By Dawn DeBraal
Samuel Marsh smoothed the white paint on his face as he stood in the mirror of his motorhome. He was preparing for the birthday party, wishing he could cancel, but it was too late. He tried calling the week before, but the boy’s mother had a fit. She had a huge party planned, and it was too late to get anyone else.
“Dippy the Clown” was a local favorite. Samuel sat in front of the make-up mirror with the bright lights, carefully drawing the big red lips on his face, exaggerating his smile and eyes securing the red nose that transformed him into Dippy the Clown.
The black pencil made him look surprised and happy, a rainbow wig glued to his bald head with spirit gum in case one of those little cherubs tried to pull it off.
Before stepping into the bright colored costume, he used the bathroom in the camper. Checking his wristwatch as he took it off, he had about fifteen more minutes before his debut.
As he looked out the window seeing several mothers and some fathers walking their children up the driveway to the back yard, he realized this was a huge party.
He put on the floppy shoes and the top hat, pulled out the five-gallon pail that contained the balloons and the little air cylinder which blew them up. He stuffed a few confetti bags up one sleeve, a bouquet up the other. The necktie was always the last. It was tight. He knew he needed to buy a bigger one. The old ticker wasn’t working as well as it should. It’s why the doctor said he needed to give up the clown business. He retained too much water, so the tie no longer fit around his neck. His wife quickly sewed shoelaces on it so he could still tie it in place. It wasn’t perfect, but the big tie that looked like a rolled-up tongue was a crowd-pleaser from the front.
He gargled with antiseptic minty mouthwash. Ever since one kid told him his breath stunk, he never took that chance again. Samuel sat down to catch his breath. The suit was hot, and his energy level needed to be high to keep the kids hyper and stimulated. These six-year-olds were getting more challenging every year! He closed his eyes and allowed himself to meditate, willing his heart to slow down.
This party was the last one. It was hard to believe. Samuel was secretly relieved when Billie Manson’s mom wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. He needed to make peace with the decision that was made for him. He had been a clown for over forty years. It would be hard giving it up, but his body was giving out.
Samuel walked up to the front door of the Manson home and rang the doorbell. Mrs. Manson answered the door.
“Hippy Dippy!” he shouted, pulling the bouquet out of his sleeve. He thought about doing the confetti too, but most moms tended to frown on that indoors. Mrs. Manson laughed, accepting the flowers.
“Thank you! The kids are around back. We have thirty-five of them, the entire kindergarten class!” She walked Dippy across the living room to the sliding glass patio doors. Dippy slid the door to the side.
“Hippy Dippy!” he shouted. The kids went wild. He stepped down onto the patio, missing the step landing hard on his knees, then rolled over quickly to his keister. The kids laughed, jumping up and down. Dippy hammed it up, as he genuinely writhed in pain. He had the kids already in the palm of his hand. No one could say that Dippy didn’t know how to engage kids.
“Are you alright?” screamed Mrs. Manson in shock. He was shaken but managed a wink, signaling to her that this act was part of the master plan, even though it wasn’t. The children clamored around Dippy. He righted himself, taking the bucket picking up balloons and putting them in, but the air tank had turned on in the fall. As he threw the balloons in the bucket, the air tank blew them back out. Again, thirty-five children were held captive. He turned off the air tank and finished picking up the balloons.
“Who’s the birthday boy? Who’s the birthday boy?” Dippy sang out, trying to ignore his wrecked knee.
“Billie!” The kids shouted.
“Billie? Where are you? Come up.” Dippy’s eyes widened when he saw Billie Manson running to the front of the crowd. Billie was missing some teeth in the front and was a dead ringer for Alfred E. Newman of the MAD Magazine fame.
“Billie, what kind of balloon figure do you want?” Dippy put his arm around the boy’s shoulder, who pulled away in disgust.
“A pirate ship,” shouted Billie as spit sprayed through his missing teeth hitting Dippy in the face. No doubt, the kid had been to one of his former parties. He knew the routine. Of course,
it was the most difficult balloon figure to make. Taking out several balloons. Dippy blew them up while telling “Knock Knock” jokes. He twisted the first balloon into a sail, adding two more sails. Then fashioned the hull out of three more balloons, the last balloon tied them all together.
The thermometer on the fence read eighty-eight degrees. Dippy, the clown dared not wipe the sweat from his face; it could remove the paint, destroying the whole illusion. The children jumped up and down.
“I want a pirate ship! I want a…” Dippy tried to calm them down.
“Sorry, kids, Billie gets the pirate ship, it’s his birthday. I can make a magic wand, a flower, a pirate sword,” The kids shouted what they wanted. Dippy worked as fast as he could, trying to make thirty-four balloon representations, wondering why there wasn’t one parent out there helping him. They all sat with cocktails in the air conditioning.
Billy Mansen saw the sword as it was made, and then another. Two kids started to Swashbuckle with their sabers. Billie looked mad. Dippy could see him looking disappointedly at his pirate ship.
“I need a sword, Dippy! I need a sword.” Billie shouted, jumping up and down in front of the clown. Dippy patted Billie’s head.
“Patience Billie, let me get your friends first. If I have enough balloons, I’ll make you a sword.”
Billie Manson stood staring at Dippy with hate in his face, his fists clenched while he watched Dippy making the other children happy with swords and magic wands. He did a slow burn, and when his fuse ran out, he ran full charge across the lawn, shoving Dippy over onto the ground. Dippy hurt his back. He lay there wondering where the parents were, and why weren’t they helping him?
Billie Manson jumped on Dippy’s chest, grabbing his wig, which was secure, then he grabbed the break-a-way tie, which was no longer break-a-way due to his wife’s ingenious fix, a tied shoestring. Billy held the tongue tie pulling it up and down, striking Dippy’s head on the ground over and over. Some of the kids screamed.
“Fight! Fight!” While others started to cry and run for the house. Dippy’s only hope was that Billie’s mother would come out and rescue him. It began as a pain in his shoulder, traveling up to his jaw.
“No!” He thought, “Not here, not this way! Not in front of the kids!” Billie’s mom came out wondering if Dippy was again pretending. She finally pulled Billie off of him, realizing Dippy was clutching his heart. She dialed emergency services. The ambulance came very quickly. The paramedics loaded Dippy up on a gurney, all the while Mrs. Manson screamed at Dippy about ruining the party, and shouted,
“Don’t even think I’ll pay you for traumatizing thirty-five little kids,” as the ambulance sped off.
The neighborhood talked about the party for years. Especially when Billie Manson turned another year older. Billie was the last kid to have the famous Dippy the Clown perform at a party. Dippy met his demise that day at the Manson’s, his most memorable performance, was his last one.