Nobody knew Happy the Clown's real name. For years he had entertained the children at Fern Park in West Hartford, blowing up colorful balloons and performing funny tricks. His wide red smile painted so cheerfully on his white makeup face was considered to be one of the landmarks of the park. Happy had been making children happy for as long as most people in town could remember.
But this particular clown did have a real name. Old John Looby, the park coordinator, knew his name and his past. Back in his native Norway, Happy had been Peter Vober, a young Jewish man with a pretty wife and two young children. The youngest one, a little girl named Anna, had been the pride of his life. Vober would lift her into the air, then tweak her nose. The child loved this, and her laughter would echo through the trees. But then came the Nazis, and Peter Vober's entire family was butchered. Vober's own life had been spared, however, because the German guards at the concentration camp were greatly amused at the clown's silly tricks. After the war, Vober emigrated to America, where he put his skills to work at Fern Park in West Hartford. But the laughter of both Anna and the guards haunted his nightly dreams.
It was on an especially lovely sunny day that a group of young kids surrounded Happy, begging him to perfom. The aging clown complied, making funny shapes out of balloons, rolling in the grass, and honking his red horn. The children roared with laughter, particularly one small blonde-haired girl with an angelic face. She slapped her hands together, giggling louder than the other boys and girls. When Happy noticed her, he dropped the balloons and regarded her with a look of shock. This was surely Anna! His dear Anna, returned to him by the grace of God.
Happy staggered over to where the girl was sitting, then suddenly lifted her into the air. This delighted the child, who laughed with amusement. But now Happy was convinced that this was his daughter. Fear and anxiety filled his mind; he was certain that he must save her from the Nazi soldiers who would surely take her away. Happy ran in the direction of the Keeney Avenue, which lay at the top of the hill. The little girl screamed with fright but Happy paid no attention to her. He must get his Anna to safety!
Before he got ten yards, two young men grabbed him next to the tennis courts. The girl fell to the grass; she quickly ran to her mother as she screamed in terror. A crowd of angry parents formed around the clown; they began to angrily beat the old man. Suddenly, John Looby appeared and dispersed the angry mob. Before long, the West Hartford police arrived and escorted Happy from his beloved park.
But no charges would ever be filed. Happy the Clown died of a heart attack in the police car. The only person to attend his funeral was John Looby; he placed a single red rose upon the wooden casket. People still enjoy Fern Park; however, there has never been another clown allowed to perform at this beautiful place. Only the echo of the laughter remains.
And an old, abandoned red horn.
© Copyright 2016 Coolidge Templeton. All rights reserved.
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