Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

CASA Student Scribes: Clowning Around

Screenshot 2015-04-29 00.54.22Stepping off that rainbow-tinted school bus, a river of shame washed over me as I worked my way to the front door. Today was an abysmal failure from start to finish.

Watching those clowns glide around on unicycles baffled me. Why anyone would want to spend their free time perfecting the art of balancing on a seat with a single wheel just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not fast and it’s not comfortable. It takes two useful objects, with great purposes, and throws all that out the window. What you’re left with is a chair that puts you in a constant state of discomfort and sadness. Furthermore, I was too small to be able to rodeo with one of the bulls, and too large to be able to fit into the clown car.

While I’m at it, here’s another bit I never quite understood in the comedy routine: why do people like it when I cram my body into a car with four other dudes? You have no idea what a horrifying process that is. I almost broke my arm the other day because Bozo bent it back weird so we’d all fit. Then there’s the smell. Oh god, the smell: cotton candy drowning in sour milk and B.O.

I’m not fit for the life of a clown, and I clearly don’t have the makings of one. And now I have to tell that to my parents, Jenny and Bucky Hickerson, famous fourth generation clowns of Hickersons to become successful in the clown business.  How disappointed they’ll be when I tell them there won’t be a fifth generation Hickerson clown.

As I stepped through the door, I was taken aback. At the kitchen table sits not just Mom and Pop Hickerson, but my Hickerson grandparents as well, all gathered around a cake reading “Congrats Bucky!!”  Everyone dressed in clown attire, and as I entered the room they all cheered.  Mom and Dad got up and gave me big bear hugs, and the grandparents applauded me.  Dad shook my hand, firm, nearly breaking my arm and snapping it out of its socket.

“How was the first day of clown school, my boy?”

“Fine.” I slouched in the head seat of the table.

It’s a creepy sight, sitting in a room full of people you love dressed like clowns. The makeup splattered all over their faces made them seem like strangers, and the smell of all the rubber chickens filled my nose. But that was soon changed as mother headed to the kitchen and pulled one of her apple pies from the oven.

“Oh sweet lord, thank you, mother! I really could go for one of your apple pies right now.”

A smile crept up her face, not her usual warm and comforting motherly smile, this was something much more sinister.

“You’re a clown now, sweetie. You need to understand that pies aren’t for eating any more!” Mother wound her arm back and slammed the pie into my face. Apples dripped down my face, the freshly cooked filling burning my cheeks. The Hickerson crew rioted, knee slapping and cracking up until they nearly fell out of their chairs.

It was a well-played move by mother, a classic Jenny Hickerson prank. Behind the crust and apple filling, I was not laughing. Tears escaped my eyes. Something about the moment overwhelmed me. I couldn’t even bring myself to fake laughter with the rest of the family. To see mother’s excitement as she pied my face for the first time, acknowledging me as the family’s next Hickerson clown saddened me greatly. I knew I’d eventually have to disappoint the woman and tell her that’s not who I am. Also, the additional paranoia of not knowing whether I’d get to eat mom’s pies or have them slammed into my face every time I got a whiff of apple in the house made matters worse.

I knew it was now or never, I had to tell the family what happened at clown school. I wiped the pie from my face, shamefully revealing my red eyes and the tears festering right in front of them. I explained to them how the first day really went, and while I couldn’t see their emotions through all the makeup, I could feel them. The disgrace of what I did to the Hickerson name caused my grandpa great shame. Dad slid back into his chair.

“You don’t want to be a clown, Bucky?”


“Then whataya want to do with your life, sonny? What can you be if you’re not gonna be a clown?” My grandpa smashed his fist on the table .

“I really like flowers,” I said. “I’m thinking about becoming a florist.”

“Flowers? Clowns use those all the time, you buffoon! I got one right here on my shirt, y’see?” Grandpa repeatedly pointed to the fake squirt toy flower on his shirt. “Clowns are all about flowers!”

“It’s just not the same, Grandpa. That’s a piece of plastic that squirts water.”

“No, sonny, no it isn’t! It’s a magical prop that cracks people up! C’mon boy, look at how hilarious this is! How could a flower make ya laugh, eh? Real flowers ain’t funny. They’re just pretty smelling. Clowns made the flower perfect! This is hilarious.”

Grandpa squirted the flower at me, washing off the pie crust, the pie filling, and my clown makeup. The removal of all these barriers made me feel naked. My emotions now fully exposed, Grandpa’s point didn’t hit home. The water hitting my face didn’t make me laugh. As a last resort, Grandpa began flailing his rubber chicken in my face, backing me into a corner.

“What the hell is wrong with this kid? Is he stupid? What kind of person doesn’t just lose their mind at the sight of a rubber chicken? Does he not get it, Jenny?”

I felt trapped. The old man backing me up made me feel like a wild animal. Something inside me just snapped. I’d show him just how hilarious these clown props were. I returned the favor and washed away his clown makeup with my flower squirt toy. Now stunned and frazzled, the old man wiped at his dripping makeup. I took my rubber chicken and whacked him right in his wrinkly, drippy face. Nobody’s laughing now. We’re finally all on the same page about the effects of prop comedy.

The family, too shocked to respond, tried helping Grandma, who passed out. My parents couldn’t seem to find the words they wanted to say to me. I’ve let everyone down with my choice, but they’ll understand in time.

I turned and headed to the front door, leaving all the calamity behind. Before I left, I turned back to the stunned group of clowns and said, “I’m done clowning around,” and strutted out the door.

They didn’t understand my dream, and that’s fine. Not everyone likes flowers. But I do, and I’m going to open my own flower shop one day, and it will be amazing. I’ll be able to drive there every day, in a normal-sized car. There won’t be four other smelly freaks mashed in with me. There won’t be bulls, nobody will get hurt, and no stupid jokes will be made. Instead of filling my nose with the scent of plastic, I’ll be filling it with the aroma of floral delights. And I’ll smell them with my own nose.

Cliff Kubiak is a junior at Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School.

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