I wonder if you now have the capacity to recall how truly awful the life you lived was. For my part, I always knew that life would end as it had begun for you, the so-called “werewolf boy of Wheatontown.” You were wrested from your mother's womb, you will remember, as fuzzy as a peach, wailing like a steam engine as if you were begging to be put back inside. You were greeted by those attending medical practitioners in those sterile bone-white confines of Mercy General as a slight against God.
As I'm sure you know, the ensuing years of your agonizing existence were spent in
this same cruel state of bewildered embarrassment and suffering. In pubescence you had been the inadvertent and e'er-reluctant child star of the day-time television circuit, carted out on to the cheap industrial carpeted stages of countless talk shows by parents whose faces insisted on being blurred for the camera.
Do you remember the true name of that which afflicted you? The doctors, they called it Hypertrichosis or Ambras Syndrome. The inhabitants of the schoolyard were not so clinical in their assessment. You were, to put it in lay terms, one fuzzy little devil, covered from head to toe in a thick mane of fibrous brown fur. It pains me to say it, but your balls had scarcely dropped by the time you went cross-eyed from the strain of seeing through such coarse bangs. They called you a monster and a freak. Always a freak, that was their favorite, you'll remember. They threw things at you and regularly accosted you in the halls and on the jungle gym. Even the janitor got in on it a few times.
You'll bear in mind that, on one such occasion, you thought that their attacks might have cured you of the ailment. During recess, after a teacher's aid had run off to the restrooms and left her class unattended, your classmates kicked you to the ground and poured an industrial solvent from Chem Lab on you, then the eldest of the children, already a smoker, struck a match and set you on fire. And I'm sure you can call up the aftermath when you awoke in the hospital and felt the sting of the second-degree burns and felt as though you had been baptized and saved by the Lord for your suffering, that you had been spared this dreadful disease. But those people who raised you wasted no time in letting it be known that you needn't worry about people seeing your new scars because the hair had grown in over them. Parents.
You hated being called a freak because you didn't like the negative connotation that was implied. You felt that your fellow human beings, in their constant quest to convey your hideousness, were befouling a perfectly good word. Since you were knee high to a grasshopper, you'd been in love with the circus. You collected flyers for Barnum & Bailey's and read books on carnivals. You studied acrobatics and arabesques wherever you could find such information.
You'll remember that your maturation, your evolution, only came when you accepted that you were a freak. You'd always loved the freaks—the Bearded Lady, the unibrowed milksop with the googly eyes, the midgets and musclemen and mad dancers. But, most of all, you positively adored the clowns. These brash, blushing buffoons were your absolute favorite attraction and, along with their aforesaid brethren, they provided the only catharsis, the only escape you ever received in your infancy. The rest of the year could die a slow death, but when your parents deigned to bring you to the circus—for it was the only place they deigned to take you, figuring their fellow normals would take you for part of the show—you felt exalted. You were transported to a place beyond your pain, beyond the trappings of the real world.
Once you'd tasted their world, you yearned for it always. After your first visit, you resolved to know everything there was to know about the clowns and their act. You studied the biographies of Fox and Grimaldi and their regular routines. Humpty Dumpty. The Wizard of the Silver Rocks. And the best of 'em all: Harlequin's Release. You knew that the first clowns in recorded history appeared in the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt. Other kids regarded 1492 and 1969 as unforgettable years. Your year was 2400 B.C. When you had reached puberty you ceased talking to anyone, including your parents, preferring to communicate in pantomime. You spoke with your hands, much to their chagrin. So much so that they decided to lock you in your room where you would fail to be a nuisance.
That room became a prison. So, too, did your mind. Both were a sanctuary and both were a bane. There were many indomitable days of waking nightmare. Your eyes would be open, but you yourself were trapped inside your head, host to all of its tortures and chicanery, assaulted by its many tricks and treats. Spectral monsters of a variety far more frightening than your own visage reared up from your imagination and conspired to place you in a chronic state of acute anxiety. You became a trembling, jittery ball of hair, curled up as you always were in a fetal position beneath your clown-covered comforter.
These night terrors, which began to become tangible apparitions haunting your bedroom's floors, only came to a respite when warded off by the people of your dreams. I am speaking, of course, of that race of ashy-faced balloon-carrying buffoons. When you pictured them in a state of reverence you always saw them as clown augustes, the happy clowns that every parent and child appreciates. But when they came like guardians of old to fight for your honor in the depths of those terrifying reveries, they were very distinctly the other type of clowns, clown blancs, sad and angry fools fit to fight to the death to protect you.
When they came into your dreamscape and defeated the monsters, the monsters stayed gone for good and you were changed by it. Your voice returned and you convinced your parents to remove the lock from the outer door. You began to eat again and even opted to receive the home-schooling your family had hoped you would when you'd reached your teens.
It was all because of the clowns. After they had inhabited your nightmares and vanquished the evil from your brain, you knew what you wanted from this tortuous life. You wanted the only thing that could turn your torture into a spectacle, the only thing that could make your furry into a flurry of fun and excitement for you and all other comers. You wanted to be a freak.
