Writing Exercise 1: “I know you’re serious: That’s what worries me.”

July 27, 2009

Ike stood in the middle of the living room, cigar propped stolidly in his yellowed teeth. Off-white smoke climbed up until the ceiling fan chopped it to vaprous ribbons. He mopped his brow with his red hanky, filling it with white greasepaint and his perspiration, but Ike’s faded brown eyes–and his magnum–leveled themselves resolutely at John Petrie’s skull. Petrie had wanted entertainment, and Ike reckoned the sonovabitch would get it.

Petrie’d promised Ike a cool two grand for entertaining at John’s son’s fifth birthday. Crazy Eyed Ike the Clown would haul out the rubber club and smack himself upside the head, magically craft balloon animals for the kiddies, and head out the door smiling and squeezing his honking rubber nose to punctuate his departure. Easy.

 But the working clown hadn’t reckoned on what a hardass John Petrie could be if he didn’t like something.

The argument started small: Petrie’s son Tim turned on the waterworks when Ike made a balloon giraffe and handed it to a little blonde girl to the right, and Petrie demanded the clown withdraw the animal and give it to Tim. Screw that. Crazy-Eyed Ike gave his balloon animals to anyone he damn well pleased. Hell, he’d been planning to craft the finest animal in his balloon menagerie–a chimpanzee AND the coconut tree it swung in–for his client’s brat.

But that wasn’t good enough. Out of nowhere Petrie threw a vicious right hook at Ike, knocking his clown nose off and sending him hurtling to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Then the bastard strode out to Ike’s SUV and began bashing away at the windows with a golf club.

And it was Petrie’s turn to be surprised.

Crazy-Eyed Ike lived in the scrappiest corner of Brooklyn, and you didn’t walk around in purple, polka-dotted baggy pants without some major protection for your ass, or for your vehicle. Ike recovered, rose back to his feet, and looked at the sea of two-dozen stunned children’s faces. “I think you all better go now,” the clown intoned through gritted teeth. Then he pulled out his magnum.

In seconds the house was empty.

Ike pulled out his cigar, lit it quickly, and called out the door to Petrie. Petrie turned and ran back in, golf club raised, but he stopped short and lowered the nine-iron meekly when he saw the cannon propped in the clown’s right mitt.

“Now, please pay me, Mr. Petrie. Extra for damages. Or I will kill you. I’m serious.”

“I know you’re serious: That’s what worries me,” Petrie stammered out.

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