. People were clicking away, oblivious to the world outside the world wide web. I followed him through the small maze to the server room. The door was wide open. Lucy the server sat in the corner, humming.
All the new computers were missing.
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