Funny Drama

Boobie Brown the Cowboy Clown hung up the phone and started to cry tears of joy. Nostalgia filled his heart and makeup ran down his nose and his heart felt like the man who fired the cannon at the circus had finally shot his soul through the top of the tent.

It had finally happened. Teddy, his boy, his boy had called and wanted to meet him and give him some news and today was the day. He hadn't said it yet but Boobie knew what it was without anyone telling him. Teddy had been accepted to clown college, where Boobie had longed to go, but had never had the opportunity. All his dreams had centered on Sarasota, Florida, home of the Ringling Brothers, land of sunshine and dreams. All those years busking, working birthday parties, all those children grabbing at his face and teenagers making jerk-off motions behind his back where he couldn't see, all the dirty work and angry parents and casual but demeaning side references to John Wayne Gacy and Stephen King movies just to get his son ahead in the world. And now it had paid off. Teddy was going to put on Grandpa Bojo's red rubber nose. The clown world would be his oyster. Cirque de Soliel, movies, small chain restauraunt openings in medium sized cities. Everything they ever wanted.

He looked at the clown nose. It made a squawk worthy of a man when you squeezed it. “Not like those pieces of junk you get now,” he had always told Teddy. A man's nose, a man's honk. Grandpa Bojo had been a man, back when men were clowns, back when it meant something.

Around Boobie in the shadows were the signs of a clown's life well lived. Pictures of the circus adored the walls. An original PT Barnum popcorn machine stood, unused, guarding the corner. You could still smell the salt and the oil in the thing, even though it hadn't been lit up in forty years. But he hadn't had the life Teddy was going to have. Clown college meant everything. He could be the next great one, the next Ramblin' Hobo Joe or Squawkin' Wille or Food Fight Sam. 

He could be one of the greats. 

He wanted everyone who was anyone to be there when Teddy made the announcement. He called Skittles the lion tamer and the three dwarf men that they did shows with and Leonidas the bearded lady. Leonidas was on probation for assault but she said her officer was definitely going to clear it. Boobie even called Elbert the mime who he secretly detested because he never got out of character and also because he smelled like soup a little bit all the time. Talking to a mime on the phone wasn't easy and Elbert hadn't said anything so Boobie wasn't sure he'd make it or even if he had answered the phone at all. 

Then he got himself dressed. He put on the best clown outfit he had, the white facepaint, the best lapel flower that shot water the farthest, the handshake shock button that hid under your gloves that nobody ever saw coming. He was already wearing the smile makeup. He took the big red van with the pink polka dots on the side. Today was the day. 

Boobie had offered to meet Teddy at the center ring in the big top at night. They could turn on the PA and light the lights. He had called the unicyclists and told them what to do. Everyone was ready. 

But Teddy had suggested meeting at a Denny's in the afternoon. No big top, no lights. 

This was the first sign of trouble. 

Everyone had gotten there before him. When he walked in he smelled greasy eggs and fried potatoes and saw Elbert looking pitiful and sad at a booth with Alfonso the bearded dwarf and all of them were just looking at their coffee morosely and not saying a word. Boobie beeped his lapel flower and tried to stir everybody up and nobody moved. There was Teddy sitting in the corner by himself over a pale looking egg omlette and a cup of black coffee. His boy. His clown. 

“Teddy,” said Boobie. He walked over to him while everyone watched. “My boy!” He reached out for him with big arms, ready to congratulate him. Teddy stood up. 

Elbert the mime looked desperately at Boobie and made a cutting motion with his hand, over his neck, slicing vigorously. One of the big bearded dwarves named Alfonso put his hand on the hand of Elbert the mime and lowered it to the table. “Let 'em go, Elbow,” he said in a gravelly voice. Elbert just looked at the floor and made a fake crying face and wiped fake tears with his hands.

“You- you heard?” said Teddy. He looked just like his Dad without makeup. Big eyes, big eyebrows. The face and the talent, Boobie thought. He'll go so far. 

“I knew as soon as I walked in,” Boobie said. “I'm so proud of you, son.”

Teddy started to cry. He laid his head on his Dad's chest. “I just feel like being a tax attorney is for me, Dad.” he said. “I've found my passion. I want to file briefs and prosecute white collar criminals and... Dad. I'm so glad you're here.” He was hugging his dad close and the tears were making Boobie's mascara run.

Everone looked on in horror at the developing scene. No one said a word. A tear ran down Elbert's silent face. 

He had almost missed the first words. Then they caught hold of Boobie Brown the Cowboy Clown, stuck on him like the smell of lion shit on oversized clown shoes. 

“Tax attorney?” Boobie said. “Is that a lawyer? You didn't get into clown college?”

“You always told me to follow my dreams, Dad. I've found my dream. I even – I even bought a suit today.” And Boobie looked and there it was. He had brought it into the Dennys, and it hung perilously from the rail of the booth. The dwarves stared at it in horror. It was indeed a suit, but not a clown suit. Three pieces, black and white, even cufflinks made in the shape of those little laywer scales. They looked like handcuffs to Boobie. It was everything he had ever feared in his worst nightmares. Tax attorney. His son. Tax attorney. He said it under his breath over and over. 

They stood there together, Boobie barely breathing, Teddy crying. 

No one said a word. Elbert stared at them in fear. 

Then they heard a honking, like escapees from the gates of Hell. 

Boobie had forgotten about the unicyclists. 

