“Fifteen minutes!” barked the ringmaster.
Clarence ignored the growling reminder and added final touches, two small tears. Fellow clowns nicknamed Clarence “Gloomy,” and even though his circus family knew why Clarence applied teardrops, circus-goers seldom asked and were more interested in his wares. At each circus stop, Clarence tied white strings to helium filled balloons and trooped through the crowds selling the colorful souvenirs. Balloons of red, green, blue, and yellow bobbed merrily along as Clarence trudged up and down the aisles.
Waving frantically, a little girl jumped up and down in her seat. “Mr. Clown,” she called, “Mr. Clown, I want a balloon.”
Clarence stopped at her row, smiling. “What color, kiddo?”
“Hi, Mr. Clown. I’m Abby…I’m four,” she introduced, holding up four fingers. “This is my mom,” she said pointing at the smiling woman in the next seat. “My dad couldn’t come ‘cause he’s at work. What’s your name?”
Clarence pulled a rainbow colored handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his brow. “Around the Big Top, I’m known as Gloomy. What’s your favorite color?” he asked, eyeing his bouquet of balloons.
“Red,” she said, staring at his face. “Gloomy, why do you have tears on your cheek?”
Gloomy knelt next to Abby’s seat. “Well, about a year ago my family was in a car accident, and my little boy was…,” Clarence paused, his voice trembling, “my little boy went to Heaven. These tears are my way of remembering him.”
“Heaven?” she exclaimed, excited. “Wow! I learned at Church that Heaven is awesome?”
“Yes, I’ve heard that as well,” Clarence responded softly.
“What was your little boy’s favorite color?” she asked, staring at the balloons.
“His favorite was blue.”
“Then I’ll have blue,” she said, with a confident nod.
“But I thought your favorite color was red,” commented Clarence as he fiddled with the strings.
“Not today. Today it’s blue.”
Clarence tied a slipknot around Abby’s wrist insuring the balloon would not escape to the rafters. He groaned to his feet and shook Abby’s hand. “It was good to meet you Abby.”
She pumped his hand enthusiastically. “And it was good to meet you Gloomy.”
As Clarence stomped up the stairs, Abby leaned and whispered into her mother’s ear. A smile spread across her mom’s face as she nodded.
Two hours later, the crowds streamed from their seats and jostled their way to the exits. Perched on her mother’s shoulders, Abby scanned the masses for Gloomy. Catching a glimpse of the teary-eyed clown, she shouted, “There he is mommy.” She pointed to the other side of the arena. “Gloomy,” she squealed. “Gloomy, over here.” Hearing his name above the din, Clarence spotted Abby and waded through the masses to see the little girl once again.
“Gloomy, I have a gift for your little boy.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” he responded, confused.
“Come with me,” she said tugging his hand.
Outside, lazy, puffy clouds crossed a beautiful blue sky. Abby looked at her mother and nodded. “Ok, mommy…now.” Her mother snipped the string around her daughter’s wrist, and soon the blue balloon darted and danced, sailing into the heavens. No longer seeing the balloon, Abby turned to her new friend. “Well, I wonder if he got it yet?”
“Ohhh,” Clarence responded, understanding the girl’s intention. “I don’t know…probably.”
“Do you think he’ll like it?” she asked, looking pleased.
Tears brimmed in his eyes. Unable to answer, he nodded. Soon, Clarence’s entire bundle of balloons chased after Abby’s gift. Kneeling by the little girl, he shielded his eyes, watching the balloons drift out of sight. “I imagine he has some friends by now,” he commented, smiling. “Hey, can you come back tomorrow night?” he asked, glancing at her mother. “I have tickets for you both and for your dad too, if he can come.”
“Can we mommy, please?” Abby asked, bouncing up and down.
Her mother nodded.
“Great, I’ll have special seats for you. Just pick up your tickets at will call. Tell’em you’re guests of Gloomy.”
Settling into their seats, Abby was the first to notice Gloomy making his way to them.
“Howdy folks,” he greeted, extending a hand to Abby’s father. “I’m glad you could come. My name’s Gloomy…but not so much anymore,” he said, pointing. Painted on his cheek were no longer two tears, but a red and blue balloon. Skipping off, he called over his shoulder. “Abby, enjoy the show.”
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