Short Story: “Giggles”

Giggles

by Jeremy C. Shipp

Joan says that some people have skeletons in their closets, but she has a clown in her attic. I take this as some sort of weird metaphor until she leads me up into her attic and I see him. He has hair made of what looks like pink insulation. His face is covered with white spiderwebs, and he has black widows for eyes. His teeth are long rusty nails.

I smile. “Where did you get this thing?”

The statue, or what I thought was a statue, takes a step forward on wooden legs.

“I am not a thing,” the thing growls.

I know this is just one of Joan’s sick jokes, but I can’t help standing there, frozen with fear like an idiot.

Joan squeezes my hand. “It’d probably be best if you didn’t say anything. At least, not for a while. You need to learn the rules first.”

Her words pass through my head, and I try to grasp at them, but I don’t catch a single one.

“I know this is weird, honey,” she says. “But you need to try to stay calm. Giggles can smell fear, and he doesn’t like it.”

“It smells of feet,” the clown says, his voice like the creaking of a door.

Joan’s never gone to so much trouble to freak me out before. I feel sick to my stomach with dread, but even more than that, I feel flattered that Joan took the time to set up such an elaborate scene for me.

“You’ve outdone yourself,” I say. I try to laugh, but it comes out a croak. “Seriously, where did you get this thing? Don’t tell me you built it yourself.”

“I am not a thing!” the clown roars.

And a moment later, he’s standing right in front of me with his wooden fingers wrapped around my throat. The clown’s barely touching me, and I know this is just part of the hoax, but I feel like kicking this monstrosity and running downstairs. But of course I don’t. I don’t want to disappoint Joan.

Joan sighs. “Let him go, Giggles.”

The clown releases my throat and backs away.

“I was serious about you not talking for now, hon,” Joan says. “Giggles is virtually harmless in his current state, but his state could change if you keep insulting him. I probably should have explained all the rules to you before bringing you up here. I guess I didn’t think you would take me seriously until you saw him. Anyway, rule number one. Don’t insult Giggles. Rule number two. When we’re up here, there’s no talking politics or religion. We need to keep the conversation light and positive. Stress-free.  Rule number three. If all else fails, smash a pie in your face. Works like magic.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I say.

Joan frowns. “I wouldn’t recommend cursing unless you’re doing it for comic effect. We don’t want to upset Giggles. If he loses control, the whole of civilization could be in danger.”

I smile. “This is fucked up, even for you.”

She sighs. “This isn’t a joke, Mark. I’m baring a part of me that I’ve never shown to anyone outside of my family. You could at least try to take me seriously. Can you try?”

“Fine.”

The clown turns to Joan. “I tire of all this melodrama.”

Joan walks over to a cheap foldout table to my right. She sprays whipped cream into an aluminum pie pan, and then she smashes the prop pie in her face.

The clown chuckles.

“That should hold him for a while,” Joan says, wiping her face off with a towel. “I‘ve been standing in the shop all day. Giggles, you don’t mind if we sit on your couch for a while, do you?”

“Go ahead,” the clown creaks.

When I walk past the monster, he stares at me with his arms crossed over his chest. The sight of him makes me shudder. His proportions are strange, and I don’t see any conceivable way that this could be a man in a costume. He must be some kind of robot.

Joan leads me to the opposite end of the attic, where we sit on a hideous daisy-print couch. The couch faces a pyramid of televisions.

“Giggles watches a lot of TV, huh?” I say, smiling.

“In a manner of speaking,” Joan says. “But let’s forget about the televisions for now. We can discuss that later.” She takes my hands and looks me in the eyes. She looks like she’s about to cry.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

“I don’t know. I guess I’m afraid that once you learn my true purpose, you’ll get weirded out, or you’ll be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I do, but it’s not normal. I know you’re not a judgmental person, but you are traditional in a lot of ways. I can give you a semi-regular life, but only semi. I can never go on vacations. I can’t even leave the house for more than five hours or so at a time. And if we have children, we’ll have to choose one of them to take my burden. That won’t be easy. None of it will be easy.”

