Friday, June 5, 2020

How confident are you in your ability to face each day? Do you have the courage to speak your mind?

 

What must you do to succeed? In order to be prepared, you may need to engage in a  . . .

 

 

 

Dress Rehearsal

 

Who am I? I believe I know. But how do I make the people I meet each day accept the person I am? And, how do I convince them of my sincerity, as we interact?

 

The alarm clock buzzes, announcing another day. I roll out of bed, and prepare to face the challenges of engaging an audience that has expectations I need to meet. As such, I must develop a well thought out plan, so I do not disappoint them.

 

This begins with a “Dress Rehearsal.” I need to play my role on life’s stage with the expertise of a polished actor. Interacting with a diverse cast of characters is a large part of my life, and I need to deliver my message with the appropriate dialogue to get my points across.

 

I stand in front of the mirror on my bedroom wall. As the imaginary curtain rises, I stare out at an audience of my mind’s creation. With script in head, I began to speak the flowing lines of the character I try to be. Unsure and feeling insecure, I stumble through the dialogue. Although I practice for what seems an eternity, a polished act does not unfold.

 

How do I face a real audience and convince them I am who I am and this is who I want to be? How do I let the crowd know the words I speak are sincere and come from the heart?

 

I have been rehearsing my lines most of my life, in one way or another. Sometimes they spew forth as planned, while, at other times, the flow of words hits a mental dam, silencing my verbal presentation. Anxiety wells up inside me when ideas are plentiful, but, no matter how hard I try, I cannot find the words to express them.

 

As I have gotten older, I try to make myself believe my audience will be receptive to the roles I play and accept how I portray them. Yet the public does not always react in the way I expect and this leaves me disappointed.

 

Therefore, at the beginning of each day, I rehearse my mind’s script and select costumes and props to present myself, as I would like to be seen by my audience. By doing so, I hope I am poised again to perform on life’s stage.

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Alan Lowe. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 29, 2020


Your brain is muddled. The answers to life’s questions seem to be buried in the recesses of your mind—a complete mystery.

How do you emerge from the utter confusion in which you are immersed? This becomes evident in . . .


