The part you throw away
A little boy with a blank expression stares off into the distance as his head is lathered and shaved in preparation for his training.
A crude clownface is painted over his dull lifeless face.
Sitting before the elder clown master. The elder’s legs crossed, his eyes closed solemly puffing on a pipe, a few bubbles coming out of the end of it as he thinks to himself.
“My young one, you are now a clown in appearance but not one in spirit, a clown does not have to smile on the outside, but in his heart there must be laughter.” The old man put his pipe to one side and leaned forward. “Once you can take this nose from my face your training will be complet-“
Before he could finish the child ripped the nose from the old man’s face, the sound it made was a ridiculous honking as he squeezed it in his little hands.
“You didn’t let me finish” The old man spat “What I meant to say was ’your training will be complete when you can take the red nose- without it honking.” He said as he took the nose and popped it back on his nose with a loud honk.
“Now the first part of your training will be to enter that tent over there-“. The old man raised a rinkled tattooed arm pointing towards a large tent covered in strange graffiti clown markings. Lots of ’Ha-ha’s and ’why so serious?’s and other edgy stuff like that.
The boy quickly began to rise without changing his expression “Hey- let me finish will ya?” The old man scowled “On your hands” He smirked.
The child looked sceptical at the old man for only a moment, not sceptical but surprised and then accepting. As if he was about to listen to a ridiculous story but been told it was ‘based on real events’.
“Only those who can walk on their hands can truly say they know how to walk on their feet.” The old man smiled. “No man in that tent walks on his feet, to do so would shame the holy ground”.
The orange dust settled on a road side flea market bizarre selling all manner of goods and trinkets. The merchants wore long ragged clothing and hunched to display there wares on rickety stands made from refuse metal and wood. Their hands clasped as they sharply eyed customers over their long hawkish noses.
Pookie had agreed to accompany Riki on a quick supply run for the tent commune thing.
“Thanks for coming with me” Riki said over his shoulder.
“I had nothing better to do” Pookie said as he picked up a weird nick nack of a clown with green hair and yellow skin.
He pulled the string and the doll said in a strange mechanical voice “I’m crusty the clown hahaha”.
Pookie sneered at the little doll before putting it down and saying “Never heard of you.”
Riki continued looking forward and talking as if to no one. “You must be wondering about Jersey, what’s she’s doing with a bunch of guys like us.”
“Not really.” Pookie said prodding a stuffed dinosaur toy with one of it’s legs missing.
“It doesn’t strike you as odd a young woman like that would be in the company of all these men?”
“Take a look at me guy, ya think anything strikes me as odd?”
Riki turned to look Pookie up and down and said “Hmm, I guess not.” He smirked. “But you have been thinking about her?”
Pookie was flustered for a second before he said “What, no!”
“She came to us much like you did.”
“I didn’t come to you, we’re just passing through.”
“Passing through huh? I like that.” Riki laughed. “She had nowhere else to go, the wastes churn out so many like her, no families, no friends, no hope. We’re all like that in some way, but it’s good to find others, ya know what I mean?”
“Not really” Pookie said.
“Sure” Riki laughed as he turned back around and dipped his head to smiled with his arms behind his back.
Pookie let him walk on a little further while he messed with some beanie babies he had no intention of buying. With the no money he had before he heard an off putting whimpering sound.
“Look kid, I’ve already told you, I’m not a teacher and I don’t have time for this crap ok.” Riki yelled.
“Please master, I beg of you accept me as a student, I wont take no as an answer. I’ll wait night and day out in the acid rain and the radiation, I’ll do anything.”
“Try going away.”
“Good evening sir? Maam?”
“Who are you? Some other nutjob that wants me to train them?”
Pookie sighed exasperated and decided to go over and see what was happening.
The scene was an unusual one. That weird fumer kid from before was on his knees begging Riki to train him, on the verge of tears. But more pressing was the tall gaunt man standing just behind Riki in his blind spot.
He was slim and ghostly looking wearing a weird multicolored wrapping around his head with an unusual gem in the centre. His face seemed dark and brooding despite the bright time of day. Atop his lip was a neatly trimmed pencil thin moustache and soul patch below. The look in his eye was piercing but also seemed like a chameleon looking everywhere at once.
“I have heard you are very skilled, I would like to put those skills to the test in a duel.” The man said, his voice rising eloquently, a slight tinge of accent running through his words.
“And who are you?” Riki asked defiantly.
“I am but a humble warrior mystic who wishes to put his skills to the test. I have travelled all over this world and learned very many interesting techniques, I’d like to see how they stack up to someone such as yourself.”
“Is that a challenge?” Riki smiled.
“You can call it that” The man laughed.
All the while the young fumer Brandon was looked back and forth between them in some form of incomparable awe at the two figures and the aura they gave off.
It seemed as if the air pressure changed as these two unusual men studied eachother.
Slowly their postures changed as they began to square off. Riki slid his foot one side, taking a graceful stance with his wrist bent forward and his other hand out at a right angle to himself. Breathing deeply and slow as he lifted his front foot up onto it’s ball.
The other man’s movements were slight but he too was readying himself. He closed his eyes for a moment as if channelling some greater power before breathing out deeply through his nostrils. Flaring out as if they were that of a dragons.
Riki made some odd warbling noise in this throat as he readied himself for battle. The market falling completely silent as they watched and waited.
Suddenly Riki’s eyes became wide and he vomited blood into his hand. He toppled to one knee.
