"The Circus is a happy place."

Jacko was a very, very bad clown.

Jacko wasn't funny. Jacko wasn't cute. Jacko didn't make children laugh, smile or feel safe. Jacko made children uncomfortable and afraid. Jacko made children grossed out. Jacko made children feel sad. Nobody liked Jacko, and Jacko knew it all too well.

But it wasn't his fault. Jacko wanted to be a funny clown. Jonah Galochio's Traveling Circus had lots of funny clowns. Cosmo, Peanut, Benny, Ice Cream, Uncle Woody, and even Little Willie. They were all happy clowns, and they loved making children laugh and smile. Jacko wanted to be like them, he wanted to make children laugh and smile too, but they never did. Not once.

The children didn't ever laugh at Jacko's jokes. The children hated Jacko's smile. He never had a single child ever smile back at him. His grin never felt real. It was always so forced, so painful looking. He didn't ever really look happy, and the children could tell. They would scream and they would cry and shout. Mr. Galochio would have to make Jacko leave the stage. Jacko hated being a bad clown. He hated that he couldn't make people laugh and clap and be happy.

The other clowns all loved Jacko, and he loved the other clowns right back. There weren't many people who liked clowns anymore, only the children who still come to the circus. So clowns have to stick together. They were like a family, and the only real family Jacko ever had in his life. The other clowns cared about Jacko and loved him unconditionally, even if he was a bad clown. That's what good clowns do, they love people. They never hurt people. They make the circus a happy place to be.

There were many different types of clowns: there were the entertainers that made people laugh and smile, there were their foils and sidekicks, who had to be the butts of most of their jokes, there were the sad clowns who made people cry, and then there were the bad clowns. The clowns nobody liked. The clowns that couldn't even be sidekicks because everyone was so afraid of them. Jacko, of course, was a bad clown.

Mr. Galochio hated Jacko more than the children did. He wanted Jacko gone, or at least never allowed to perform again. After all, Jacko scared the children and upset them, and it was costing him money. Money was everything to Mr. Galochio, and if you got between it and him, you were the enemy.

But the other clowns were having none of it. As you know, clowns have to stick together. If you get rid of one clown, you have to get rid of all of them. Mr. Galochio knew he couldn't run a circus without clowns. So he had to let Jacko stay. There was just no question.

Jacko hated being a bad clown. He hated scaring people. He hated making them upset. Jacko wanted the circus to be a happy place. Clowns especially had to be happy if the circus was supposed to be happy. After all, if the people who were supposed to make you laugh couldn't even smile, how could you?

Uncle Woody told Jacko that whenever he was having a bad day and needed to make himself happy so he could perform, he just thought of a happy memory to perk him up - like when he got married, or when his son was born, or his first kiss, or even just a silly thing like a funny TV show or payday. But Jacko couldn't do that, because he didn't have any happy memories.

Jacko's life before the circus wasn't very happy. When he was a child, his parents were very sad people. His father was a bad, bad man who liked to hit his mother and scream all sorts of nasty and foul things at her. He would beat her all day and night until his hands were too sore to hit any more. She would scream, she would cry, she would call for help, but no one ever came. How could Jacko help? He was only a little boy.

But Jacko wasn't just upset that he couldn't make people laugh, he also hated all the bad guests that would come to the circus. The people who were rude, nasty and mean. The people who would shout at the other guests, get in fights, throw things at the clowns and cuss at them. The mean teenagers, the drunk men, the grumpy old people, and worst of all: the bad children who didn't listen to their parents. Oh, Jacko really hated them. He was so jealous - here these children were, with good parents who loved them, and they rejected them. They were mean and bratty and disrespectful. They had what Jacko always wanted, and they just threw it away!

The clowns would perform lots of amazing stunts and spectacular tricks to entertain all the people who came to the circus. They leaped from great heights, walked on tight ropes, juggled dangerous objects, drove go-karts at high speeds, balanced themselves on balls and unicycles, shot themselves from cannons and even set themselves on fire sometimes. Uncle Woody told Jacko they could do all of this because clowns were like cartoons - they could do things no one else could do because they could never be hurt. You could burn them, crush them, flatten them like a pancake, stab them, shoot them, and they'd always get right back up and come back for more.

One night, Jacko was upset after having a particularly bad day at the circus. They were in a rough town, and all the people there were really mean. They cussed, they threw things, they fought with each other, they booed at the performance, they littered, and they hardly ever laughed. Jacko really hated them. Uncle Woody said good clowns never hate, but Jacko wasn't a good clown, and he knew it. Uncle Woody also always said that good clowns should never drink or smoke, but Jacko knew he wasn't a good clown, and he was always very sad. He felt like he needed to drink and smoke just to get through the day.

Jacko had just finished drinking and he was feeling a bit woozy. He was walking back to the big top so he could lay down and fall back asleep. It was cold that night, and Jacko was wearing a red bomber jacket over his usual red suit. But just that moment, Jacko heard something horrible happening on the circus grounds - he heard a woman crying and screaming for help, and a man yelling at her.