I’ve Been Talking In Your Sleep

     I met Lily many years ago. I sat on the black leather couch in my living room with the Sunday Tribune staring up at me from my lap. A brisk autumn wind rustled the trees just outside the living room window. My mind flittered from the article on the front page of the paper, “Merry Maid Spooks Neighborhood,” to thoughts of how bad the predicted storm would be, when the front doorbell rang. Nine a.m. on a Sunday morning. Who the devil could that be? I thought.
    I slipped my lethargic body off the couch and ambled to the front door. Although it had been my practice to look through the peephole before opening the door, my still half asleep, wandering mind didn’t afford me this luxury this morning, so I just yanked it open. When I did, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Standing before me, a tiny, no more than five-foot tall, redheaded women, dressed in a white, frilly blouse and red skirt covered by a red and white-checkered apron, gave me an impish grin. Her upper teeth bit into her bottom lip. She bowed her head and, in a sheepish manner, whispered, “Hello.”
    She seemed so innocent, so cute. I responded, “Hi, may I help you?”
    “No, I’m going to help you,” she replied in a quiet, yet confident way.”
    This response intrigued me more than it alarmed me. So small a women couldn’t hurt me. Could she? I thought. If she was the “Merry Maid” from the paper, I couldn’t imagine her spooking anybody. So I muttered a simple, “How?”
    “Invite me in and I’ll tell you.”
    This made me pause a moment before responding. I stared at her. She can’t be more than sixteen years old, maybe younger. And if she isn’t of age, do I want her in my house? Is she a child prostitute? My mind jumped around in all directions. Focus. Just focus—so I did. “How old are you,” I asked.
    She didn’t hesitate before replying. “Twenty-three,” she said and flashed that same little impish smile. “I have a growth hormone deficiency that makes me appear younger.”
    She seemed to have read my mind by giving me the answer to my next question before I had a chance to ask it. I thought about pursuing this, but chose not to. Thinking she must be harmless, I said, “Please come in.”
    “Thank you,” she replied softly and followed me into the living room. Before I could offer her a seat, she plopped down in the antique gold and white rocking chair across from the couch. A prized possession, it had been left to me by my great grandmother.
    “I’m Jack Rich, may I ask your name?”
    “My given name is Lilibeth Crenshaw Addison Picasso.”
    “Any relationship to the painter?”
    “Why yes, in a way. I was his muse for many years.”
    “But he died a long time ago and you told me you’re only twenty-three.”
    “Let’s just say, it is what it is. I whispered sweet somethings in his ear as he slept.”
    She must be delusional, I thought. I think I’ll drop the subject for now.
    “You’re dressed like a maid, Lilibeth. Is that how you support yourself?”
    “Please call me Lily. Being a maid has been my cover. It has kept people from asking too many intrusive questions?”
    “Are you the ‘Merry Maid’ the paper says is spooking the neighborhood?”
    “Spooking? That’s a bit of a stretch. I just tell people what they need to hear.”
    “Is that what you’re going to do to me?”
    “On no, I dare not do it while you’re awake.”
    I began to ask a follow-up question to her response, when she jumped up from the rocker and proclaimed, “It’s been nice, but I must be on my way.”
    “Will I see you again?”
    “No, I doubt you will. But who knows, anything is possible. However, after our little chat, I’m quite certain you will be hearing from me.”
    “Okay, I await our next conversation.”
    “Who said anything about a conversation? I must be going.”
    Before I could get up off the couch, she danced off through the front door, slamming it behind her. When I looked through the window next to the door, I saw nothing. “But that’s not possible,” I muttered. There wasn’t enough time for her to move beyond my view. Knowing I would never find out the answer unless she wanted me to, I decided to go on with my life.
    Ten years passed since my brief encounter with Lily and I heard nothing more from her. I was thirty-five when Lily and I met in my living room. She fascinated me. I was attracted to her, but not in the way you might think. She interested me and piqued my curiosity. During these ten years since our meeting, I excelled in my field as a professor of Biology and Physics at Boynton State University and as a scientist specializing in biophysics. My world filled me with questions I needed to answer. The stress became overwhelming. But as crazy as it might sound, I felt someone had been giving me directions and information on how to find answers I couldn’t trace back to my studies or research.
    It all confused me. At night after a day of teaching and experimentation, I would go to bed with a nagging question hanging over me. By morning, it seemed everything would fall into place and the solution to my dilemma would stare me right in the face. Try as I might to discover how I got from Point A to Point B in my scientific undertakings, I found little or no connection between my experimentation and the answer I’d found—none.
And this disturbed me. So much so, I decided to seek counseling to help me make sense out of all of this.
    Sitting in a comfortable leather recliner in Dr. Ansell Abrams office, Dr. Abrams asked, “So Dr. Rich, why have you come to see me?”
    “I seem to be able to find solutions to complicated scientific problems, doctor, yet I have no clue how I arrived at them. I’m unable to trace the steps I took and, in many cases, the information, which came to me, had nothing to do with the experiment I had run. It’s as if someone is providing the answers I need.”
    “Who might this be?” Dr. Abrams queried.
    “I have no idea.”
    After six therapy sessions with Dr. Abrams, he arrived at the conclusion that certain connections in my brain might be broken, therefore damaging the links that would permit me to remember the process of how my experiments led to the solutions I came up with.
    “So what do I do?” I asked.
    He just shook his head in dismay. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s as if someone—a very bright someone—has taken up residence in your head and has the ability to override these broken connections and then provide you with answers as you sleep.” He then threw up his arms.
    “Huh. But doctor, I need to know what to do now.”
    He stared at me and stated, “Aside from what I just told you, I have no idea. And drawing such a conclusion makes me feel as crazy as you are.”
    “You think I’m crazy?”
    He didn’t respond. That was the last time I saw Dr. Abrams. That night as I got ready for bed, my head spun. Frustrated and confused, I had no clue as to how I’d become so brilliant. This bewildered and annoyed me. I didn’t know if I could go on. I thought about quitting my job and becoming a
hermit. This decision, however, would have to wait until morning, as I needed to get some sleep. The day had drained every ounce of energy from my body.
    I drifted off into a restless sleep. As I tossed and turned, I heard a voice—a very familiar voice.
    “Jack, this is Lily.”
    “Lily? The ‘Merry Maid?’”
    “Yes, Jack.”
    “Why can’t I see you? If you’re in my dream, I should be able to see you.”
    “Concentrate hard and you will,” she whispered.
    I did what she told me to do. And, to my amazement, standing before me, was the twenty-three year-old young woman, with the impish grin, I remembered from years ago. She hadn’t aged a day.
    “Hello, Jack.”
    “Why haven’t you changed? And where have you been all these years?”
    “I only change if you want me to. And I’ve been with you every day and every night of your life.”
    “Why didn’t I know that?”
    “But you did.”
    “I did?”
    “Yes.”
    “How? And why didn’t you talk to me?”
    “I did talk to you. Almost every night.”
    “That can’t be. I never heard you.”
    “Well, I’ve been talking in your sleep. And you must have heard me, for you did everything I told you to do.”


