By Paul Strickland
Rainwater poured off the roof above the half-open kitchen window of
Jason’s housekeeping suite near Second and Alma. The early February rain, driven
by a strong icy wind, had soaked his shoes and lower pantlegs in the brief time it
took to bring his groceries from his car up to the front porch.
On the wall near his dresser was a poster showing a Picasso reproduction of
a seated female clown with glaring, accusing eyes. His girlfriend had given
it to him a couple of weeks ago, so he felt obligated to display it, but was increasingly
uneasy about a gift that made him feel guilty and unworthy. These feelings made the
rain pouring from the eaves onto the narrow sidewalk between the house where his rooms
were and the big Edwardian home next door seem louder.
wasn’t going well. He’d failed his M.A. comprehensive exam in English the previous
November, and the UBC graduate English department had only grudgingly accorded him a
second chance to take it in April. He considered the possibility of being bounced
out of graduate study into a career at Kresge’s, perhaps eventually to rise
to the position of department manager. Relatives had admonished him that studying eighteenth-century
literature was useless. Maybe he should try accounting. He’d received B’s in
a couple of basic accounting courses a few years back, and seemed capable of at least plodding
progress in that field. Even during the recession of 1970 there were always job ads in
the papers for bookkeeping positions that would at least pay for groceries.
He resorted to listening to tapes of Sixties music to try to improve
his spirits through recollection of better days. He closed the window to a crack, turned
up the heat, lay down on the couch...
himself walking east on 8th Avenue between Waterloo and Blenheim. At the
corner he turned south toward Broadway. He heard running feet. Then someone hit him
hard from behind. He twisted to face his attacker. It was a female—the poster clown!
She was small, but strong enough to pull him onto the pavement and press her
lips to his jugular. Fangs nipped him, and she licked at the blood, her now-purple lips
pulled back in a rictus grin.
Passersby ignored Jason’s
weak pleas for help. Couldn’t they see that she was draining him?
one man did respond, “Whassa matta, bub? Can’t handle a little clown?”
It all went black.
Jason woke with a start to a stifling
room, glad to be back on his couch, whatever the dismal weather or his failing prospects.
He felt something warm trickle down his neck; when he touched the area, his hand came away
bloody, but abashed laughter followed.
Just to be on the safe side, he jumped up
and tore the Picasso clown off the wall, then rolled it up and stuffed it behind his
desk. Breathless from all this activity, Jason craved fresh air. Besides, he heard movement
in the alley below. Maybe it was his girlfriend. Uh-oh!
Holding a washcloth to his neck, Jason approached the kitchen window,
opened it wide, and leaned out into the gloom, expecting to catch a whiff of his girlfriend’s
French perfume. When he saw what the shadowy, putrid figures were doing, his brain
pulsed in sympathy with their victim’s. His studies and his love life had been expunged
from his mental problem list. Vampires, clowns or not, might be a myth, but there was no
mistaking Eau de Zombie.
of Prince George, BC, wrote BP #78’s “Clown Attack” (+ BP #77’s
“Spider Line”; BP #73’s “Cold Surprise”; BP #71’s “Lust”
and “Washed Away”; BP #70’s “Stuck in the Past”; BP
#69’s “Ghostly Good-Bye”; BP #68’s “Rocking-Chair Ride”;
BP #65’s “The Latter-Day Knight”; and was featured in BP #56 with “Boxes”
and the reprint of “No Free Lunch”). He is a 60ish freelance writer in Prince
George, BC, who was a newspaper reporter for 32 years, 28 of them for Canadian dailies.
Born in Los Angeles, Strickland lived in Reno, Nevada for 20 years before
moving permanently to Canada in 1981 in connection with his journalistic
career. He turned to freelance writing and creative work in the spring of ‘09,
and has since published chapbooks of poetry, essays, stories, and columns.