Location: marengo, il, United States

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Gumballs and a Clown

We had an hour to kill before church, so the boy and I made an unplanned decision to stop by a new restaurant. Several bright-yellow banners outside brazenly proclaimed the establishment’s complete lack of culinary know-how, and generously welcomed all half-awakes to chance their current experimentations. Since overcast skies had yet to fulfill promised threats of soggy weather, we opted to take our risks inside the joint.

A single large room filled with tables, booths, diners and a line of soon-to-becomes first greeted our eyes from a small glassed foyer. Over to our left, a pair of energetic and youthful women stood close to a register, whispering secret giggles to each other. The place appeared to be stylish as well as popular.

An older male held the inner door ajar for a female companion. A fresh toothpick dangled from the gentleman’s lips -- a hopeful sign of at least one satisfied customer. We squeezed past them to battle our way over to the waiting list. I gave one of the hostesses my first name and asked how long would it be. She assured me twenty minutes, so I picked out a small toy from a stack provided for the smaller patrons, and returned with it to the less-crowded entry. Then handing the diversion to David, I directed him back inside to an vacant spot on a near-by bench.

Two minutes later I heard an announcement.

“Harry, table for two.”

My stars, I thought. And then I exclaimed as I stepped inside again,

“How lucky can I get!”

At once, an entire row of menacing eyes turned on me. I shrugged a small apology to the line as the hostess took a step backwards. She looked somewhat confused as she glanced at her clipboard.

“I’m sorry. That’s with a tee,” She said. “Terry.”

I retreated swiftly to my former spot in the foyer; appetite intact. The glowering stares faded away.

A young mother with a small quiet boy in tow stood waiting across from me. But after giving me a once-over, he shot away to my side of the room, heading for a pint-sized pinball machine in the corner. She watched while he began flipping the levers of the machine, and then smiled happily as the tot attempted to climb on top of its glass surface while begging her for another quarter. He took a red gumball from a pocket to explain his needs. She shook her head wisely as the child then hugged the sides and wailed and kicked.

David seemed to be having fun drawing stair stepped-shape cat heads on the small Etch A Sketch in his hands, so I took it away and gave him a spare quarter, having no desire to see any mayhem or anarchy this early in the day. He took the bait. And suddenly he had a new best friend who stood close to cheer him on.

“Get it! No, you missed it!” The littlest boy danced and hopped.

David leaned forward and peered down into the dark gap between the two flippers. The candy had vanished down the hole.

“Look out! You got another one coming!”

Ka-Dow! Ka-Dow! Ka-Dow!

The second gum ball followed the first down into the hole, and as quickly. The smaller boy’s shoulders slumped. Undaunted David leaned to one side and jammed his fist up into an opening on the front, and pawed around inside.

“You will get your hand stuck in there, son. Don’t do that.”

“I got it, I got it!”

The little kid whooped gleefully as David straightened up to grab both flipper buttons again. The same yellow gum ball then zigged and zagged as it rebounded its way across the board. Shoulders of both boys instinctively hunched and jerked with each mad change of direction, which, of course, added more power to the ball.

Flick it, man! (I got it!) Flick it again! (I got it, dude!) Flick…aw, man!

David leaned over and jammed in a fist, his face contorts; his hand wiggles up the hole. Within seconds, he retrieved the lost thing. The tot grinned up at him.

“Sir, your table is ready now.”

I left him there with his little fan for awhile.

Later, seated across from me in our booth, David spies the balloon clown out in the audience. Moments later this singular entertainment decides to stop by our table, and here he flops a large bag-full of his act down in front of the boy.

“What would you like me to make you today, son?”

“Nothing!” David snaps back. “I just want one for myself.”

And with that, he sticks a hand into the bag. The hefty clown rocks back on his big feet. “Whoa, there!”

The first one out gets tossed aside.

“That’s not the one,” And he dips into the bag again, going deeper. The clown frowns at this abnormal behavior. David withdraws a thin and green floppy balloon, and then grimaces before throwing it back. Until this present time, I have never seen any angry clowns.

Tricky growls darkly as he takes hold of the boy’s forearms, gripping and pulling mightily with both hands.

“Oh, no you don’t, kid!”