Joan hardly ever cries, but right now, I watch her wipe away a tear.

Maybe this whole clown thing is more than an elaborate prank. Maybe in her own strange way, Joan is trying to open herself up to me.

I put my arm around her. “I hate to tell you this, Joanie. But the fact that you’re not normal comes as absolutely no surprise to me. You’re a weird lady, and I love that about you. So if you have something strange to tell me, just tell me. I’m a barrel of ears right now.”

My girlfriend smiles a little. After staring at the blank televisions for a while, she faces me and says, “I’m an entertainer. My calling in life is to entertain Giggles and keep him pacified. If he becomes too distraught, his consciousness could break free of the attic, and he could cause a lot of damage. Deep down, Giggles is a good person and he doesn’t want to wreak havoc on the world. But he has some self-control issues.”

“So…you’re saying you want to become an actor?”

Joan sighs. “This isn’t about what I want, Mark. This is about what I am. I’m an entertainer with a capital ‘e.’ I’m one of the protectors of the planet, just like parents and my grandparents and my great-grandparents. I know we’ve talked about the possibility of us getting married. You need to know that if that happens, you won’t just be married to an Entertainer, you’ll become one too. You’ll gain a divine calling, but you’ll lose things too. Things you’ll never get back.” She looks down at her hands on her lap. “Maybe I should have told you all this back when we first started dating. But…I guess I was being selfish. I didn’t think you’d give us a chance if you knew the truth. I’m sorry that I kept this from you.”

I don’t understand what the fuck Joan is talking about, but at this point, it doesn’t really matter. She seems sincerely worried about our relationship, and I don’t want her to worry.

I kiss her forehead.

“Is that all you wanted to tell me?” I say.

“Almost,” she says. “I’ll tell you the rest later. So you don’t hate me?”

I laugh. “I don’t hate you.”

That night, we eat spaghetti and we watch Arrested Development, and I keep waiting for her to explain to me what the prank meant. But she doesn’t bring up the clown at all.

In my dreams that night, I’m up in the attic, sitting on that ugly daisy-print couch. I’m not worried about running into that clown, because I get the feeling that he’s downstairs with Joan. I think she mentioned that the two of them would be cooking breakfast for me. Joan’s a good cook, but I’m afraid that the clown might put spiders in my food. Nevertheless, I’ll eat whatever they make me. I don’t want to be rude. For now, I’m supposed to stay up here and keep an eye out for criminals. Recently, someone has been stealing televisions from various attics in the neighborhood, so we have to take shifts guarding the TVs up here. It’s boring sitting up here alone, so I try all the different remote controls on my lap, but none of them work. The televisions continue sleeping. When I look into the darkness of the screen right in front of me, I expect to see my reflection. Instead, I see a void.

The void reaches out at me and fills the entire room. I know I should feel freaked out at this point. I’m not. I should head downstairs and ask Joan for help. I don’t. Instead, I sit there in the dark, waiting.

After a few moments of silence and stillness, two cold hands grasp my shoulders.

“Is that you?” I say.

“Who else would it be?” Joan says. She sounds a little distant and choppy, like her voice is being played on a cheap voice recorder. That disturbs me, of course, but when she starts massaging my bare shoulders, I put the strangeness of her voice out of my mind. Right now, I should just enjoy this. It is my birthday, after all.

Joan massages me so hard that her thumbs penetrate my flesh. I can feel her caressing my bones. I groan. She giggles.

“What’s so funny?” I say.

She laughs again, and she doesn’t sound like Joan at all anymore.

When the void disappears and the lights return, I turn around, half-expecting to find the clown standing behind me.

But it’s only Joan.

“You have magic fingers,” I say.

“That’s what they tell me,” she says.

“They who?”

“They, the guys I’m banging when you’re playing video games.”

Joan smiles, and her teeth are long rusty nails.

“What happened to you?” I say.

When she opens her mouth to respond, all that comes out is a green balloon.

“Fuck,” I say. I reach down for my phone so that I can call the hospital, but I’m completely naked.

I need to go downstairs. I can’t move.

