At the 5th ring, Edmond was still unsure if he should answer his telephone. He didn’t have such modern bits of technology his son always told him he should have, more specifically, caller ID. This was the third time today his phone rang out of the blue. Edmond wasn’t expecting any calls, for it was Wednesday. His son James wouldn’t be calling until the weekend for their usual Saturday afternoon chat. His daughter only called on holidays, if he was lucky. She mostly sent him electronic mail, on the computer his son insisted that he have.
“It’s how everyone communicates now a days Dad.”
It still took several months of convincing, but eventually Edmond acquired one from the local school rummage sale. It was old, but it allowed him to read the mail from his daughter, and look at pictures of his grandchildren. Anything more than that, was not worth his time.
Silence. The phone finally stopped ringing at which point Edmond let out a sigh of relief. He wasn’t much of a fan of surprises anymore, and every year that past, he became a fan of them less. Being a widower for the last decade had not been kind to his sense of adventure, or anything that was unpredictable for that matter. This included ringing telephones.
Edmond leaned back in his arm chair, letting the sound of the breeze of the colorful summer evening to rest his eyes. He could hear birds in the tree beside his patio chirp as if they were celebrating the setting sun. Serenity.
His telephone had decided his evening was becoming pleasant, and was letting him know this was unacceptable. Edmond swore there seemed to be a hint of annoyance, as well as persistence in the ring this time. He took a deep breath and eased himself up out of his chair. He was going to put a stop to this.
“Yes?” Edmond was beginning to feel this was going to be a solicitation of some sorts. Most likely, to take his money.
“Hi, my name is Clay Bracken. I got your number from Old Man Fle- I mean Mr. Bristol. He had told me you are a party clown.”
Edmond gave pause. His eyes darted from that spot off in the distance that everyone’s eyes go to when they are speaking on the phone to the hallway of his apartment. Towards his storage closet. Where he kept his supplies.
“Fletcher said that did he?” It was more of a statement than a question. It was no secret in the town that in previous years, Edmond was a party clown. Not the greatest party clown to have ever made a Robert Frost Balloon animal, not by a long shot. When in a small town though, the competition was sparse enough that even the worst personality to put on some oversized shoes and bow tie, brightly colored pants, and a large rainbow wig would suddenly be transformed into best that money could buy.
“Y-yes he did, I have a small get together coming up that I need a clown for, m-my daughter loves clowns and she would really love to have one there.”
Edmond gave another pause. His mind flipped from giving a no to a yes, and back again. Several times in fact, keeping him pre-occupied enough not to notice the discomfort that was echoing in Clay’s voice. Waves of memories washed upon the shores of Edmond’s conscience, back to happier days, before his wife passed.
Edmond had been the go to guy, for all the delights that children wished for to have present on their birthdays, or other special occasions, as required of course. He had been to every child’s birthday party in town, for years. All that was long ago, again, before his wife passed. The memories went from lingering sweetness to echoing sadness. One moment the smile of a child, watching in wonderment as his flower sprayed water, or to the comical peep his big red nose made when squeezed. Then to the warm loving smile of his wife, as he caught her gaze across the room.
The worry began to set in. It had been years since he put on his face makeup, or his tiny top hat. All had been packed away with the mementos of his marriage. Sometimes, out of sight, truly is out of mind. Sometimes.
“Hello? Mr. Werth?”
Silence. Edmond was lost in a maze of bitter sweetness. Weighing the gratification of a happy child, with his longing and loneliness for his wife.
“Are you still there?” Clay was beginning to feel a sense of urgency. This was not going as well as he hoped.
“Sorry, yes I am still here. Its just been so long since…”
“I am prepared to pay. In advance,” offered Clay. He needed to secure this. It was imperative. “It will only be for a short while, I can even pick you up.”
The scales began to tip for Edmond. It was the first offer for a clown job he had actually had since Aubrey’s passing. He could hear her in his heart. Asking why he is hesitating. Reminding him, of how much he cherished those moments of putting a sparkle in a young child’s eyes.
“Saturday afternoon. We have a field just out of town we are having the party at!” Clay’s tone changed. He was beginning to worry he may have given something away in his elation.
“Well I guess you can pick me up around noon. I will be ready. How old is your little girl turning?”
“Who?” Clay was taken aback, in his eagerness to please his friends, he had clearly not prepared his entire story. “Oh, 7, I mean 8”
“Alright, I will see you then. Don’t worry about any fee or anything. I usually do these things for free.”
“Thank you Mr. Werth, I will see you then.” With that, Clay had hung up the phone.
The veil from reality that Edmond’s memories had placed over his senses had begun to lift. He placed the phone back onto its cradle, still focused on that spot in space. The walk to his closet seemed to be a greater distance than he remembered. Eventually though, he was there.
The doors loomed in front of him, a monolith dedicated to happier years, beckoning him to throw the portal open, and to live again. The light fell onto the plastic covers of his white puffy clown shirt, the bag of balloons, and his shoes. His beloved shoes.
Through his misting eyes, his loving gaze caressed all his old suit, and his props. They were his armor.
A thought scorched a trail across his mind. A field? Out of town? Mister Bracken didn’t even say goodbye.