Copyright © 2015 Alan Lowe. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 21, 2020


Many of us don’t want to admit we are losing our hearing. However, not accepting this fact can be quite embarrassing, at times.

When we do accept the inevitable, our search begins for the best possible hearing aids. Just what these are may be found in . . .


Huh?

     I sat at my desk in my den, just staring off into space. My mind drifted back to my walk this morning. It was the middle of August and I had to wear a sweater. The weather report said it wouldn’t get higher than seventy today. Must be global cooling, I thought. Just then Myra stuck her head into my office.
     “Gary, what’s all that noise coming from the street?”
     “Huh? What noise?”
     “Well, turn up your hearing aids.”
     “Stop picking on me Myra. You know damn well I don’t have hearing aids. And besides, I don’t need them.”
     “Then why can’t you tell me what the noise is?”
     “Because I’m working on a project on my iMac and I’m deep in concentration. So I just block out all the awful sounds around me.”
     “Then why didn’t you answer me when I first called to you from the kitchen? Am I one of those dreadful sounds you manage not to hear?”
     “Did you say something to me, Myra?”
     “Just keep doing that and your going to live to regret it. By the way, you do know we need to be at Robin and Don’s house at seven, and its almost six now?”
     “I know. Just a couple of minutes more and I’ll get ready.”
     She’s always on my back about hearing aids. I hate wearing anything that hangs on my ears, or around my neck, or on my arms. My watch bothers the crap out of me. And I wouldn’t wear my wedding ring if I thought Myra would let me. But she’d murder me, if I took it off.
     ”I’m ready when you are,” Myra stated, emphasizing you.
     “I’m coming. I’m coming.”
     I went into the bedroom, dressed, and looked at myself in the mirror. “Blue shirt goes with tan pants. Brown shoes work. Hair’s combed,” I muttered. Guess I’m ready to blow the sox off my neighbors.
     I strutted out to the living room where Myra sat on the couch reading one of those weird Stephen King novels. She heard me come in and looked up.
     “You ready?” she asked.
     “Don’t I look ready?”
     “Yeah, guess you look pretty good.”
     “Well, thanks for the rousing compliment.”
     We locked up the house and walked four houses down the block to Robin and Don’s. Myra rang the bell and Don opened the door.
     “Welcome, welcome to our humble abode,” he chanted, as he ushered us in. He took our jackets and we went into the living room. I collapsed onto the plush brown leather couch and Myra parked herself on the loveseat under the window.
     “What can I get you to drink?” Don asked.
     “Nothing for me right now,” I replied.
     “I’ll have a glass of your finest wine,” Myra gushed.
     “Coming right up,” Don declared.
     Myra and I sat in our seats, our eyes perusing the room, as we awaited Don’s return. It seemed like hours. Then Don ambled back in toting a glass of sparkling wine for Myra and a beer for himself. Robin followed carrying some chips and dip, which she placed on the coffee table.
     “Good evening, guys,” she said in a melodic tone. Then she mumbled something else.
     Myra glared at me. “Robin asked you a question, Gary. Aren’t you going to answer her?”
     “Huh? What question? Guess I wasn’t paying attention. Sorry, Robin.”
     “Oh, that’s all right. I just asked how you’ve been.”
     “Fine. Just fine, thank you.”
     “Better not ask him anything else, Robin. Cause he won’t hear you. I’ve been trying to get him to look into getting hearing aids. He insists he doesn’t need them. He says he doesn’t like the way they feel.”
     “God, Gary, why are you so stubborn? I’m wearing hearing aids and I bet you can’t see them. And after wearing them for awhile, you don’t even know they’re there.”
     “But I don’t like anything hanging on my body. And, besides, they’re not reliable. Most of the people I play poker with on Tuesday night wear them and still don’t hear half the things said. Also, they complain about the loudness of the background noise. So tell me, why should I set myself up for ‘hearing aid trauma?’”
     “What was that again? I missed the last part of what you said,” Robin muttered.
     “Oh, for heavens sake. That proves my point. Those things don’t work.”
     Don chimed in, “Don’t be so headstrong, Gary. I’m wearing these new lightweight, almost invisible hearing devices. Don’t even know I have them on.”
     “And you don’t have them on half the time,” Robin proclaimed, laughing. “So who are you to be giving advice?”
     “Hey, I’m on your side. I’m trying to show Gary why he should get a pair.”
     What an amazing and annoying evening. The sign posted above the fireplace seemed to read, “This is your chance to convince Gary to get hearing aids, even if he doesn’t want them. So do it now.” Each of the three gave reason after reason why I’d be a different person if I got them. They went on and on about how I would enjoy life more. Now the one who irked me the most was Myra, for she didn’t need them. When all appeared to be going in the wrong direction, Don became frustrated.
