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It was my son's 5th birthday party. My wife and I knew it was an important birthday. Next year our little Mikey would go to school, so this was sort of an end of an era, however short. After a lot of debating, we decided on a clown for the entertainment. I was against it.
I was one of the many people who were afraid of clowns. As a kid I trembled, shook and started hyper-ventilating at the site of one on television. But our son was not. Ever since Laura bought him some sort of computer game starring a clown, he had loved them. As a father, I knew what I had to do in order to make my little boy the happiest. And if that meant ordering a clown, I would order a clown. Besides, I was a grown-up - they didn't scare me anymore. Or so I hoped.
The kids were playing in the yard, stuffing their faces with cake and snacks and enjoying the world in the innocent way only kids can. Laura and I waited for the clown in the living room. He was already 30 minutes late. But you can't expect clowns to be punctual. Finally he arrived, carrying a large pink bag.
He introduced himself as "Bonko" and sat on our couch. He really was your classic clown. White make-up, colorful puffy costume, big shoes, big red nose, an orange wig, the works. Laura asked if she could bring him anything. He declined. He sat in our living room for something like 15 minutes, smoking and tapping his shoe on the floor. He seemed nervous and I could have sworn that I could see him drinking out of a flask. "Is this your first time?" I asked. He chuckled and without looking at me, said, "It always is…" I did not understand what he meant.
After finishing his smoke, he put on a happy clown grin, grabbed his bag, and stood up. He gave me a tap on the back. I thought that it was possible that he had sensed my childhood fear and tried to relax me.
Bonko went outside and started the show. He juggled, told jokes, sprayed water around, did some classic slapstick. Even I had to admit he was good. And the kids were just entranced.
"And now for the big finish!" he declared. He took out three colorful boxes from his bag. They looked like birthday presents. "Pick one, birthday boy!"
Mikey thought to himself. He looked so cute, like he was pretending to be an adult. Laura snapped a picture. He finally picked the middle one. Bonko sighed and grabbed it.
"Oh boy! Good choice!" he said in a cartoony voice, though I swore I could hear some sadness in there. Bonko opened the box and took out a knife.
Laura and I were shocked and, before we could do anything, Bonko started cutting his own face. Bits of make-up covered skin fell to the ground, the children were screaming. Our little Mikey was covered in the clown's blood and crying. I ran to stop Bonko, but he collapsed to the ground. The paramedics declared him dead.
I looked inside the other boxes. In one was a small rifle and in the other a can of lighter fluid and a box of matches.
All the kids, including our little Mikey, had to go to therapy. We told the police, and they just looked to the floor ignoring us. I decided that I couldn't let this blow over. I tracked down the company that sent us the clown.
It was situated in a small, two story building. I expected a run down, scary, old place, but it was quite neat and modern. I marched to the manager's office, not letting anyone stop me.
I looked around. In his office were blown-up pictures of clowns with their faces cut off, heads cut off, bullet holes in their foreheads, faces burned off; it was terrible. And every picture had poor, young children crying.
The manager was a skinny man in a tie. He looked to be in his late 40's and had big bulging eyes. "Why are you even doing this?" I yelled. He didn't answer, just laughed in my face. Two big guys came from behind me and dragged me out.
"I will find someone who will make you pay! I will not be silent!" He smiled at me and motioned his goons to hold me in place.
"Do you love your family?" he asked.
"Of course," I said, "That's why I'm here!"
"You made a mistake, sir," he said, "Enjoy the rest of your life."
It has been 43 days since then. I am still very afraid.