This is the first publication of the following piece.
by Joe Nazare
Neither one of them had a steady gait—Carlos because he was inebriated, Pat because he was in heels—when they stumbled upon the stranger.
It happened midway through the two-mile walk from the frat house back to campus. Pat had become Patty for the party, and Carlos was making a mock-lecherous grab for his Charmin-augmented bosom when he instead stopped and pointed.
Twenty feet ahead, dead center in the otherwise barren and woods-bracketed road, stood a figure in full clown regalia. Enormous sky-blue shoes that would have been a loose fit on Bigfoot. Baggy pantsuit that appeared to sport no pattern but rather a random spatter of red and brown. Greasepainted face, ball nose that looked like a plum tomato gone rotten. Two garish shocks of hair curving out from either side of the head, resembling nothing so much as devil’s horns.
“Creepy clown: cool,” Carlos pronounced.
To encounter someone in such outré attire wasn’t terribly unlikely on this last Saturday night in October, when a whole slew of pre-holiday celebrations no doubt raged. Still, instinctive wariness halted Pat’s steps. Carlos, meanwhile, continued on in fearless approach, his iPhone already in hand, raised and aimed.
“C’mon,” he called back to Pat, “we gotta put this up on YouTube.” Then, as he closed in on the clown: “Hey, man, wicked duds. Looks like you went shopping at Gacy’s.”
Pat swallowed, half-expecting the carnivalesque character to flash a shark’s grin and croak something like “They all float…” But the clown kept silent, just posed motionless, with eyes downcast and hands thrust in pouch-like hip pockets.
“So, waiting for someone in particular, or will any body do?” Carlos asked, trying to get the clown to mug ghoulishly for the camera. He might as well have been prompting a mannequin. His static subject made one of those Buckingham Palace guards seem like a Tourette’s victim. Pat found the figure’s utter lack of animation deeply unsettling.
The inactive act only irked Carlos. His boozy grin flattened into a scowl as he lowered the phone and eyed the clown directly. “What, you got nothin’ to say for yourself?” Several seconds of mute affirmation led him to follow with: “Then you best use those floppy-ass shoes to step aside, Homey D., before you get busted upside the head.”
The stranger, though, wasn’t the one moved by the threat. Heels clacking against the macadam, Pat scampered to intercept Carlos. “Hey, take it easy,” he told him. But the second Pat stiffened his arm in attempted restraint, Carlos pressed even more aggressively towards his newfound foe. Carlos was costumed in a zoot suit tonight, but Pat couldn’t help but think that he was dealing here with a pair of clowns.
Sudden impatience flooded him. His buzz had worn off, he was tired, and his feet were killing him. The last thing he felt like doing right now was refereeing a bout between his hot-headed friend and some wannabe Pennywise.
“Can we just get the hell outta here?” he shot at Carlos, who, to his surprise, took an immediate step back. The drunken bravado drained from Carlos’s face, leaving him gaping. An instant later, Pat felt a hand clamp down onto his shoulder.
Cringing, Pat turned his head. The clown’s gaze was as intense, as invasive, as the muscle-cramping clench. Even worse was what the clown used to see with: the circus perversity had a pair of black balloons in lieu of irises and pupils. Any thought Pat might have entertained that these were merely special-FX contacts was obliterated when his leering assailant addressed him.
“Not Pennywise,” it corrected all-too-knowingly, while unpocketing and brandishing an outsized meat tenderizer: “Poundfoolish.”