WE JOIN OUR HERO DRIVING HOME, DOWN A LONG, TYPICALLY WINDING ROAD, THROUGH A BLACKENED COUNTRY SIDE SOMEWHERE IN THE AMERICAN NORTH EAST. On either side trees stretch their gnarled branches toward a gauzy, moon illuminated fog-filled sky.
Presently, Dillird Q Thurman spins the dial on the car radio, static and cut-off random bites of chatter; 60’s folk rock, 90’s alternative, a baseball game, some talk, and auto-tuned pop.
He eventually settles the needle on the Union Public Radio channel.
“Next up on Union Public Radio: Racism, and the good ol’ boys network, still an entrenched institution, still influencing government policy behind the scenes. It’s all next up, on a brand new: Fresh Look.”
The soothing, jaunty and jazzy theme song plays.
The show progresses just as you’d expect it to.
Presently, Dillird flicks off the radio, opting for the sound of the car, the road, and the rushing wind.
He fingers the paycheck in his jacket pocket. He had worked one day less than last week, which meant ends would be barely met with barely anything left over.
“Pay the bills-” Dillird thinks aloud to himself “and no frills.”
He now turns his thoughts, as they naturally tend, toward his fiance’, Meagan. Who at this moment awaited him at their home, a rented house on the edge of town. Already, he knows well, her probable reaction to the net amount printed upon his paycheck. He plays through the anticipatory scenario in his head, an ultimately futile exercise, yet possibly instructive nonetheless. Their relationship had been rocky recently, so to speak.
“Riding that train, high on cocaine…” blurts out of the stereo speakers, to which Dillird’s arm responds instantly to *Click* turn off these infernal sounds.
A little farther down the road is the bar. The Star Light Bar, a small lone dive out here on route 9, in the middle of nowhere; patronized mostly be the bumpkins residing in these parts, privy truck drivers and passers-through.
Dillird fit into two of those categories tonight.
The Starlight Bar had come up just as Dillird, without much deep consideration, made his haphazard decision to stop in for a drink. Any attempt to postpone the inevitable by pretending that he’d actually choose self-control this time was futile. This, even though being late in getting home, he realized, only exacerbates the situation- tardiness with a hint of booze.
Dillird pulls into the dirt parking lot surrounding the bar, making sure to avoid deep puddles pock marked throughout. A sign atop a pole brightly shone before him bearing the bar’s name. The car bounces side to side jostling him inside as he guides the metal heap into place.
Dillird’s spirit sinks into his gut as he mechanically, as if automated to do so, goes through the steps of what he knows is yet again the wrong decision. Having already fulfilled half the task by pulling in and parking, it was also too late, he decided. Patronizing a bar, in a state of existential funk and depression, instead of going home to his girl-such is the human condition.
Further committing to his lot, the keys are turned out of the ignition and the door handle pulled then pushed open, then swinging out, as Dillird shifts his weight to jump from car over a puddle last second.
The moon, still fixed in its spot, still silently shines through the gauze; a strong harsh wind picks up– just about chilling Dillird’s bones through the jacket.
In his mind, He flips through a mental rolodex of the people, friends and family, Meagan must be communicating with over social media. Old flames or even new flames perhaps? He in his paranoid manner speculates. He considers first her closest friends in town, Monica and Kim, who she goes and sees, as she too goes for her job locally as a bank teller.
He swings the door closed after realizing his lingering for a while, then finally rounds the car and heads for the front door of the establishment. He notices only three other vehicles in the lot, aside from the employee’s spots around back, which were out of view. In the windows hang Neon lit beer signs. Pushing open a squeaky door rustling some chimes attached to the top of the door, ringing out. Dillird is met with the smell of stale beer hanging in the air, a glowing television mounted to a wall in the corner lording over and above at the end of the bar. A bartender, the lone bar keep, noticing his entrance, swivels his head back toward the tv while wiping out a glass one final stroke, before flicking the towel over his shoulder and racking the glass.
Dillird strides over to the stool on the corner of the bar, directly in line with the entrance, and mounts the seat.
“what’l it be,” the bartender asks while reaching below the counter, promptly producing a circular coaster, before slapping it down onto the bar top where it instantly sticks in place.
“Uh,” Dillird thinks, “an IPA is fine, whatever’s on tap- thanks.”
The bartender turns and heads down the bar toward the taps.
On the television, the nightly news, the closed captioning appearing on the bottom of the screen. Pictured, a comely anchor woman talking as a box pinned over her left shoulder shows, what looks to be, clowns, dirty and melancholy under tree lines. Close ups of make-up caked faces, frowning into the camera.