     He yelled, “Aw, leave the guy alone. This was supposed to be a get-together with friends, not a pitch for hearing aids. And besides, I have the solution to Gary’s problem.”
     “Huh? What did you say?” I shouted.
     “I have a solution to . . .”
     “Oh, stop already, I heard you. Let’s drop the subject. What do you think about the presidential race? And who are you supporting?”
     These questions didn’t go over too well. The room became silent.
     “Okay, what would you guys like to do?” Don queried.
     “Did you hear about Walter’s wife, Paula?” Robin asked. 
     “No. What happened?” Myra inquired, her interest aroused.
     “She heard their dog crying in the backyard. It was about midnight. She went outside to check and the door closed behind her. They had installed an automatic locking device on it. She knocked on the den window, where Walter was sitting at his desk, and yelled for almost forty minutes.”
     “Didn’t he hear her?” I questioned.
     “Maybe, but only when he got up from his desk to go to the bathroom. Then he saw her at the window,” Robin muttered.
     “That’s terrible. Walter must feel awful,” Myra moaned.
     “He sure does. Paula won’t let him forget it. She’s been after him for years to get hearing aids,” Robin stated.
     “So, now he’s going to get them to get her off his back. Right?” Don asked.
     “Don’t know. I would, if I did what he did,” Robin said, with conviction.
     “We just can’t get off the subject of hearing aids, can we?” I protested.
     But then, believe it or not, we did move on. We chatted about all kinds of things for the next hour, nibbled on some finger food Robin set out, and afterwards, bid Robin and Don good night.
     The next day Myra and I drove to Middleton, twenty-five miles from home, to do some shopping. After about two hours of walking in and out of stores, Myra spent close to $200 and I was exhausted. The excursion took its toll on me, for I had just turned seventy-three a month ago. 
     We went into Moe’s Diner and collapsed into a comfortable booth and got something cold to drink. As we relaxed at our table and drank iced tea, I glanced across the room. . . . “Myra, look who’s in that booth over there. And look what he’s with.”
     “What he’s with? She queried.”
     “Yeah.”
     Myra swung around to see and almost choked. “Oh my, it’s Walter. And she, . . . she’s at least thirty years younger than he is.”
     “I’ve got to give him credit. He does have good taste in women,” I quipped.
     “Cut it out, Gary. This isn’t funny. What should we do?”
     “Nothing. It’s none of our business.”
     “But what about Paula? She needs to know.”
     “Well, I’m not going to tell her. . . . Oh, my God!”
     “What is it, Gary?”
     “Huh?”
     “Didn’t you hear me?”
     “Sure did, but . . .”
     “But what?” Myra gulped.
     “They just got up and are heading right toward us.”
     “Should we duck and hide?”
     “It’s to late, Walter saw me.”
     Walter and the mystery woman approached. To my amazement, he didn’t appear at all uncomfortable that his liaison had been discovered. I looked him in the eye and chanted, “Hello, Walter. How are you?”
     He stared back at me and, with a blank expression on his face, uttered, “Huh?” And then turned toward the young woman.
     She shouted at him, ”Walter, he asked how you are.”
     “Oh, fine, just fine.”
     “Are you going to introduce us to your friend, Walter?” I asked, in as polite a manner as possible.
     Again he turned toward his companion. She yelled, “He wants to know who I am.”
     “Oh, her. This is Lisa, . . . my ‘hearing aid.’”
     He smiled, bid us adieu, and the two of them walked briskly toward the door and left the diner.
     With my mouth wide open, I gasped, “That . . . that’s the kind I want.”
     Myra glared at me. If looks could kill, I’d be dead by now.
     The following week, additional information about Myra’s and my encounter with Walter and his paramour came to light. I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. Myra came in with a smirk on her face. “Gary, I have something very interesting to share with you.”
     “Well, don’t keep me in suspense. Spit it out already.”
     “I just got off the phone with Robin. Seems she talked to Paula. And guess what?”
     “I don’t have a clue.”
     “Lisa isn’t Walter’s illicit lover, after all.”
     “Then who is she?”
     She’s Walter’s distant cousin on his mother’s side. He’d just picked her up at the airport. They stopped for lunch before going home.”
     “So why all the mystery? Why didn’t he just introduce her as his cousin? And why the hearing aid gag?”
     “It seems Lisa never met Paula. So Walter developed this con with her to get Paula off his back about getting hearing aids. The accidental meeting with you and me made us the perfect audience for them to rehearse their scam.”
     “Okay. So how did it work with Paula?”
     “Not as well as it did on you and me. Walter’s got an appointment with an audiologist on Wednesday.”
     “Huh?”


