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By David L. Rettig

Dear you to whom the tale is told,

Please, I ask of you, to come to this tale with me as I tell it. Bring yourself, your ears, and your imagination, and nothing else. Please don't bring your Expectations, your Concerns, or your History. Just your ears, heart, and dreams. Listen, please listen. Listen as if you thought about our tale as I tucked you into bed.

So my friend, it's time to sleep and dream. Of clowns, and fudgscicles, death, and bicycles, and those things which you are dreaming about right now. Dream of them all.

After all, these are the rules I was told.

The tale:

Cortney the clown walked into the Magician's bedroom one night. He hadn't visited the Magician in four years, but still the Magician knew him better than anybody else whom Cortney the Clown knew.

He was a sad clown that night. He was sad because he was so awake and lived too close to his friend, Life. Cortney the Clown needed Life. He said he loved Life, and her offspring, Pizza, and Women, and the dew in the Morning, and Big Shoes, but...

He wanted to play with Life, but had forgotten how, for History had told him to think about Life.

"Life," said History, "should not be a game. It's too important for clown games. You can't play with it anymore, it might break. And then where would you be when you needed it."

So Cortney the clown no longer played with Life. In fact, Cortney the clown didn't play at all anymore. After all, it was too important.

So Cortney the Clown came to the Magician's bedroom one night. The Magician listened and nodded, as magicians always listen and nod. He winked at Cortney the Clown, and showed Cortney that he understood. Many other Clowns had come to the Magician as Cortney had. There had been all sorts of clowns in the past. All had forgotten how to play with Life.

Cortney the Clown told the Magician,

"My Magician, when I die, I want my parents and friends to have a great time. Just like they do in New Orleans. There should be a parade, a marching band, dancing in the streets, laughing, and trumpets. Loud ones."

Cortney's Magician said, "Ah...Cortney the clown,"--Magician's always say "ah" before they speak, "So, You have talked to Death?"

Cortney the Clown said, "I used to talk to Death every morning. When I was showering or brushing my teeth, Death was in the bathroom with me. He was always quite a jovial, carefree, and obnoxious fellow. Cliqued his heels and ate lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He also liked tickling me, and watching me laugh unitl I cried."

"And so each day I would ask him, 'Death, my friend, how do I play with Life?"

"But death hasn't been talking to me lately. And I have forgotten how to play with Life."

Cortney's Magician said, "And so you have." Magicians are always prone to such ambiguous declarations.

Editorial Rule #1: In the land of Cortney and the Magician, Life and Death are identical twins. Although usually connected at the hip or some other appendage, they occasionally split from each other. Like a divorce, they are no longer whole, but wonder through the woods until they once again find each other, and reattach themselves at the hip or some other appendage.

And the Magician knew, as Magician's always know--that's why they are Magicians. So, he aked Cortney the Clown, "What would Death say to you today, if he was here?"

And Cortney the Clown thought about this for awhile. "I don't know, My Magician. He probably wouldn't say anything. But, he would be there."

Cortney's Magician, like all Magicians, never told Cortney what to do, for Magicians can't advise, that's rule number 2. They can ask questions, they can understand, and they can joke. But they cannot talk in any other way.

Cortney the Clown continued, rubbing the color from his eyes. It was melting because he was crying clown tears.

"I have gone to the clown doctor. I told him that I had lost my friend and I no longer could be a Clown. The Doctor looked at his Clown books--and in a very detached way--as Doctors are prone to do because they are doctors, he named my disease. It is some sort of multisyllabic word. It didn't have anything to do with my friend the Doctor said. He gave me many things to treat my disease. And while I felt better, I still didn't know how to be a Clown."

"And, my friend was still gone," Cortney the Clown continued.

"So I went to the Clown Priest. I told him that I had lost my friend. The Priest looked at his Clown books and then named my condition. In a very solemn way--as priests are prone to do because they are priests--he told me that I should put my faith in the Clown God. If I believed in the Clown God, he would forgive me. Although the clown God could not tell me how to be a Clown, he could tell me through his Clown Priests how to goto Clown Heaven."

"And so over lunch, which consisted of Pizza, and Coke, and all sorts of Cookies which are good for clowns, I pondered the question of how to get to Clown heaven and forgot about the taste of my Clown lunch. And I imagined things which I thought the Clown God would think he should forgive me for before letting me into Clown Heaven. And although it sounded really fun to goto Clown heaven...and it made me feel a little better for awhile, I still did not know why I was a Clown. And my friend was still gone."

