A WDC Birthday celebration! A short story of making friends in desperate places.
|Entry for "Invalid Item"
REQUIRED THEME IN ALL ROUNDS: BIRTHDAY
Place: Along the water
Character: The world's worst ...
Object: A digital camera
Word Count: 717
I cautiously approached the clown and called out to him, “You okay, mate?”
He glanced up and wiped away tears that had ruined his happy face makeup. “Yeah, fine.”
“Really? You look like you’re having a rough go of it.”
He skipped a rock into the water, but it sank almost immediately. Shaking his head, he began crying even harder.
I sighed. This wasn’t really my ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon. A walk along the lake is supposed to be relaxing, not emotionally draining. “Look, if you don’t want to talk about it…” I started, ready to walk past the man and leave him to his business.
“I’m the worst,” he said, sitting up straighter and making eye contact for the first time.
His curly red wig was half hanging off and his straight dark hair was exposed beneath. “You’re the worst what?”
“I am the world’s worst clown. I’ll never succeed in this business. I can’t even make the kids laugh, for Christ’s sake. They just run away crying, no matter how happy I paint my face on!”
I nodded, understanding the situation. “Look, most kids are afraid of clowns. I wouldn’t get too down about that.”
“You don’t understand,” he said, slapping his forehead with his hand. “Stupid, stupid, stupid. How could I do something so thoughtless?”
Putting my hands in my pocket, I rocked back and forth wishing I had gone the other way around the lake. I couldn’t leave him like this, but I couldn’t quite muster up the sympathy required to help him either. I waited for him to continue, but it was clear he would make me ask. “What did you do?”
He exhaled dramatically as though he had been holding his breath waiting for me to ask. “I got fired from another gig. That’s the third one this month.”
Again, he waited for me to ask before continuing. “Why were you fired?”
“My performance was over. I was about to set up my balloon booth at the side to make balloon animals for the kids. Then the birthday boy’s mom asked me to take a picture of her with her son.” He shook his head and closed his eyes as if he couldn’t bear to continue. “I did the countdown and right when I went to snap the picture, I dropped the stupid thing. I dropped the camera into the punch bowl. How careless of me! It was a four hundred dollar camera!”
I smiled to myself and sat down beside him, patting his back. “Look, what was your name again? I’m Richard.”
He looked at me through tears. “I’m Carlos the Clown or just Carlos.”
“Carlos, it wasn’t your fault. It was a simple mistake that could have happened to anyone. Do you know how many times I’ve dropped a new phone and cracked the screen? It happens to everyone.”
He looked at me, unsure of what to think. “Well, the kids did enjoy my main show. None of them even cried this time.”
“See, that’s the spirit! I knew you weren’t the world’s worst clown.” I picked up a rock and skipped it across the water. It reached the halfway point before sinking.
“Hey! How did you do that?” he asked, sounding stunned.
“Here, let me show you,” I offered. I showed him how the technique was all in the wrist. Within ten minutes, he was skipping them farther than I was.
He was laughing now, looking a mess with his running makeup, but a happy mess is better than a sad one. “Thanks for stopping, Richard. You don’t know how many people passed me up and didn’t care to see if I was okay.”
I nodded feeling badly about my earlier thoughts of leaving him here. “Sure, no problem. You never know when you’re going to make a friend, and it’s even better when they’re an awesome clown.”
We spent the next half hour talking about other clumsy mistakes that had gotten him fired, but he didn’t cry about it this time. Instead we laughed and I shared some of my own less than graceful moments. By the end, it was safe to say we had both made a new friend, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.