Bring in the Clowns
The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Clowns, Eh? By vixen69
Knock! Knock! By Wain
Untitled by Daire
Poem by Ysanne
High Diddle Dee Dee An Actor’s Life for Me by USTADAWN
Once Bitten, Who’s Shy? By lynnannCDC
Living on the Fringe by Ghost Cat
Accidents by Titania CWPack
Clown by Junebug
MWC: BRING IN THE CLOWNS
Let's lighten the mood a bit (except for folks like Annie, who hate clowns of any kind, in which case you can make this an exercise in horror).
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Write a song, poem or short scene involving a HL character (or more). Somewhere, somehow, you must introduce a clown...and the color purple.
DISCLAIMER: If you wish to have your entry archived among the others, don't forget to include "MWC" in the subject line of your posting.
Posted By: vixen69 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Friday, 13 April 2001, at 11:10 a.m.
Yeah, lighter mood--with clowns. Last time my black cat muses brought me a warm fuzzy, they looked very proud of themselves while I cleaned it off my doorstep (I still shudder *g*). It's Friday the 13th, you know. Genevieve thinks clowns are bad luck, too.
If you don’t see the clown, it can’t eat you.
Duncan MacLeod regarded the heavily drinking but apologetic young Immortal sitting across from him with a wary eye. Her explanation, if it could be called that, was too simple—too ludicrous not to be true, but too readily told to make sense, not given her usual reticence to show any fear.
“It was a harmless Halloween costume,” he began again, knowing full well that she became more exasperated with every retelling of the story.
Genevieve glared at him. It was only the second time she’d ever taken a legitimate swing at his head and she was beginning to see a definite pattern—each time made her feel guilty and rotten. For Pete’s sake, it wasn’t like she really meant to * kill * the guy. He got out of her way.
“Like I said, I didn’t know who you were at first, and it creeped me out. An Immortal I don’t know, you could have been—I dunno. I’m just saying,” she shrugged helplessly. “Besides, I’ve never liked clowns. There’s a certain…”
“Humorousness?” Joe offered, unhelpfully.
“Creepiness about them,” Genevieve finished. “All that makeup—like they’re * hiding * something, you know? And what’s so funny, anyway? I know I sound a little paranoid…I just…have a bad association with clowns. Like…Pennywise from that Stephen King book. And…Clarabelle’s shadow when it came unhinged from that kid’s show. There’s a dark side to clowns,” she asserted.
“She has a bad association…with clowns,” Duncan repeated, appreciating her usual absurdity. His eye met with Methos’, who had been unusually quiet from the moment he’d explained that Genevieve had tried to kill him—again.
“If you’d been dressed as a large purple dinosaur, you’d be a goner,” Methos noted.
“Help me out here,” Genevieve then pleaded. “Think about it. You see an Immortal you don’t know…dressed outlandishly and wearing makeup. And he’s coming right for you.”
He paused considering it. “I can understand how you must have been terrified,” he said, with a dead-pan look. She shot him a gesture he richly deserved, and went on.
“My pediatrician, back home? He had all these clown pictures in his waiting room. They were terrifying. All colorful, and their eyes would just seem to follow you wherever you went. It was like you could feel those weird little clown eyes, burning into you. And they smiled, like they knew things. Kids are getting booster shots…getting examined for…I don’t know—movie-of-the-week stuff. And there are those smiling clowns,” she said, accenting the “smiling clowns” as if she were saying “third-world dictator” or “ax-wielding sociopath”. She leaned forward. “You want to know what? Those pictures?”
The others leaned forward, listening.
“Genuine John Wayne Gacy’s. No kidding.”
“No kidding,” Duncan sighed. Silence descended.
Joe gave it some thought. “Uh…your pediatrician—he wasn’t…” He made stabbing motions with his hand. Genevieve made a horrified face.
“Oh, heck, no. When the story came out, he sold the pictures for a bundle and retired to Florida. Last I hear he’s living la vida Boca.” She regarded her empty glass for a second. “But…I know this plastic surgeon who’s made guys disappear.”
The others paused, reflecting. Finally, Methos threw his hands up with disgust. “She’s having us on!”
She shrugged. “I hate clowns, is all I’m saying. People * think * they’re harmless.”
Duncan gave it thought. “There was an Immortal who used to kill people…as a mime.” A smile spread over Genevieve’s face. She gestured for him to go on, feeling validated. He didn’t care to elaborate, so she did.
“You whacked a mime?”
“I had reasons,” he said, trying to make little of it, before she ran with the notion. It was too late.
“Sure you did. You whacked a * mime *. You’re all right, MacLeod.”
He opened his mouth, about to add that the Immortal in question had been a hitman, but it readily occurred to him that it would add nothing to Genevieve’s impression of him, at all. So he let it go, which was really just as well.
MWC: Knock! Knock!
Under the tight blue cone of flame, the solder melted and slipped like quicksilver between two pieces of metal. The smell of flux and ozone was in the air. Tessa waved the coil of solder around the corner of the copper pyramid she was welding and watched with satisfaction as a fat silver bead slid into place. Then the flame hesitated and stopped. She hefted the acetylene tank. Empty. She walked to a metal storage cabinet and opened it. Also empty.