The close captioning reads:
“For days now we’ve been reporting to about the ongoing clown refugee crisis. Homeless, dirty, hungry and in desperate need of a place to stay – and yet, Americans cling onto anti-clown bigotry.”
The bartender after decanting foam from a pint glass having just been filled under a spout starts his walk down the bar toward Dillird. Dillird reaches for his wallet in his back pocket.
Just as Dillird does this the chimes on the door behind ring out. He turns to look just as the bartender sets down the pint glass on the bar before him. Cloaked in the shadowy entrance of the bar stands a rather rotund, small statured individual with an apparent, small, ridiculously so- almost miniature sized bowler cap on the side of a bald head.
The bartender, registering the sensation of the entrance of the newcomer, looks blankly still hands placing the glass and lets out an exasperated sigh. “6.50” he says while wiping his beer moist hands on his sides, onto an apron tied there.
Curiously, now, Dillird picks through the bills in his wallet while sidelong glancing in the direction of the newcomer, who now moves into full light.
Dillird jerks his head back toward the television on the wall as at some supernatural entity, having just spoke into existence this aberration. A double take back toward the door revealed that, yes, indeed this clown had manifested.
Caked white make-up running with lines down his face, a sad expression only exaggerated by splotched, red marked around his mouth, emphasizing a frown that looked more caused by chafing than applied makeup. A bald pate, on which rested a tiny bowler cap attached precariously as noted before to one side. Suspenders held up large bowl-like pants that looked like they could very well contain water that would be splashing out the sides, as, the clown man hobbled side to side as he walked toward the bar.
To this, the bartender squeezed eyes closed while facing down and letting out an exasperated sigh of annoyance.
The clown pushed his belly to the round stool, large red shoes straddling the base on either side. Deciding first to spin the stool seat around several times before hopping up onto it.
The bartender glares at the clown, while the clown looks down- slowly after a tick lifting his head up to meet the glare.
“Here to pay your tab?”
Expressionless, the clown continues his gaze, seemingly not having heard the question.
“No NO! Out!” The bartender suddenly erupts, presumably having dealt with such despondency before,then directs an outstretched arm ending with pointing finger towards the door.
Cement and stoic, the clown outwardly remained unfazed. Accepting and submissive to this abuse, Dillird noticed he was, non reacting, as he had already resigned to such treatment. The clown, looking more like a mechanical creature given over to the elements, turned now toward the bartender, a large man 6 foot- a lined face of about 60 or so, with a glimmering single tear running down his cheek. The bartender, an imposing statue of a man, wooden, now leans on arms, hands placed on the bar top- red in the face and peering into the painted-on frowning face of the clown.
Through gritted teeth he repeats “out,” rather harshly. A final demand.
The clown, not acknowledging, turns, imploringly almost, towardDillird.
Dillird finishes a pull during the explosive, rather awkward interaction between the two men, now setting the glass down back onto the coaster before him. Meeting the dull eyes of the sad bastard, then turning back toward the screen- just in time to catch an image of clowns walking out of the wood escorted by police. The woods, somewhere- the caption reads “HavenVille,” a town he presently sat in an establishment he currently drank a beer in.
“Alright, fine!” The bartender shrugs, as he walks to opposite end of the bar, where lie a phone.
Looking back, now, meeting once again those dull eyes. Deep set in the roundish face. The age of the man is down right indeterminable, behind the large red bulbous nose, the matte flat eyes give nothing away.
“I got ‘im,” Dillird hears issue from his mouth just as the bartender picks up the phone to his ear and shoulder, starting to point at the number pad.
He looks over his right shoulder while pinching the phone with his choulder to his cheek with his left. Looking over at Dillird now, picking up the phone setting it down again on a fridge top under neath the bar, the power cord trailing. Continuing to dial the bartender asks “pardon?”
Dillird once again issues, as if fished for and yanked out rather effortlessly by the imploring gaze of the empty clown vessel to his left “I got ‘im.” The bartender stares. “Whatever he’s having, I’ll cover it- it’s on me.”
A few seconds of stare further. And the bartender replaces the receiver onto the hook, and phone back to its place. He turns, looking at Dillird, not condescendingly, but out of a tolerable pitty.
“Look, its an awful nice gesture,” as he strides over, “but, this, ‘clown’ we got here, he don’t need no booze, what he needs is his own place- “ turning to him now, “away from decent folk.”
“It’s okay, I don’t mind.” Dillird reaches for his pocket.
