The kids were laughing as the clown pulled flowers out of his sleeve, presenting them to a brunette girl on the front row. Greg was happy that the children were enjoying the entertainment of the clown, but inwardly, envy crawled through his veins as jealousy also began to set its teeth in him. It didn’t matter that this was his daughter’s seventh birthday party. The first chance he got, he was going to corner the clown and make him spill his secrets.
Long, skinny balloons were being transformed into every animal imaginable. One boy wanted a giraffe and with a few twists, one leapt from the clown’s hands to the boy. The next girl wanted an elephant and after combining several balloons together, he crowned her with an elephant’s head. His daughter, Kristy, ran to Greg with an enormous smile that was missing some teeth and said, “Thank you for the party Daddy! This has been sooo much fun!” Squeezing him with all she had, she ran off to join the other kids as laughter filled the room.
Once the clown finished the last balloon animal, he rose to his feet and honked his horn a few times. “Okay kids, listen up. I’m going to take a few minutes to get ready for the grand finale of the party.” As the kids cheered, his eyes searched the room, “Where’s mom?” Greg’s wife, Sondra, standing off to the side waved at him. “Feel free to dish up the cake and ice cream, and play a few games, okay?” She gave him a thumbs up as he turned to walk outside.
Greg slipped out the side door and briskly caught up to the clown as he was nearing his vibrantly colored van. “Excuse me, Mark?” The clown turned at the mention of his real name.
“Yes? What can I do for you, sir? If you need another balloon animal, I’ve got more in the van here.”
Greg waved off the question as he closed the distance, “I would like to have a word with you.”
“Sure thing.” He grabbed the door of his van and slid the door open. “Have a seat.” Greg hesitantly looked around and slowly made his way towards the van and sat down. “It’s a traveling office, so it isn’t the cleanest. I need to find a way to secure the boxes. Turning that corner down the street sent everything flying to the driver’s side.” He picked up a package of balloons and tossed them to the rear of the van. “What’s on your mind?”
Greg exhaled heavily before starting, “How do you do it?”
“Oh, it’s easy really. Just grab the ball end of the horn and squeeze.” He blasted his horn that hung from his waist several times to emphasize his point. Greg sat back in shock at the loud noise and blinked hard several times. “Not what you were asking about?” Greg shook his head slowly. “Maybe you should be more specific with your questions. It gets rid of a lot of confusion.” His white teeth sparkled through his makeup as the mischief highlighted his voice.
Greg was quiet for a few seconds as he thought his question through. “How do you get people to like you?”
Exposing his dark skin underneath, Mark removed his red nose and placed it on Greg’s. “If you think it’s easy being a clown, I dare you to try to do what I do.”
“Is it really that hard? You honk your horn a few times and the kids love it.” He removed the red nose and handed it back to Mark.
“It’s more than just a horn. It’s an expression of noise. Kids are noise in case you missed that during the party. We all wish deep down inside that we could make noise and not get in trouble for it. Am I right?” Without hesitation, Greg nodded. “But, I’m guessing that there is more to this. What makes you say that people don’t like you?”
Greg exhaled as he ran his hands through his chestnut brown hair. “No. At least it doesn’t seem that they do. I have no friends, my wife and I argue about everything, and my kids hardly speak to me except when I buy them something. So what am I suppose to think?”
Mark’s bright smile flashed as it spread across his face. “Let me tell you something. There was a time that people hated me. No lie, either. I was selfish, conceited, and just plain rude to everyone. It didn’t matter who they were, I’d spit in their direction just to get a reaction out of them.” He was quiet for a moment, “But…I was also single, drunk, and homeless.” Greg turned to face him. “I was treated like a pile of dog stuff because that was how I treated the people who tried to help me.”
“What made you change?”
“I was on a corner one day, talking trash and routing through it at the same time. A little boy walked up to me and offered me a dollar. He got the same treatment everyone else. He ran over to his family with his lower lip hanging out so far I thought he would trip on it. That was when I saw his older brother making fun of him, pushing him around and even spit in his face. That was my wake up call. I saw myself in that boy’s brother. Mean, cruel, and heartless. I couldn’t go on like that.”
“What did you do?”
“I got my life straightened out. I convinced a construction crew supervisor to give me a chance on his crew. After a few paychecks, I was able to start buying my life back. Packaged food that wasn’t molding, fresh water that didn’t have cigarette butts floating in it, and blankets. You don’t realize how much blankets help until you’ve gone without for several years. Eventually, I bought this van and was able to start up my own business. Now, I earn a living making people smile.” They sat in silence as Mark’s words hung in the air. “It wasn’t easy, but I did it.”
Mark leaned close to Greg and whispered, “If you want people to like you, put them before yourself. Treat them the way that you want to be treated. Golden Rule. People are valuable, and when you treat them that way, they will appreciate you more because they know you care. Life is precious, don’t live it with envy and jealousy. Live a life worth being proud of.” Mark hopped up out of the van, announcing with a loud voice, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some kids inside that are just dying to laugh. Care to join me?”
“Yes. Yes, I would.” The two of them couldn’t hold back the smiles as they headed across the yard to the party.