Four-thirty on a Wednesday afternoon, and her supplies were still in her car and the studio still hadn’t been swept. Tessa stood in the middle of the large, open space, pushed up the visor of her welding helmet, and turned in a slow circle to survey the paper, dust, and scraps of metal that littered the floor. She removed her helmet, stripped off her leather gloves, and snaked through metal armatures, tables of sketches, and sculptures in progress to the door of Duncan’s office.
Tessa found her lover sitting behind an antique table, poking at the keyboard of his new laptop. She crossed her hands over her leather work apron and waited for Duncan to look up.
"Richie’s gone again without cleaning the studio," she informed him. "This is the fourth Wednesday in a row, you know. Duncan, I’m worried."
Duncan peered at the tiny letters on his computer screen and made a few more taps at the keyboard before suggesting, "Maybe he’s met a girl."
"If he had met a girl, he’d be talking about her morning, noon, and night," Tessa replied. Her eyebrows knit over her clear blue eyes. "Unless he’s met someone he thinks you won’t approve of. Or what if he met someone with a get-rich-quick scheme? He probably thinks he can con any con man who ever lived."
Duncan saved the changes he had made in his spreadsheet program and closed it. He sighed and said, "He’s a big boy, Tess. He can take care of himself."
Tessa raised both eyebrows in surprise. "Oh, you think so? I know that Richie thinks so. He thinks he’s invincible. This isn’t like him, Duncan."
"So talk to him," Duncan encouraged her.
"No." She stopped for a moment to get a tight rein on the smile that was beginning to play across her lips before continuing, "This is guy stuff. You talk to him."
Tessa knew she had won before she even had to pull out the big guns—a little murmur of disappointment, a charming pout, and reminder of how badly Richie needed the approval of a father figure.
But Duncan still had one more suggestion. He crossed his office and wrapped his arms around Tessa, kissed her neck, and offered, "How ‘bout we give him a chance to bring it up himself? If he doesn’t, I’ll keep an eye on him next Wednesday to see if anything’s up. And since he’s not here anyway," Duncan planted a kiss at the base of her throat and began to untie her work apron, "why don’t we take advantage of it?"
"What about the shop?" she queried, fishing the end of his belt out of the loops.
Duncan kissed her again. "It’s almost five anyway. I’ll close up."
"It’s your turn to cook," she reminded him as she unbuckled his belt.
He smiled at her suggestively. "You want to see me cook? Then meet me in the bedroom. I’ll lock up."
§ § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § § §
The next Wednesday rolled around, and Tessa made sure that Duncan didn’t forget his promise. Richie dutifully tended the antique store in the morning and after lunch, he helped unpack a new shipment of Chinese mud figurines without a single casualty. Richie carefully placed the two small figures on a glass-topped display case and began to clean up the bubble wrap, plastic packing peanuts, and shreds of tape, giving a few satisfied pops of the bubble wrap until Duncan gave him a stern look.
Chastised, Richie stuffed the rest of the bubble wrap into the packing box. He lined up the two tiny mud men at one end of the case, stopping to admire their amazing detail. One statuette was about five inches tall; it represented a man with dark hair pulled into a topknot, a long pointed beard, and an ochre robe with impossibly long sleeves that hid one hand. In the other hand was a blue fan or feather with a small chip that marred the piece’s perfection. The other figurine was a bit shorter, perhaps four and a half inches from the white topknot to the base of the tree trunk the old man was seated on. He held a jar in his lap. Richie picked the statuette up and scrutinized the detailed face of the character before replacing him on the display case.
Richie began to sweep packing peanuts into the box, then paused and looked around the room. Seeing no one, he lined up a single white squiggly peanut and flicked it. It skittered across the top of the glass case and slid in between the two mud men to drop onto the floor.
"He shoots! He scores! And the crowd goes wild!" Richie fished another packing peanut out of the box. When he bent to line up his shot, Duncan stood framed in between the two figurines, hands on hips, eyebrows raised, lips compressed in a firm line.
"I’ll just get these in the case now," Richie said sheepishly, and slid back the display case door.
Duncan replied tersely, "Good." He didn’t let Richie see the smile that was forming on his face but turned away to his office instead.
Richie put the two mud men into the case and turned them to face each other. He bounced the white-haired one slightly and intoned in a deep voice, "Luke, I am your father . . . Now take out the trash and go clean your room."
At three o’clock, Richie began to make himself scarce. Duncan still kept an eye on him, as promised, but watched him from a bit of a distance. When Richie slipped out the back door, Duncan followed. Richie pushed his motorcycle to the end of the block before starting the motor. Duncan followed him in his car. Richie was being careful, but Duncan had trailed far more elusive quarry than this in his long life.
Duncan watched Richie park his bike near the Westside Orphanage and enter with a backpack slung across one shoulder. A worried look crossed Duncan’s face, and he waited a minute before entering the building as well. He discovered Richie in a gymnasium. A large dolly of folding chairs parked next to the bleachers provided good cover for Duncan.
