To be a clown

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man never gives up on his original dream.

Submitted: August 10, 2014

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Submitted: August 10, 2014

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TO BE A CLOWN

 Barney’s first visit to the circus as a boy of ten years old, coincided with Christmas and his entrance into the world of entertainment. He loved the colours of the clowns’ clothes and marvelled at the varied antics they got up to. At home in his bedroom, he made frustrated efforts to perform the same gymnastics that he had seen the clowns do effortlessly. He made his legs carry out actions that they hadn’t been trained for, which resulted in his having aching joints for the next week. Barney’s parents didn’t know what he was doing in his bedroom all the time, and came to the conclusion that it couldn’t be so bad, otherwise they would have seen evidence of some physical damage.

When Barney was under ten, his pocket money was very low, but the little he got he spent on any children’s magazine where there was an article about clowns. It didn’t matter to Barney where he went, for a summer holiday, or a Christmas treat, to a pantomime, or a circus, he only asked for one thing - that clowns had to be somewhere in the show. His grandparents animated this love of clowns by taking him to see clowns in films. The family tolerated his love of clowns thinking that he would grow out of it. They were to be very disappointed, because Barney had no intention of growing out of his love of clowns. Everyone said it was just a phase, like everything else young boys and girls go through, and took to referring to Barney’s life as the ‘clown phase.’ His mother and father’s elderly relatives usually said that one day they would look back on it with humour and say to him, “Do you remember when you were mad about clowns?” It would never happen.

 

The careers officer had the tradition of going round the schools in a vain attempt to try and get the future generation to go into the traditional jobs which for the most part were boring and lacked any incentive for a teenager. The local careers offices sent catalogues of possible junior employment. Barney didn’t even bother to take a look, but his parents did, and they thought, in their stiff traditional way, that banking was a nice respectable job for their son. Barney protested and said, “I want to be a clown and do all the things they do. I don’t have any desire to spend my life sitting at a desk in a bank and being bored stiff.”

His parents retaliated with, “You’re our son, and for the time being you’ll do as we say. Therefore no messing about, YOU are going into the bank. So, no arguments, please. One day you’ll be grateful that we didn’t let you get your own way,” Barney’s father told him.

Barney had nothing to say to his parents, and lived a double life. During the day he studied for the bank exams, at night he trained to be a clown. He told himself that doing without exercises and wearing his clown costume in his bedroom he would have gone crazy.

 

The announcement of a clown school opening in a town on the other side of the country, perked Barney up quite a bit. By that time he was working full-time in the bank and earning a monthly salary. He calculated that he could quite easily afford the school and a small flat if he was able to be admitted into the school. Barney was worried about his parents finding out, so he got a post office box. He wrote a letter to the school telling them about himself and what his ambitions were. He received a reply within a week. The school secretary said they would be very pleased to interview him and give him an audition for a place in the school. The next step was to ask for a transfer to the town where the clown school was situated. His boss at the bank asked him, “Why do you want a transfer to such a far away place?”

“I’ve heard that it’s not so bad, and I’d like a change while I’m still free from responsibility. The only time anyone can really do what they really want to do, is when they are alone. Once you are in a committed relationship then you’re lumbered and it’s more difficult to live your life without upsetting another party.”

“Very well, we’ll send out the right signals and see what we come up with. As you’re young and, as you say, free, it shouldn’t be hard to get something at a branch of a bank in that area of the country,” Barney’s boss, Mr. Truman, said.

In just under a month, Barney was given a transfer to a branch in a small town adjacent to the larger town where the clown school was functioning. Barney rented a flat on the coastal side of the town that had windows overlooking the bay and the bridge. His parents could not believe their ears on the evening he had told them that he was leaving home because the bank was sending him to another location. His father said, “After all we’ve done for you and now you tell us that you’re going to live and work on the other side of the country. I suppose you’ll visit us, won’t you?”

“I’d like to get settled in my new digs first before thinking about coming back here to visit,” Barney said, trying not to anger his father.

“Have you got a place to stay?” his mother asked in a tearful voice.

“Not yet. I’ll be living in an hotel until I find something suitable,” Barney answered, desiring with all his heart that leaving day would arrive soon.

 

Barney was not a car owner yet, but knew he would have to take driving lessons and buy a vehicle of some sort to go and visit the branches of the bank in the surrounding villages. He travelled down to the coast by train, and had taken all his clothes and other important personal possessions in several suitcases. His clown outfits were in a suitcase of their own. The journey was undertaken with Barney in a jovial mood, and long before he had reached his destination his past life had been forgotten and his thoughts were directed towards his future.

