Have you ever met anyone who was afraid of clowns? If that someone is you, you might want to skip today’s post. Now don’t be scared. This is only fiction…
“SEND IN THE CLOWNS”
By: Rachel A. Carrera
Marlee giggled as she glanced at her husband. “I can’t believe you, Steve. It seems like every time the circus comes to town, you get injured. You’re not one of those people who are afraid of clowns or something, are you?”
Steve blushed and averted her gaze. “Just hurry up, would ya? My back is killing me.”
“I’m driving as fast as I can. We don’t want to get a ticket. So, really, what’s up with you and the circus? This isn’t your way of getting out of going with us, is it? Three years ago when the kids wanted to go, you broke your ankle. Two years ago, you came down with strep throat. Last year, you got in a car accident and sprained your neck. And today, you fell down the stairs and injured your back. What gives?”
He sighed and tensed his muscles. “I’m sorry, Babe. I don’t feel like talking about it right now. My back hurts too much. I’ll tell you someday. I promise.”
She rested her hand on his knee. “Alright, Sweetie. Look, here we are…”
* * *
Dr. Haskell helped Steve to the examination table then gently grabbed Marlee’s elbow. “Mrs. Chambers, why don’t you go have a seat in the waiting room. I’d like to talk to Steve alone.”
She bit her lip as her eyes darted between Steve and the doctor. “Oh. Okay. Good luck, Honey.” She kissed her husband’s cheek and reluctantly left.
As the door closed, the doctor turned to Steve. “So, Steve, every year when the circus comes to town, you end up here in my office. Marlee seems to think it’s some psychosomatic ploy to get out of going. Do you want to talk about it?” He gently manipulated Steve’s back as he spoke.
Steve blushed then winced as the doctor pressed on his spine. “Promise you won’t laugh?”
“Sure. I promise.”
“Well, it’s not like I’m getting injured on purpose. But the reason it keeps happening… Well, it scares the shit out of me.” The color drained from his face as he sat up and hung his legs over the edge of the table.
Dr. Haskell took a seat next to him and took a pen from his pocket. “Okay. Well, tell me what it is.”
Steve studied the doctor’s eyes then slowly released his breath before he spoke. “When I was a kid, my folks took my brother and me to the circus. Shortly after we got there, my parents ran into some friends of theirs and started talking. So, my brother and I went to go look at the animals. We snuck around a back gate, and there was this elephant trainer who was beating one of the elephants with a whip. It made me so angry that I jumped out from where we were hiding, and I shook my fist and yelled at the guy to stop it. Well, I guess I surprised him, because he spun around. And when he did, the elephant bucked up on its back legs and came down on the trainer and killed him instantly. It… it was quite horrific. He came squirting out of both ends, if you know what I mean.”
“What? Oh, damn!”
“Yep. Some men rushed over, and they had to shoot the elephant. It gave me nightmares for weeks. After that, I’ve just always had the feeling that I’m gonna die at the circus. I don’t know why. In fact, ever since then, I’ve had a recurring dream that I’m at a circus and killed.”
Dr. Haskell furrowed his brow. “That’s dreadful. How do you die in the dream? Maybe if you know what it is, you can go to the circus, then you can face your fear and get past this.”
Steve shook his head. “That’s just it. Every time I have the dream, I die a different way. Sometimes, I fall off the tightrope. Sometimes, I get eaten by a tiger. Sometimes, the circus tent comes crashing down on top of me and smothers me. And sometimes, the sword swallower picks me to be his assistant. Then before I know it, he jams a sword down my throat, and I die. I know it sounds stupid. And I really do want to go with Marlee and the kids. But every time these accidents happen, they just affirm my fear that the circus really is gonna kill me. Please don’t tell my wife. She’d make a big deal out of it and probably send me to see a shrink.”
Dr. Haskell chuckled as he wrote on a prescription pad. “Alright. Consider it forgotten. Right now, I’d like to get some film on this back of yours…”
* * *
Two days later, Marlee sat beside Steve’s hospital bed. “I’m sorry you couldn’t go to the circus with us, Hon. The kids had a blast. Does your back still hurt just as much?”
Steve winced and forced a smile. “No, it’s feeling a little better. The doctor saw me this morning and said I can probably get out of here tomorrow. Thankfully, there was no permanent damage to the discs. He said that you should plan on waiting on me hand and foot while I lie in bed and tell you what I want for at least a month while I recuperate.”
Her eyes lit up, and her jaw playfully dropped open. “Oh, he did, did he?” She laughed.
He chuckled. “No, seriously he said I need to take it easy for a couple more days, but that I should be as good as new by the weekend.”
She stood and ran her hand up his chest as she kissed him passionately. “Well, I don’t mind waiting on you for that long. How about if I go get you some lunch? This hospital food looks disgusting.”
He smiled adoringly and grabbed her hand. “Thanks, Baby. You’re the best.”
She ran her fingers through her hair. “I love you, Honey.”
“I love you, too, Babe. To the moon and back.”
* * *
Friday night, Marlee carried dinner to the dining room table. “Alright, kids. Your daddy’s finally going to be able to get out of bed and eat dinner with us tonight. I want you all on your best behavior. Mikey, you go turn off the television. Jason, you put the dog on the back porch. And, Ashley, you go tell Daddy that dinner is ready. Then I want you all to wash your hands and come sit down quietly.”
A few minutes later, everyone was seated around the table. Steve smoothed Ashley’s long hair then winked at Marlee. “Smells good, Babe. I’m starved.”
Ashley beamed. “Daddy, after dinner, we’re gonna put on a show for you!”
Steve raised his eyebrows and grinned. “You are? Awesome! I haven’t seen a good show in a long time.”
* * *
A couple of hours later, Marlee hugged herself and sobbed as the paramedics rolled Steve out of the house on a stretcher.
In the background, a faint recording of calliope music playing “Entrance of the Gladiators” looped over and over. A dog with a multi-colored, ruffled collar sat in a hula-hoop and growled at the door.
Ashley wore pink tights and a leotard, and tears streaked her cheeks.
Jason’s face was painted like a clown, and he wore his daddy’s shoes and a pointed paper hat made of newspaper. His makeup ran as he cried.
Mikey hugged a stuffed monkey, and the paper mustache on his face went crooked as he wiped his nose with his arm.
Marlee’s hands trembled as they covered her mouth. She blinked her red rimmed eyes at the medic and shook her head. “I just don’t understand. Steve just got out of the hospital on Wednesday, and his doctor said he was fine. He only had a sprained back. He was feeling better.”
The medic nodded sympathetically and rested his hand on her shoulder. “I’m very sorry, ma’am. You’ll have to wait for the autopsy for the official diagnosis. But your husband appears to have suffered a massive coronary heart attack. I don’t know what he saw, but from the look on his face, it looks like he was literally scared to death.”
Time to talk: Is that the ending you expected? Are you afraid of clowns? Would you boycott a circus because of the way they treat animals? Have you ever had a recurring dream?