Images of sad, despondent clowns on television, being rounded up, pushed, cuffed, into the back of cop cars. Mug shots of the most pathetic looking side-shows, almost innocent inherently to judge by their appearance alone. Some with frizzy hair, tall, lanky others more of a hobo variety, blasted stogies hanging off their lips.
The clown, sitting there on his stool at the end of the bar remains unchanged in expression- fixed in a gaze, interchanging his apparent attention, although no sign of a capacity for such flickers on his face, between the television set, to Dillird and then off into no particular direction.
“yeah, no, it’s okay.”
The bartender, frustrated by Dillird’s misunderstanding incorrigibility cracks his head toward the television. This time, showing protests of young college students in the town square, skipping class apparently, standing, holding signs, some going so far as to block traffic while holding hands; others with bullhorns, others still lying down in group protest. They all don costumes, clownish apparel. Big shoes. All wear a fixed red nose on their face. Large multi-colored wigs. Many other varieties of eccentricities, garish jumpsuits with fuzzy button balls affixed down the front- a myriad of horns, some on stilts.
“Clowns are People Too” reads one particular sign that stood out.
A protest for clowns. Clowns, Dillird thinks to himself, a group of people he, up until this very moment, was unaware of, existing all together never mind considered as having the status of an oppressed identity group.
Sure, he remembers clowns for hire, at childrens’ birthday parties or other festivals where children were guaranteed to be present. But then, something happened in culture. A shift in viewpoint concerning clowns. For a little while they turned sad, but then the clowns turned evil, and scary. The old fun, fun-loving clowns, unassuming and innocent in nature- not considered even to have human biological urges: went away; and the neutral, innocent clown was replaced with another stereotype: the terrifying nightmare variety.
The supernatural demonic clown. Otherworldly. Still, yet, having no considerable human traits inherent, but, now, vacillating from a proclivity to spread joy and merriment, to, terrorizing, and dread.
Dillird looks onto his neighbor, a proximate exemplar, here, in real life of- a clown. A human, a real person. Who, now, faces discrimination and prejudice. And, judging by the television reportage, this condition is endemic. Dillird, accepting this new reality, a social milieu all together new to him and up until this moment remained blind to- ignorant of- now, decides to do what he perceives to be the right thing.
“Son,” the bartender begins, now turning back to Dillird, his arms folded across his apron “listen, you gotta understand, their not telling you the truth,” a fist held up with the thumb extended toward the television over his shoulder “they’re not like they say.”
“that’s okay, I don’t mind.”
The Clown, looking up from a peering down at his own bulk, neck bulging, peering up at Dillird, who interprets his expression of one of exhaustion.
There’s no telling to what extent this has occurred- Dillird, he, has only worried his self of his own life situations, his personal immediate predicaments. Up until this awakening, he hadn’t considered the suffering of others.
To help, to extend a show of kindness to this clown, in this moment, filled Dillird’s heart, previously harboring a feeling of barren, with a sort of altruistic meaning.
He puts at ten onto the bar from his wallet which he now folds and back and puts back into his lifted back pocket as he shifts on his stool.
Then resuming his perch, reaches for his glass and takes it in his hand “its okay,” brings it to his mouth and takes another pull- half emptying the glass. He smacks his lips. “whatever he wants I’ll cover it, for him,” he says pushing the bill toward him on bar.
The bartender, slowly shakes his head, shortly at the clown- scowling with a sour face, turns abruptly toward the taps and fills a glass.
Walks it over to the clown, slaps down a coaster and says “you don’t deserve this,” and places the beer on top. The bartender then turns back around toward the television at one end of the bar, picks up a remote and flicks the channels until reaching a hockey game.
The clown, peering now at the glass before him, foaming atop excited golden bubbles rushing to the top, reaches out and grabs the pint.
His hands, gloved, picks at the glass, and lifts it to his big red lips.
He puts the glass back down.
Turns his head toward Dillird, and gives a single gratifying nod.
Dillird, having watched out the corner of his eye the whole display, now nods back, and holds his beer up to the man for a cheers.
The clown man reciprocates this gesture, and the two go on drinking.
The bartender, wipes down the bar- paying little interest toward the game.
As Dillird finishes his beer, placing it down, notices that the clown’s head has been thrown back, for an extended length of time-emptying the glass into his throat, then finally placing an empty beer down onto the bar.
“thank you, good night,” he says to the bartender. “You too chief,” the bartender, uninterestedly offers back. Dillird paces toward the door, past the clown- who, too, is getting up, preparing to leave.
Dillird, reaching the door first exits the portal and then holds behind him the door as the clown just reaches it.
