I awake, startled. The rampant thumping of my heart is hard against my chest. I clutch the collar of my ragged T-shirt, finding it damp. My heartbeat grows quicker, my breathing growing harsher as the cool air swirls around the edge of my lips.
What the fuck, Martha? I glower at the peaceful figure beside me. Her legs spoon around what could have been my backside, but is instead the skillfully gripped covers of the polka-dotted duvet comforter dual pack I bought at Pottery Barn two weeks ago. I sigh — she does this all the time. I always wake up cold.
Carefully, I reach over her hip and grip the blanket softly. Martha stirs, bringing her knees up to her chest and the blanket along with her. I sigh again, the subtle curve of her thigh resting on top of the blanket putting a smile to my face. I love you, Double M.
I glance at the clock.
The dull blue light illuminates the hands at just after 6 a.m., and I figure it would be reckless to fall back asleep now. I’ll practice my contour in the bathroom. I recently bought a new nose — it’s latex-coated, so real fancy, not the foam shit — and I’ve been dying to experiment using it with purple rings around my eyes. It would be a new look for me.
“GOOD MORNIN’ PUDDIN’,” I hear Martha slam her fist down on the Harley Quinn alarm clock I bought her last month. A loud groan comes from the bedroom, and soon enough my beautiful wife in all her morning glory appears at the top of the stairs.
“Morning A,” she sighs sleepily, grogginess in her throat, and kisses me on the forehead. “Is Billy up yet?”
“Don’t think so, Double M.” I flip my egg. “Should probably wake him soon.”
“OK, Papa A.” She vanishes back up the stairs. “You still have some purple on your face, by the way.”
Martha and I have been married for five years now, and we’ve been together for 10 years prior. I met her during the annual clown slaughtering in Nebraska — we were both young clowns then. Nobody could ever truly make me laugh the way Martha can when she cut open the stomachs of Republicans and cuddled their intestines beneath her bosom.
They didn’t call her Mad Martha for nothing.
She enters the room trailing after Billy, our three-year-old son. Every morning, Billy eats Lucky Charms with chocolate milk and asks me about being a clown. Today is no different.
He spoons a scoop of cereal into his mouth. “Daddy, will you go clowning today?”
“Yes, I will. Lots of goofy business to attend to!” I teased, sticking my tongue out while pulling on my ears.
The three of us always eat breakfast together. Usually I leave early, but today I can enjoy watching Martha make pancakes and Billy kick the table while he eats. Simple pleasures. I reach over and honk on Billy’s nose, making gurgling noises. He seems to enjoy it.
“Daddy, you’re so cool!” Billy exclaims, laughing. “One day, I’m going to be the funniest, most greatest clown alive!”
I pause. I take my hand off his nose.
Softly, I reach to cup the side of his face, letting it slowly caress his poor, ignorant cheek.
“No Billy,” I say. “I’m the greatest clown alive.”
Fuck you, Billy.
I work as an accountant on weekdays. It’s definitely a cushy job. Keeps my family happy. Our finances are stable enough for me to buy a puppy, but I refrain because Martha’s allergic and there’s no way my “clown hound” is going to be some hypoallergenic yorkie.
There’s a guy in our group, he works where I work too, and he has a German Shepherd that he brings out some nights. Guy’s name is Raj and he’s real cool, but he’s single so he probably has like five other cool dogs. Damn, Raj.
I have a bunch of clients that I see from 9 to 12, but I never deprive myself of a break. Clowns need to maintain their sanity, and I usually spend my break with Raj, engaging in discourse about It the Clown and Molly from The Big Comfy Couch. He’s away today, though, prepping for tonight.
I get a text from him as I sip my raspberry Vitamin Water.
“YOU READY, BIG A?” it reads in all capitals, with six fruit emojis next to it.
I send back a banana. I am ready.
I always sneak off to the basement-level washroom just before my shift ends. Everyone thinks I just go home early, but really, I’m finally living.
I put on my new nose, inhale, and let the scent of latex rubber fill my nostrils. After, I sweep purple Ben Nye face paint across my eyes, making large circles. On special occasions, I like to draw my lips a bit larger than usual, with the corners arching upwards.
I strip myself of my tired, mundane grey suit and replace it with my all-time favourite yellow, baggy, clown garb. It has bright pink and blue polka dots and a worn lace collar.
I was wed in this suit.
I glance at my watch.
Every Thursday, we wear yellow and hide out in the forest behind the high school. Only two or three of us go at a time, but today, I decide that we should bring the whole gang. There’s six of us in total, and we’re here to get business done.
We spend the entire week making suspicious inferences around the forest — a red shoe here, a line of rainbow handkerchiefs there — to make sure people stay on their toes. Thursday is when it all pays off.
Mr. Balderon drives down to his place, through the forest, to meet up with Miss Amelia. That’s their business, not mine. Raj keeps track of our next target’s whereabouts.
Why Mr. Balderon, you ask?
Two weeks ago, I wanted the last can of condensed milk from Superstore.
Two weeks ago, he took that from me.
Today, I take his life.
Raj and Beatrice breathe quietly beside me. Raj is sporting some Victorian clown chic, and I’m a little disappointed in Beatrice. She’s not even wearing yellow today.
Mr. Balderon’s car turns the corner, and I creep slowly out of the trees and into the middle of the road. His car stops, and through the fog and headlights, I see Mr. Balderon take out his cell phone.
We like media coverage, and when I see the little light of the cell phone flash turn on, I start to creep closer. Raj and Beatrice swoop in beside me, and we lurk eerily on the outside windows of his car, the rest of our gang moving in closer as well.
I smash the front window, the glass crashing down on Mr. Balderon’s face, tiny scratches ooze red liquid all over his face and arms. I wait for him to scream as I draw my squeaky chicken toy (I DIY’d it so that a blade was coming out of his mouth) from my pouch.
He screams. I laugh. Raj’s German Shepherd bites his balls.
Billy is just getting ready for bed.
“Did you have fun today, Daddy?” he asks. “Did you perform any cool tricks?”
“Yes, Billy!” I greet him, throwing him up in the air and holding him close. He fingerprints the wall behind him with the blood from my chest. “I always perform the coolest tricks.”