This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’. Which can be found by following the link below..
Prompt ~THE TEAR KEEPER
THE TEAR KEEPER
by John Yeo
Joey Johnson was a carefree lad, just 20 years of age with the world at his feet, Joey was training to be a police officer. 6′ tall, with a shock of thick curly brown hair, cut short to comply with police recommendations, he had sharp blue eyes that didn’t miss much. He enjoyed his training and his future prospects looked good until one fateful, unforgettable night that altered his life irrevocably. Joey was on the way home late, after a busy night, suddenly a man loomed up out of the shadows and shouted, ‘This is for your ******* interference.’ Joey vaguely saw a large man wearing a mask with a hoodie pulled up over his head. The man quickly tipped a bottle of liquid that splashed over his head and face, temporarily blinding him. There was a fierce burning sensation that quickly got worse, his face felt as if it was on fire.
The acid attack was horrific, Joey screamed, penetratingly loud, as pain raced through his head. Skin was burnt to shreds from the structure of his face, Joey’s crowning glory, his hair, was burnt off in seconds. He passed out and was raced to the burns unit at the local general hospital. By a miracle his sight was saved, although his tear ducts had dried up and he would never cry again. One year later after many operations by plastic surgeons some semblance of normality returned. Joey refused to be seen in public and became a recluse. He left our town and disappeared, it was rumoured he had joined some gypsies and was travelling the countryside by caravan. One day Lisa, our daughter, came home from school very excited, “Daddy the circus has come to town!” Saturday night we had the best seats in the big top and Lisa was laughing merrily at the antics of Joey the clown. He came to speak to her and Lisa asked “Why did you become a clown Joey?”
His painted smile never altered, the smile that was the gateway and the keeper of the impossible tears of a clown.
The caravans were parked in a circle on the village green, strategically encircling a large canvas structure, affectionately known to all as the big top. The circus had come to town! Overnight the village green was transformed, closed in, with a huge area roped off.
A siren shattered the calm of the village as a paramedic arrived, just in time to deliver a healthy bonny boy with a powerful pair of lungs.
Billy arrived, born in a caravan; his arrival coincided just as the evening performance was about to begin. His Mum and Dad were professional Clowns
Postnatal depression soon kicked in; Billy’s Mum was clearly affected by giving birth. Her husband was sympathetic, although he was suffering from a long-term depression himself.
The circus was always on tour, village to village, town to town, a different background to get used to all the time.
Dogs guarded the children while the family worked in the big top. Friends; all circus performers, Acrobats, Jugglers Tightrope Walkers and Dancers all took responsibility to care for the children.
The Ringmaster ruled the roost, travelling, always travelling; another week, another town as the circus toured the country.
Education on the move, Billy attended a different school in every town the circus visited. Mum and Dad taught him all they knew. How to be funny! How to apply makeup to please the customers.
Uncle Coco committed suicide by overdosing on antidepressants
Mum and Dad were more sorrowful than ever. They practiced a new water routine to keep the customers happy. The makeup told a different story as the painted smiles hide the truth. The matinee audience roared with laughter on the day of Uncle Coco’s funeral.
Billy found the funeral sad as the hearse delivered the coffin containing Uncle Coco’s remains that were quickly consigned to the flames. Uncle Coco’s ashes travelled through many small towns until the touring circus reached his home where his ashes were ceremoniously buried in the local cemetery.
Another week another small town, the circus tour was never ending. The big top always full, to bursting.
Billy began to grow up fast and sharp, he became a quick-witted, sensitive young man, following in his father’s footsteps.
A very gifted clown who knew how to make people happy with his funny routine.
Then one sad day in the life of Billy arrived with a tremendous shock, Rover his trusty Labrador dog who, went with him everywhere, died suddenly. Billy was devastated at this turn of events, crying uncontrollably. The time for the show arrived and Billy’s father was desperately trying to calm him. As he applied makeup to Billy’s face, the ringmaster arrived and insisted he take his place in the circus ring.
With these words his, Father sent him to the circus ring.
“Laugh Billy, Laugh! You are a clown to fool around and make people laugh. You will always work in the circus on a perpetual Tour-de-farce. No one will ever understand the tears of a clown.”