Baby needs a new foot

Jan 18, 2017 | 4 comments

Clowns are cool; or, are they really just creepy?

There are all kinds of clowns and, just like people, they each have their own look and personality. There are circus clowns and rodeo clowns, and the list continues. Some have strange colored wigs and big, long shoes. Others have parasols that are much too small for function, and big, round red noses that sometimes squeak when they’re pinched.

Besides these normal clowns, there are other types of clowns that are definitely more sinister in nature. For example, one of the embodiments of an evil and scary force in Steven King’s novel “It” was a clown. And, then there is “Chucky” who is an evil doll who stars in several movies but is reminiscent of a clown to me. These clowns are different than two I met in the streets about five months back.

I was working in New Orleans, rummaging through its streets for some interesting subject matter. There were groups of street musicians varying in size from ten member jazz ensembles to a single person just playing a guitar. Mixed in were several mimes. After them are the magicians, always wanting you to wager about their ability to perform a given trick as they ply their trade. I encountered all sorts of dancers including con men and women ready to get a little scratch out of your pocket and into theirs.

As I rounded a corner, a different clown trio came into view. It was a young man and woman clown team and they had a prop they were using along with signage to compel passerby’s to pay them for their skit. The skit was actually static in the sense that they made no entertaining movements and said no words. They were having no interaction with the crowds passing by except to gaze at them forlornly, waiting for the ring of change or the rustle of bills in their good-sized tip bucket.

Mr. and Mrs. clown were tending a clown baby which was a doll whose stated name, on the tip bucket, was Larry. Larry was sinister in appearance but his mamma and daddy weren’t. Larry had podiatry issues and was unable to provide his own locomotion.

I didn’t like the way Larry looked and I didn’t want him to be able to get around either. His appearance caused me to think that he would only be up to no good and I believe I was hitting it with a laser beam. No sir, no ma’am; none of the Buckner families money would become clown revenue that afternoon. That clown baby needed to be gone for good; it was just a little too creepy.

In a flash, I was on my haunches in the street facing the clowns as they sipped paper-bagged beers through straws on the curb. They exhibited mime behavior by completely ignoring my existence. One looked up the street, the other looked down the street and Larry, why he stared intently at the lens of my camera as if he wanted to get right in there with me. I was fortunate to be able to compose my shot without the background distraction of crowds passing on the sidewalk.

This is not a city where people are kind and wait for photographers to finish the shot. However, on that day they did. They somehow sensed the importance of the capture and I could just tell, none of them liked Larry either. I think they thought that somehow, I was being sure that Larry didn’t get away from his parents and follow one of them home. “Surprise!”, they could hear him shout as he grabbed for their throat when they reached in a familiar kitchen cabinet for a cookie around bedtime.

Cuh-lik went my magic black box as it swept them swiftly from the sidewalk’s curb and deposited them immortally into a sixteen gigabyte flashcard. As I rose and continued down the way looking for the next meaningful composition, I could barely hear the little squeaky sounds that a clown’s red rubber nose makes when pinched.

Then, there were the scuffling sounds that something small makes when it’s trying to get out of a place it doesn’t want to be. I had set my magic box down on a windowsill to rest for a second as I dug some gum out of my pocket. I watched it jitter ever so slightly as my newly captured prisoners sought their recently lost freedom. They were headed for the dreaded card reader and they knew it!


Brian Buckner

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