Richie stood at the other end of the gym. He stripped off his sweatshirt; underneath, he was wearing an orange tee shirt with rainbow striped suspenders. He looked furtively from left to right, unzipped his backpack, and withdrew a red rubber clown nose on an elastic cord. He draped the nose over his head like a necklace, and pulled an oversized plastic flower from the bag. This he clipped onto one suspender, letting a pink tube dangle from the back of the flower. At the end of the tube was a ball. Duncan watched as Richie spun toward the glass windows of the darkened gym office beside him and squeezed the ball to squirt water from the flower head to the window, making shooting noises as he did.
"Take that, you fool!" Richie said smugly to the window.
He put the ball into his pants pocket and went back to his bag. He pulled out a crooked and squashed fedora, rolled his eyes, and put it on. At the sound of voices in the hallway, Richie stashed his backpack under a table and positioned the red rubber clown nose on his face. In a moment, seven young children, four boys and three girls of about ten or eleven years, burst into the gym. They rushed up to Richie, their young voices high in excitement, their sneakers squeaking on the polished wooden floor. Richie greeted them all by name, working the crowd like a politician stumping for votes.
"Knock! Knock!" Richie started.
"Who’s there?" the children yelled.
"Dwayne," Richie said.
"Dwayne who?" The kids countered.
"Dwayne the bathtub. I’m dwowning." The kids laughed. Richie herded them to a long table. "Ok, guys, settle down. Mr. Binkey the Homework Clown can’t come again today. But he’s out of the hospital, and Miss Wardrop says that he loved your cards and drawings, and he’ll be back next week. You guys hungry?" Richie took cartons of milk out of a cooler and tried to juggle them, one to each kid. The juggling looked a little more like Richie was faking basketball passes.
"Knock! Knock!" Richie said.
"Who’s there?" the crowd replied.
"Banana," Richie said, wiggling his eyebrows. He went back to the cooler and took out a box of graham crackers.
"Banana who?" the kids asked.
"Knock! Knock!" Richie said again, before tearing open a plastic pack of crackers with his teeth.
"Who’s there?" the children asked, their voices louder than before. Richie began distributing graham crackers.
"Banana," he said.
Amid squeals and giggles, the kids asked, "banana who?"
"Knock! Knock!" Richie said one more time. One of the children, a stocky boy with freckles, smacked his forehead and rolled his eyes dramatically.
"Who’s there?" the group asked.
Richie paused for a moment, working his crowd into a frenzy as he passed out napkins. "Orange!" he said.
The squeals grew louder. "Orange who?"
Richie put a pile of straws in the middle of the table and replied, "Orange you glad I didn’t say, ‘banana’ again?" The kids collapsed into laughter.
In the middle of the laughter, Richie sat down at the table, picked up a straw, and carefully peeled an inch of paper from one end. The children did likewise.
"Ready . . . " Richie intoned; they held the unwrapped portion to their lips.
"Aim . . ." Richie and the children each pointed across the table to the empty graham cracker box.
"Fire!" he directed them, and eight straw papers flew toward the box.
Richie pulled a paperback from his book bag and sat down at the table. He flipped through the pages and asked, "Where did we stop last week?"
A little girl with her hair in cornrows said very soberly, "Meg and Calvin found Meg’s dad, but he’s stuck in a glass jail. The man with the red eyes got Charles Wallace and he’s acting like a zombie or something."
Richie plopped his fedora onto her head with a smile, and took off the red rubber nose, leaving it to dangle at his throat. He opened the book and started reading, "Chapter Nine: IT. Meg reached at the man imprisoned in the column, but as she reached what seemed to be the open door she was hurled back as though she had crashed into a brick wall . . ."
The children listened, rapt with attention, absently eating their graham crackers and sipping their milk as Richie unfolded the story, stumbling only a bit over the words "miasma" and "beryllium". He read dramatically, his voice lowering and the children holding their breaths as he reached the description of the villain of the novel.
"As she continued to step slowly forward," he read, "at last she realized what the Thing on the dais was.
"It was a brain.
"A disembodied brain . . . "several of the girls shuddered. "An oversized brain, just enough larger than normal to be completely revolting and terrifying." Richie’s voice was near a whisper now as he intoned, "A living brain. A brain that pulsed and quivered, that seized and commanded . . . "
Richie’s reading of the book held the children’s attention—and from his vantage point behind the bleachers, Duncan’s attention, too—through the end of the chapter. The kids groaned when Richie announced that they’d have to wait until the next Wednesday for Chapter Ten.
"Let’s throw away the snack stuff and get ready for homework," Richie told them. They groaned again but lined up to throw away their milk cartons, straws and napkins. Richie picked up the empty graham cracker box and lobbed it into the trashcan from the three-point zone.
"Who remembered to hand in all of their homework assignments last week?" Richie asked. All of the children raised their hands and jumped up and down.
"Line up, then, because I have a reward for you." Richie rooted in his pants pocket and said, "What have I got in here this week? Warheads!" More squeals. Richie carefully handed out the tiny packs of candy per each child’s request—sour watermelon and blue raspberry, mega fizz grape, and super hot black cherry. With each candy, he delivered a high five, holding his hand just high enough for each boy or girl to have to jump up.
