Clowning Around

July 15, 2011
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Did you hear about the fire at the circus?
I heard it was in tents.


This, I guess, is what therapists call ‘snapping’. Of course, they have some fancy technical term for it but, essentially, that’s what happened. The years of pressure built up and I went wacko.

I started off with the hamster. That stupid hamster. Sir Fredrick. A stupid name for a stupid animal. In the house, it looks like an accident. I wouldn’t want the PETA police to track me down. Sir Fred is now at peace in the vacuum bag. If George really loved him, he would have come back. George used to dote on that abominable creature. If he could have married the rodent he would have–I hear that’s legal in California these days. That’s right, for the past two years I’ve been coming in second to a hamster.

Did the hamster rub his feet after he got home from the cubical? Fix him meatloaf every Thursday night even though he personally hated it? Clip his toenails? I don’t think so.

Nixing my ex’s hamster isn’t even the highlight of my breakdown. After my impersonation of Jack the Ripper, I turned on the electronic picture frame. It’s now sitting on George’s new girlfriend’s doorstep loaded with photos from his middle school days. Who knew a kid with black eyebrows could have a flaming red afro? Wendy does now.

Wendy. Even thinking her name makes me furious. Wendy is such an unassuming name. When I first met her, my mind flew to the Peter Pan character. Erase all images of that particular Wendy from your mind. Wendy Morose is anti-Neverland Wendy. Evil Wendy is a horrendous bottle blonde monster with blue contacts. Her eyes are normally brown. I checked.

Wendy is the main reason I decided to leave. She’s like the never ending torrential downpour on my life. She could never survive in a place as peppy as Gordon’s Glorious Gilly. As if Gordon would let her in. She’d kill the mood as soon as she stepped within a ten mile radius. Evil Wendy probably doesn’t know how far ten miles is; let alone the definition of ‘radius’.

There are tons of people here at Gordon’s and not one of them have the same leechy traits as Wendy. Actually, I’ve made some friends. One of them is–no lie–named Danbo. Danbo sympathizes with me. His girlfriend left him two months ago taking his fish Floppy–and I thought Wendy was cruel.

Danbo’s real name is Danbert. His mother couldn’t decide between Daniel or Robert so she morphed them into an unfortunate combination. If I were him, I’d just go by Dan, but whatever.

Danbo’s conversation has switched from pointing out the irony of my name (Patience) to gossiping. The arrival of Augustine puts a stop to that. She’s the lion keeper and also a survivor. I’d be gone the first time I lost an appendage, but yet she’s still here. There’s a certain smell that follows Augustine wherever she goes. It’s wet cat and mildew mixed with aromatic onion. No matter how much time I spend around her, it never goes away. The Smell announces her arrival a minute before she arrives so that gives us enough time to switch to a topic that’s not her.

“So..Pat...how was your day?” The only reason Danbo joined Gordon’s is because an acting troupe wouldn’t take him. The guy could give Tommy Wiseau a run for his tragic acting money.

“Great, Danbo, Gordon only yelled at me every five minutes.” I realize my voice sounds as fake as his. I do a better job masking it, though.

The excitement radiating off Augustine keeps us from making more intriguing conversation. “What?”

How can she have so much energy when I have so little?

“You have a postcard!” Mail is a rarity here, most carnies are estranged from their families.

The front of the postcard has incoherent drawings on it. Probably the work of my little sister Diana. She scribbles on anything she can get her marker streaked hands on. The back is worse than the front.



Dear Patty Cakes,





I’m so happy! You’ve finally reached your goal. I know this has been a dream of yours since a very young age. Know that your father, Diana, and I are proud. Be sure to send us your schedule, my friends from bridge club want to watch one of your shows. Be safe and don’t walk on the trapeze without safety restraints.




Love Always,





Mommy, Daddy, and Diana


Only my mother would congratulate me on running away and joining the circus. I can just imagine what her card friends will think when I stand in front of them baiting a lion or leading a bear on a unicycle around the ring. Won’t they be so proud?

“Are you going to write back?” Augustine’s eyes grow wide.

I toss the postcard into the crack between my trailer bunk bed and the wall. “Maybe.” It’s a dismissive ‘maybe’. Not a ‘God I miss my family maybe’. Putting my head in a lion’s mouth is less unnerving than being with my mom.

Poor Diana quit soccer when she was a first grader because Mom went too far in the cheering department. She painted her face for every game and chased down opponent’s cars. I’m afraid of what Mom will do if she’s let loose here. I’m going to have to get her one of those leashes parents put on their kids so they don’t go galavanting away.

Augustine is quick to inform me that her mother publicly shunned her when she ran off. She then launches into a story revolving around the moment she decided to become a lion bater. The question ‘how did I get here’ pops into my head. I’m not sure wether to hate or love George for putting me into this position. I certainty wasn’t going to love him.

Even at the beginning I knew we were never going to last. Let’s just say if someone was pointing a gun at him, I would think twice before jumping in it’s path. I mean, I’d care if he died, but just not as much as I was supposed to. When I found out about Wendy, I wasn’t even angry about it. Well, I was, just for the wrong reasons. What made me mad was all the things I did for him; laundry, shopping, finances. You name it, I did it. No ‘thank you’ at all, just a happenstance meeting at some smoky bar. I figured he would have let me down easier. Maybe more like a ‘meet Wendy’ instead of a ‘fancy seeing you here’. The lousy sneak.

Unfortunately for me, George knows how to sneak around. His mom is weirdly religious. When he was a teenager she painted the ten commandments on his wall and played hymns through their house’s intercom system. They also had a full mural of Jesus in their kitchen. George’s mom, Fiona Mae, has read the bible cover to cover ten times; and that was just last year. Whenever I went over to her house, she would cluck her tongue and mumble about how I was never baptized. It really killed her inside.

