Fatso the Clown” by Jon Pearson

06 July 2012 on Fiction   Tags:

He wandered out into the circus ring with what looked like a volleyball under his arm. “Fatso the Clown.” It was a horrible name. He wore a silk polka-dot clown suit, which made him look not three hundred but eight hundred pounds. He meandered about for a long while doing nothing, it seemed, except carry a scuffed ball. People got edgy. “Do something!” a man yelled after about a minute. Half the crowd clapped at the suggestion. “Jesus, a fat guy wandering around with a ball. I paid money for this!?” was the sentiment under the big top—a thousand people sitting on long, hard benches. “DO SOMETHING!”

People started thinking about how much they had paid to get into the damn circus, and wasn't a clown supposed to DO something, trip on something, get hit with a banjo, something?

It was like a pot of water coming to boil: a bubble here, a bubble there, until finally, a rolling boil. The anger grew and, in the gut of the animal that is a crowd, an unconscious ball of something came to near explosion. The crowd wasn't just angry at the clown but everything the fat, do-nothing clown represented in the back of its collective mind: the injustice, “we paid good money for the tickets,” the disappointment, fatness itself, laziness, dishonesty, rich bastards who take advantage of simple, hardworking folk, even traffic jams. There was something of the traffic jam in it: the waiting, the lines, ingratitude, foreigners, strangers, people who cut in line, bullies, everyone who ever lied to you, failed you or crapped out in any way, people who didn't agree with you politically. The clown was a magnet for every fear or frustration anyone in the crowd ever had.

Finally the clown dropped the white ball on the cinder dirt. “Well, something is happening at least. A fat guy in a silk clown suit can drop a ball, goodie, hallelujah.” He kicked it with his small, black shoe. “A clown can kick a ball, wow.” He had damn small feet, come to think, for such an obese clown. He kicked it here and there, zigging and zagging. Well, at least something is happening. Then he, an eight-hundred-pound-looking man, hopped on the ball and, balancing himself, began spinning it unbelievably with his tiny, black-shoed feet, riding it like a unicycle—forward, backward, and sideways. He seemed to spell full sentences in cursive in the sandy dirt. It was God-awful amazing: amazement verging on terror. People couldn't believe a man that size could work his feet in a blur for ten straight minutes—rolling the ball here and there, pivoting, spinning, streaking forward and then backward in a line. He could have written the Gettysburg Address in the dirt with all the little hitches and flourishes.

The guy who had yelled, “DO SOMETHING!” actually pissed himself and sat there dumb as an upturned rake handle. People who hadn't been surprised since fifth grade or had given up all hope of meeting the man of their dreams or even just feeling a little less cheated by everything sat staring at salvation itself, right before their eyes. If God could make a man who looked like that do what that man did, then maybe everything in sight was the burning bush. Everything had hope. And not just in the happy hereafter.

It was so unbelievable that people who never believed in anything started to believe in everything. People who never believed in God or poetry or hope or peace or a good night's sleep now believed in thin air. People who had given up on life, dreams, flowers, sex—on damn near everything—could not believe their eyes. The clown was a god. Or, no, God, for a time, was a clown.

No one clapped or breathed or blinked or moved. The whole crowd turned into one pie-eyed six-year-old gaping at what might as well have been a lollipop dropped from Heaven. Everything that was ordinary all these years may have only been kidding. At any moment, anything might happen. The popcorn carton between your legs might speak French; the guy next to you might live to be 380. Your wife of ten years might have an exploding head. Everything had miracle in it like cookies have dough.

The circus went on. The trained horses and lions and trapeze artists came and went, but the time with the clown became the eyes through which the audience would see everything, always.

The clown's real name was Hector Delgado. He was 115 pounds. A former world-class soccer player, he fashioned “Fatso” with pillows and a billowy silk clown suit. It was his one and only time at the circus. He wasn't even scheduled to perform. He stole away afterward in a dust-colored car. He had proved to himself that people's disbelief could, actually, ignite their belief. Their disbelief could be the mainspring for their belief. Only a clown named “Fatso,” he figured, could make people who clung to their doubts drown in their faith.


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