"What do you guys see in this stuff?" Richie asked them teasingly. "Sour candy? Hot candy? Fizzy candy? When I was a kid, we had Pop Rocks. Now that was cool candy!"
The stocky, freckled boy dared Richie to try one. The girl with cornrows warned him not to. Richie took a hot black cherry candy, a sour blue raspberry, and a purple grape mega fizz and popped them into his mouth simultaneously.
"This isn’t so bad," he said.
A blonde girl with serious eyes said, "Wait a little bit."
Within ten seconds, tears streamed from Richie’s eyes, two bright circles appeared on his cheeks, and his mouth was screwed up in a tight pucker. He began to hop up and down and flap his hands near his mouth, only partly to amuse the children. In a few minutes, when he could talk again, Richie said, "Knock! Knock!"
"Who’s there?" the children asked.
"Ezra," Richie replied.
"Ezra who?" they asked.
Richie gasped and clawed at his throat. "Ezra a doctor in the house?"
Richie led the children to the table and directed them to get out their homework. He moved among the children with ease, checking their homework, praising them, and pointing out a few things that needed correction.
"When you’re done, you can go out on the playground. Miss Wardrop says stay off the benches because they just got painted," Richie said. "And stay off the sliding board, too. It’s too wobbly and they can’t fix it." Richie continued through the kids’ groans. "If you sit on the benches, Miss Wardrop’ll know because you’ll have green stripes all over your butts. If you go on the sliding board, I’ll make sure Mr. Binkey doesn’t get my copy of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ to read you Chapter Ten next week."
The children filed out except for the freckled boy. Richie sat down next to him.
"Math sucks," the boy complained. "I stink at it and nobody needs math for anything anyway."
"Come one, let’s look at it and see what we can do," Richie encouraged him. He looked over the boy’s paper and smiled. "You just have one kind of mistake here, and it’s easy to fix. When you’re adding numbers and carrying, you have to start with the ones column."
"The what?" the boy asked.
Richie pointed at the paper. "The ones column. See? You started in the thousands column."
"That’s called the units column," the boy said. After a moment, his face brightened, and he asked, "You mean I just have to start on the other side?"
"That’s all, man," Richie told him. "When you read, you start on the left; when you add and subtract, you start on the right. And you do need math. What if you had like a store or something? If you did all your bills and invoices and stuff yourself, you’d save money. Do you want to have to hire some guy in a cheap suit to do your math for you? If you do it yourself, you get to keep more of the profits."
The boy looked at him seriously and asked, "And then I could buy a car?"
"Or a house," Richie said, "or make your business bigger, or help somebody out, or . . . "
The boy interrupted excitedly, "Do you mean help someone out like buy a new sliding board for some kids who need one?"
Richie tousled the boy’s hair. "Yeah, like that." He sat quietly while the boy finished his math problems. Richie checked them and approved them with a smile.
"You want to shoot some hoops with me? I can play for about ten minutes, then I’ve got to get going so I’m not late for dinner." Richie asked.
"Richie, could you come back next week and shoot hoops again? Even if Mr. Binkey is back?" the boy asked hopefully.
"I wouldn’t miss it," Richie replied. He and the boy left the gym, and Duncan squeezed himself back into a corner to avoid detection.
Duncan smiled and hummed as he made his way home, stopping for a celebratory bottle of champagne. When he arrived, he found Tessa in the kitchen preparing dinner.
"So is it a girl?" she asked as he planted a kiss on her cheek.
"Actually, it’s several," Duncan replied.
Tessa dropped her jaw in surprise. "What?"
The front door slammed closed. Duncan lowered his voice conspiratorially and said, "I’ll tell you later."
A moment later, Richie appeared in the kitchen. Duncan crossed his arms over his chest and said, "Listen, Rich, I noticed that Tessa’s studio didn’t get cleaned again today and . . . "
Richie interrupted him, talking a mile a minute, "Hey, I had to pick up a new hose for my bike, and I only thought it would take minute, but then I saw this really nice girl with a flat tire stuck by the side of the road, and I offered to help her and . . . "
"Richie," Duncan tried to interject.
" . . . and then her jack just like folded up when we tried to use it, and she was all upset and crying and stuff, so I offered her a ride on my bike over to a gas station, but she didn’t want to get on a bike with someone she didn’t know, and so I said I’d walk to the gas station with her and . . ."
"Richie," Duncan tried again.
" . . . I couldn’t decide which gas station was closest, so we flipped a coin, and then we started walking, but she said that her shoes were new and they were giving her a blister, so we stopped for a little to get a soda and . . . "
"Knock! Knock!" Duncan said.
Richie stopped and held his breath. His eyebrows quirked and he looked back and forth from Tessa to Duncan rapidly. "Who’s there?" Richie asked hesitantly.
"Eubie," Duncan told him.
"Eubie who?" Richie asked.
Duncan smiled. "Eubie doing a good thing at Westside Orphanage." Richie’s mouth dropped open. Duncan continued, "How much does a new sliding board cost?"
MWC & Lyttony: Untitled
Posted By: Daire
Date: Thursday, 12 April 2001, at 4:29 p.m.
It was terrible; there Mac was fighting an unseen foe to the onlooker - and all Richie could do was watch for fear of getting in the line of a sword stroke, but when he blinked, there before Mac was a purple haze and a clown - the manifestation of Ahriman was not what he had expected.
