“Now, all she had to do was wait, and worry.” A short story where the lingering pain from a profound loss fractures the very fabric of one woman’s existence…
by: DS Levy
Where in the hell was the clown? Suzanne paced the kitchen floor. She peaked out the window and saw Teena and her little friends standing under the pink unicorn piñata. Ah, angelic Teena, dressed in her new pink party dress.
“He should be here anytime,” Jonathan said, popping his head into the doorway.
For the past week, Suzanne had thought of nothing but the party, making calls, placing orders, finding the piñata. Luckily, she’d found Kenneth the Clown’s business card thumbtacked to the bulletin board at the grocery store and called to hire him that evening. Everything else had fallen into place — a pink-iced cake, hotdogs, chips, vanilla ice cream. Now, all she had to do was wait, and worry.
As if on cue, the doorbell rang.
Suzanne ran through the living room to the front door. A man in dirty jeans, a ratty T-shirt, and duct-taped sandals stood on her front porch.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said, belching a rancid, boozy cloud through the screen. “Took longer than I thought to get here.”
“Where’s your costume?” she asked gruffly. She’d imagined polka-dots, a striped ruff, maybe rainbow-colored hair.
“Costume?” His hair was long and greasy.
Suzanne studied him carefully. “I thought you’d at least have a red nose.”
He touched his sunken cheeks. “Well, I used to, but I’m trying to put those days behind me.”
She’d expected crazy hair and bulbous boots. “I’m sorry,” she said, “we’ve had a change of plans and won’t be needing your services.”
“Change of plans, bullshit!” The man’s spit sprayed through the screen.
Suzanne quickly closed the door and wondered what she would do without Kenneth the Clown.
“Was that him?” Jonathan said, coming into the room and looking over her shoulder. He grimaced at her — again, that look! Lately, he’d been distant and uptight, his temper short, as if she were the one who’d said she’d like to choke the son-of-a-bitch. Deep down, she knew he blamed her for everything. A typical passive-aggressive, he wouldn’t come right out and say she should never have left Teena alone in the front yard.
“I sent him home,” Suzanne said, leaning against the door.
“Wha-why?” Her husband gently pushed her aside and opened the front door. Kenneth was almost out to the sidewalk, and Jonathan called out for him to meet him in the backyard.
“But the girls are starving,” Suzanne pleaded. “And they’re dying to get at that piñata!”
“What?” Jonathan said, incredulously.
She rushed into the kitchen and removed a gallon of ice cream from the freezer. When she looked up, his mouth was tightly turned down, nostrils flared. Lately, he’d been irritable, and they’d had words, but if he wanted so badly to be mad at someone, she thought, he should have been mad at himself.
He forgot today was Teena’s eighth birthday!
He hadn’t bothered to lift a finger to help!
Going out the back door, he told her to stop this party nonsense, now.
The “nonsense” was that sweeping sound coming from the backyard. She ran to the screen door and shouted, “That clown better not be messing with Teena’s piñata!” But there he was — Kenneth the Clown sweeping the sidewalk, and Jonathan just standing there. “Stop!” she screamed, and ran down the steps. “He’ll ruin her party!”
“Suzanne, he’s raking our goddamn leaves,” said Jonathan. “This morning he was outside the hardware store, with a sign. He’s a veteran who needs work.”
She trembled with rage. “He’s going to ruin Teena’s birthday party!”
Three months ago, a man in a flatbed truck sped down their sleepy neighborhood street. It was warm, the sun high and blinding. Their daughter had been playing in the front yard with a rubber ball, bouncing it against the steps, catching it. The man, running late for work, said he’d never seen her dart out between the cars.
Suzanne broke free and grabbed the rake. With it, she began whacking at the clown, big tears falling to the ground like candies.
DS Levy’s work work has been published in New Flash Fiction Review, Little Fiction, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia, South Dakota Review, Brevity, The Pinch, and others. Her collection of flash fiction, A Binary Heart, was published by Finishing Line.