Other than his mom trying to convert me, we had our share of problems. Since he was deprived of the ‘Devil’s Game’ as a child, we had nightly games of poker. Most of the time I won. The only game he won was when he was betting Sir Fred. As much as I hate the rodent, I couldn’t deal with George if Sir Fred was no more. The crying would be overload. Regardless, Sir Fred was going to “run away in the night” sometime.

The first person, however, to run away in the night is Danbo. He mumbles something about X-Men cartoon reruns and retreats to his RV. After he leaves, I go find my toothbrush amongst the various bottles of face paint. As if there would be room if they weren’t there.

Gordon doesn’t put much thought into his employee’s living spaces. My RV (if you can call it that) has roughly the same amount of square footage as a canoe. The steering wheel is basically in the kitchen and our bathtub was designed for dwarves. Literally.

Whenever I brush my teeth I have to keep my arm from putting a hole in the door. “Watch where you’re going!” An angry clown’s face barely misses my elbow. Sadly.

“Sorry.” When I speak toothpaste foam runs down my chin.

“Hurry up in there.” My bunkmate is a 4’11 clown named Chuckles. I don’t even know how many levels of wrong that is. First, she had to choose the creepiest name out there–Chuckles–then make it even more frightening by adding ‘the clown’ afterwards.

You’d think after twenty years of clowning she would be at least a little joyful. No, she’s just a horrible person.

Chuckles’ real name is Magdalene and rumors are floating around that she got kicked out of medical school. Augustine tells me it’s because she was doing illegal dissections of cadavers. The sad thing is I can actually see her sneaking into some dark lab and cutting someone up illegally.

I’d like to think that she’s just hiding a sensitive interior; but sensitive people generally don’t shout ‘the show must go on’ after someone’s forearm has been bitten off. I learned this quickly.

When I first moved in, Magdalene laid down a set of ground rules:
Don’t touch Magdalene’s clown stuff. Including makeup. She doesn’t know what kind of skin diseases I carry.
Absolutely no saturated fats in the RV. I “don’t need to gain any more weight”.
Bedtime is 8:30 sharp every night. No excuses–I tried.
It’s Magdalene. Not Maggie or Mags. She prefers Führer
Friday night is movie night. Get quiet or get out.

One day I snuck into her movie closet to see what all she watched. Usually I choose the ‘get out’ option. What shocked me wasn’t the vast amount of movies but what their titles were. Magdalene is a closet romance movie fan. At first, I just brushed by movies such as He’s Just Not That Into You and The Notebook but then I realized that’s what her entire collection is comprised of. Why not some movies she can relate to? Like It.



After Magdalene kicks me out of the bathroom, I go lay on my lumpy mattress. It seriously feels like someone has shoved tennis balls in while I was away. Obviously, it makes sleeping difficult. As if I would be getting any, anyway. I haven’t slept well since the whole George thing and tonight I have the deep sleep feeling about me. Unfortunately, my lovely roommate decides to walk in the exact moment I close my eyes. Not only does she make charging elephants with toothaches sound quiet, but she flips the light on.

My attempts at getting back to my happy place fail when I feel a chord hit my face. “Plug it in,” Devil Spawn commands. Oh God, it’s movie night. It’s too late to think of some reasonable excuse to leave so I plug in the DVD player and stare at the bottom of the top bunk.

Right now, George and Fiona Mae are probably joking about me. Wait until they hear about the fact I’m laying a bunk down from an abusive clown named Chuckles. They’ll just die. Evil Wendy will probably lose it once she finds out said clown is watching Titanic.

I don’t understand why Magdalene needs to watch movies with the lights on. It would be a lot easier to sleep if she didn’t. If I asked her to turn them off then she’d probably just laugh and turn the movie up. I don’t think I could handle the lights, Magdalene, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s “I’m the king of the world!” at the same time. I begin thinking of ways to escape. The only thing I think of is leaving Gordon’s–and lose this chance of high-class living? No way.

A more realistic plan is probably to just wait it out. Maybe after the Cincinnati show we can ‘accidently‘ leave her in a gas station bathroom. She won’t be chuckling then. Gordon won’t go back for anybody. Especially someone who could possibly mutilate him...the same thing I would like to do to Wendy’s ugly face.

Was trading Wendy for Chuckles a good trade? At least Chuckles doesn’t steal my boyfriend. Now I know how that bad guy from Titanic feels; all he wants is to marry Rose in peace. If only it didn’t take him so long to realize it.

Titanic’s angst is drawn out over three hours. So long to rule 3. As Kate Winslet has to pry Leonardo’s cold dead hand off her wrist, I think I hear Magdalene crying and consider tattling on her. Chuckles the Clown should not be crying for any reason. Chuckles the Clown probably shouldn’t be a bully, either, but that’s a completely different story.

I swear Magdalene waits for credits to the end then turns the lights off. Her bunk above mine groans as she settles into it. She mumbled something about fixing it one time but never did anything suggesting that. I guess she figures if her bed falls on me in the night, that’s one less roommate to deal with. Every morning that I wake up unharmed feels like I’ve jumped some kind of horrendous obstacle. Then night comes.

I snuggle underneath my military issue blanket and close my eyes. Mainly so I can’t see a giant mass of mattress seeping down above me. And I can’t have saturated fats in the RV? At least George didn’t weigh down his side of the bed. I should really stop thinking about him. Both of them. I need to get over it. I’m over it. I’m over it. I’m not over it.
That hamster was weak, anyway.





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