Posted By: Ysanne
Date: Thursday, 12 April 2001, at 1:08 p.m.
When the circus came to town and Amanda came along,
Tessa was annoyed and everything went wrong.
If looks could kill, then Tessa would have slain the lady thief,
Good thing she didn’t have a sword, much to Mac’s relief.
Duncan thought Amanda had just come to chat him up,
Expecting him to follow like an eager little pup.
Little did he know that her partner broke from jail
And threatened to remove her head for not making his bail.
To save herself she lied to him and offered Duncan’s head,
Knowing that the Highlander would save her butt instead.
In the meantime dear Amanda hatched up a second deal,
To keep her partner busy and to pay for her next meal.
Because she knew that Duncan would try and stop her plan,
She asked some clowns to tie him up, but he’s a clever man.
He charmed them and he challenged them until they loosed the knot,
Then rode away astride a steed, to stymie ‘Manda’s plot.
So when the two cat burglars broke into the locked museum
They found MacLeod had foiled their plan and waited there for them.
He set off the alarm and watched them flee the place,
Amanda clutching to her chest a book Mac must replace.
The angry partner drew his sword; Amanda drew hers too,
But Duncan came upon the scene and strode to her rescue.
With his shiny, quick katana he disarmed the slimy bloke,
But Amanda stepped right in and calmly took the final stroke.
Afterward, Mac held her, but though Amanda did her part,
He wouldn’t leave his Tessa, for Tessa held his heart.
Amanda felt so wistful she almost had to cry --
He even took away the book, and winked, as sweet as pie.
Watching with affection as she slipped into the night,
Mac suddenly remembered that he had a wrong to right.
So he stopped in at the florist and bought some purple flowers
To offer his sweet Tessa, who’d been waiting all those hours.
MWC (+ Lytonny): High Diddle Dee Dee, An Actor's Life for Me....?
Posted By: USTADAWN <USTADAWN@AOL.COM>
Date: Thursday, 12 April 2001, at 9:48 a.m.
How do I let myself get caught up into situations like this, I mean I know how much it meant to Alexa to see a smile come across a child's face, to see the twinkle in a child's eye, to hear the laughter of a child as they soak in all that is around them, I know what that means to her because it means a lot to me also, I can understand that, I really can, and believe it or not, I like to help make that happen, I can do that can't I, I mean, fighting I can do, I don't necessarily like to do that, but I can do that, and cute, yes cute, I can do that, at least Alexa thinks I can do that very well, as a matter of fact, and I know I can "live" I really know I can do that, at least 5000 years has proven that to me, but this, THIS, I don't know if I can do this, I mean I really, really, hate the color purple, and these shoes, who is the model for these things anyway, geesh, I thought David knocked the crap out of ol' Goliath, well, at least he should have maybe then I wouldn't be stuck in this situation with paint all over my face or this horrible wig on my head, or, oh shut up old man and just get it over with, go on and get out there and finish it, I mean this is for Alexa, and the children, and ..... all I have to say is if anyone touches the nose, no one better touch the nose.....What are you looking at MacLeod!
MWC - Once Bitten, Who's Shy?
Posted By: lynnannCDC
Date: Thursday, 12 April 2001, at 3:28 a.m.
"May I help you, sir?"
Duncan MacLeod blinked, trying to clear the hallucination from his brain. He wondered if it was some strange residual nightmare left over from his recent encounter with his old friend, John Garrick. Purple clowns? He clenched his fists in the pockets of his long coat. Garrick was dead. Maybe it was the quickening of the gargoyle sculptor come back to haunt him?
Garrick, always one of visions, had taken a step over the edge centuries before when he had been burned to "death" at the stake in 1665. Blaming MacLeod had given him focus and purpose, and he spent lifetimes studying the mind. He developed a skill of influencing others through their dreams until fantasy and reality blended, leaving them defenseless against their nightmare, one that, in the end, turned out to be very real. Fighting an imaginary hooded swordsman by the fountain, Duncan thought he had taken a step over the edge as well. When he attacked Richie at the dojo, it was only the voice of his student that reached him in his delusion. Duncan hadn't been the only Immortal Garrick had hunted, but he had been the only one able to struggle through the exhaustion of nightmares and the liquor-induced stupor to defeat the vengeful stonecutter. He thought he had left it all behind him.
The clown, dressed in purple and white stripes and polka dots with pom-pom balls down the front of the loose top, and a large ruffled collar repeated the question with concern. "Sir? May I help you? Are you all right?"
MacLeod glanced around the room, and saw a few eyes turn towards him. He had to be dreaming—not one of them was looking at the clown with the purple butterfly on one cheek and a pink heart on the other. Most of the personnel were dressed in scrubs. He was at the hospital emergency room, looking for—
"Duncan? You made it!" Dr. Anne Lindsey approached him from behind. "And not a moment too soon. Take me away!" She had shed the lab coat she habitually wore at work, and was dressed in pearls and a very entrancing black number made for a night out, and the rest of the night in. He forgot about the clown apparition and wondered if he could persuade Anne to forget about the symphony. He gathered her in his arms and kissed her, relief flooding him. Yes, she was real.
