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I wasn’t even going to go to that party, but my sister was sick, and Aiden calls me, “Please, Aunt Sarah, please!”
So, we’re at my cousin Brad’s — his boy turned five — dogs on the grill, Sponge Bob cake, Disney tunes, then a kid screams “Bloopy, Bloopy!” Big dude, on a bitsy unicycle, complete face paint, fake red nose, rainbow wig, all that shit. You know how I feel about clowns. I’m like “God, I need a beer” and all they have is soft drinks.
I suck down my iced tea, but my throat’s still dry. It’s eighty degrees out and I’ve got goose bumps. The kids start chasing him around the yard. Bloopy does balloon animals, then he walks up — flap, flap, flap — with the shoes. He yells, “What’s that behind your ear?” the old quarter trick. He touched me! I say, “I need to use the rest room.” No lie — I damn near peed my pants. So, I go in the house, hang out with Grandpa. Then, my nephew comes in, and I talk him into leaving early, tell him we’ll play his new video game.
Bloopy leaves the same time we do, but after a minute, he’s all over the road — like he’s drunk — slows down, crashes into a parked car. So, I stop, we go over, and his face is red, nose is gone, eyes are watering. I say, “What’s wrong?” He squirms and clutches his neck, looks like he’s trying to say something, then he slumps over.
There’s a half-eaten apple on the seat. I think maybe he choked on it, maybe I should do the Heimlich, but it’s been six years since I took CPR — middle school — and he’s like six feet tall. I’m not even five-two. Would it even work?
I could get past the clown thing, really, but I just wasn’t sure. I think maybe the apple was there before, because that car was trashed — fast food wrappers, newspapers, socks.
Then I think, maybe someone in this neighborhood is a nurse. We run to the nearest house. No one answers. We go back to the car. Bloopy’s still slumped over, his tongue is sticking out and it’s purple. I think “What if he’s already dead?” I never touched a dead person. When grandma died, everyone gave her one last peck on the cheek, but I faked it.
We run to another house. This old lady answers and she calls 911, and a guy down the street, who’s a paramedic. We go back to the car. I smell the greasepaint, and there’s this string of drool hanging from his tongue. Then my mouth fills with spit. I run to the gutter and lose my lunch.
Then, this guy, in cut-offs and flip flops, bushy white beard, huffs down the sidewalk, big hairy belly bouncing. Malibu fucking Santa! He finally gets to the car, sees the apple, says, “He choked!” He grabs Bloopy, shoves his fist into his gut and this slimy chunk pops out, then he feels for a pulse, starts pumping on his chest.
They got there fast: two cop cars, an ambulance, the volunteer fire department. They did everything, maybe it was just his time to go. They say that CPR doesn’t always work, even if you do it right away.
My cousin’s kid actually goes to school with Bloopy’s grandson. I know this sounds lame, but I never thought of clowns as having kids of their own.
I’ll take CPR again, after it slows down at Home Depot. What are the chances it would be a clown again? Although, I could get past that in an emergency, now.
My cousin says Bloopy was a great guy, always at Children’s Village, volunteering. He asked if I wanted to attend the memorial, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable, because I didn’t know Bloopy . . . George Pappas. What if people found out I was with him when it happened? Some people would want details, but someone else, overhearing it, could freak out.
My cousin said I should go, because it was so traumatic, and I need closure. No, I’m good, I told him. I’m good.
Michelle Morouse is a Detroit area pediatrician. Her work has appeared recently in Necessary Fiction, Wigleaf, Peregrine, Lullwater Review, Passager, The MacGuffin, Pembroke Magazine, Passages North, and Cease, Cows. She serves on the board of Detroit Working Writers.