 

Barney had taken a turn for the better and he was happiness personified. At the bank he always had a smile on his face, and at the clown school he was proving to be an apt pupil.

The years he had spent practising juggling and falling over, had not made him as professional as he would have liked, so he struggled very hard to get his act more polished. On the nights he wasn’t at the clown school, he was busy juggling and rolling over and carrying out the most difficult things, to make him as professional as he could get. On those evenings, Barney went to bed exhausted beyond belief. The other members in his classes at the clown school also worked as hard as they could, and then some. Everyone who attended wanted to be a professional clown. Barney met Ray, who performed at children’s birthday parties and anything else that would bring him money.

“Barney how would you like to appear with me at my next gig? I’ve got some birthdays coming up, and had the idea to change my act from being just me to being two of us. I studied you last week when you were juggling, and you don’t seem bad for someone who’s just an amateur. Well, what do you think about my offer?”

Barney was not all that taken with the idea of working with Ray, but he fancied doing something in front of the public, and getting the feel of a real live audience. “Yes, Ray, I’ll do it, and thanks for thinking of me,” Barney responded gratefully.

“Just don’t let me down or you’ll never hear the end of it,” declared Ray.

 

The two young men began their double act in a small way, and soon they had quite a number of clients who were always ringing them to see whether or not they could do a birthday, or just an evening’s entertainment to lighten the mood.

Barney was still devoted to the idea of being a professional one day. At times when he was performing, he worried that someone from the bank or a customer would recognize him. Then after thinking a bit more about it, he knew that with the make-up on he was unrecognizable. Now Barney’s life was lived on three levels: the bank, the clown school, and the weekends entertaining. He was so immersed in his exciting life that he never gave his old home or his parents a serious thought.

 

During Barney’s first two years away from home, he went from strength to strength as a bank worker and as a clown. He was so busy he never had time to think, and yet one day he saw an advertisement in a newspaper for clowns and saw that the name of an agency was at the bottom of the notice. He rang them up and asked what it was they wanted. They said he should go and see them. He had the address from the ad, and went to see them in his lunch hour.

Barney kept the news to himself, and duly went to the agency. He arrived at the agency and saw a blonde young woman sitting at the reception desk. Barney went up to her, and said, “I have an appointment. My name is Barney. I rang you this morning.”

The receptionist, who was a pretty young woman with long blonde curly hair, stared at him with a vapid look on her face. Barney continued talking as if everything was OK, which of course it wasn’t. Barney told her what he could do as a clown. The receptionist gave no sign of being interested. He thought it was because she did nothing else. “We’ll give you a ring and let you know the result of the application,” the cold-hearted woman replied.

Barney went home and sat on his sofa wondering what had happened. He had seen an advert for clowns and had answered it. He felt he should have asked the school or Ray what it was about, before jumping in at the deep end. Barney had a rushed supper and after a shower he went to bed and fought his over-tiredness that didn’t permit him to sleep. When he finally succumbed to the excess drowsiness he was experiencing, he slept till the alarm woke him up with its strident ring.

 During the day at the bank he had no problems about his clown work, because he had to put the customers first. The monotony of the bank was at times a welcome part of the day, when all he had to do was what he had been trained for. The town he was living in, was unknown to Barney because of his interest in the clowning work.

 

One day, while at the bank, he received a call from the agency that had placed the advert for clowns. “Do you think you could get down to the studios this afternoon?” the young receptionist asked him.

Barney said, “Yes, of course I can. Do you want me to bring a costume or not?”

“No, you needn’t bring any clothes, we’ll provide anything you need. Goodbye.”

 

Barney duly arrived at the studios and was handed a costume and told to put it on in a large dressing-room. A man said to Barney, “When you’re dressed, come out onto the set.”

Barney felt as if he were walking in the dark or had gone into the wrong place, nevertheless he obeyed the man. When he walked onto the set he saw there were about twenty others dressed as he was, in the same bright purple and orange costume and a small red hat with blonde curls peeping out from underneath. The man who had spoken to Barney called for quiet, then said, “All you have to do is head over heels and riding on the bicycles you see here, and generally enjoy yourselves. This is an advert for ‘Clown Food’ it makes you feel livelier and more energetic. Barney and the other clowns realized that the set was covered with giant orange coloured boxes with purple letters of Clown Food. None of them complained that it wasn’t the kind of work they had been expecting, but there again it would look good on their CVs

Barney and the other would-be professionals were paid quite handsomely for the advert and were told when it would appear on television.

 

Barney rang up his parents, his mother answered the phone, “Hello, who’s speaking?”

“Hello, Mum it’s me Barney. I’m ringing to let you know that I’ve just finished my first job as a clown.”

