Tonight I bring you the first part of chapter 7 from my novel, Blood and Balloons, where we find Brian (the mime and leader of the clown support group) walking towards The General theater for the meeting. (Reminder: Harpo was the haughty clown who works at the Jack amusement park.) I hope it reminds you of some time in your life when you were content.
Chapter 7: Money Found Me
As Brian walked towards The General on Duke Boulevard, he did something out of the ordinary for him: he smiled. If there had been anyone else on the street that night, Brian could have feigned a cough to conceal this, that’s how foreign an act it was. It almost seemed shameful, like he had pitched a tent in public. Sad for a clown to not smile, but mimes are different.
It had been a great day, as far as Brian’s normal days go. He hadn’t had work, due to the Chuck E. Cheese being fumigated for vermin, and he also hadn’t performed today. He had just slept for most of the afternoon. It was beautiful. He loved to retreat into slumber. In sleep, your anxiety and crippling self-loathing couldn’t chase you as closely. That isn’t to say these demons don’t follow you into your dreams, but they are warped- altered somehow. There are lead weights on their wings. You may not realize that you’re dreaming, but you do perceive the fresh distance between you and your demons, and that is a beautiful feeling. Not unlike the warm, heavy blanket feeling when the Xanax finally kicks in and shoos the fear out the front door. It wraps you up in its soothing embrace, holding you tight, slowly letting go. Until your realize that your feet are cold again and the dread has found its way back in through the open window and resumes squeezing your heart.
No, it had been a nice day. Sweet unconsciousness. He couldn’t understand why Poe had hated sleep. Little slices of death, he had said. And what’s wrong with that? For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come must give us pause, correct? Death is the ultimate escape. Like a warm blanket that never slips away.
Brian shivered and pressed his chin against his chest as a cold gust blew right through him, threatening to take him with it. When he looked up again, he saw the back of the new-comer woman as she passed through the gilded doors of The General. He was curious to hear her story, should she chose to share. He hoped that she did. He had been watching her; she was so invested in every story that everyone told. Her face had mirrored her emotions clearly, especially sadness and regret.
Brian reached forward and grabbed the brass door handle. He was unnerved to find it still warm from the woman’s hand. The old theater was just as he had remembered from childhood, except smaller- as things often appear to be once you rediscover them as adults. It’s kind of shame to do that to yourself. You lose all the wonder and magic of childhood if you go and ruin it with your adult eyes.
The lobby was dark, but a path of light led him to the theater- which was the only room that was completely illuminated. Brian was shocked to see that it was clean and in almost perfect condition. Puddles had certainly been busy refurbishing the old theater. The seats were restored, the paint on the walls bright as ever. It was as if he had stepped back a decade in time when passing through the double-door mouth of the great theater.
His eyes reached the stage, and found that Puddles had arranged a collection of antique wing-back chairs in a circle. Brian was embarrassed to see that he was the last one to arrive. He usually was the first one there, to set up and to get things going. But no one seemed to mind, as they were all chatting away. Well, all except Puddles and the new woman. Puddles was not in makeup, but he was silent nonetheless. He sat next to Sparkles in a large blue velvet chair, his chin resting against his large fist, smiling contentedly at Sparkles. Brian felt a stab of jealousy like a blow to the heart. Puddles was really in love with Sparkles. Brian could tell just from that look he was giving her. Brian was familiar with that look. He smiled as he climbed up the small stairs at the side of the stage.
He took the last chair, which had powder blue damask upholstery and claw feet. “Hi everyone,” he said as he removed his jacket and draped it across the arm of his chair. “And thank you again, Puddles, for generously providing us with a location for our meeting.”
Puddles smiled genuinely and responded in a deep, smooth voice, “it’s my pleasure.” It was almost shocking to hear him speak, especially with such a remarkable baritone voice.
“I’m glad to see everyone has decided to come tonight. Well, aside from Harpo. I suppose he must’ve landed that audition.” Brian said snidely.
“Good. Maybe I can take his job,” Sparkles sneered. “I can be the new Harpo at the Jack.”
“And I for one would know you’d do a far better job than he ever could, Spark. I mean it.” Brian said a bit too fondly. He caught himself and avoided looking over in Puddles direction as he felt color rise in his cheeks. He cleared his throat and looked to Willy.
“Would you like to finish your story on how you became the great Willy the Tramp, Willy?” Brian asked.