They were almost to the automatic doors when a voice called out behind them. "Dr. Lindsey! Your pager!" They turned together, and the purple clown dashed forward, arm outstretched. "Have a nice night!" The clown walked away, toward the elevator, juggling three shades of purple, underhand, overhand, and then two in one hand while the third was lifted and lowered in tandem the outside ball of the other two.
"A silly question, Anne,” the dark Highlander said as he opened the door to the black T-Bird, "but was I imagining things, or was that a clown at the reception desk?"
“Clown? In Emergency? Are you all right, Duncan?” Then she laughed, a throaty laugh. "It's Lavender's night in the children's ward. She must've changed early.” She looked up at him as she sat in the car seat. “Are you sure you want to go to the symphony? I think you need your rest,” she said suggestively.
Oh yes, Duncan thought with a grin. I’m imagining things.
thanks for reading
MWC: "Living on the Fringe"
Edmonton's annual summer Fringe Festival billed itself as a "completely unjuried and uncensored forum" for theatre. MacLeod had a rather old-fashioned view of what theatre should be, but he also considered himself to be fairly open-minded. Besides, if he was going to stay in the city for a while, he might as well experience everything it had to offer.
Duncan had just stepped out of one of the strangest productions of Macbeth he had ever seen: a blank stage, two actors, four props and most of the plot taking place offstage. Nary a ghost or a battle in sight, he thought to himself with a sigh, this is The Scottish Play? He didn't have much time to ponder minimalist theatre as he caught the sense of a Buzz nearby. He was so intent on following the sensation that he didn't notice when he committed an unpardonable festival sin: walking in front of an outdoor stage during a show.
An odd noise broke Duncan's concentration, stopping him in his tracks; it was a high, squeaky sound, but there were also words in it. *You sit down! * It took a couple of seconds for him to recognize a mouth-whistle; it took a few more before he realized he had found the source of the Buzz. MacLeod spun around, but all he saw was a clown in a little red hat. All eyes upon him, Mac gave an innocent "who, me?" gesture. The clown rolled his eyes and came down off the stage. The little man pointed accusingly, imitating someone walking obliviously through his territory. *My show, * said the tiny little squeak, amplified by a mike, *Not your show, mine! * The audience giggled a bit; some of them had seen this routine before.
MacLeod tried to get out of the limelight as quickly as possible, but it was not to be. The clown strode forward, grabbing hold of his coat; and at that moment, the performer's eyes went wide. "Oh shit," the shocked whisper was in normal voice, and just low enough not to be picked up by the microphone. The man's entire demeanor changed in an instant; he straightened Mac's crumpled coat, brushing off imaginary bits of dust; after a quick, "wait here" gesture, he rushed back to the stage, returning with a plump, royal purple cushion. There was great pomp and circumstance as he laid the pillow on one of the wooden benches, guiding Duncan to his seat like an honored guest.
From somewhere in the audience he heard an insistent stage-whisper; the voice was familiar, "Please sit down; he won't finish the show if you don't." He spun around to find the source, another Immortal; "Patricia? I haven't seen you since vaudeville died!" Confused, he let himself be led to his seat; an old friend settled down beside him with a smile, "Please, it's Patti now, Patti Stiles; and besides, vaudeville never died, it just took to the road."
"Pat, it always was on the road."
She gave him a glare that said this was an old argument; "Shut up and watch the show."
§ § §
All this commotion did not go unnoticed by the festival's small army of volunteers; within moments, a radio crackled, "Opus to the Cat, what's your 20?" A bored Access Team volunteer answered the call, "Cat here. I'm at Knox station."
"There's a disturbance down at Badass Jack's Stage, can you go check it out?" She kept a sigh off the radio; it was one thing to name sites and stages after the sponsors, but it was something else entirely when one of those sponsors had a name like Badass Jack's Subs and Wraps. She leaned into her mike, "Isn't that more Crowd Control's responsibility?" The team leader answered quickly, "You're closer, Cat."
Deb left her radio at the site with her partner, jogging quickly toward the stage. She nearly staggered as she was assaulted by the combined power of at least three Immortals. She couldn't imagine how anyone could hide a full-sized sword in the middle of an August heat wave, and so she was unarmed. She felt a burst of panic: she had just left the safety of Knox church, and was heading straight into who knows what. She only hesitated for a moment: as a festival volunteer, she had a duty to perform.
She stumbled into the middle of the confrontation, amazed. Even if she hadn't been half out of breath, the situation would still have stopped her dead in her tracks. Duncan she had already recognized by feel alone, but Patti? And Christoff?!? Not only was she without a weapon, she didn't even have her radio. She made a split-second decision and acted on it. "You!" she said, pointing to the clown. "You've got an audience, and a show to do; now get out there and perform." She turned to Mac and Patti without hesitation; "Both of you: Casa Radio Active, stay there until I finish my shift." Even Duncan was surprised by the authority and determination in her voice. Without waiting to see if her words were obeyed, she strode briskly back toward her station-and Holy Ground.