Copyright © 2015 Alan Lowe. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 14, 2020


Since 1999, I’ve been a clown artist. I’ve sold some of my artwork for profit and other pieces I’ve donated for charitable purposes to be sold at auction. Also, I’ve been a clown art collector for over thirty-five years and both my work and the clown art I purchase grace the walls of my home and line the shelves of my display cases.

Writing, however, is my current passion. But the two art forms, at times, can blend together, as you will see in . . .


What Do You Really Know About The Clown?
    
     Clowns freak some people out. One of my colleagues at my next to last job told me, in no uncertain terms, “If you want to meet with me, we will do it in my office. The clown pictures on your walls make me very nervous. And I’m not going to subject myself to being surrounded by your drawings.” I’m glad, however, others who have seen my work have liked and appreciated it.
     Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all very much like the clown. We awake each morning and select a costume from our wardrobe to wear. Then some of us paint our faces, and all of us arrange the hair on our heads, while some of us create images of how we want to be seen with the hair that decorates our eyes, cheeks, and chin. When complete, we are ready to face our audience and attempt to solicit cheers and applause from them. If we fear the clown, we may be in fear of the very people we meet on a daily basis, or . . . be afraid of ourselves.  
     When I draw, I have no idea what type of clown will emerge. I let my imagination flow to my fingers and then, with felt tip pen or colored pencil in hand, onto the blank white page. In a short time, looking back at me are smiling, or sometimes sad, clown faces. So, through my poetry and art, let me introduce you to the clown.