The boy has his own intense look going, and isn’t about to cooperate with Tricky at all.

“David! David!

Tricky soon wins the battle, but he looses the war. Whatever composure the man had brought along to the job vanishes as he stuffs the flaccid balloon back into his sack. He pants as he declares,

“I have reasons for this!”

The boy glares up at him while the mad clown huffs and puffs, tamping down the top of the heaped balloons. I sit and wait for his rationale to appear. It seems a little quieter in the room than normal.

“It’s my bag, and my ballo0ns, and no hand ever goes inside there except mine.”

The poor man just looked worn. I looked across at David.

“Tell him, ‘Fair enough’, son.”

“Fair enough,” David beamed.

We arrived at church, fed but late.

As soon as the pastor intoned the benison, David cupped a hand and piped up.


Bill's face took on the clown look immediately. It was a most amazing transformation. David slid down in his seat as the man approached. He grabbed the boy’s shoulder and gave a stern warning. I could only turn and ask my child afterwards,

“Fair enough?”

Pastor Bill smiled with satisfaction then.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I can make any animal you want," the clown boasted to me. I looked skeptical. "OK, I'd like a penguin." There was a pause. "I can't do a penguin, how about a bunny?" I looked back at him. "Don't you like penguins," I asked. He frowned. Grumpy clowns abound these days. "Hey, listen, I usually only do this for KIDS," he emphasized. "So if I were a kid, you could make a penguin?" I asked. He hemmed. He hawed. He sighed. He rolled his eyes. His expressive face got quite the workout. Finally, he just handed me a limp balloon, and stalked off. I sighed happily; having vanquished a clown............. (Nice story, Way! ... Harvie)

5:56 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Good thing you didn't ask him for our favorite, Harv; the dread Giffare.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Ned said...

The movie "Killer Clowns from Outer Space" was based on a true story. All clowns are evil.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

And here I thought sisters were.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

An interesting piece, Harry, and another snippet of American culture for me to ponder on. Thing is, where do I file it? Under Eating Out? Churches? Family Traditions? Most perplexing... Perhaps I'd better start a new folder and label it Clowns.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I switch between a version of Trials by Impetuous Children to the Time Occurrence Cleared method, Gone. The TIC/TOC system I find is very easy and simple to upgrade. The cost is negligible.

However, my Sunday folder turns out to be thickest for some reason (minus valuable funnies and all adverts). The piled facts here also seem to indicate that man's sinful nature continues to avoid the highly-recommended day of rest. This is a purely an accidental discovery on my part, but due to restrictions here at the old cave, I may be forced to consider using the spacious W drawer in the near future, since WedNedsdays seems to naturally lag.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

This story just made me sad. If a clown can't be happy...the world just seems off kilter.

2:09 AM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Interesting you should mention that, Harry. WedNedsday seems to be a low point in the daily stats too...

6:00 AM  
Blogger bumpy_beth said...

man i REALLLLY dont like clowns..

7:57 AM  
Blogger Hannah said...

To make a pregnant balloon dog, one twists a very small ball at the end of the balloon, pushes it inside the balloon, and twists it until it breaks off. One then fashions the dog balloon in the normal way, making sure that the fetus lands in the appropriate portion of the anatomy (no brain tumors for the kiddies, please).

At one time, I was capable of making the following: swords (a DEFINITE phallic symbol) dogs, rabbits, teddy bears, Snoopy (the ears hung down farther), snails, hats, fish (the Christian symbol, not a trout), mice, apples, a monkey swinging in a tree (a humongous effort-- this took a total of 4 balloons), and a parrot.

My father is a Shriner, and as such, knew all the Shriners, and drank beer with them after the parades. When he joined the shrine, I was young enough to still love clowns. One in particular, I really liked. I saw him after the parade, drinking a beer. I ran up and hugged him, telling him how much I enjoyed his act. He looked me up and down, disengaged, and said, "I'm off duty, kid."

I lost something that day, and it wasn't a balloon animal.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

It's our good fortune the Owl displays more talents than talons. And the old crass clown; hmmpf! Why, he lost something even more tangible than you did on that day, K. Respect from a child should never be squandered.

10:29 PM  

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