But he heard them hammering on their their horns. He wanted them desperately to stop but they came in anyway. They rode circles around the tables and booths and one of them knocked over a child's french toast plate and sent it clattering to the ground. The child started to cry as one of the unicyclists sent a handful of confetti into the air and Boobie looked on in horror and wanted to melt like his runny makeup into the floor. Elbert stood up to comfort the screaming child but the child's mother began yelling obscenities at the mime. 

Someone else screamed. More plates fell. A manager was coming. He couldn't take it. It was too much. He had to leave. 

Boobie ran out of the Denny's and jumped in the big red van with the pink polka dots on the side and let tears run down his face as he drove. Surely Teddy had been able to tell how grave he felt. Even a professional clown had feelings. But he had been so upset he had left the clown nose sitting on the table. It was probably covered in syrup and orange juice by now. Ruined. The police would be coming. 

Tax attorney.

He pulled over to the side of the road at a gas station and called Martha Ann, his wife, the circus conductor. The love of his life would be home at this hour, wearing leather stockings and practicing slicing through the air with her rubber whip. It was the perfect life, the perfect vision of her, and he wanted to be there with her so badly. She was probably wearing the fishnet stockings that he found so consoling. 

Trying to keep a straight face he started sobbing as he dialed. A minivan pulled alongside him. From the window a small child watched, terrified, trying to figure out what a grown man in melting clown makeup could be doing sobbing into a cell phone, before his mother pulled him away quickly in horror.

“I already knew,” Martha Ann said into the phone. “He told me.”

“You already knew?”

“I did,” she said. “He's not like you, Boobie. You stick to the mold. But he's always been his own person.” Boobie dropped the phone while she said this and had to reach under the floorboard for it. While he did his lapel flower started squirting and he accidentally compressed the hand buzzer and the shock gave him a nasty jolt. He found the phone and got back up in the seat, sweating breathing hard.

“Didn't I train him, though?” Boobie said. “Didn't I give him every opportunity? I took him to see the world's smallest pony and-”

“Yes. Now you have to show him that you're proud of him. What did Bojo used to say to you?”

“He told me a man was a man no matter what he wore on the outside,” Boobie said. 

“Six generations of Brown men have been clowns. Your grandfather performed at FDR's inauguration. We comforted the nation after Watergate. The world needs clowns! But it needs tax attorneys, too. Don't you think there's room for everybody in this world?”

Boobie just thought of the red clown nose in the mahogany box, now gone forever, and felt a terrible longing while Martha tried to comfort him and cried harder.

The other line rang so Boobie hung up with Martha Ann. It was Alfonso the dwarf.

“You left without even saying goodbye, “ he grumbled. “You're a jerk. Get back here now.”

“I just need a minute to -”

“No, I don't care about your feelings,” said Alfonso. “Shut up. This crazy lady, someone who was eating here, she says the unicyclist made her brat kid spill his French toast, she says the unicycle guys made her spill her coffee on herself too, so she's threatening to sue us and the unicyclists, and Elbert the mime too for some reason even though he's not involved at all, and now Elbert's getting in a fight, so I need you to come back and settle everything down here please.” 

“Can you handle it till I get there?” Boobie said.

“Maybe,” Alfonso said. “Have you ever seen a mime fight? He's throwing pretend rocks at the lady and climbing away on nonexistant ropes. It's not pretty. Drive as fast as you can.” 

When he made it back there was a flock of dark suited men and women swarming the Denny's parking lot. Boobsie hung his head low. He had hoped so badly that everyone would be gone. It's gottten this bad, Boobie thought. We'll have to shut down the circus. I'll be on the bar mitzvah circuit forever. 

Then he noticed Leonidas was shaking hands with one of them and the dwarves were laughing with a lady in a pantsuit. Teddy was talking with the unicyclist.

Alfono came up to him. “Didn't you say we were having trouble,” Boobsie said.

“Naw, all good now,” Alfonso said. “Turns out your son's lawyer friends came in handy. He invited them all here to celebrate with you. That is, before you turned tail and left like a jackass. Crazy coffee lawsuit lady backed down a little when she saw a roomful of lawyers step up. Turns out the tax attorneys saved the day. She took her kids and left. I think Elbert kind of freaked her out too with the invisible projectiles.”

Boobie tried to wipe the makeup off his hands. He wished he had dressed up, looked nice, maybe worn his rainbow wig. There were so many people here celebrating. He felt completely out of place and old and washed up. Was there really anything left for him here at all?

Then he turned and Teddy was right there. Boobie saw that Teddy was wearing Grandfather Bojo's clown nose. The bright red contrasted sharp against the pressed business suit. He had saved it from the table and the maple syrup and the chaos.

Teddy honked the clown nose at his Dad. It made a satisfying squawk. They both smiled.

A manly clown nose. Not a cheap whistle like the junk you get today,” Teddy said. “Isn't that what you always say?”

“A clown nose for a man,” Boobie said. “For my son. Aren't we a pair?”

Boobie smiled and squirted the best lapel flower he had at his boy. The old clown and his tax-attorney son hugged in the Denny's parking lot surrounded by bearded dwarves and a lion tamer named Skittles. He held his boy close and sang quietly the words to the song they used to sing together, when he was a child, when he would rock Teddy to sleep:

Don't you love a farce; my fault I fear

I thought that you'd want what I want - sorry my dear

But where are the clowns - send in the clowns

Don't bother, they're here 

Then Elbert the mime brought them a boquet of invisible flowers, tossed them invisibly into the air, making the smiling face again. 

Room for both, Boobie thought, still crying.

November 28, 2020 02:39

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