Understanding The Clown

The clown,
     often misunderstood,
     is liked by some,
     but dreaded by others.
This funny creature,
     in crazy dress,
     with painted face,
     entices the crowd.
Creative, engaging,
     the clown
     struts before the audience,
     showing no fear.
The throng
     of gawking onlookers
     sees what the clown
     wants them to see.
At times, reflecting back
     to them
     an image
     of themselves.
Playing a fine-tuned role,
     the clown challenges the crowd
     to become part
     of the show.
Not sure what is real,
     they remain at arms length,
     truth cloaked
     behind costume and deception.
Left unanswered,
     the question—
     does anyone
     understand the clown?


The Mask

At center stage, stands the clown, with painted face and glowing smile.
A mask, presented for all to see, gathers applause, in anticipation of what   
     comes next.

But then, the smile diminishes and the luster fades.
Feelings, hidden beneath the masked exterior, aching to be shared, rise to the 
     surface
    
With great effort, however, this vulnerability is reined in—cloaked once more in 
     darkness.
The mask, now back in place, provides the confidence to continue the
      performance.

The smile resurfaces, as the clown again engages the audience.
Standing tall, with head held high, applause received once more.



Clowns

Many faces do they have,
All hiding what they feel.

Their dreams are tucked below,
A mask of laughter and good cheer.

Searching for the happiness within,
Which all around see and feel.

They joke and clown around,
Sharing with the world a smile.

To all, they display a comic side,
But to none, show they the soul of the clown.



The Clown in Me

The clown in me is ringing.
The clown in me is singing.
I come out and show my face to the crowd.

I try not to be afraid,
My demeanor by no means staid,
As I scream my cheers aloud.

Playing a game of sorrow,
Others from me laughter borrow.
I smile and turn their world around.

I paint a picture bright and bold,
Through my eyes and gestures, a story told.
To the world, my “words” resound.

Playing a game of merry chase,
A crowd of strangers I do face.
Sporting a smile, with protruded chin,

I stumble, bumble, and play the fool.
Humble yet proud, this is the rule.
The strength I show comes from within.

Blending into an audience, in which I want to be accepted,
I joke, cry, and try to do what is expected—
Producing joy and sadness, a mixture draped like a shroud.

I strut and play this comic game.
Yet deadly serious is my aim.
Poised with confidence, I bow to the crowd.



My World As A Clown

I live in a land
     of fantasies and dreams,
     and play
     with the creations
     of my mind.
My world
     is a circus,
     in which I dance
     on life’s stage,
     and gather applause.
I make funny faces,
     play silly games,
     try to be touched,
     and touch
     in return.
I laugh
     with the people
     laughing at me
     and cry for the people
     who cannot laugh.
My eyes
     meet those of others,
     both young and old,
     blending their worlds
     with mine.
Touching their hearts
     and challenging
     their minds,
     I create images
     with which they play.
With them,
     I share a world
     of promise and dreams,
     the world of my heart
     and my mind.


Copyright © 2020 Alan Lowe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Life can be a challenge. Sometimes our best advice on how to cope comes from conversations with ourselves.

However, engaging in this activity can take its toll on those within earshot of our discussion. This can have unexpected consequences, as seen . . .


