Wil Winters Battles an Evil Clown

... to prove who’s the biggest clown of them all

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A few months ago, I took a four-year-old to a traveling circus. At one stage a clown, who communicated by tooting a sports’ whistle, volunteered me and three others from the audience. “Look after the boy!” I yelled back to the lady sitting next to us as the clown dragged me bodily into the main arena.

I stood stage aft with the others, completely unaware of what was about to happen. We were an unruly muddle, milling about like sheep in a grassless pasture.

Nothing good could come from this.

The clown, using chirrups in place of words, blasted instructions and gesticulated maniacally to the stupefied flock. He strutted to center stage and busted a few dance moves. He then turned on a squeaky heel and commanded the first volunteer, using his whistle and hands, to do the same. The first sheep strayed into the spotlight.

It was a disaster. Limbs flailed dangerously and the front three rows of the audience cringed as they bore the heat of the dancer’s burnished face. He departed the ring in shame, leaving we three huddling, shoulder to shoulder, in the shadows.

A fate worse than death beckoned the next victim.

The next dance demonstration was more complex. The crowd bellowed at the second victim’s vain attempts to mimic the painted tormentor’s pas seul. He had started bravely but baulked when his overbite-dance grin, which was the foundation of his courage, crumbled at the heckles of the audience. The dancer’s shame fueled the crowd’s schadenfreude: blood lust was upon them.

The third dancer was a young, curvaceous lady, and the clown implored her to slink to the front and dance sensually. She wiggled like a cobra, stroked her hips, and finished by blowing kisses to the crowd. Despite her crimsoned cheeks and involuntary smirk, she enchanted them all and they rose as one in appreciation.

A tough act to follow.

There I stood, a sheep alone against the wolf. The flock was depleted, and I waited to be shown the impossibly difficult routine that was concocted in the mind of that mad, mad clown.

The painted face turned to me and smiled nefariously; his yellow teeth hadn’t been brushed in weeks. The audience laughed, anticipating my fate: the one worse than a fate worse than death.

My eyes narrowed: the clown wouldn’t win. Not today. Not ever.

He strutted confidently in size 22 shoes to the front of the stage. He geed up the crowd with a clapping, running man (clown?) move. The audience joined in. Clap-clap-clap. He threw in some other moves, for which I know not the names, before collapsing to the ground to do the Worm. The crowd was at fever pitch and the dancing fool rolled out of the Worm with a backwards somersault that he pushed into a handstand before landing squarely on his giant feet. He stretched his arms wide and milked the crowd for all the praise they could spare.

He turned to me once more, evil eyes glinting in the spotlight. That damnable whistle commanded me to start.

I ran forward, smiling broadly, attempting to win the crowd’s adulation with my charisma rather than their pity with my humiliation. Clapping running man, I thought as I wonkily pumped my knees to ridiculous heights. The crowd started clapping along. I turned to each side of the ring to draw more people into the fray. Their enthusiasm swelled.

I mimicked his other dance moves poorly, but I got through them nonetheless. The crowd appreciated my courage. I was winning them over.

But now the time had come, that dreaded moment, that dreaded move: THE WORM! I have never attempted this manoeuvre. It is my understanding that it is a very dangerous dance move. I am led to believe that inexperience and over-zealousness brought about the loss of many lives in Caucasian communities in the 1980s when the Worm craze was at its peak.

Fueled by the cheers, I scoffed at the danger. I dropped to the ground and the claps were quickly replaced by horrified gasps. A lady in the front row shrieked, refusing to believe that somebody with such obvious dancing deficiencies would endanger her life by attempting the Worm a sparse few feet from her family. A teenager grabbed the sides of his chair, gritted his teeth and drummed his canvas shoes on the ground. Damn them all, I was going to do this if it killed me, if it killed us all.

An old man three rows back smiled knowingly. He stroked his flowing beard and nodded his head in approval; he was now ready to die. He had lived a good life and would shuffle off this mortal coil a happy man, content in the knowledge that he witnessed the defeat of a malevolent clown.

See you in Hell! I telegraphed to the clown with my furrowed brow. I writhed and wriggled the Worm, poorly, but the unwashed masses had swung to my side. They cheered deliriously with each wave and ripple of my body. Their praise filled my soul and I felt a transformation bursting through my very being, from my bones, all the way to my skin.

I had become the Worm.

I caught the clown’s eye. He smirked. I had done it all except for the finale. The antagonist beamed a message from his beady eyes into mine: You can’t do a backwards somersault, can you, punk?

I smiled back. Little did he know that I have done years of martial arts training; this was a cakewalk. I rolled back over my shoulders, pushed up into a handstand and arched myself over, planting both feet firmly on the ground. I extended my arms like a martini glass, ready to catch the worship as it poured down from the vigorously shaken public.

They roared, and the sweet liquor of adulation filled me up.

The clown clomped over in his novelty footwear, shook my hand, and blew several approving tweets from his whistle. I bowed to the four corners of the Earth, for the world was now contained in that meager tent, and took my leave. I vaulted the fence and rail, parkoured over the first three rows of people—standing on the backs of their chairs, nimble as a mountain goat—and dismounted gracefully into my pre-allocated seat next to my four-year-old companion.

The show went on. My moment had passed. The crowd would quickly forget their hero.

Panting, I asked Master Four, “did you see me up there, in the circus?” He nodded nonchalantly. “What did I do?” I asked, stalking his approval like a vampire. He munched on a chip, chewing it for a few seconds before swallowing. Not bothering to make eye contact, he drew breath and answered: “Stood in a line with those other people.”


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