If you like to read, and enjoy quirky, welcome. There are about 30 random things here for you. After you read a short story you may even find some personal comments/insights! The main purpose of creating this blog is for writers. I see so much written about writer's block, and honestly, I don't have it. Occasionally, I write short stories, longer stories, books, plays, one act plays, monologues, and sometimes I even think one is good enough to submit somewhere. Of course, when you submit a story to a magazine that receives 200 stories a month and publishes five, you'd better enjoy the process of writing. I'm not suggesting that I'm a good writer, merely that I can sit down and just start writing.

It is important to write, to constantly be working on your art. If you are constantly plagued by writer's block, perhaps you are being too selective in what you write about. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some examples of my writing, from someone who can write all the time. Occasionally the topics are a bit strange, but I don't let that slow me down, I love to write and get to a finished product. Hopefully, by looking at some examples, you will say to yourself that phrase that all artists who visit MOMA in NYC say: "Well, I can do this!" That would be good, because you can! One of my posts is about a talking tomato. (You have to be able to do better than that!)

In part I'm trying to get some of my stuff in one place, so keep in mind I never claimed it was going to be an incredible read. You can decide that. I will tell you that occasionally I have a story in me that seems to fit the goal of a publication, and I try to write specifically with that goal in mind. Lately I've been considering publications that publish nonfiction memoirs, so some of the entries you'll find here will have that flavor. Perhaps this is a way to get past writer's block - find a publication looking for something that you'd like to write. It seems like memoir-based publications may be a good place to start, because we're all experts in our own families. I'm using a blog here to share some of the things I've written; the blog format is not ideal, so you need to poke around a little at old posts, to see if you can find a story or something else that may interest you.

Two last items. None of these are finished products. I usually get to a point where I have something written, and then stop. If it is something I may decide to submit for some reason, I'll finish formatting, following the specific rules of the magazine or organization (the rules are alwaysdifferent). If you do see something in here that you may be interested in using, don't hesitate to contact me.

So welcome to my blog. Welcome to my writing. Write, people, write! It feels good.

Please also consider getting a copy of my first book, Saturday Night at Sarah Joy's. All Royalties go to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund. Please check out the book's blog at:

Thank you!

© 2012 John Allison

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Prequil Part 2

Perhaps I have a few more memories of when I was young than most, but it’s not important.  I do remember when I was little, on Saturday mornings I’d awaken to the sensory clues of bacon being cooked by my mother, and I’d fly out of bed.  I usually wouldn’t fly downstairs to breakfast but would first check my parent’s bedroom to see if my Dad was still in bed.  I’d jump into bed with him and we’d talk about things. More than once I’d grab his jewelry box because it had lots of things in it from his time in World War II – some patches and decorations from the Army Air Force.  He also had a few rings.  One was a big gold and black Merchant Marine ring which he found in the bathroom on a train while he was in the Army, traveling between Florida and Pennsylvania. The second was an unusually modern-looking ring, even by today’s standards, that had a black stone in it.  Both of these rings were too big to fit on my little fingers but they were heavy and interesting to touch and hold and wear.  He never told me anything about the black ring; he always seemed to avoid the topic.  But then I think there were lots of family details that he just didn’t want to talk about.  I never met my grandfather, his father, so I’d occasionally ask about him.  One time he was on the Engineering Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.  Another time, when I asked, he had been in charge of the Camden Brewery.  I don’t know where his stories came from but it was unlikely that they were all true.

Back to the black stone ring.  Some cloudy mornings it seemed to be black but on sunny days it had little specs of red in it – just gorgeous.  I asked my Dad what kind of stone it was, and he couldn’t tell me. 

One day when we were going into town to get his watch repaired, he surprised me by pulling out this ring and asking the jeweler what kind of stone it was.  As his assistant, I asked for a piece of paper and scribbled down what we were told.  The jeweler called it a bloodstone, also known as a heliotrope, which is classified as a chalcedony.  It’s usually a dark green with red iron oxide specks in it.  Black onyx is also a chalcedony so this could be considered as an onyx bloodstone ring.  The jeweler offered him almost $100 for it, which seemed like an awful lot of money, but my dad thanked him and took the ring back.  On the ride home I again asked him about the ring and how he got it, but somehow he changed the subject and the next thing I know I was eating a hamburger and fries.

