The Iron Writer Challenge #175
2016 Summer Open Challenge #12
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
A clown, numbers, A barn, Rabbit Stew
‘I’m funny how? I mean funny, like I’m a clown? I amuse you?’
‘Well, yeah’, Connie agreed, ‘but right now, I need to use the bathroom, and don’t be using all my lipstick’, she continued, her head slumped against the other side of the door.
The door opened.
‘How do I look?’ Colin asked.
‘Don’t start that again; we need to get going. I’ve arranged to meet with Marvin before the show.’
‘Alright, Connie, but why have we got to meet him?’
‘I’ll tell you on the way. I’ve got some news.’
‘Sounds ominous. I’ll get my shoes on.’
He was still lacing up his shoes when Connie came to the door of their trailer.
‘So, what’s the news, Connie?’ he said with a broad grin.
‘I’m going to need a bigger box, Colin.’
They walked over to Colin’s car; he stepped in, and opened the door for her.
‘I’m not going in your ridiculous car’, she turned, and started walking.
She walked in silence. Colin drove next to her for a minute, until they arrived at Marvin’s office.
‘Are you finding it harder to get into the box, Connie?’
‘Kind of, but I’m going to be getting a lot bigger’, she said with a whimper. ‘I want to ask Marvin for a rise, or see if we can get you a new job’.
‘What’s brought this on, Connie?’
‘I’m pregnant, Colin. We’re going to hear the patter of tiny feet.’
‘Big feet’, Colin corrected her.
‘Can’t you be serious for a minute?’
‘Unless our numbers come up on the lottery, we have to play this one sweetly’, she chided.
Marvin came out of his office, pulling a gold pocket-watch from his garish waistcoat.
‘Well, if it isn’t my favourite contortionist and clown; to what do I owe this pleasure?’ he said, ushering them inside.
‘It seems we’re asking for a raise’, Colin blurted out.
‘Or a new job’, Connie added.
‘How about a knife-thrower? That’s a fine act’, Marvin offered.
‘Yeah’, said Connie, ‘a clown that couldn’t hit a barn door, throwing sharp things at the pregnant lady – that’s going to pull in the crowds.’
‘How’s your balance, Colin?’
‘You’re not going to get me up on the high-wire again, Marvin, unless you fix those safety nets’, Colin replied.
‘I’ll have a word with Mephisto, maybe he can help’, said Marvin.
‘I can’t do magic’, said Colin.
‘No, but I was thinking he could keep you in rabbit-stew for a while’, he said, wryly.
‘You do know that he uses the same rabbits every night, Marvin? He doesn’t really magic them out of his hat’, said Connie.
Marvin stood up; the show was starting.
‘We’ll talk about this later, guys. I think Bobby’s about to do his big entrance.’
They startled as the explosion resonated through the canvas walls of the big top. The gasps of the astonished audience accompanied a three-second flight. The lightning-bolt atop Bobby the human cannonball’s helmet pierced, and ripped, into Marvin’s office. The spent shell of Bobby crumpled to the floor.
‘Looks like your career path has taken a new trajectory, Colin.’
What Am I Observing?
He stood motionless. His eyes opened to the point they hurt. His mouth opened to the point it hurt. What he was seeing was not possible. Slowly Brian scanned the street in both directions.
All the structures along the road were barns. While a rich assortment of styles and colors, they were barns. Barns situated so tightly together as if to imitate row houses. And it seemed as if each had a different hue.
“What the heck?” Brian slapped his face, opened and shut his eyes several time and pinched himself. “This ain’t possible.” The barns did not go away.
“What the heck yourself. I’m late.” As the clown hurried past Brian, it tipped its very under size top hat and honked a crimson nose.
Before Brian could react another clown approached. After tipping his hat and honking his nose it asked a question. “Pardon me. Do you know where barn 21 is?”
After looking at several barns’ numbers, Brian replied. “Well, this one is number 19, so the next one should be number 21.”
“Huh?” The clown wiggled his mouth and eyes. “Ah no. The next one is 42.”
“Than that’s 21.” Brian turned to the opposite direction and pointed.
“No, no. That’s 13.” A doubting clown stared at Brian. “Are you sure you know your numbers?”
“Hey, why ya’ll standing there looking like a couple of statues?” A third clown asked as he walked past. “The rabbits just announced their stew’s ready. Come on.” He waved for the pair to join him. “Heard a rumor they actually put some real food in it this time. None of that green stuff they like.” With a tip of his hat and a spin of his tie the clown hurried off.
Brian took a deliberate look at the street in both directions, the barns and the clowns. As he did so all the barns slowly changed colors and numbers. It did not surprised Brian when he noticed a rabbit looking clown standing beside him.
“You’re the same clown I’ve been talking to, aren’t you?”
“Oh, I say. That is a most rude question. Of course I am the same one. Do you think I changed my looks?” It held up a finger. “ Do not answer that. A clown never changes their appearance.”