But you didn't want to be the freak they'd always told you that you were. You didn't want to be the “dog boy” or the “werewolf” or the “hairy man-child.” You wanted to be a clown. A bonafide bald-headed, red-nosed clown. How would one accomplish this with hypertrichosis, you wondered.
The answer came swiftly as, no more than two days later, an ad ran in your local theater digest, an ad which read: CLOWN SEEKING HARLEQUIN APPRENTICE. This was your golden goose, your ticket, you surmised, to becoming a clown yourself.
But how to pull off the interview with all that hair? How to convince the clown that you could be anything other than a wolfboy? You did the only thing you could—you bought the biggest and best clown mask you could find and you strapped it on and you headed for the address printed in the digest.
You dreamed even as you went, sweet dreams now of cotton candy and cuddly keepsakes, dreams of cooling off in the Dunk Tank and kicking the ever-loving excrement out of the High Riser with a mallet. So deep in reverie were you, my boy, that you didn't see it coming.
You approached the rainbow-colored trailer in those cantankerous woods and could hear only the sound of your mind's fancy as he stomped up behind you and 0
You're inside, my boy, inside the Greatest Show On Earth! And there's music, an odd mellifluousness that's uncanny to you, somehow alien, somehow as familiar as your terrible parents. The humming and whistling turns to a hushed spat of lyrics. Alouette, gentille alouette, Alouette, je te plumerai.
The clown's dwellings are adorned with a dazzling array of shining silver trinkets, all of them pointed and singing as their gleaming sharp ends clatter together like wind chimes. The walls are a mosaic tribute to Roy G. Biv, one of fur and red stuff. And his furniture are toys, white toys, some of which have gone jaundiced with the discoloration of time and rot. You marvel at the wrinkles and hairs jutting out of a lampshade painted over in little red balloons.
Finally you see him in all his twisted majesty, a clown no less than eight feet tall, his gargantuan feet tucked into a pair of red-brown shoes, floppy and blinking with yellow eyes at the ankle. His ruffled vestment is fouled with tobacco juice and other unmentionable effluence.
He hands you a paper cone and urges you to eat from it. When you just stare at him, he forces it into your mouth and, with his gloved hands, massages your throat. The cone is filled with pink insulation, neither sweet nor sour but wholly caustic to the integrity of your inner-flesh. You projectile vomit, puking the pink stuff on to his ruffles. This does not faze him as he carries over a plate on which sits, steaming hot, a latticework of fried flour sprinkled in asbestos.
It was then that you realized your new clown companion was not a traditional clown but a true trickster. But instead of a spray bottle of seltzer water, his stock and trade was something more arcane and iniquitous, child. You see, mon frere, this clown had long tired of making balloon animals for those little bastards that paraded past his tent, bored as he was with twisting them this way and that, into the same predictable shapes. He wanted something else to mold, something more rich, more brilliant, more realized. And, finally, something more permanent.
That something was you. Among those devices with which he worked on you as he sang that great song at the Greatest Show On Earth, the Great Living Spectacle, there were scalpels and C-clamps and scissors and snips, but the piece-de-resistance was Je te plumerai la tête. Et la tête! Et la tête!
In that rainbow-colored trailer, under the glow of a purple light bulb, you were stripped, after all, of the thing that made you You. With your head in a vise, the clown did scalp you, shedding you, tendril by tendril, of every hair with the greatest of tools...a pair of pliers capable of plucking any follicle in sight, uprooting each and every one like plumage. And so he sang, “Alouette! Alouette!” A-a-a-ah! We've reached the underneath, the greatest spectacle of 'em all! Purulent boils and long flanks of third-degree burns scored your ruined face, child. And your cankered cleft mouth was frozen in a puckered rictus. Your sunken cheeks were riddled in dense, acned pockets alive with pus, maggots and blowflies. Your beautiful brown eyes, ensconced though they were beneath eyelids sagging from exasperation, were robbed of their beauty, upstaged by the sutures which held your skull and mandible together.
The clown stood back and looked upon his new creation and his blanc features turned, momentarily, to those of the clown auguste, so overcome was he with what he'd done. You began to sniffle, so he took your nose. Je te plumerai le bec. Et le bec! Et la tête! Alouette! You began to choke on your own tears at the sight you stole of yourself in his House of Mirrors. And so it goes: Je te plumerai les yeux. The kind clown auguste translated for your English ears, which had yet to be removed, “I'll pluck the feathers off your eyes.”
The clown worked tirelessly to craft you as he'd imagined. Et le dos! Et la queue! Et les pattes! Et les ailes! Et le cou! Et les yeux! Et le bec! Et la tête! In the end there was void to the form he'd conceived and that void was you. This is the harlequin's release.
So you remember, my boy, when you cross through that infernal mirror and the elders ask you what you would like to be when you are reborn, you tell them that you want to be a werewolf boy. Because it's better to be you than to be made into something else, something you never asked for. But whatever you do, do not be a clown...nor his foiled fool.