The balloons in Joan’s body grow, and she gets bigger and bigger. I hope to God that she doesn’t pop.

The next morning, I wake up to find my blankets drenched with sweat. I know that I had a nightmare, but I can’t remember much of it. I think me and Joan were having sex, and I think the clown was there. I remember his teeth.

When Joan’s out for her morning jog, I climb into the attic and I find the clown propped against the wall near the couch. I approach it. I press my hand against its wooden torso. I study the face closely. Those spiders certainly look real. When I touch one of them, the black widow falls to the floor.

“Why did you remove my eye?” the clown says.

“Shit,” I say, backing away. “Sorry.” Immediately I feel like an idiot for apologizing to a robot, or whatever it is.

“Your apology means nothing to me, human. Tell me a joke, a good joke, and I will forgive your insolence.”

Once again, I feel the urge to kick the monstrosity and run downstairs. “You’re the clown. Why don’t you tell me a joke?”

“I am not a clown! I am burdened to take this form only because Joan’s great-great-grandmother cursed me. She was a powerful witch.”

“Ah, of course.”

The clown sighs. “I did not want to kill her, but she angered me so. I wish we could have had more time together.”

At this point, a black widow climbs up the clown’s face and replaces the missing eye.

“I feel melancholy,” the clown says. “Perform for me a silly dance, and be quick about it, mortal.”

Without responding to the ridiculous request, I head downstairs and find Joan in the kitchen, scrambling some eggs.

I massage her shoulders for a while.

“Thank you,” she says. “No wonder they call you Magic Fingers down at the bathhouse.”

“Shut up.”

We sit and start on our eggs.

“So what is he, really?” I say. “The clown.”

“Oh, he’s not a clown,” Joan says. “He’s a…well, it’s a little hard to explain. Do you know anything about naiads, dryads, creatures like that?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s what he’s like. His presence exists in the attic, and in a sense, he is the attic. You might say he’s a corporeal spiritual being.”

I laugh.

Joan frowns. “Why do you always do that?”

“What?” I say, and I take another bite of eggs.

“Whenever I try to tell you something serious, you laugh at me.”

“That’s not true.”

“Well, I shouldn’t have said that you do it all the time. But you do it sometimes. Sometimes, when I’m talking, you act like everything’s a big joke. Like last week, when I told you I was thinking of voting Republican this year. You laughed in my face.”

I sigh. “I laughed because you’re the most liberal person I know. And I laughed because when you said you might vote Republican, your tone was sarcastic. I honestly thought you were joking.”

“Well, I wasn’t. Look, honey. All I’m saying is that I want you to take me more seriously.”

“I will, and I do. But how am I supposed to know when you’re being serious if you don’t sound serious?”

“OK, maybe that’s something I need to work on. But if I tell you that I’m serious about something, can you make an extra effort to take me seriously?”

“Fine.”

That night, Joan asks me to follow her into the attic. I have a headache, and I’m not in the mood for more of this clown shit, but I go with her anyway. Hopefully this will be the last performance of this strange little play of hers.

In the attic, Joan pours salt on the floor, drawing a picture of a chubby two-headed dog.

“Stand on that,” Joan says. “Just don’t step on the eye.”

To be honest, I’m a little annoyed at Joan for taking this hoax so far, but I am impressed at her creativity.

I step on the salt dog.

Joan stands beside me, and holds my hand. “Honey, I know you’re having a hard time accepting the truth. So…I thought that seeing a regenesis might help.” She faces the clown. “Whenever you’re ready, Giggles.”

“I have changed my mind,” the clown says. “I will destroy myself, but only if you throw a pie in the man’s face.”

Joan sighs. “That wasn’t part of the deal, Giggles. Mark hasn’t taken the oath. He has no obligation to serve you.”

“I am not asking for an oath,” the clown says. “I am asking for one pie.”

“Mark isn’t an Entertainer.”

“And yet a pie in his face would entertain me.”

“If it’ll get things moving, go ahead and pie me,” I say. “I don’t mind.”

“Then we have a deal,” Giggles says.

At this point, the clown-bot races across the room and drops down into the hole in the floor.