Both outside, discovering both at simultaneously the picked-up rain, dropping now in angled lines, filling the puddles of the parking lot. A chill too, being noticeable- as plumes of breath appear before Dillird’s eyes.
He looks over at the frowning clown, who, staring down, looks totally disposed to the elements.
Dillird begins to wonder about the situational circumstances of the clown. Where does he live? Is he homeless? Does he have a group?
“Um, excuse me,” Dillird says. He looks up, onto Dillird’s face.
“Uh, do you—could I offer you a ride somewhere? There isn’t anything for miles, and, it’s cold and wet out- I wouldn’t mind.”
The clown, blankly, looks off, and then back toward Dillird’s imploring face- and nods a vertical affirmative.
He strides over to his car, the clown in tow- opens the door and sits down.
The shut of the door echoes instantly by that of the shutting of the passenger side door. Taking up the passenger seat, now, is the clown- appearing as though he had almost, just about, been there even before Dillird.
He picks his keys out of his pocket, inserts and turns them into the ignition and throttles the car in reverse before accelerating that way. The car bounces side to side over holes through puddles as lights turn out in the bar and Dillird hits the gas makinging contact with the road and taking off down it.
Inside, Dillird turns the knob for heat.
“So, ‘you got a family?”
The clown animates into a groping of his entire person, searching pockets inside his pants, his frilly shirt, until producing a huge brick of a wallet.
Opening it, inside he peels back several layers cards and pictures until getting to one he then diligently picks-out.
Handing it now to Dillird, who, turning the over head light presently takes it from his hand. Back and forth, looking from road to picture, Dillird looks upon a picture of, a, clown family. A female clown, dressed similarly to present company-only, instead of bald head with absurdly tiny hat, she is donning a rather large multicolored frizzy wig. Three children before them, an eldest boy, a middles son and a youngest girl. All, dressed as clowns. All splashed with colorful clown make up as well- the difference being, from Dillird’s passenger’s make-up job, and those of the clown family in the photo, is, that the makeup surrounding the mouth is turned up into smiles. This be as it may however, nevertheless they are all just the same frowning uniformly. Just as Dillird works the gears of comprehension to explain this “clown logic” to himself, the clown snaps the picture away and pushes it back into its sleeve within the wallet, that, he presently fishes for a place to put back- apparently having forgotten, or misplaced the pocket.
A minute transpires.
“Where can I take you by the way?”
A half a minute, transpires- while, Dillird assumes the clown mules this question over, in his head.
It is at this moment, that, Dillird notices the smell. First, of, plain human body odor, which, he honestly would have expected- or even that of beer sweat seeping out of the pores and into vapor to fill the cabin of the car- these odors were present-but, a new odor filled the air.
Stale cola, and, he sniffs, perhaps feces.
“Sir,” startled by the sudden odiferous funk, Dillird reaches over and shakes the redolent clown man.
He apparently shakes to wake.
“Are you okay?” ….
Seconds pass, until, Dillird is met with a dull stare.
“Where, where can I take you sir? I’m getting close to my house now.”
The clown reaches into a pocket, this time producing his wallet right away, and opens it.
He files through some, dollar bills Dillird notices, until finding another photo, of which he produces.
Dillird turns back on the overhead light and pinches the photo of an apparent campsite.
“Where is this?” Dillird asks, before the clown snaps the photo from his hand, placing it back into his wallet, where he, once again fingers through other items there within. Dillird now sees, out the side of his spying eye, a sizable wad of cash stashed away in the large wallet. The clown fingers through bills, some 20’s even, and then finally, a folded up piece of paper gets picked out.
The clown begins unfolding the tiny piece of paper. Small unfolds at first, until, soon a map filled the entire front of the car. Dillird did his best to look around past it to see the road through the windshield.
The clown points to a large clearing within Havenville. A clearing the closest road to just so happens to be the one he lives on.
A dead end, on the edge of town- next to seemingly endless blocks of old dilapidated factory buildings out of commission for innumerable years now- a magnet for squatters bums and youthful urban explorers.
“Okay,” Dillird said “I can bring you close to there, now put this map away.”
The clown obliges.
15 minutes later Dillird turns onto Hope st.. Entering now the ruins of an old industrial era, where, at an intersection on the corner rests a relic, an old phone both. Turning now, Dillird turns onto the street where he lives, with Meagan- on Ivy Lane.
A normal looking house, a box with a roof rests behind a small front yard- the lights are on. Dillird pulls into the driveway off the street.
“Okay, well, here’s me-“ he begins to say as the clown opens the door and bursts out of the car all at once. Confused, slightly, by this odd behavior, Dillird nevertheless follows suit.