Brandon rushed to his side “Master are you injured? Is his technique so strong?”
Pookie looked on confused.
Riki looked at him and said “No, I forget to mention I’m dying from a disease or something like that.” He grinned, with blood sticking to his lips.
“Master no! I have money, I can help you, get you medicine.” Brandon cried.
“No, I don’t need your money, fucking rich kids, I hate rich kids, get the fuck away from me, I’m not training you!”
Brandon stepped away dejected.
The strange man in the turban turned to look down his nose at Pookie.
“Who are you?” Pookie asked.
“I am Swammy Karl, you can call me Karl.” Karl grinned “And who may I say is asking?”
“Pookie, I see you’re some kind of clown, and you have a sword” He said regarding the unusual weapon. “Perhaps you might be a more, able bodied opponent.”
Pookie gripped his sword, tilting it up, slipping his thumb through the pull string. Suddenly out of nowhere he felt this crushing force, Karl’s eyes seemed to probe deep inside him, revealing all his inner most thoughts and doubts. His secrets being read like the pages of a sleazy Grant Morrison comic book. A giddiness, his head and feet felt light and weak like he was floating.
He pushed those feelings aside and with pure instinct and muscle memory alone he pulled the draw string. That horrid laughter rang out like it had so many times before.
The blade of the laughing sword erupted with a sparking force and tore through the air cutting a cruel jagged swath.
Karl smirked and before Pookie’s eyes he disappeared.
Pookie was dumb struck.
“I’m right here” A far away voice said.
Off in the distance, Karl stood on a rock barely on the apex of Pookie’s vision where the sky met the earth.
“Not possible?” The voice said now inches from his face.
Pookie swung his blade hard but hit nothing but air.
The Swammy was fast and the blade seemed to slide off him like water, touching him but never making contact with the edge. No he wasn’t fast, it wasn’t speed at all, it was like a force around him an aura, every slice was dodged effortlessly as if it had all happened before.
“I can see your moves, I can see everything” the voice said all around him. “I’m in your head” the voice echoed.
“That’s not possible!” Pookie cried out as he struck out at the voice.
Then for a blink he saw the figure, Pookie, twisting his body and slashing horizontally at the mysterious man with all his waning strength. His movements feeling slow and dreamlike as if a flashback was coming on.
The boy struggled for hours to keep himself aloft on his hands. Crumpling into the dry earth over and over again but never giving up. The children who had failed to make it inside stood outside the crude gates and mocked him.
They ran from their parents to join and had homes to go back to but the sullen boy had no one. An orphan, his parents killed during a food riot, now he barely remembered them or where he came from. All there could be was now and here.
Why did he choose the circus? Because there was nothing else, it was that or grow wild and die out in the planes like some unwanted weed.
He struggled with his balance until the sun fell until eventually he could do a handstand without falling over. All his strength mental and physical supporting his weight. For the first time he saw the world how the old clown must have seen it, upside down and lit up with the all blood rushing to his brain. The night sky casting bright colours across what was a dull luminous orange sky bereft of stars to wish upon.
Then he fell again in a crumpled heap. Any other child would lie there until morning, cry himself to sleep. But the boy couldn’t cry, he’d forgotten how, but he couldn’t smile either.
He stood again on his hands, holding himself erect and then slowly taking his first step on his hands into the new world.
With great difficulty, the dirt and dust under his nails and caking his palms and face. He forced himself into the sacred tent almost falling again as he struggled with the flap opening of the tent, using his feet.
Inside it was dimly lit with candles made of earwax sitting in empty sardine cans. Inside were clown monks standing and talking on their feet, they paused to look over at the boy before pointing and laughing.
There was another familiar laugh that came from the corner of the room.
“Can’t believe you fell for that” The old man said grinning sitting like an old indian on some dirty looking yoga mat. He looked over at the other clowns and back at the kids sullen expression. “You better get used to that if you’re gonna be a clown, people are gonna laugh at ya, the trick is to learn to laugh at yourself. When you can smile for yourself you’ll really be a clown.” He said smiling sadly. “I never even asked your name”
The kid toppled onto the earthen floor and said “I don’t know”
“That’s a terrible name” The old man said. “Well you need a clown name anyway, I’m just gonna call you ‘Pookie’ for now until I think of something better.”
The kid shrugged.
The old man got up and went over to him “Come on kid, lets get you cleaned up and find you somewhere to sleep, put some food in ya”.
“A blade cannot harm me.”
The sword was stopped, but how? There seemed to be some kind of mist there for a moment blurring Pookie’s vision. Gradually it lifted from his eyes and he saw the strange man holding the blade in his naked hand. Like it was a silver stick wielded by a retarded kid with itchy balls.
“I said- a blade-“
“Yeah I heard what you said I’m emoting my disbelief at that impossible statement.”
“Oh I see.” Swammy Karl cleared his throat and said “Well I think I’ve had enough fun for today, no disrespect but you aren’t the one I came here to fight.” He said as he let go of the laughing blade.
“None taken fishbowl head.” Pookie said as she resheathed the sword with it’s tinny chuckle.
Turning to Rikki swammy Karl said “I hope we meet again when you’re feeling better and we’ll conclude this duel.”
“Yeah sounds great” Rikki said.
Pookie felt dizzy all of a sudden, he looked at his hands, they were bleeding, the laughing sword fell to ground and he followed lifelessly after.