Suddenly, I couldn’t catch my breath. As muscles in my arms tightened, my hands gripped the steering wheel. Childhood fears of grease paint, bulbous red noises, and floppy giant shoes came rushing back in a torrent almost smothering me in a sea of emotion.
About a mile down the street was the undeniable red and white striped canvas. Huge poles stretched the canvas skyward into four pinnacles. It could only mean one thing. The circus was back in town.
With it, I’m sure, came a miniature car full of those hideous clowns.
Why my car started slowly to veer towards the right and the parking lot that housed the tent, I really can’t say. It was like being back in Old Mrs. Crabtree’s third-grade class during the eclipse all over again.
She instructed us on how to safely view the event by poking a small hole in a piece of cardboard, and then holding a sheet of white paper under it, “Look at the paper, but under no circumstances look up at the eclipse.”
Resistance was futile – especially for a bunch of third graders.
The more I tried to not to gaze skyward, the more I couldn’t stop myself. Somehow, I’d lost all motor control of my body, and I couldn’t keep from staring at that eclipse.
The event didn’t burn a hole in my brain like Down the Street Bully Brad said it would, but I’m sure some damage must’ve occurred. I failed the math test we had that afternoon miserably. Dad blamed it on my not studying. I, of course, blame it on the eclipse. During the entire test, I couldn’t see the problems. Just saw black spots.
It was that same out-of-control feeling when those red and white stripes came into view. It seemed as if some unseen hand – no doubt the invisible gloved hand of a clown – had taken control of the wheel and was steering my car straight towards that tent.
A tent, I’m sure, full of killer clowns.
The closer I got to what was surely my destiny with those clowns and a final fight to the death, the more I noticed a huge banner that hung near the road. It advertised the four-day tent sale.
I let out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. A circus hadn’t come to town after all; it was only a tent sale. Everything was marked down 50 percent or more.
How anyone could just sell tents for four days and hope to make money, I didn’t know. Didn’t think there were that many campers around here. But since I needed a new tent, I pulled into the crowded parking lot anyway.
Once under the big top, I was surprised. Not only were there no clowns in sight, there were no tents. But just about every item of clothing in the world was on sale. Need a pair of size 13 EEE shoes? They had them at the tent sale.
Threading through the packed racks and stacked shelves, I filled bag after bag full of long-sleeved clothing, fleecy hoodies, and thermal socks. This firefighter doesn’t like cold weather.
I even bought The Wife a bunch of yogurt pants. Exactly how one makes pants out of yogurt, I really don’t know, but that’s what she said she wanted. I got her six flavors just the same.
It’s easy to justify spending money on me when I’m also spending money on her. Even running shoes were half off. I bought five pairs. Take it from me, when you’re training to outrun clowns, you go through some shoes.
Two hours after I turned in, I finally turned out of the parking lot with my load from the tent sale. Five bags of shoes and clothing were in the trunk, there was a lot less money in my wallet, and strategically placed on the seat next to me sat those size 13 EEE shoes.
I’m not only well-prepared for this winter’s cold, but for any surprise clown attacks. The giant shoes will be the perfect thing to throw at killer clowns to distract them as I make my getaway.
And if you were wondering, no – I never could find those tents they were advertising for sale. Just as well — it gives me an excuse to go back next year.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]