Several years later, I was bored in a study hall in high school, which fortunately was held in our school library, so I started looking up some of the words on my notes.  Onyx is often from India, Madagascar, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, however there are much fewer sources of bloodstone.  The oldest examples from the 5th millennium BC are from a place in Belgium called the Eastern Rhodopes.  The best bloodstone comes from the Isle of Rum in Scotland.  So cool, so exotic, I thought.

Prequil Part I

My other recollection from my youth, the very young years, was from when I almost died.  When I was 5, in 1956, my parents took me into the hospital at the instruction of our family doctor, Dr. Kutloff.  No one knew what was happening, certainly not me, but I could not eat.  Could not/would not.  It wasn’t going away, and I was getting weak.   Clearly it’s not the sort of malady that can go on for very long, so the doctor asked for an endless battery of tests and I was placed on an IV drip for nutrition.  At one point they tested what was “coming out” of me and it was almost identical to what was “coming in”.  My body was not going to allow for nutrition, apparently, so between the tests, everyone watched me die. 

As the story is told, I sat up one morning and asked for some Cheerios for breakfast.  That was it.  Four weeks of starving, two of them in the hospital, and suddenly I was a normal kid again.  Sorta.

Did the hospital do a really great job, somehow?  I don’t know but I’m heading back there tomorrow to talk to them about those two weeks more than 50 years ago.  I have a crazy idea that I know what happened back then, and am very scared that I could be right.


Part I

I sat below a tree and filled out as much of the application as I could. 

There was no place for my name or address.  I wrote my name in the upper corner.

            Status: single (divorced twice)
            Age:  62
            Occupation:  I’ll do anything for a job
            Arrest Record:  Two, for when I was under the influence (both dismissed);     
                one assault (dismissed)
            Previous experience:  I wrote until I ran out of lines

I had reported to a small trailer at noon as I was asked to, and was told that I was being hired as a helper for this circus that just rolled into town.  Four days, minimum wage, and I was to wear an orange tag on a lanyard and carry a “jobs card” with me. The orange tag indicated that I was a temp.  A local.  Anyone who wanted help was free to flag me down.  When I did a job for them or helped, they’d initial my card. Setting up a circus requires many hands and all of us they hired put in long days with the carnies.

Because I’d worked as a mall cop for a time, they also agreed to hire me for the evening shows and all of the matinees, as minimum wage security.  For that, I got to wear a jacket, I carried a long heavy flashlight, and I was given permission to escort anyone out of the Big Top if I thought they were potentially disruptive.  I got to wear a two-way radio on which the security staff constantly talked during the show.

I’d scan a section, move, repeat, and check out, discretely, anyone who appeared intoxicated or not watching the show. The crowds appeared to be harmless, overall.

I had to be particularly aware of what they called Clown Breaks when, between major acts, clowns would entertain, usually by invading the audience. 

About 30 minutes into the show, I noticed and recognized a husband, wife and their son.  Herb, Marion and David Copasion.  I know them because, occasionally, when I’m down on my luck, I’m faced with the decision to either live on the streets, or to try to get help.  I met this poor family just last week.  I was looking for a place to sleep down in the subway.  I was checking doors a floor below street level.  A doorknob turned.  I slid into the dark room, closing the door behind me.  In complete darkness I could feel my heart pounding. I felt around for a light switch and when I turned it on, my heart stopped.  Three people stood around me!  The Copasions.  We scared the crap out of each other.  I stayed with them that night but hadn’t seen them since.  I’d heard that Barnum and Bailey often handed out free tickets and sometimes even offered transportation to the homeless, the infirmed, and the elderly.  I was glad they were here.  I circled around and slowly walked down from above to their row, not yet deciding if I was going to say hello or not.

Clown break!  I looked down onto the floor of the Big Top and watched some obscene number of clowns pour out of a VW van and run in all directions into the crowd.  I watched one come up the steps in my direction.  I watched him count steps.  I watched him for many reasons, one being I had done a little clown work for the Shriners when I was younger.  Back in the day, my clown name was Pesky.

