THE FRIGHTENED CLOWN WHO BECAME A HERO – MARGARET TANNER
Jo-Jo looked into the mirror and his eyes brimmed with tears. His heart was shattered into a thousand fragments, and the bitterness of his loss was overwhelming. He was afraid. The same sickening sensation of fear he had always felt even as a child, but the crowds were waiting for him to put on a show.
A clown could not be sad or frightened. He must laugh, joke and bounce around as if life was one big happy party. No one bothered to look beyond the large red nose or painted face. If they did so, they would see a man overcome with fear, and slowly dying of grief because Maisie was no longer with him.
A partnership of thirty years dissolved in a few cruel moments, under the wheels of a hit-run driver’s car. Poor Maisie didn’t stand a chance, not with some drunken maniac skidding around the corner with smoke belching from his wheels. Lightening fast on his feet as always, he nimbly jumped out of the way, but Maisie, with her varicose veins and hip replacements, was ponderously slow.
Jo-Jo once aspired to become a jockey. He was small and wiry enough, but the grotesque lump growing out of his spine like a giant football, and his fear of failure, put paid to those ambitions. His early years were spent in a misery of fear and ridicule. Children laughed and taunted him, but he was too afraid to stand up for himself. Finally, he decided if he was going to be the butt of jokes and taunts he might as well get paid for it.
The bitter years of suffering took their toll, and his mind became almost as twisted as the body he so despised. He longed for, prayed and pleaded with doctors and with God to make him normal, but they never listened. The older he got the uglier and more fearful he became.
One day he met Maisie. She was a plump, darling woman who looked beyond the ugliness of the body and found the real man. She bolstered his confidence and allayed his fears.
His savior had golden curls, baby blue eyes and fat rosy cheeks that wobbled when she laughed. She possessed melon like breasts, huge backside and fat stumpy legs, but there was not a mean bone in Maisie’s ample body. Her smile was angelic, her soul that of a saint. She was a guiding star of goodness, leading him out of the black tunnel of fear and self-loathing into the sunlight. Two fat tears dribbling down his painted cheeks, plopped on to his ruffled collar.
“Never let your audience down,” Maisie always said.
They were a class act, the skinny, sad sack clown and his chubby, pink haired fairy Godmother assistant. Stars of the circus, but how could he face the crowd without her strength and support? He was terrified. The old cowardice had returned with a vengeance.
Everyone thought them an odd couple, both on and off the stage. Maisie knew that beneath the clown suit, beat the heart of a sensitive man, and only he knew, the layers of tulle and flab hid a beautiful woman.
He could hear the crowd chanting. “We want Jo-Jo. We want Jo-Jo.”
He scrubbed the tears away with the back of one hand and slapped some more powder over his makeup to hide the smears. With his heart weighed down with grief, he gritted his teeth, mounted his mini bicycle and with a large colorful beach ball balanced on his head, peddled out from behind the curtains.
“Where’s the old fat fairy?” yelled a kid in the front row. Jo-Jo felt like ramming the fairy floss the boy was devouring down his throat, stick and all. He did nothing of the kind, just tossed the ball up in the air and somersaulted off his bike.
“Do it again, Jo-Jo, do it again.” The littlies squealed with delight, while the rest of the audience clapped and stamped their feet. Jo-Jo continued his routine and his heavy heart lifted with the excitement of the crowd, as he gave the performance of his life.
“I’m doing this for you, Maisie love,” he whispered. “I’m doing this for you.”
The laughter suddenly changed into shrieks of horror, as a lioness turned on the ringmaster and knocked him to the ground with one powerful leap. The big cat’s ugly fangs were bared into a snarl as she prepared to attack.
It had been sheer stupidity separating her from her cubs and expecting her to perform so soon after their birth. The trainers pleaded with the circus owners, but to no avail, they had no compassion for either man or beast working for them. Money and profit was all they cared about.
Jo-Jo jumped on to his mini bike and rode between the lioness and the fallen ringmaster. The enraged animal turned her ferocity on to him. He peddled furiously. This was the most important ride of his life and any mistake would cost him dearly. From the corner of one eye he saw the ringmaster crawling to safety, and even as the beast charged towards him, Jo-Jo somersaulted out of the way.
A net dropping down from the roof of the big-top imprisoned the lion, and the trainers dragged her away. There was silence for a moment, then the crowds began cheering.
Jo-Jo the frightened clown was a hero.
In my novel, Allison's War, published by Books We Love. Allison is certainly a great heroine.
In 1916, on the French battlefields, a dying soldier’s confession has the power to ruin the woman he loves. Meanwhile, on the home front, Allison Waverley has to battle shame, loss and betrayal. Can she overcome the dark secrets in her past and find happiness, or will it always elude her?
Margaret Tanner is an award winning author who writes historical romance and westerns.http://www.margarettanner.com/