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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Clown Face



Originally uploaded by oneeyeddogblues
When the Shrine Circus came to town, we stood on the sidewalk along the parade route and watched the clowns zigzagging their way down Main Street. The bright red and dazzling white face paint, fuzzy wigs and baggy costumes exaggerated the smiles on their faces. Some squeezed into tiny cars, their knees almost touching their chins, other frolicked and tumbled into each other, pinching their bulbous red noses to make a honking sound. It was hilarious entertainment.

They were much happier clowns than Clarabell, the silent partner on the Howdy Doody television show. Clarabell’s painted face had angular shapes and his grin could turn to confusion or despair. The Elizabethan collar he wore looked uncomfortable, I imagined that he was relieved when the show was over and he could take it off. I had empathy for him that I did not have for the other clowns. Clarabell had a wider range of emotions. Some times he looked as sad as I felt. He also got angry and enjoyed revenge. When he sprayed Buffalo Bob with seltzer everyone laughed. I wished I could get away with that behavior.

When I heard that Clarabell was going to be appearing in person at one of the city parks, I begged my mother to take me. Mom invited two other mothers and their pre-school aged children to come with us. I didn’t get to see Clarabell though because as I was running across the gravel path with my friends, I tripped, scraping a knee. The injury, which would have meant nothing for the other children, required a trip to the emergency room for me. I would be jabbed with a needle. It was as if the world had played a practical joke on me; I did not find it funny. I wasn’t allowed to show my resentment.

I felt like a bumbling buffoon. Unlike the clowns, I paid a price for my hyperactivity. Tears streaked my dusty face when the pediatrician entered the cubical at the hospital. What made me cry though was that I had missed seeing Clarabell.

My knee was scrubbed clean of city grime and the disinfectant had left the abrasion stinging. Blood oozed in tiny droplets soaking one bandage after another. The doctor decided to start an infusion of fibrinogen concentrate that would allow my blood to clot. I put on my bravest happy face. I had a feeling Clarabell would understand.