Once upon a time, I had a friend who was afraid of clowns. I don’t know what they did to her as a child, but she was terrified of them. Her paranoia extended to mimes, too.
We were walking in Grant Park on a sunny summer day when a mime decided that we were his next targets. He had paper flowers that he was giving away and most people gave him a tip for his efforts, which included a brief close up and personal performance.
“Let’s cross the street,” she said to me when she saw him moving in our direction with a big smile on his painted face. I thought she was crazy because we were in the middle of a block on Michigan Avenue, which would mean ducking through eight lanes of afternoon traffic.
“He’ll leave us alone if we keep walking,” I said confident that frowns were enough to ward off someone trying to make money from the crowd. Besides, he had been targeting couples, maximizing his donations with a romantic touch. I didn’t count on the appeal we had on his libido.
Suddenly, he broke into a skip, bringing him to her before I could react. She froze in place. He popped a flower from inside his sleeve and tickled her nose with it as I tried to tell him to leave her alone. Before the words could leave my mouth, she decked him. A fast uppercut to his chin knocked him backward. He lay on the grass as if dead, paper sunflower landing upside down on his chest.
She marched away fast, heading back to our office. I was torn between following her and checking him. As I knelt to make sure she hadn’t murdered him, a crowd gathered. He was still breathing and in a few moments, he fluttered one eye open. Seeing the circle of people surrounding him, he went back into performance mode. He played with the flower on his chest, pantomiming getting out of a coffin. To the delight of the audience, he got to his feet and went into delivering more flowers to the ladies gathered around.
I rose and blended myself into the crowd, moving quickly back to the corner where I could cross the street like she had suggested, hoping that he wouldn’t follow me. Thankfully, he was too busy.
Taking a serpentine route back to the office, once I got there, she was still washing white pancake makeup off her hands although it had long been gone.
“Did I hurt him?” she asked, not looking up from the hand washing.
“No, he’s still selling flowers. As a matter of fact, you got him more business. A crowd gathered while he was on the ground.”
“Damn,” she said, “he might want to give me another one of those lousy flowers. Guess we won’t be walking in the park anymore.”
I had to agree.