“No one wants to clown anymore.” Loomey the clown said after he had taken a pull from a bottle of Jack Daniels. We were sitting outside behind one of the trailers after the circus had closed down. Everyone had settled in for the night. It is eerie to see a large circus at night when there is no one around and the lights aren’t flashing; the ghost of better times.
“No one wants to work anymore,” he said with a snarl. ”Your generation is entitled. “I remember-“ Here he stopped to let out a burp; the kind where his cheeks puff out and he gets that look as if he was surprised by the whole thing. “I remember when I went to school to learn to clown there was work involved, kid. I don’t mean sitting through some numbers classes. I mean real, hard work.”
He took another long tug from his bottle. He was getting drunk again. The signs were all there. He looked just past me with his foggy eyes and smiled his drunken fool’s smile.
“Been doing this for thirty years kid. When I started people used to love the shows. They used to love the elephants too. There were three of us when the times were really good. I remember one night…The whole damn town was in tears from laughing. They loved us. Now we are lucky if we can get twenty people together under the big top. They used to love the elephants too.”
His make-up looked terrible. It was all caked and cracked while his lips looked like some smeared orange blood drooping down the right side of his face.
“Then everyone had to worry about their safety. We gave them a job, you know. We gave their lives meaning. We made people laugh. There has to be something important about making the world funny. The world needs clowns boy! If only to take their minds off of the poor elephants.”
He always began to ramble at this time of the night. Next thing you know he will be talking about suicide and then he will sit silent and smoke to some old Journey songs. I guess he always thought that he was an artist.
“They don’t laugh anymore, though. No one wants to be funny or to be the laughed at. Comedy is an art. No one knew that better than phil. Boy, he was some clown. That guy did it all. He could juggle, he had illusions and he did the best walks you ever did see. I guess it has been about three years now since Phil shot himself in Minnesota. When times get tough on the road you need something to laugh at. I guess he ran out. Of course, no one wants to laugh anymore.”
“Then there was the Amazing Bob. He wasn’t so amazing. But he was a damn good friend. You know what happened to him?”
Of course I knew what happened to him. This was the millionth time Loomey had gotten stupid drunk and told me.
“He choked on his own vomit after a weekend in New York. That must be one of the least funny ways to go.”
After that we sat for a while smoking in silence. I drank my beer and he drank his whiskey. The lights around the grounds went off and it was a sign that it was time to turn in.
“You know, we used to be funny, us clowns. But I guess the elephants used to be happy too. No one wants to be a clown anymore. And no one wants to come to the circus.”
He corked his bottle of and went into his trailer. Shortly after I saw the lights go out. Sleep it off funny man.
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Photo credit: David Karich