Donning bright colored attire in a methodical way, like hundreds of other times, “JoJo, Clown Extraordinaire” found himself in mental disarray, uncertainties plaguing his thoughts.
Beads of perspiration streaking his usually intact, white mask; he endeavored to carry on a conversation with the argumentative, image staring back at him.
Who was this man in the mirror anyway?
Peering around, with no one in sight, gazed fixed on his own challenging reflection; he dared to converse out loud.
“Look, you chose this line of work with nothing more in mind than simple birthday parties and pony rides.”
“What are you looking at me for? You’re the one who let that bleeding-heart sister of yours talk you in to this.”
“What else was I supposed to do? Shelly has been asking, no begging for months now.”
“You could’ve said, ‘NO’, but you didn’t think of that now, did ya? What are you afraid of anyway?”
“I know, but after so many ‘maybes’ I felt I had no choice. Afraid! I’m not afraid of nothing.”
”Well then, I suggest you get up, squeeze one red beaker you call a nose and get on out of here. You’re used to the little buggers. Why should these be any different? There just kids all the same, or are they? Hey, better fix that mask, ‘ole boy’ they’ll think you’re one sad clown.”
Double doors swung open at the touch of a button, revealing a room full of wheel chairs, bald heads and toothy smiles with deep soulful eyes. Intimidation creeping up from the pit of his stomach, made him long to flee the scene.
I’m not prepared for this. I know nothing about hope, sickness or dying. Maybe I could just edge backwards out the door and nobody would notice. Shucks, there’s Shelly now. Too late.
“JoJo, there you are. Come here. Meet the children. I’ve told them all about you.”
Great. Just great.
“This is William, Tabitha…”
Not waiting, grabbing JoJo’s bright colored costume, William reached for his red nose.
“Can I squeeze it?”
Hands off the nose. No one touches the nose .
Before “No” could escape his lips, William’s bony fingers grabbed his nose, trying to exert enough strength to elicit some sound.
To delighted squeals, JoJo’s nose released a series of honks, infusing soulful eyes with sparkles of joy
What’s next, my hair, my hat? They’re awfully touchy and where is the stage? I always keep my distance.
“Shelly, where is the stage, you know a platform… a…a space for me to perform?”
“Uh, JoJo, you’re on it. You’re in it.
Swarming children touched and hugged him with adoring looks, while one little freckle-faced boy watched from the distance. Moved by some irresistible force, JoJo’s eyes were drawn across the room and pulled into the windows of his soul.
No, no not this. I have kept myself intact all these years. I’m not going to give in now. No mushy stuff allowed. I have done quite well without it, thank you very much. No matter what you do or how much you give the result is never good. Bringing laughter is one thing, giving your heart away is another? That’s why I do birthdays and such, no sadness there. Quit looking at me, for goodness sakes!
Capturing the spotlight, an always silent, ever fearful little freckle-faced boy raised his hand.
In a weak voice, barely above a whisper, “Mister, I…I’m Timmy. Do you…do you have a bunny? I love bunnies. Before I came here, I had a bunny named Hope. Mommy gave it to me when I got sick to remind me there is always a chance…a chance I might get better. Now I am here and I miss Hope. Mister, do you have a bunny you can pull out of a hat like a magician?”
Stunned, all resolve crumbling, exposing the heart behind JoJo’s mask, now vulnerable to the onslaught of emotion, to love.
“Ye…ye...s, I believe I do.”
Reaching into a hat, past scarves and such, pulling out a speckled bunny, everyone laughed, including JoJo.
Spending the rest of the afternoon among a sea of faces, enabling them to forget the word terminal for a few moments, eroded a lifetime lived hiding behind a mask. Freckles and bunnies paved the way.
Donning his bright colored attire, in anticipation of his new Saturday ritual, with his lop-eared bunny Freckles at his side, “JoJo, Clown Extraordinaire” looked in the mirror, aware of the new work in his heart and smiled.
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