Duncan turned to Patti with a puzzled frown; "What's Casa Radio Active?" The flash of a familiar smile; "It's a Beer Tent." Confusion became astonishment; "A Beer Tent?!" She leaned closer and whispered, "It just happens to be the only Beer Tent on site that's set up on Holy Ground."
Deb reported in the moment she arrived back at her station, "Opus, this is Knox station; the Cat is back on site, situation is under control." There was a pause, "Acknowledged. What happened?" There was only so much that could be said over the radio; "HL situation, minor. No incidents."
Ron Ferguson, known among volunteers as Opus, knew exactly what to do; as a team leader, he had enough authority to do it, too. "Opus to Falcon, you are officially off-duty as of now. Take a break, do some people watching; Casa Radio Active is nice this time of day. You might want to bring your notebook, too. The special one."
§ § §
When they weren't down the street at The Next Act, most of the performers like to hang out at Casa Radio Active, the Beer Tent next to the CBC radio booth. No one was really sure why: maybe it was the CBC, maybe it was because it was less crowded; maybe it was just tradition. Surely the fact that it was set up in the back parking lot of Knox church every year was just a coincidence; or was it?
Now that he had regained his composure a bit, MacLeod was curious. "Are you sure it's a good idea, performing in public? I mean, he's a clown."
"Don't say clown as if it's a dirty word;" Patti frowned, disappointed with her old friend's change in attitude. "Christoff is a street performer; besides, I've done a few roving characters myself in my day. He's got one of the least dangerous, least offensive routines there is; he doesn't use his real name, he doesn't even use his own voice."
"I'll agree that it's a safe act, but I'm not too sure about inoffensive." Duncan leaned forward, lowering his voice, "He pulls that 'Hey you' routine on the wrong person and there just might be a little red hat fluttering to the ground..."
"Don't worry, he's got a good teacher."
"He's your apprentice?"
There was a quiet little half-smile on her face, "More than that, he's my fiancée."
Mac tried to hide his disappointment, "Congratulations, but I never pictured you as the type to go for younger men. Do you even know when he died?"
"Of course, I know the whole story; he wasn't always a clown, he started out doing stand-up. He learned a little too late that you should be careful what you say in front of a crowd of drunken Aussies." MacLeod cringed in sympathy. "He was found by an aboriginal who was one of our kind, but he was too far into the Dreamtime to have any real interest in the Game. Chris learned the basics and then took to the road; that's where I found him."
Deb headed for the Beer Tent as soon as she got off shift. The jumble of combined Immortal Q's, over a background of the distinct feel of Holy Ground was too much for even her skills to sort out right away. The first thing she saw was a tall male figure, with long black hair hanging down his back. "Mac, did something happen? You look a bit scruffier than usual..." Shoulders stiffened as the man slowly turned around; Deb blinked at the sight of an unexpected, yet familiar face. "Mark Meer?" This was getting too weird even for the Fringe: Patti Stiles, Christoff, now this.
She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep, cleansing breath; I'm on my way to another breakdown; too many shifts, too many midnight shows. I'm going to open my eyes and discover that this is just a dream. She cautiously opened her eyes, but everything was just as she had left it. Patti quickly called from a nearby table, "It's okay, she's with me!" Deb stopped to pick up a Mike's Hard Cranberry; there was no way she was going to get through this without a little fortification.
She settled into a seat by MacLeod with a deep sigh, but one glance at Patti dissolved her why me attitude. Deb broke into a grin in spite of herself; "Patti Stiles." She laughed, "You know, this explains why you're so good at improv; not to mention your reaction to the Assassin incident."
Duncan spoke up instantly, a little louder than he had intended; "Wait a second, you didn't mention anything about an assassin."
Deb stifled a giggle, "Stand down, White Knight, it wasn't that kind of incident." She turned back to Patti, "Will you tell him, or should I?" Patti waved the storyteller ahead, "Be my guest, dear."
"You once made a comment about my friends' strange names; that's nothing compared to the Fringe. Every volunteer has a radio name and if they don't, we'll give them one. One guy earned the nickname The Saucer Assassin, after he accidentally threw a Frisbee into oncoming traffic. A certain group of volunteers here really enjoy the nightly Die Nasty shows, and most of us are serious Patti Stiles fans." Here she paused to give Patti another smile. "It being a midnight show, we all got a bit rambunctious, and the Assassin was more vocal than most."
Patti slipped into the story smoothly, "Here I am, doing my introduction, and this guy just won't shut up. So finally I say to him, What's your name? I never imagined he'd answer Assassin."
Deb picked up the thread as if they did this kind of thing all the time; "She broke character. I think it was the first time I had ever seen you break character. Good recovery though."
Duncan arched one brow at the two grinning girls; "Oh?"
"I asked him," and here Patti's voice went low and husky as she dropped into character; "Can I call ya Ass for short?"
Mac chuckled a bit, picturing the scene; "Pat, you haven't changed a bit."
§ § §
Time held little meaning in a Fringe Beer Tent; people came and went; stories were exchanged back and forth. Poor Savage, not sure who was Watching whom, was starting to get cramps trying to scribble everything down. He was as surprised as anyone by all the Immortals coming out of the woodwork, but he somehow managed to stay in the background himself. All except the spit-take during the Assassin story, but that was only because he had been there. Mostly he just sipped his beer and listened. Eventually, a thoroughly relaxed Debra turned to MacLeod and smiled crookedly; "You know, I should thank you. All this started in Scotland." This aroused the Highlander's curiosity immediately, "Do tell."