“Is that what you wanted to show me?” I say.

“No,” Joan says. “Stay on the symbol.”

After a few moments of silence and stillness, a section of the floor erupts into a column of shattered wood. The wood twirls a few feet in front of me like a miniature tornado. Bits of insulation bursts from the walls and collides with the swirling splinters. Spiderwebs drift from above like tiny parachutes and enter the chaotic column. I feel myself taking a step backwards, but Joan grabs me and holds me in place. She squeezes my hand so hard it hurts.

The tornado spins faster and faster, sending multicolored embers in every direction. I hold my hand to my face to protect myself, but none of the sparks seem to touch me.

Once the pandemonium subsides, Giggles appears a few feet in front of me, as if formed from the swirling splinters and spiderwebs.

“It’s safe to get off the symbol now,” Joan says.

I study the clown in front of me. He looks almost like the one from before, only this one has daddy longlegs for eyes, and his proportions seem different. I’m not sure how Joan orchestrated the tornado, but I’m definitely impressed.

“How did you manage that?” I say.

“Like I said, Giggles is one with the attic,” Joan says. “Once his body left the attic, it became inanimate, and another body had to form in its place. What you saw was his regenesis.”

“Right.”

At this point, Joan smashes a whipped cream pie in my face.

The clown chuckles.

In my dreams that night, I’m up in the attic, sitting on a grotesque spider-print couch.  It’s a little unsettling how the spiders crawl around. Then again, they’re trapped in the fabric, so there’s no real reason for me to move.  I try the different remote controls on my lap, and finally one of them works. The televisions turn on. On one of the screens, the clown beats Joan with a rubber chicken. On another screen, the clown throws a flaming pie at Joan’s face. On another, Giggles sits on her and sprays seltzer water down her throat.

I need to go downstairs. I can’t move.

All that I can manage is to press my finger against the remote. I’m hoping that this action will deactivate the televisions, but instead the TVs only grow larger, and a laugh track plays in my mind. The voices sound a little distant and choppy. I can feel spiders crawling on my face.

“Stop it!” I say, to the voices and spiders and the clown.

They don’t stop.

“Help me,” Joan says, on every screen, simultaneously.

I hope to God I can save at least one of them. Who am I going to marry if I don’t?

The next morning, I wake up to my heart racing. I know that I had a nightmare, but I can’t remember many of the details. I think me and Joan were sitting on a couch, watching some horror movie. Or was it a comedy? I remember laughter.

After Joan returns from her morning jog, she tells me she knows I’m having a hard time believing in Giggles. She tells me to take apart the clown’s body and see for myself that it’s not a machine or a puppet or a costume. She doesn’t give me the new body in the attic, but the old body that dropped out of the attic last night.

To be honest, I am a little curious about the clown’s inner workings. So I drag the robot into the backyard. I consider all my options, but in the end I decide to smash the monstrosity with my mallet. Every time the metal collides with the clown, I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. A strange thought erupts in my mind. The thought that this clown deserves to be punished for what he’s done.

After I finish demolishing the body, I search through the remains. All I find is wood and nails and insulation. There is no machinery. No computer chips. While I was asleep last night, Joan must have replaced the robotic clown with this simple wooden one. I have to hand it to her. When she dedicates herself to a hoax, she goes all out.

I laugh.

I leave the obliterated clown where it is and return to the house. I make us some French toast.

When Joan returns from her jog, she kisses me twice.

“You’re in a good mood,” I say.

“French toast will do that,” she says.

We sit and eat and smile.

Joan glances at her watch. “Shit, I have to go.”

“Have fun at work,” I say. “Here’s hoping Charles won’t be such a bastard today.”

“Oh, he will be. But I’ve learned how to avoid internalizing his bitchiness and blaming myself. You see, I’ve been cheating on you with this self-help guru. He’s helped me a lot with this stuff.”

I grin. “Shut up.”

My girlfriend eats her French toast, and after a while, her smile becomes a frown.

“What’s wrong?” I say.

Joan stares at her food. “I haven’t told you everything yet. I mean, about Giggles. I’ve done something, Mark, and you’re not going to like it.”

