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Bernie The Clown

Bernie The Clown

4 mins 18.5K 4 mins 18.5K

Bernard washed his face well with soap and warm water. After drying his face with a tattered dirty towel he sat in front of the makeup mirror and switched on the lights. The bright lights outlining the mirror made him squint. Once his iris adjusted to the light, he strained his eyes and looked carefully at his own reflection. He drifted into a trance. He kept staring at himself for a while. It was the loud cheers of the audience in the big top tent that brought him back to reality.

He realized that it was the entry of Jimmy, Ringo and Tatiyana for their trapeze act that the audience cheered. Theirs was the most popular act of the circus. Well almost the most popular act to be precise. It was Bernard himself who was the main attraction. Bernard was reminded of the childhood days of these three kids. They had toiled for hours under Bernard’s supervision to perfect their act. He was their godfather. They loved him.

Bernard joined the Great Prussian Circus thirty years back when he was just eighteen. The circus had visited his hometown. He started doing odd jobs there in return of learning different tricks from the troupe. He was a likeable chap. When the circus owners offered him a job, Bernard was elated. He knew if he joined the circus he would have to leave his family and friends behind. It also meant he would live like a Bedouin travelling far and wide, meeting new people and learning new cultures. It was exactly what he wished for. Though he would miss his home, his parents, the lady he was courting and his friends; he knew this was his destiny. Hence, Bernard left home and travelled with the circus.

The owners had recognized his talent quite early. He had mastered all the acts of the circus by the age of twenty. He could have chosen to be a juggler or magician or knife thrower or ring master or trapeze artist or gymnast or anything else. He was the Jack of all trades and he mastered them too. But he chose to be a clown. He liked making people laugh. In fact he was so popular because he would include all his acquired talents into his act. He could pull of the most dangerous and tricky stunts with utmost ease and still manage to keep the act funny with his histrionics. He dedicated his entire youth in improving his act each day. Louder laughter and more cheers was what he craved for. He never got bored with his job because he loved it. In fact it was only when he was offstage that all kinds of thoughts and emotions disturbed him. Thoughts of what his life would be like if he didn’t leave his home. Emotions of loneliness and nostalgia.

With age, Bernard had become a very private person. He did not talk much. Most of the other artistes were half his age. He had witnessed acts being passed on from one generation to the next. He was old and reserved but not grumpy though. He would readily help the younger flock with their training and always greeted everyone with a smile.

Another round of applause and he realized it was Albert the ring master’s act up next. He had included a new act with lions this time which was advertised on the circus brochures. There was quite a stir created among the audience. Bernard had suggested and designed the whole act for him. Albert couldn’t thank him enough because this act would surely revive his dipping popularity as a ring master and save his job.

Bernard realized he was up next after Albert. He was not ready yet. He started drawing big round domes around his eyes with a black grease paint. He made them big enough to cover the dark patches under his eyes caused by years of insomnia. Then he outlined a big exaggerated smile round his lips. He realised that he had not had a hearty laugh in ages. He covered the outlined areas with white base paint. The dark circles were concealed. He then painted his eyes and brows. He looked animated. He applied the red paint on his fake smile and let it dry for a while. His sombre face had turned gay, he noticed. Then he rouged his cheeks and lips. It took a few years off his face. Finally he put on his rainbow coloured wig on his balding head and stuck the red foam ball on his nose. He looked funny now. He loved this avatar of himself. He wished he never had to take off the makeup.

He had transformed himself into the famous clown who could make anyone laugh. The master circus artist with a plethora of talents. The circus ring was his territory. It was where he felt at home.

The lonely, sad and regretful Bernard Collins who entertained everyone as the famous “Bernie The Clown” was ready for his next act.

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