from The Very Short Stories Series
The clown is hewing his path through the bushes with a rusted, almost rotten machete. He has a haggard face, he is tired, he is panting like a mad underfed parrot, and is sweating with large, distinctive sweat beads. The forest is becomes denser and denser and gradually breaths an old stale smell. The sky hides somewhere above a pack of crows that scouts the crowns of the huge oak trees looking for lost squirrels vulnerable to being devoured. The clown doesn’t think about the squirrels, but feels the layer of dead leaves eating up his heels as the layer thickens, muddled with dirt, soil and tiny rodents.
The clown drops the machete, stops and bends down to his knees and rattles a few times, thinking of how is it to die. He imagines of that very moment just before one loses the sense of reality, like before one goes to sleep. Because dieing is like the first moments of sleeping. When you don’t dream, when you don’t feel anything. No presence, no memories, no feelings. Just the mechanical organic movement of the lungs. The clown throws up a chunk of undigested apples and wipes his mouth with his sleeve and realizes that his make-up melted. It’s all over his clothes, on his shoes, on the ground, on the leaves. He looks behind. The branches he touched are painted in white. There is a long trail of his passing through the forest. They can easily trace him down.
But who are they?, he thinks. They will not follow me so deep down into the dark, uncharted forest. My deed is not that worthwhile. Or maybe it is. Maybe that stupid libeler didn’t like my act, or maybe I’m too uncommon for the entertainment business. And who does he think he is? So what, he owns a very successful club and has a beautiful, ravishing wife. Oh, her curly locks and floppy loops, her body temperature rising at every touch and her lips moisturizing my hips and her tongue…
The clown stopped right here with this line of thinking. Hiding behind a tree and peeking for his pursuers he became to feel better. The comely air of the quiet forest started to give him physical pleasure, born from a contrast of fear and sensorial relentlessness while being hosted by a magnanimous luxuriant landscape. A weevil is climbing his thumb. What a small creature, he thought. What an atomic composition of organic material and it moves by itself. The next thought that comes to his mind is a quote from Nietzsche, his favorite philosopher, who inspired him into becoming a stand-up clown comedian. While watching the weevil, three inches away from his face the clown recites the quote out loud, affected:
“Every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends up by coming to an arrangement,” or union, the clown explaines to the weevil and then continues, “with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on.”
When he pronounced process with his mental voice the weevil decided to defend its right to survival. It stitched the little claws into the clown’s thumb and took a tiny bite of the man’s flesh. Ouch, he said. Damn creature! He then plucked it and squashed it against the crust of an oak tree. His fingerprints are fringed out with little stripes of blood, damn!, my nail polish is ruined, stupid insect, you’re lucky you’re exempt from a painful slow death, you scraggy, scrawny, skunk, what have I done to you?! “Every specific body strives to become master over all space”.
The pain is excruciating. It turned into a mental scorch. He thinks he is poisoned and forgets about the club owner’s beautiful wife. He starts running very fast for three minutes, and stops near a Bach, which means river in German, as he explains to himself mentally trying to forget the pain, and sits on a pile of hewn timber. He glowers to a shoal of trout that was passing by, following a pack of herring, feeding on them as they traveled up-stream. He drops a droplet of blood from his thumb into the river. The fish swim away agog and undisturbed. The man dons his finger with a big green leaf that he recognized from a television documentary as being a renowned poison sucker. Then he hears a loud thump from across the river. And he also hears dogs barking somewhere behind him.
The bloody libeler set his pit bulls on me, he thinks.
Now, let us explain why the clown was thinking of his boss as being a bloody libeler. Was not because the club owner was member of the Liberal Party and he was trying to play a joke at him by using a humorous homonym to denote a character’s traits, it was because the club’s owner was the one making fun of him, the clown. The boss found out that his employee was seeing a sexual therapist, for Freudian-related erectile dysfunctions. And expressed his findings out loud, at an employee meeting, after the Saturday night show, behind the scene, after five or six rounds of seven percent alcohol Irish beers. The clown was present at that gathering and simply retorted: Oh, yeah! I’m gonna get your wife and she’ll cure me. And he did get her and she cured him. It is worthwhile mentioning that she is neither a psychologist nor a therapist, she is a dental hygienist.
The river smashes scraps of wood into the boulders, budging long rotten leafless branches into little swirls of water. He makes the crossing onto the other side by jumping from boulder to boulder and rushing into the forest, again. He finds a little wooden church in the middle of a fairy-tale meadow. He sees a parked car next to it and hears voices from inside. He approaches a side window and peers in by making a little awning above his eyes to block the light.
There is a throng of people inside. They are dressed like peons, but look very clean. It’s a country wedding. The priest is dressed in red and wears a red biretta. The clown immediately thinks of Stendhal, and recites a few lines form The Red and the Black:
“En passant de la salle … manger au jardin, elle serra la main de Julien. Dans la surprise que lui causa une marque d’amour si extraordinaire il la regarda avec passion.”
The priest lifts a crux above his head and then above the heads of the bride and the groom. He fetters a streak of white linen around the two betrothed and recites:
“Thou shalt be blessed above all the peoples; there shall not be male or female barren with thee, or with thy cattle. Fear not, Zach: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Betty shall bear thee a son; God’s blessing upon your mutual efforts on the part of each other’s body into this divine union.”
The priest stretches his arm out. The thurible hangs in the air and staggers form left to right to left and so on. Does anyone rebuff to this union? he asks rhetorically. The crowd answers unanimously: No. You two, do you bear out your union? Yes, she says. Yes, he says. I pronounce you husband and wife. The crowd swoons with joy. They applaud and throw corn beans, no, those are not corn beans, this window is getting blurry, maybe is just my breathing, the clown thinks and searches his pocket for a napkin.
He only finds two cowries. Where did you come from?, he asks the cowries and then remembers he stole them from the club’s kitchen, as he mistook them as two silver ash trays.
The wedding congregation emerges from the church, cheering and singing. They form a human driveway from the entrance to a black car and start throwing rice.
Hey, there is a clown!, somebody shouts. The clown freezes on the spot, like a scare-crow, while holding the cowries at the head-level, as self-defense. In that very same moment the newly wedded couple, followed by Father Jules, comes and greets the gathering. The clown is dragged in the middle and they form a circle around him. He is petrified.
Oh, Zach, the bride says. You hired a clown for me. You’re so sweet.
Umm… yes Betty, I did. Zach winks to his father-in-law. His father-in-law shrugs his shoulders.
I love you, Zach.
I love you too, Betty.
Look Zach, he has castagnettes. How did you know I like castagnettes?
Umm… your father told me.
Tell him to play, please Zach!
Hey clown! Do the castagnettes for my wife!
And the man with his weird melted white mask starts playing the castagnettes and makes everybody happy, realizing he has just become a happy man himself.