“Maybe I’ll surprise you.”

“You won’t. I sort of…deceived you.”

“In what way?”

She lifts her fork and sets it down again. “I don’t want to tell you and then have to leave for work. Can I tell you tonight? You want to meet back here?”

“Sure.”

Joan kisses my cheek and bikes to the office, which is only a couple blocks from her house.

While I’m getting ready for work, all I can think about is that stupid clown. I know he isn’t real, but nevertheless, he’s important somehow. Maybe to Joan, the clown represents a wedge between me and her. I feel as if we’re drifting apart, and I don’t know why.

Joan jokes around about cheating on me. But maybe it’s not a joke. Maybe she’s cheating on me with a clown, or maybe she just feels like a fool for sabotaging our relationship.

Whatever’s going on, I need to cut through all the clown bullshit and get to the truth of the matter. I’m tired of being played with.

Before I need to head off to work, I go up into the attic and sit on that atrocious couch. I don’t know why exactly, but I feel drawn to the pyramid of televisions. Have I been dreaming about these TVs? Maybe they can give me some answers.

“I did not give you permission to sit on my couch,” the clown says, standing to my left.

I ignore him and look around for a remote. There isn’t one.

“You have to turn them on manually,” Giggles says. “Allow me.”

The clown moves faster than I would think possible. After a second, all of the screens are on, and Giggles is sitting beside me.

I study the pyramid.

What the fuck?

On one of the screens, I see Joan’s kitchen. On another screen, the living room. On another, the bedroom.

I haven’t noticed any cameras in Joan’s house. They must be hidden. But why?

“I can imagine your surprise,” Giggles says. “You humans are private creatures. You like to keep your most intimate thoughts and deeds hidden from all but your dearest kinsfolk. And of course there are some thoughts and deeds that you attempt to hide, even from yourselves. To think that I have been watching you must disturb you.”

I stare at the clown. His spiderweb face trembles in the breeze from the open window. I don’t know why, but Giggles seems almost real to me right now. Maybe it’s the thought of him sitting up here, watching me and Joan go about our lives together. I hate him.

“You are likely worried that I watch you as you are having sex,” the clown says. “I witnessed this act only once, and let me assure you that I do not find your lovemaking to be the least bit entertaining.”

I stand. I need to get out of here. If I stay much longer, I’m afraid I’ll lose my grasp on reality.

“You would be a fool not to forgive Joan,” Giggles says. “I have spent many years under her care, and for a human she is quite compassionate and just. She set up these televisions for your benefit. She had no desire to hurt you. I am sure of that.”

I head downstairs and drive to work, hoping that by surrounding myself with normal life, I’ll be able to think normal thoughts again. But I don’t. I know that only an idiot would feel anger toward an inanimate object. I can’t help it. I despise the clown for witnessing my most intimate moments, and I’m angry at Joan for letting that happen.

After work, I return to Joan’s house. She’s prepared a nice dinner for two of us with eggplant parmesan and candles and daisies and Enya. As soon as I see and hear all this, most of my irrational anger about the clown disappears.

“Very romantic,” I say.

“I learned from the best,” Joan says. “Not you, obviously.”

I grin. “Shut up.”

“Before we sit, would you care for some before-dinner nuts?” She holds out a can of nuts that is obviously full of fake snakes.

“You really expect me to fall for this?”

“Well, you’re not the sharpest spork in the cabinet.”

“I don’t think people keep sporks in cabinets.”

“That just proves how little you know about the world, honey.”

I open the can, and a snake peeks his head out.

“Shit!” I say, dropping the can.

The serpent slithered across the carpet. Joan carefully picks up the black and yellow creature. She laughs.

“Nice one,” I say, and I mean it.

“I liked the part when you screamed like a little girl,” she says.

“Shut up.”

I want to enjoy this moment as I’ve enjoyed all of Joan’s little pranks, but my mind keeps focusing on the clown. Is he up there right now watching us? Is he laughing?

And then an even more disturbing thought erupts into my mind.