He heard his mother’s gasp of surprise, “What are you talking about?”

“Well, as you and Dad know I’ve always wanted to be a clown, and I was offered the part in an ad for television and accepted. The filming has just finished and that’s the reason why I’m ringing you ,so that you can look out for the ad.”

“You haven’t given up your job in the bank, have you?”

“Now, don’t get fretful. Of course I haven’t, although I’d love to. I can’t walk out of the bank till the clown business gets off the ground.”

Barney’s mother hoped it never would.

 

Barney’s dedication to clowning and to the bank had left him without a social life. Apart from those who shared the bank and the clowning, he knew no other people in the town where he lived. For Barney none of that was a problem, although his mother had asked him on several occasions about a girl friend. Any comments from his mother about girls were anathema to Barney. How would any girl put up with a man who was only interested in clowning and spent every day in the bank? He thought he was a bad bargain, and never made any effort in getting to know girls or women. The birthday parties, the publicity adverts, the venues in shopping centres performing and handing out free gifts to children and their parents, all gave Barney and the other clowns a discreet fame. He was always haunted by the idea of being recognized.

 

One day he turned up at work with some make-up on his shirt collar, and was called into the manager’s office.

“Good morning, Barney. What’s that I see on your collar? Is it make-up?”

Barney saw that he had no alternative but to tell the truth, “Yes, Sir, it is. In my free time I work as a clown. and naturally I wear make-up. Please excuse me, I’ll change my shirt and have a wash.”

Barney’s boss said, “Hey, wait a minute. Do you appear at functions?”

“Yes, we appear at birthdays, parties, and in adverts for Clown Food. Is that a problem for the bank?”

“Of course it isn’t. I wondered if you and any other clowns could come to a party I’m arranging for my son’s eighth birthday next weekend. Can you perform magic tricks?”

“No, I can’t but one of the clowns does.”

“Well then, I’ll see you later to talk about your fee and how many clowns you can bring. Now you’d better go and wash yourself and change your shirt.”

Barney left his boss’s office with mixed emotions. He was worried that the general managers might not approve of his clowning. Then he shrugged his negative feelings off and went to the gents’ washroom.

 

The group that Ray had help from was on the rise, and had lots of venues that summer. Barney’s parents found it quite unbelievable that he could be so busy. Sometimes Barney felt as if he were on a carousel going round and round never stopping long enough for him to take a breather. Barney’s summer holidays were fixed for September, as it was considered correct that the married personnel with children should get August. Barney wasn’t bothered as he had plenty of work with the clowning as well as the bank.

 

The birthday party for the bank manager’s son was held in their garden. Barney and his fellow clowns were impressed and set up their props. The party organisers had set out small chairs on the lawn making it easy for children and parents to see the clowns. The children had eaten and partaken of the birthday cake when the clowns were announced, and in came Barney and his companions wearing their own brightly coloured clothes and rolling over and making falls. Some of them had flowers in their buttonholes that sprayed water in children’s faces, others were wearing ridiculously long-toed shoes, or blowing noisy squeakers in their faces, and so on. The adults and children loved the jumping rose, the airborne glass, and the eight-foot drinking straw went down very well. The clowns got as many children as were keen to put on a red nose, a curly wig, and join in the fun in front of the adults. At the end of the show the birthday boy and a friend picked up a card, lifted it as high as they could. The card showed the word:  ‘APPLAUSE.’

Barney was busy picking up his gear, ready to put in the car he had bought after spending too much money on driving lessons. It had taken Barney five attempts to pass the test. The driving instructor had thought at the time that Barney would never pass. When he did, Barney had gone out and bought a second hand car to practice in, till his driving was as it should be.

And then, “Hello, do you remember me? I’m the receptionist at the agency that supplies artists for adverts.”

Barney looked up from his tidying up, and saw the pretty young blonde he had considered cold-hearted. “Hello, I do remember you. Are you still working at the agency?”

“Yes, I am. Do you work at many children’s parties?”

“Yes, we do. As a matter of fact, we’re doing quite well this summer. Do you want to employ us?”

“No, I don’t, but I’d like to invite you to dinner at a restaurant in the bay. Are you interested? By the way my name is Nydia. I know yours.

Barney was surprised by Nydia’s forthright attitude towards him. As he was getting over the shock that any woman would invite him out, the bank manager came over, “I see you two have met. Barney, it was beautifully done. Everyone loved the acts. By the way, this is my sister. She’s been after me for ages, to invite you out to dinner.”

“She’s just done that.”

“Then, all I can say is - enjoy the food!” 


© Copyright 2019 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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