Deb squared her shoulders and cleared her throat, preparing to go into full Bardic mode. "In the beginning, there was the Edinburgh Theatre Festival; the Festival begat the Festival Fringe, a haven for the unique, the unusual, the bizarre and the untested. The people saw the Festival Fringe, and it was good. Out of the acceptance of the public, the Festival Fringe was transformed, becoming the first Fringe Festival. Behold, the Fringe went forth and multiplied, creating new festivals all over the world; the first in North America to embrace the idea of Fringe was the city of Edmonton, on the plains of Alberta."
Another voice took up the tale, Ron "Opus" Ferguson, who knew the Fringe intimately. "Edmonton was known as the Festival City, whose loyal citizens volunteered their skills gladly and with enthusiasm. Here the Fringe grew, attracting tourists and performers from all over the world." He lifted his glass high in salute, "And in the summer of 2001, at the start of a new millennium, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival will celebrate its 20th year." Half the tent broke into applause; some jumped to their feet, even the performers. Duncan leaned over with a long exasperated sigh; "You do realize that you are all completely insane."
He found himself surrounded by toothy grins; "We're not crazy; we're Fringers!"
(It's a 2fer) MWC and Lytonney: "Accidents"
Posted By: Titania CWPack (Better late than never) <email@example.com>
Date: Tuesday, 17 April 2001, at 6:53 p.m.
On that dark and stormy night when Amanda had watched "The Color Purple" after listening to "Send in the Clowns" one too many times while ruminating on her relationships with Duncan and Nick, wondering if she would ever have something meaningful with either one of them or would she be destined to live out her existence with Lucy, perhaps this being the one and only constant relationship destined for her to have while she waited for those two lunkheads to decided if they were man enough to be with her, she knocked herself out when she rose from the couch to go to bed and tripped on the piece of exercise equipment that Lucy had been using earlier that evening.
Posted By: Junebug
Date: Monday, 16 April 2001, at 3:33 p.m.
The air was just cool enough to be pleasant, and fluffy white clouds dotted the sky occasionally blocking the sun's warm rays. The Seacouver Spring Festival was in full swing. Duncan MacLeod wandered among the vendors and gardens enjoying the atmosphere of this annual outdoor ritual celebrating the end of winter. Halfway down a row of arts and crafts booths, he noticed a group of children gathered in front of a small purple tent.
. "No Mama, I want to hear the end of Fairy-Clown's story," a little voice said obstinately, as a tired looking woman tried to move the child onwards.
Duncan smiled. Fairy Clown was a good description of the girl telling the stories. She wore a motley collection of purple clothing, but had dusted herself with glitter, and on her head was a hat that looked like an upside down flower blossom. Her face make-up appeared to be more pixie than clown. He stopped to listen.
"….best thing of all, they are still around us. " She was saying, looking at the children intently. "And do you know what they do?"
There was a chorus of whispered "no."
"They help keep children safe and happy. So next time you look at the flowers, just smile and say to yourself those are beautiful Daisy Bell, and Apple Blossom, and brave Hawthorne and they are my friends. And you remember to always be a friend to others." She bowed her head, smiling as the children cheered and clapped.
As Duncan watched the children came up to the girl, shyly thanking her for the story and asking questions about the fairies. He was about to leave when the girl looked at him and spoke.
"Yes. Uh?" Duncan was puzzled, did he know this girl?
"You probably don't recognize me, but I am Belinda. When I was a little girl, you saved my life."
"Belinda! Yes I do remember you. The little girl who wanted a story in the middle of a very tense situation."
"I still like stories!" She laughed. "Only now, I'm the one making them up. I'm a member of the Young Writer's Group at School, and we do story-telling at the city fairs to raise money for the Kids Helping Kids program." She indicated a large jar half full of donations.
"Belinda, that is wonderful."
"Mr. MacLeod, I've never forgotten what you did for Dad and me that day or the story you told me about fairies helping children to be safe and happy. It helped me through a tough time, so I try to put that thought in lots of my stories. I hope you don't mind me borrowing your idea. I do give you credit, only I call you a mysterious stranger or a wise old wizard." She giggled.
"I don't mind you using my idea at all," said Duncan. "I'm pleased to be a 'wise old wizard." He laughed heartily. "I don't think I've ever…
"Ooops, I have to go, my next group is here." Belinda interrupted. Grabbing Duncan's hand, she spoke earnestly. "Thank you Mr. MacLeod, you've inspired me, and well, maybe the helping fairies will live forever in our stories."
Belinda turned to her group . "Many years ago a friend told me about some very special beings," she grinned at Duncan. "In fact, I believe he WAS one of those beings. Would you like to hear about them?"
The children shouted "yes" and Belinda began her story in the time-honored tradition of "Once upon a time." She didn't see Duncan slip several bills into the donations jar, and didn't realize that she had inspired the truly happy smile he wore for the rest of the afternoon.