Jacko rushed over to find a horrible sight - there was a dirty man with a nasty beard pinning a woman to the ground and hitting her. He was screaming the most awful things and swearing and smacking her really hard. It was a horrible thing for Jacko to see. It reminded him of how his father used to beat his mother right in front of him. How he would smack her and scream at her and tell her she's worthless. It made him so sick.

In that moment, he didn't just see a man hitting a woman, he saw his mother, crying on the ground and begging for help. When he looked at the man, he didn't just see his father, he saw every bad guest who ever came to the circus. He saw every bad child, every rude teenager, every drunken adult, all the people who used naughty words, all the people who booed at his friends, all the people who threw things, every single person who littered and screamed, everyone. He hated that man more than he ever hated anyone in his life.

It was at the moment that the man reached into his jacket and pulled out a large knife. Jacko didn't know what the man was going to do, but he didn't want to find out. So at that moment, Jacko did what he always wished he could have done as a child: he stepped in and stopped the man.

The man took one look at Jacko and screamed. He was afraid of clowns. Jacko hated it when people were afraid of him, and he really hated people who were afraid of clowns.

The man stabbed Jacko in the stomach and chest over and over, slamming away at him clumsily as his hands were shaking from fear. But it didn't work. Jacko didn't get hurt, he didn't bleed. Nothing happened. It's just like Uncle Woody said, clowns are like cartoons. You can't hurt them. They always come right back for more.

Jacko slammed his beer bottle over the man's head, shattering it, knocking the man to the ground and making him drop his knife. The man's face was covered in broken glass. He was screaming even louder now and begging Jacko to stop. But Jacko was too mad. He hated this man so much it made him sick. He hated this man so much that he didn't want him to exist anymore. He wanted him dead.

That's when Jacko picked up the man's knife.

He stabbed the rude man over and over again, splashing blood everywhere. The man yelled and cried and begged Jacko to stop and called for help, but it was a quiet night and there was no one around. The man's cries for help were smothered by the sound of him gurgling up his own blood and choking on it. Jacko stabbed at the man over and over again, until he stopped moving. Jacko felt the life drain right out of the man, and he died.

Jacko stood up, his suit and jacket covered from head-to-toe in gooey red blood. He looked over to the woman, who was trembling in fear. He didn't know what to say to her. But he soon found he didn't have to say anything. The woman ran over and hugged him. She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed tight. She was so happy, Jacko saved her life! He was a hero! She wouldn't be alive right now if it wasn't for Jacko.

Just then, Jacko felt something crawl on his face that he had never felt before in his life - a smile.

He was smiling for the first time ever. A real smile. Not a forced one, not a mean one, a real, happy smile. One where you can look someone right in the eyes and tell they really mean it. It was a soft, curvy smile, it was the first real smile he ever had. It was the first happy memory he ever had. He choked back tears and hugged the woman right back. He was so happy, he never wanted the moment to end.

The very next day, Jacko was on stage, ready to perform. All the children were very frightened, just like every other day. But Jacko wasn't upset, he'd come to expect it. Then he remembered Uncle Woody's advice - think of a happy memory, and your smile will be real. Now, he finally had a happy memory. And for the first time, Jacko smiled on stage.

It was a real smile, and the children could tell. They loved it! All the children clapped and cheered. They were so happy! Jacko wasn't a bad clown! Jacko was a happy clown! He could smile, dance, perform tricks and make everybody laugh! Jacko was so happy! He jumped, he giggled, he danced, he played with the other children, he had a wonderful time. It was the best show the circus had done in years, and it was all because of Jacko.

All the other clowns were all so proud of Jacko, everyone in the circus was! The animal tamers, the acrobats, the jugglers, the freaks, the dancers, the stuntmen, the strongmen, and even grumpy ol' Mr. Galochio was proud of him! It was the happiest day of Jacko's life! And he knew they'd only get happier, because now he didn't just have one happy memory, he'd keep getting new ones every day!

The clowns all threw a big after party for Jacko afterwards to celebrate. There were balloons, there was cake, it was a great time. But out of the corner of his eye, Jacko noticed something he didn't like seeing. It was a bad child, being rude, yelling at his poor parents, behaving badly and making other visitors upset. He was a naughty little boy, and the circus was supposed to be a happy place.

But Jacko didn't get upset. He wrapped his hand around the hilt of the large knife in his pocket and grinned. It wasn't a good smile, it was a wicked, forced smile. Like the kind he used to have on stage. It was the kind of smile someone has when they have naughty thoughts in their head. Jacko had something very, very unpleasant on his mind.

Jacko wanted the circus to be a happy place, and since last night he realized that if he wanted things to change, he'd have to change them himself. He hated all the bad guests who'd visit the circus. The rude people, the nasty and mean people, the people who'd shout and get in fights and throw things, all the people who'd boo at his friends and throw things, all the people who cussed and got drunk, all the mean teenagers and the grumpy old people, but most of all: the naughty children who didn't listen to their parents.

He'd "fix" all of them, one by one. And it would start tonight, when he followed that little boy home.

Jacko could smile, he could laugh, he could make other people laugh, he could do tricks and make all sorts of people happy. But in his heart, he was still a very, very bad clown.

Written by DoctorBleed
Content is available under CC BY-NC