Brian took another look around. “This ain’t real. . . . Where am I?”
“The question to be rendered is not, Where am I? That is very clear. You are there?” The clown pointed at Brian’s feet. “A question which would be more appropriate would be, What am I observing?”
“Okay, What am I observing?”
“You are not only observing, but are also participating in a dream. One which could be define as a very strange, perhaps even weird, dream.”
“How does this end?” Brian watched the barns change again.
“When you wake up.” The clown began moving his arm in a circular motion. “Which will not happen until you go back to sleep.”
WHAM! A fist slammed into Brian’s jaw.
Harold the Great
Steven L Bergeron
“Ladies and Gentlemen for your viewing pleasure we have, what’s clearly our top ten entertainers this company has ever produced. We present to you Harold the Great.”
With that introduction, it will surely going to be my last. My little car barrelled it’s way out the pearly gates hitting every barrel insight. Harold the Great had become this companies bubbling fool. The entire crowd was roaring in there seat at my antics. Well almost everyone, this old man in the top row sat there motionless, his eyes fixed on all my moves.
I ‘m a Stewart and this was the end, I was all clowned out. I proceeded to my trailer to pack up my life. As I poured my last ounce of JD,a knock suddenly appeared my door . I ignored it thinking it was the ringmaster with my last pay check.
“Mr Great, I would like to have a word with you?” That voice so dead, it took me back to our last talk.
“What can I do for your old man?”
“I have a proposition for you.”
I opened the door looking him straight in the eye.
“After all of these years , why should I listen to you?”
“If not for me, do it for your mother. You know every Sunday she’s been cooking her “Country Corn bread with rabbit stew” with the barn windows wide open, hoping the aroma would call you back.”
“So you come crawling back, hoping that I forgive you.”
“Something like that, it was your mother’s idea that I come tonight. She threatened me to make amends tonight or she would be gone by the time I get back. Can I come in? We can talk better in private.”
He took the couch as I finished my last swig.
“I’d offer you some but this is all I got left. You know I saw you in the bleachers just staring.”
“Well I never been much for rodeos or clowns. But if it’s any consolations you were good.”
“Thanks too bad it’s going to be my last.”
“I make a fool of myself out there tonight. It’s the first time back here since I left. The crowd made me feel like a fool. I’m a Stewart and should be proud of it.”
“Yes you are a Stewart , and like all of us a strong head on your shoulders. What you are doing leaving all of this behind, takes guts. I was wrong all those years ago calling you a fool. I learnt something to tonight, it doesn’t feel all that bad to admit when you are wrong. Come on let me gives you a hand with all of this?”
For the first time in my life I understood where my father was coming from. And that folks was the last anyone ever heard of Harold the Great. The Stewarts were a family again, till our next big outburst.
They sat, huddled together for warmth, in the barn. They hoped no-one had seen them sneak across the field at the back of the lonely farmhouse. Fortunately it had been cloudy and the moon had only shone filtered light to ease their escape from the soldiers.
Aaron spoke first. His voice was muted but sounded loud in the tense silence of the barn.
“We need food.”
Ester stood and looked outside, her eyes scanning the field for anything that moved.
“The soldiers might search here in the morning – we have to keep moving.” She looked at her husband, registering his tired eyes and hunched and troubled stance. “We have to get Abigail somewhere safe to have her baby.”
“The rabbit stew we had two days ago,” he said, the sadness permeating each word, “won’t sustain us for much longer. We will have to ask the owners of this farm for some food.”
‘But what if they are Nazi sympathizers,” Lamar hissed. “They may turn us in. We will be shot!”
“I’ll go.” Abigail said quietly.
They all shook their heads.
“You can’t, my love.” Aaron clung to her, yet knowing the desperation would change their minds.
“I must,” she said. “Look at me – eight months pregnant. Surely they wouldn’t turn me away.”
She twisted away from Aaron and slipped outside just as the moon shone brightly through a break in the clouds.
The family shrank back into the shadows as Abigail made her way toward the farmhouse. The wave of fear followed her, but she moved purposefully on. The knock seemed to echo across the valley, and Aaron jerked forward, ready to run for his wife, but the door opened almost immediately and Abigail disappeared inside. The family, hidden still, and anxious, took a collective breath and waited.
Although it felt like hours, it was only some fifteen minutes later that Abigail re-appeared.
“Do you think she’s being forced to get us?” Lamar whispered, dread breaking his voice into a whimper.
“Don’t be a clown, Lamar,” Aaron spoke harshly filled with the same fear. “Your sister wouldn’t put us in danger. She’d have thought of something to warn us.”
The family crept out of the barn and carefully moved to the shadows near Abigail.
“Is it okay?” Ester whispered.
“Yes – come!” Abigail grinned with relief. “I knew we were safe when I noticed the man of the house reading ‘Numbers’ in the bible.” She held out her hand as her family hesitantly stumbled towards her. “Come in, come in,” she repeated. ” Levi welcomes us.”
They had a safe haven … for now.