Out now, he sees the squat clown walk off, toward Hope street. He shuts the door behind him directing his thoughts now toward Meagan, who, most likely he reckons is up, watching television.
He walks up the walk way. If, she is in fact upset, as he suspects she will be, arguing will cut into the precious few hours he needs to get an adequate amount of rest tonight before work tomorrow. The morning he is not looking forward too is a mere 8 hours away.
Reaching the door now, twisting the knob and in he goes.
He walks toward the living room at the end of the hall where, he is met with shadows and silence. Noticing, just the other way toward the kitchen, a light on, he makes his way hence.
Sitting at the dinner table, arms crossed- as is with the look on her face, is Meagan. Upon the table, before her, an empty wine stained glass and a bottle beside.
Dillird removes his jacket, looking sidelong at her. He rests the jacket on the back of one of the kitchen chairs.
“I’m so-“ he begins to say before being cut-off abruptly by a knock at the door.
“Are you expecting any-?” he begins to ask.
“Just get it,” she curtly replies.
Retreading back to the door now, reaching for and twisting the knob and finally opening- reveals, the clown.
Standing there looking blankly up at Dillird- and, behind him stand more…more clowns.
“I, uh-“ he manages to utter before the clowns, stronger, larger, push past the familiar clown before him and violently push Dillird back. They push him back and then back some more- unceasingly coming at him until he’s thrown into the living room. He continues to be pummeled by a large grimacing nightmare of a clown, punched in the face neck and chest. The man, – the clown, it would appear is equipped with exceptionally hard boxing gloves. Blow after blow is thrown at Dillird now bent over backward on the couch. “AAHGG!” he belts out, trying futilely to block the onslaught with his arms, holding his hands up- which are pummeled back down.
“AAAHHH!” he hears the unmistakable scream of Meagon emit from the kitchen- filling his body with a red hot surge of adrenaline. He roles off the couch onto the floor, takes the underneath of the coffee table with his open palm before lifting it with all his might from a sitting position up into the direction of the hideous clown. With the table now in the air he throws himself into it, tackling the flown before him.
Now atop the red flaming haired clown Dillird rushes to his feet and begins to jump up into the air and come down with a stomp onto the table that currently pins the clown to the floor.
Again again does he jump and stop. He looks down at the grimacing clown- no indication of pain appears on its face- but, for the first time having a good look at the thing Dillird notices the distorted features. The razor yellow teeth, the elongated jaw and yellow sliver irises for eyes. It still smiles, still, its cheecks permantly cemented in a hideous smile.
Just then, once again he hears Meagan’s screams and the burst of some glass object smashing on the floor. With a vicious grab, yank and mighty twist he takes one of the legs of the table off. Looking up at Dillird towering over the clown menace, the clown gurgles a struggling hiss- omitting a filthy stench into the air surrounding him. Taking the leg now, pointing the splintered end down just as the clown attempts to struggle out of its predicament Dillird forces a primal roar and with all his might plunges the leg into the clowns face. Again and again until his arms ache. Dropping the leg now he gets up as a clown passes by, and another- with a struggling black bag between them- they both holding it aloft, carrying it toward the front door.
“Meagan,” Dillird’s head tell him- urging him forward, telling him to reach out and knock the first clown to the floor grab that end of the back and pull with all his might away from the other.
He, on his feet, pushing one leg forward, the other ages it feels to catch up- but close behind, reaching out in a fit of rage, panic and utter despair.
Before he can reach the struggling black bag however a burst of light smashes into the side of his skull and he is dropped to the floor. Opening one eye, half glued shut he sees the large red, blurry bulb of a shoe, a clown shoe. Lifting his chin off the carpet amidst the sweat and blood he’d smeared there, he looks up with effort out the open front door. A black van peels off, out of sight.
Just then another sudden blow knocks like wood on the top of his skull.
The clown, the rotund clown, with the absurdly placed precariously small bowlers hat looks down at Dillird unconscious body, still yet lifting with breath and exhaling.
He maneuvers around him, blank in the face, expressionless, and turns his body by pulling both legs, with both hands. In this way, however, he is unable to manage the body into an angle from which to drag the body out the front door. He looks, down at the living corpse. He decides, to turn Dillird over onto his back. He lifts the back of Dillird’s head, kneeling down to do so- and firmly grabs the collar of his long sleeve shirt. He know lurches forward, the unconscious Dillird, toward the front door.
Dragging along the carpet, over the threshold, down a few steps. Down the walk way past the car parked in the drive way. Across the street. And then, finally, disappearing off into the woods along a hidden path.
End Of Part 1