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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Funny (10/04/12)

TITLE: The Laughing Man.
By Danielle King


One minute he’s sitting very, very still and the next, with a raucous and infectious laugh, is gyrating all over the special glass booth. Love him or hate him, he commands attention standing 6 feet 3 inches tall and for 76 years has been entertaining the crowds. He is the famous laughing man.

Holly loved Blackpool Pleasure Beach. There was a lot for youngsters to do, and the innocent fun began immediately on passing through the ticket barrier. There he was in garish costume – laughing hysterically with the congregating holiday makers. Old ladies plaited their legs, youths struggled to look cool and blasé, kiddies were hoisted onto daddy’s shoulders to see the spectacle … but Holly … today Holly wasn’t laughing.

Like other kids from social care, the annual Sunday school trip was their one big event, something to plan and look forward to weeks beforehand. Each August, when schools were out, Uncle Kevin would hire a huge, shiny coach for the day. All the regular attenders were treated to a day at the sea-side with a fish ‘n’ chip lunch. Life was tough for the disadvantaged and Kevin was a man who acted out his faith.

But Holly was sullen. She stood rigid, staring at the laughing man. His shiny face looked taut, stretched tight like cling film; while his eyeballs moved hideously from side to side: “Isn’t he a scream honey?” Kevin hollered in Holly’s ear. He slipped an arm around her shoulders and squeezed tight. “Are you having a good time?”

She nodded sheepishly, keeping her eyes fixed on the maniacal clown. “He looks possessed.” She declared flatly. The large lady standing by mopped up the tears rolling down her cheeks: “My, this is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Don’t be frightened sweetie. He’s not real!”

“I know he’s not real. I need the toilet!” Bev, an older helper accompanied her to the ladies room.

“You ok Holly? You’re quiet today.” Holly shrugged her shoulders.

“Aw c’mon, let’s have a smile then,” she cajoled. Uncle Kevin will be sad if we don’t enjoy our special treat.”

Later, Kevin explained to Bev: “She’s from a real roughhouse. Her dad’s probably been away on a bender. Leave her be, she’ll get over it.”

The following Sunday, before the lesson began, prayers were said to thank Jesus for another lovely day out at the seaside. Bev then took it upon herself to say a big thank you to Uncle Kevin for making it all happen.

“Hands up all who had a fantastic time.” She said. Immediately every hand shot up, bar one. Holly slid quietly from her chair and cast a quick glance at Bev.

“I need the toilet.” She said.

“Ok Holly. Off you go then.” She hesitated,

“I need the toilet.” Bev gestured her bewilderment to Kevin.

“Ok. I’ll come with you.”

“Kevin, I’m concerned about Holly,” Bev whispered later. “She’s usually such a bright spark. There’s something funny going on.”

“You’re right,” agreed Kevin. “Maybe I’ll check it out with the family.”

“Would you like me to call round?” Bev asked. “It’s on my way home.”

“Bev, you have no idea what that father is like. He’s a drunkard, a bully and a liar. Leave it to me. I’ll sort it.” Bev didn’t argue, but with womanly intuition, quietly pondered in her heart.

It was 6 weeks later when the impish and lively Holly returned to Sunday school. Bev was to be the new teacher now because Uncle Kevin had been called away on urgent business.

Bev told the children that Uncle Kevin had done something bad and he was very, very sorry. He’d asked Jesus to forgive him and help him to stop doing bad things: “And because Jesus has forgiven him,” she reminded them, “He would want us to do the same.” And with the simplicity of children, they did.

Holly suggested that they drew him a really big picture of the laughing man to cheer him up. Bev said that was a wonderful idea and she would make sure he received it.

One week later, Kevin took the picture, signed by its artists with love, hugs and kisses; the picture of the crazy, cavorting clown, and pinned it to the wall - the wall by the door of his solitary confinement prison cell. And wept at the innocence of children.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Noel Mitaxa 10/11/12
You have captured the trauma of child molestation in such a sensitive way - that highlights the pain without wallowing in salacious details. Great work.
Anita van der Elst10/11/12
Some interesting characters and scene descriptions. I got a bit lost in the part of the dialogue where Holly says she needs the toilet and who actually accompanies Holly there. Is it Kevin? If he's the molester, why does he cry over the innocence of children? It appears that this children's ministry glosses over the abuse and that raises my ire.
C D Swanson 10/12/12
Wow - this was jarring, and disturbing to know this happens so often in our society. Well written...and very sad, comnplete opposite of funny.

God Bless~
Dolores Stohler10/15/12
I find it very strange too that adults can do this to innocent children. It is also strange that they never seem to think they did anything wrong. You presented it in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Good job!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/15/12
This left me with tears in my eyes. I immediately realized who or what Uncle Kevin really was and found myself begging that someone else notice and help the poor girl. Then I cried and prayed for the many children who won't find that help in time. As I write this though, I feel a sense of hope that your words and my prayers might just make a difference.

I did notice quite a few little errors like ok instead of okay or OK and in this line: “Aw c’mon, let’s have a smile then,” she cajoled. Uncle Kevin will be sad if we don’t enjoy our special treat.”
You are missing the quotation mark before Uncle. I also wonder if instead of using taglines if you had done a bit more showing that the reader might connect even more with your MC. Like this line: “I need the toilet.” She said. Not only should there be a comma after toilet and a lowercase s but it would have been a great chance to show some of the emotions with something like She winced and crinkled her brow. That may not be a perfect example but I hope it does show what I mean.

There were parts were the showing was intense and painted a vivid picture for me--too vivid as my past rolled in front of my eyes. The ending produced all kinds of emotions in me. At first all I could feel was sadness for Holly but then relief washed over me. I did wonder how she bounced back so easily even to the point of wanting to give Uncle Kevin a drawing. That's when a bit of fear wrapped around my neck as I realized abused children often have strong feelings for their abuser making them vulnerable to others. You did an outstanding job with this very difficult subject. You managed to take me on a whirlwind ride of emotions in so few words. This is a powerful piece for sure!