“All these pranks,” I say. “You don’t do them because you want to. You do them because you have to. They’re all for the clown.”

Joan’s smile fades. “You know about the cameras?”

“How much of what I know about you is just an act?”

“It’s not like that, Mark.” She stares down at the squirming snake in her hands. “I love joking around with you. The only reason I installed the cameras is because I wanted to spend more time with you. I thought if we could entertain him from anywhere in the house, then I wouldn’t have to spend so much time in the attic. I didn’t want my duty to interrupt our lives.”

“You should have told me.”

“I know. I know that. And I feel horrible. I’m sorry, Mark.”

I don’t respond.

Joan carries the snake into the other room, and she comes back crying. Seeing her sad usually breaks my heart, but right now her tears just make me angrier. She should be comforting me.

I sit and eat in silence.

Joan tells me about her misadventures with Charles at work. I smile a couple times and speak a few words, but that’s all.

Hours later, we’re sitting on the couch in the living room, and Joan says, “Are you coming to bed?”

“Not yet,” I say.

She kisses me and heads upstairs to the bedroom.

I know that I’m probably going insane, but I’m truly starting to believe that the clown in real. What I saw in the attic last night with the tornado of wood was beyond amazing. There’s no way Joan could have orchestrated that.

Maybe there is some magical creature watching me at this moment, laughing at me. If it wasn’t for that stupid clown, Joan and I would be upstairs cuddling right now.

Enough whining. If there’s a problem, I just need to fix it.

I enter the attic and connect a DVD player to one of the televisions. I put disc one of the Monty Python box set into the player. I press play.

“Come here,” I say. “Watch this.”

Giggles sits beside me and stares at the screen, tilting his head to the side.

I sigh. “So you’ll laugh at a pie in the face, but Python doesn’t even make you smirk? What’s wrong with you?”

Giggles faces me. “Joan has spoken to me of these python men, and I am sure that they are talented in the ways of buffoonery. However, their humor passes through me without touching my spirit. My being cannot connect with anyone who exists outside of this house. That is why Entertainers are necessary to keep me pacified.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

The clown shrugs.

I should’ve known that solving Joan’s problem wouldn’t be so easy.

Joan feels some sense of obligation to keep this clown entertained, but she shouldn’t have to sacrifice any of her time and energy for this freak. It’s just not right.

In my dreams that night, I’m up in the attic, sitting on a couch. I try to sit up, but the couch is coated with spiderwebs, and I’m stuck. I hear whispering voices behind me.

“Joan?” I say. “Is that you?”

At this point, all of the televisions turn on. One one of the screens, Joan massages the clown’s shoulders in the kitchen. On another screen, she rubs the clown’s oversized feet in the living room. On another, she kisses him on the lips in the bedroom.

I need to go downstairs and stop them. I can’t move.

Behind me, the whispering evolves into laughing. Then the laughing evolves into moaning.

“Stop it!” I say.

They don’t stop.

I can feel spiders crawling on my legs, my arms, my face.

On the television screens, all of the Joans begin to remove their clothing. I try to turn my head. But instead of moving my body, I move the entire couch. The couch spins around and faces away from the TVs.

Now I’m watching as Joan and Giggles writhe together on the floor. They whisper. They giggle. They groan.

When Joan stands up, the clown is gone, because she’s taken him inside of her.

Joan approaches me with outstretched arms. Splinters erupt from her chest. Spiders crawl out of her nostrils. Her eyes grow fuzzy and pink like insulation.

She smiles at me, and I hope to God she doesn’t want to absorb me too.

The next morning, I wake up with my heart pounding and my chest aching. I know that I had a nightmare, but I can’t remember all the details. I think me and the clown were sitting on the couch, watching Monty Python. No. That actually happened, last night. Didn’t it?

After Joan returns from her morning jog, I serve her an omelette.

She takes a bite. “This is eggcellent.”

I smile a little, but I’m not in the mood for puns this morning. “Let’s say you’re right about Giggles. Let’s say he’s some kind of weird creature and your family’s been entertaining him for generations. Why keep the tradition going?”