Through The Eyes Of A Clown
 
      
     “Funny how life happens. The unexpected materializes with no warning, while the expected often disappears into a great sea of nothingness. Well, enough about philosophy. I have to concentrate on what’s happening now, as fleeting as it might be,” I reflected aloud.
     Serena, my assistant, works in the next office, with our interoffice door wide open. We’ve been together six years. She’s gotten used to my “talking to myself.” Still, that doesn’t prevent her from taking little jabs at me, thus chalking up points in our battle for office supremacy.
     “What are you jabbering about in there, Joshua?” she blurted.
     “Nothing your little brain would be able to comprehend,” I responded with a dose of sarcasm.
     Poking fun at each other’s eccentricities has become a special game we play. On slow days, it helps pass the time. It also doesn’t hurt on days when I have to sink my teeth into a complex problem, which mystifies me. Serena’s words, when hearing my musings, bring me back to my senses and the reality of the matter before me.   
     I’m good at my job as Chief Operating Officer at Matthews, Lopez, and Chin, one of our city’s larger management consulting firms, but need this office jousting to distract me from my daily stresses and to release my frustrations in a socially acceptable manner. And maybe, my current need for these games relates to the fact I will celebrate my fiftieth birthday in less than a week. Old age appeared out of nowhere and it frightens me.
     Since childhood I’ve had a passion for clowns—drawing them, collecting prints, and writing short poems about them. They hang on my wall in my office and sometimes I even talk to them. Serena knows of both my passion and my interactions with these amusing beings that help to keep me young. She teases me about this, but also supports me. In fact, earlier in the day, she suggested I visit a clown club website a friend had told her about. She informed me that the club, housed in a local building not far from our office, held meetings and social events for clown enthusiasts. Since she knew I had no plans for this evening, she insisted I try it out.
     My Internet search produced this rather interesting website, “The Clown Conspiracy Club.” This intrigued me. The site headline read, “Behind the Costume Lies the Real You. Being is Believing.” I printed off the homepage and stuffed it into my briefcase.
     Yes, I’m passionate about clowns. But being one for real, I don’t know if it would be a fit. This, however, seemed to be what the club’s webpage invited viewers to do. 
     Now I’ve tried clowning, sort of, in my distant past. Dressed in my colorful, plaid clown suit, I became the center of attention at my daughter’s eighth birthday party. I thought I’d done an admirable job. However, my wife, at the time, didn’t care for it, but at least my daughter liked it. 
     A short time later, I reprised the role when I played a clown at the tenth anniversary celebration at Parimus College, the Bay Area community college at which I served as a Board member. I did it with such expertise that I got my picture plastered on the front page of the Oakland Tribune, with the caption, “Joshua Ames, Establishment Clown.” This produced many laughs on campus, as some faculty believed the caption had, indeed, captured my essence.  
     “But ‘The Clown Conspiracy Club,’” I muttered. “What in the world should I expect to happen at this place?”
     Serena yelled, “You’re doing it again.”
     “Hey,” I responded. “It’s more interesting than talking to you.” I listened for a reply, but heard only a rustling of papers. “I guess the win goes to me this time,” I shouted to her and laughed loud enough so she could hear.
     Nothing eventful happened the rest of the day. I gathered some papers from my desk, stuffed them into my briefcase, where I had put the club homepage, and walked through the door to Serena’s office, the exit to the hallway. 
     She glared at me. I gave her a menacing stare in return. In a smug manner I said, “Good night ‘my love.’ I’ve got some bigger clowns than you to deal with this evening at the ‘Clown Conspiracy Club.’”
     Although I’d taken her suggestion to heart, she looked bemused. It appeared she was deep in thought trying to zing back a reply that would give her the final points for the day, but couldn’t come up with one. Not receiving a retort, I began to leave the office, when . . .
     “You will soon see who the biggest clown is, almighty clown collector, would be jester. It will knock you off your feet. Beware of what you see, ‘Through the Eyes of a Clown,’” she chortled.
     I dismissed her remarks as a vain attempt at one-upmanship. I thought no more about it. I left the building, got into my late-model Lexus, and began to drive. As I approached the freeway onramp, my mind kept seeing that interesting website, “The Clown Conspiracy Club.” What would it be like to go? I pondered.
     Engrossed in thought, I veered out of my lane. A loud horn blared from the car behind me and returned my mind to what it should be focused on—driving. I swerved away from the onramp and pulled to the side of the road. I grabbed my briefcase from behind the seat, opened it, and removed the page I’d printed. 
