Horror Short Story: Tears of a Clown
Tears of a Clown
Melissa R. Mendelson
The cold beer felt good against Paul’s hand. He nursed each sip as he sat back in the loveseat, staring at the man seated before him. He savored each taste, running the man’s words across his mind. He heard of small towns having their secrets, and some of those secrets were dark. But what this man was telling him went beyond drama, and he didn’t believe in the supernatural. He only believed in the cold beer in his hand.
“I know that you are new to this town, Paul. This town, Poenitet has its secrets. Actually, it only has one secret,” the man sitting before Paul said.
“Does that explain the adults dressed as clowns here?” The man before Paul nodded. “Does that explain why each family has their own clown?” The man nodded again. “So, what happened to your clown?”
“Dave? He died. Heart attack. No one saw it coming, which is why I am here, Paul. I heard that you were looking for work, and I am willing to pay you. Just name your price.”
“Matt, you’re going to pay me to dress up as a clown to entertain your nine-year-old son every day?”
“And night. Especially at night,” Matt said.
“I don’t know.” Paul finished his beer. “My wife just left me. I have to go through the divorce papers and lawyers, and yes, I am looking for work. This house, if you can call it that, is very small, and I have to figure things out. So, I have to say no, Matt. I can’t dress up like a clown to entertain your son. It’s insane.”
“I will cover your lawyer fees.” Matt pushed himself forward, moving himself closer to Paul. “I’m desperate. Everyone else is taken. I need someone, Paul, starting tonight. Just name your price. I don’t care. I have the money, but I need someone now.”
“Matt, if you couldn’t find anyone including me, what would be the worst thing that would happen? Your son would just not have a clown especially walking around in your house at night, which is weird.”
“You heard about the Dillons, right?”
“Yeah. They were all slaughtered during the night. They never found the daughter’s body.”
“And they won’t,” Matt said. “She wasn’t there.”
“The news reporter said that she was there.”
“She wasn’t, Paul.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Look, it’s almost five o’clock. How about a trial run? I have Dave’s outfit and make-up in the back of my car. Just do it tonight. If you don’t want to do it afterward, then I’ll try to find someone else tomorrow.” Matt opened his wallet and flipped through the cash. “How about I give you four hundred dollars?”
“Yes,” and Matt held the cash out to him. “You can let me know tomorrow, if you would like to continue working for me.” He continued to hold the cash out toward Paul.
“Okay,” and Paul took the money out of Matt’s hand.
“Great,” and Matt stood up from his chair. “Let’s go.”
“Right now,” and Paul looked at the empty beer bottle in his hand. “Okay,” and he placed the beer bottle on the stained floor near the loveseat.
“Just one more thing,” Matt said. “When you are dressed as the clown, you cannot cry especially in front of my son.”
“Um…. First of all, I’m a man, and I don’t cry. Secondly, why?”
“Just don’t,” and Matt walked toward the front door. “Coming?”
“For four hundred dollars? Yes, I am,” and Paul left the cash on the loveseat. He grabbed his house keys from a table nearby and followed Matt outside.
Six o’clock. Matt’s wife made a chicken with rice. Paul was grateful that he was allowed to have dinner as himself before becoming the clown. He felt ridiculous, and nobody talked at the kitchen table. Only Matt and his wife exchanged looks. Their seventeen-year-old daughter glanced at Paul every now and then, and their nine-year-old son picked at his food. He was the only one that did not look at Paul.
For the rest of the evening, Paul strolled around the house dressed as a ridiculous clown. He wore a yellowish-green wig and a giant red nose, and his brown shoes were enormous, smacking at the wooden floors upstairs. His hands were covered in white gloves, and the clothing was heavy, stiff. The flower had dried out and barely spurt any water, and the long handkerchief was shoved deep into one pants pocket. And every time the son appeared, looking for him, he would skip and dance and make stupid faces. All this for four hundred dollars.
“You know the story of this town, don’t you?” Paul was surprised to find the daughter standing behind him in the upstairs hallway. “You heard about the children, right?”
“What,” Paul said.
“Some of the kids in this town go missing, but nobody realizes it until it is too late. They’re all under ten years of age, and Ben’s got one more year to go.”
“I don’t understand,” Paul replied. “What are you trying to tell me?”
“A long time ago, one of the town’s founders figured it out. The clowns keep them away, but if you fail…” The daughter looked past Paul and paled. “Never mind,” and she hurried into her bedroom.
Paul turned around and saw Ben standing by the stairs. Ben’s eyes held an empty stare. He waited for Paul to do something, and Paul squeezed his nose, making a squeaky sound. Ben blinked, and then he walked down the stairs. And Paul stared after him, unnerved by that stare.
Eleven o’clock. The family had gone to bed. All of them except for Paul, and before Matt went to sleep, he insisted that Paul remain dressed as the clown until eight a.m. Then, he could go home, and if it wasn’t for the money, Paul would have said the hell with it. Instead, he paced around the house, snacked on food from the fridge, and then he paused by the family room window. He glanced at the house next door, and another clown stared back through its window. The clown waved to Paul, and Paul slowly returned the wave. What the hell was with this town?
It must have been around two or three in the morning. Paul abruptly awoke on the stairs. He was so bored that he had dozed off, but something had woken him up. The stairs above him creaked, but when he looked over his shoulder, no one was there. Still, he forced himself upward, almost falling down the stairs in those damn shoes, and he hurried over to Ben’s bedroom. He was relieved to see Ben still in bed, but why did he find that reassuring?
Paul trudged back down the stairs. He finally turned to look at the family pictures hanging up in the hallway. He had been avoiding them since he got into the house. He didn’t want to see a happy family, a loving couple and smiling children. Ben looked so different in those pictures. He looked more alive, and then Paul stared at the loving couple. He thought of his wife and how she had cheated on him. She didn’t cheat on him once. He would have forgiven her for that. Maybe, he would also have forgiven her for the second or third time, but there were too many men. And finally when she realized that Paul would not divorce her, she left him as if it were his fault that she cheated on him, and that thought broke his heart. And a tear ran down his face.
Paul hurried down the stairs. He walked into the bathroom nearby. He left the door open and turned on the lights. Another tear slipped down his face. It would ruin his make-up, and sure enough, he saw his peachy skin sticking out of the white powder. And then he remembered that he had left his make-up in the bathroom upstairs, so he tried to smear the white powder over his skin. Instead, he wiped the white powder away.
A strange giggle was heard behind him. Paul looked over his shoulder to see that Ben was watching him. The nine-year-old boy giggled again, and it was a strange sound. It didn’t sound like a giggle, and the boy smiled as one more tear escaped from the corner of Paul’s eye. And Paul turned to wipe the tear away, but that’s when he looked in the mirror. And he did not see Ben looking back at him.
Paul continued to stare through the mirror. He was too petrified to turn around. The boy’s skin was grey with black patches. His brown hair was darker, sticking weirdly outward, and his face was literally a blank slate. The holes in his face, where his eyes should have been, had a weird, eerie glow, and his arms stretched all the way down to the floor. His fingers turned gray, and the tips extended outward into razor sharp claws. Before Paul could react, one arm lashed outward like a whip, and Ben’s fingers sliced through Paul’s waist. Paul split in half, and the top part of his body splattered against the bathroom floor. And as Ben turned to go up the stairs, a single tear ran down Paul’s face.