“I do it because I have to, Mark. Like I already told you, if I don’t keep Giggles pacified, his presence could expand beyond the attic. And if that happens, the entire world could be in danger.”

“But how do you know that? What makes you think that Giggles is so powerful?”

“It’s written in the books. I can show them to you if you—”

“And who wrote those books?”

“My ancestors.”

“And how do you know that what they wrote is true?”

“It is true.” Joan presses her hand against her chest. “It’s one of those things you can feel in your soul.”

“I don’t feel it in my soul.”

“You’re not an Entertainer.”

I take a bite of eggs. “I know you were raised to fear Giggles, but let’s try to think about this rationally. It’s absolutely absurd to think that some freaky clown made of wood and spiders could be any sort of threat to the civilized world.”

Joan sighs. “You think that because you’ve only seen Giggles in his passive form. When he loses control, his powers grow.”

“Have you ever actually seen that happen?”

“No.”

“I didn’t think so.”

Joan stabs her omlette with her fork. “Look, honey. I know you mean well. You want my life to be less complicated, but life is complicated. You’re going to have to trust me when it comes to Giggles. I’m no witch, but I can sense his power in my dreams.”

I want to tell Joan that dreams don’t mean anything, but I’m tired of arguing. And I get the feeling that there’s no way I’m going to win this argument. Joan can be so stubborn sometimes.

The only way I’m going to convince her that the clown isn’t dangerous is if I prove it to her.

Later that day, when Joan’s out walking the dog, I enter the attic, dragging my mallet behind me. I sit next to clown on the couch. “She hates you, you know.”

“Who?” the clown says.

“Joan. Sometimes, when we’re in bed together, she tells me how much she despises you. She resents you for taking up so much of her time. She can’t travel because of you. She can’t even get a full-time job.”

Giggles frowns. “Joan has never shared such feelings with me.”

“Of course not. She’s scared of you.”

“She has no reason to fear me. I am her friend.”

I laugh. “Joan would never be friends with a thing like you.”

The clown touches his hand to his wooden chest. “I am feeling wrong. Make a silly face for me, mortal. Be quick about it.”

At this point, I grab my mallet and hit the clown over and over.

Soon, the tornado of splinters appears in the center of the room. Multicolored sparks fly in every direction. They burn my flesh.

As soon as the clown’s new body appears, I smash that one too.

“Stop this at once,” Giggles says. “Joan cares for you. I do not wish to harm you.”

Another body appears, and I try to attack that one, but it’s much bigger than the last. And it seems to be a lot stronger. With the swipe of his arm, the clown easily knocks the mallet out of my hands.

“Do a funny jig,” the clown says, and the spiders of his eyes wave their front legs at me. “Tell a joke. Please.”

I don’t move or speak.

After a few moments of silence and stillness, the attic shakes. Stacks of boxes tumble and the pyramid of televisions crashes to the floor. The clown screeches like an owl. Then he runs and jumps and breaks through the closed window.

I expect another splinter tornado to appear, but the attic remains quiet.

Maybe I killed the freak.

Right after that thought flashes in my mind, I hear a chorus of screams and clashes from outside.

When I look out the broken window, I see him.

His body consists of sedans and minivans and lawnmowers. His hair is a crimson tree. His teeth are enormous shards of broken glass. He has asphalt eyes and a face that’s made up of human heads. To the right of the clown’s nose, I see Joan’s screaming face.

Fuck.

I race over to the cheap foldout table, and I spray whipped cream into an aluminum pie pan. I run back to the broken window.

“Giggles!” I say.

As soon as the gigantic clown looks at me, I smash the pie in my face.

“It is much too late for that,” the clown thunders.

And when he laughs, the world goes dark.

* * * * *

For more twisted tales like this one, check out ATTIC CLOWNS.

Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Cursed, Vacation, and Sheep and Wolves. His shorter tales have appeared or are forthcoming in over 60 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Withersin, and Shroud Magazine. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with a couple of pygmy tigers and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic–-not so much. His online home is jeremycshipp.com

Feel free to contact Jeremy via email at: chrismatrix(at)yahoo(dot)com

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