"As I sat eating my Clown Cookies which are really good for clowns, in walked a Clown psychologist. Clown psychologists always walk in, never out. He had a beard, spoke with an accent, and asked me questions about my Mother and Bananas. And while I really like Bananas because they are yellow and slippery, I didn't understand the Clown psychologist."

"And so the Clown psychologist consulted hisClown psychologist books. And after many days, theClown psychologist told me--in a very Objectiveway as Clown psychologists are prone to do--that Iwas suffering from a different multisyllabic wordwhich I cannot remember."

"He said the only way to become a Clown againwas to understand that millions of clowns hadfailed to become Clowns again. He said that theonly way to become a clown again was to thinkabout being a Clown and talk about being a clown."

"So, I thought about being a Clown and talkedabout being a Clown. And I thought about it somemore. And talked about it some more. And aftermuch thinking and talking I became very afraid.Not because of the huge monster that hides undermy bed and eats clowns, but because I was afraid Iwould never become a Clown again."

Cortney's Magician listened and said nothing.For, before Magicians can talk, they must absorbpain. Magicians live off Pain. (This is one wayhow Magicians and Clowns are alike.) Without Pain,Magicians die. But they can never give Pain, onlyabsorb Pain. That's why Magicians can't talk. Theyabsorb Pain, and turn it into a flower, or sometimes rain, a clown,and occasionally an insect--because withoutinsects there would be no birds.

The Magician has but one enemy, History andcold toilet seats. The Magician battles Historyevery day. History tells Clowns that they will notalways be funny. History tells Clowns they can nolonger always be a Clown. And when Clowns thinkthat the sad people will not laugh at them nomatter what, they give up trying to be Clowns.

With History, Clowns lose their faces--they areemasculated.

"Ah...," said the Magician after he hadabsorbed much Pain, "have you seen History?"

"Yes," said Cortney the Clown, "And he has toldme many things. He has told me that sometimesnon-laughing people will not laugh at me. He hastold me that other clowns have failed. He has toldme that I should realize my condition. He has toldme to think much about my condition and talk muchabout my condition. And he told me maybe I shouldconsider becoming a Clown teacher if I could nolonger be a clown."

"Pardon me," said the Magician as he finishedpainting a picture of a horse doing something onlya horse can do, "I could caste a spell to make itall go away, and it would be a really cool spellwith toads feet, hiar of newt, and a twist of batwings as a spritzer, but let me ask you, 'Have youever seen a post-modern clown?"'

Cortney the Clown thought about this andlaughed a hearty Clown laugh. He had seen apost-modern clown, recently and in the mirror.

"Ho, Ho, Ho," Cortney sputtered, "I woke up theother morning without my friend. And I looked inthe mirror. And no longer knew why I was a clown.And I was scared. I was scared of being a clown. Iwas scared of being with other Clowns. I felt thatI was the only Clown in the world who must everfeel this way...I felt like a post-modern clown."

"And so what use has History been to you?"riddled the Magician.

"He has given me Expectations," said Cortney.

"Yes," said the Magician.

"And he has given me Self-consciousness," saidCortney.


"And he has given me needs. Now I need my ClownCar. My clown hat. My clown shoes. And my funky,poke-a-dot clown suspenders."

"Could you be a Clown without all these giftsof History?" asked the Magician.

Cortney sensed something. He felt that manytimes he had been a clown. Even beforeExpectations and Self-Consciousness, and clownsuspenders.

"Then, what use has History been for youCortney the Clown? And what use has the Clowndoctor been? And the Clown Priest? And the ClownPsychologist?" riddled the Magician, as he wentback to painting the horse. Although the Magicianhad loved the former horse, in its process ofbecoming, the horse had changed into somethingelse. Although it was still a horse, it wasanother kind of horse which he was now in lovewith.

When Death returns, Clowns are in a continualstate of Becoming. This is rule number 3. WithDeath, Clowns need nothing but being a Clown. theyhave no Expectations--they don't know if thenon-laughing people will laugh. It doesn't matterthough because they can only be a Clown. WithDeath, Clowns are in a state of listening--whileother mere mortals hear, only clowns can listen.

With Death, Clowns can give themselves fullyand freely to the Moment. Sometimes this is hard,because in the back of every Clown's mind is adesire that he wants people to laugh. In the backof every Clown's mind is something approaching aneed for people to laugh. In the back of everyClown's mind, there are doubts and hesitations.

But with Death, clowns go ahead and becomeClowns. Oh, yeah, and the non-laughing peoplelaugh. Not because Clowns are always funny. Butbecause it is physically painful for them not togive back to the Clown in the same measure as hehas given to them. Although Magician's know this,Clowns can only sense it.A-10David L. Rettig

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