     My eyes focused on an event calendar for the club. I scanned the listings and discovered a meeting scheduled for 7:00 p.m. this evening. It seemed to be an open invitation to anyone interested. Serena believes I would like this place. She even suggested I go tonight. “But am I up to it?” I mumbled.   
     I pulled the car back onto the road and headed home. Ten uneventful minutes later, I arrived at my house in Bedford Hills, overlooking a serene valley. I purchased this small, two-bedroom ranch style, with a meager yard, after my divorce six years ago. During the drive home, I confirmed my decision to visit “The Clown Conspiracy Club.” I feared what I might be getting myself into, but my curiosity got the better of me.
     When I entered the house through the door from the garage, I saw the light flashing on my answering machine. I pressed the play button. A message from Serena blared, “Hey boss man, the clown club beckons you. Don’t let yourself down. You need to relax.”
     Well, this further reinforced the decision I’d already made. “Okay, I’m going,” I yelled, in an effort to expel the tension of the day from my aging body. I picked up the phone and called Serena on her cell and left a message that I would be going to the club this evening.
     I showered, threw on some casual clothes, a blue knit shirt and gray slacks, and rushed to the kitchen and gulped down a ham and cheese sandwich. I then jumped back into my Lexus and drove to the club, about twenty minutes away.
     Arriving, I turned into the parking lot. It surprised me to find an empty parking space to the right of the club’s front door. While this pleased me, it also heightened my anxiety level a bit about attending the meeting. I became suspicious, for I always have trouble finding a place to park.
     I sat in the car for a few minutes trying to muster up the courage to go in. The flashing neon sign announced, “The Clown Conspiracy Club,” which felt both inviting and threatening at the same time.
     I stared at the front door. No bouncer or guard, I thought. Umm, as a private club, there should be one. Using caution, I got out of the car, walked the short distance to the door, opened it, and entered the lobby. A myriad of pictures of clowns of all sizes and types hung on the walls. To the left of the inner double-door entry, a huge poster sat on an easel. Encircled by clowns, an arm, adorned in clown garb, beckoned me to come in.
     I opened the door into an unlit, pitch-black hall. Then, without warning, horns blasted, bells chimed, and lights of all colors began to flash. Someone grabbed my arm. I tried to jerk it back, but to no avail. I wanted to scream, but nothing came out of my mouth.
     At last, I managed a few words. “What, what are you doing to me?” I squealed. 
     A voice, coming from the heavens above, rang out, “Do not protest, you are ours, follow our lead. Take the path down the hallway to your right.”
     “God! How do I get out of this?” I moaned.
     The voice continued in a loud, deep tone. “You have entered the inner sanctum of “The Clown Conspiracy Club,” a world of the unknown, the crazy, the mystical—a world of your own making.”
     In utter terror, I screeched, “I don’t want to be here. I’ve made a huge mistake.”
     “Please,” the voice stated in a harsh tone, sending a throbbing sensation through my head.  “Please, do not protest.”
     Ushered down the corridor and through a small theater-like door, I entered a dark enclosure. Then small lights began to glow on the sides of a carpeted aisle. The room appeared to be a small auditorium with the seats arranged in a semi-circle. Although I couldn’t see well, it felt as if I was not alone. An eerie silence pervaded this very frightening new world I’d been forced to enter.
     My captor pushed me into a well-padded seat. I gripped the arms of this comfortable chair and dug my fingernails into the upholstery. My stomach hurt—a deep, awful pain. I felt like throwing up. And then, the creepy silence gave way to a booming voice from above.
     “Patrons be aware and beware, you have entered a very special place,” the voice echoed through the arena. 
     Then, the forum became ablaze in lights. But it wasn’t lights I witnessed. Eyes, hundreds of eyes, glowed and stared at me from a parade of both decorative and menacing clown faces.
     I loved clowns, but not so many all at once. I had to get out of here, but I couldn’t move. Nothing about this made sense to me.
     Then Serena’s words, which I’d dismissed, came back to haunt me, “You will soon see who the biggest clown is, almighty clown collector, would be jester. It will knock you off your feet. Beware of what you see, ‘Through the Eyes of a Clown.’”
     Without warning, boisterous laughter and thundering applause jolted me from my seat. The crowd stood and pointed at me. But why? I thought.
     Then it all became clear, as a larger than life radiant beauty, a clown of loveliness beyond compare, stood before me on center stage. Her eyes sparkled. A broad smile appeared on her beautifully made-up clown face. Displayed behind her, a large neon sign read, “Happy 50th Birthday To A Great Boss And Friend.” 
     Then with a smirk on her face, Serena gloated and spoke with a bit of sarcasm in her voice, “Who gets the final win today? This should keep you from talking to yourself. Happy Birthday!”


Copyright © 2013 Alan Lowe. All rights reserved.

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