He climbed the risers and stopped right in front of me.  He turned around and looked down at a midget clown on the floor who signaled him to go left into that row.  He held up six fingers.  Six seats in was Herb.  The clown ran in, pulled a quarter out of young David’s ear, and told them a joke.  It felt eerily familiar.  I watched the scene like an old movie.  As he was talking he casually reached into his costume, pulled out a black onyx ring, and put it on.  I watched him raise his arm, put his hand, that hand, on Herb’s shoulder, and say something very serious to the three of them.  I read Herb’s lips.  He said, “thank you.”

The clown smiled and said goodbye, pretending to trip over those seated in that aisle.  He came out into the aisle and stood right in front of me like I wasn’t there.  I watched him take off his ring, which disappeared into his costume.  Rings and midget clowns – did Steven King just do a remake of Lord of the Rings?  He looked down at the small one who gave him the thumbs up.

The show ended at 10:36 PM every night, so at 10:30 I made my way out, near where the Copasions should be exiting.  I still wasn’t sure if it was wise to talk with them or not, I just wanted to see them, see if they were doing OK.  Herb had a crumpled brown bag in his hand.  He had reached in, pulled out a small piece of soft pretzel, ate it and was about to toss it in the trash when he hesitated.  He looked at the bag and held it like he was trying to guess its weight, like something wasn’t right.  He opened it, looked inside and I watched his whole body change.  He stood up straighter, or something.  His eyes lit up.  He madly kissed his wife and hugged his son and pulled them off to the side, out of the crowd.  It was only then that I decided to make my presence known.  I was pleased that they were happy to see me.  They really are good people.  Herb grabbed me and pulled me under the stands for a little privacy.  He opened the bag enough for me to see that it was filled with money.  Big bills.  I asked him who had given it to him.

“It wasn’t a gift,” he said.  “Weird thing, though, I couldn’t help hearing the conversation of two guys behind me.  They were talking about a little transfer of funds, for the purchase of a sizable amount of illicit substances.  Apparently they do it in very public places like this, for their own personal security.” 

It seems as though they had their money in the same kind of paper bag as what Herb had his pretzels in and they had picked up the wrong bag.  Herb tucked it into his jacket, out of sight.

“Well I don’t think they’ll be going to the lost and found to report that their drug money was misplaced,” I said.

“My thoughts exactly,” Herb replied. 

Herb made a rough calculation in his head.  There seemed to be enough to get them back on their feet, out of debt, to get their car back, maybe even to get their bakery business back. 

I immediately imagined two scenarios.  Someone, some benefactor, had just given them money, making it seem like they found it.  It sounds pretty risky to me if the boys behind them were “in on it”.  People do leave trash where they throw it, often; there was no guarantee Herb would have been reaching down on the concrete to pick up anything when he left.  Instead, I imagined that something almost magical happened, where Herb had no choice but to grab the wrong bag and go.

‘Almost magical’ … yes I said it.

Part II

There’s no easy way to explain to a five year old that he is going to die, but my parents tried, when they put me in the hospital.  They were very good parents, and they probably spent 12 hours a day there to keep me occupied, and to make me feel loved. 

Oh, yes, I’m back on the story of my youth.  Sorry.

Almost two weeks into my hospital stay, I had an early evening visitor just after my parents went home.  I was lying on my side reading a comic book, and I felt a shadow – someone was behind me, between my bed and a light on the wall.  I rolled over a bit and yelped!  It was a clown.  I’d never seen a clown up close before.  They’re rather scary.  He smiled, reached down and pulled a quarter out of my ear.  I could see, beneath the makeup, that he was a fairly old man - older than my Dad - a very sweet and kind older man.  He silently made me a balloon animal.  When he was done, he turned to the door.  For a moment that was a second clown there, I’m pretty sure.  I recall a midget clown.  He shared a glance with my full size clown and moved out of the doorway.  I watched my visitor reach into his pocket and quietly slip a gold ring with a black onyx stone onto his hand.  He reached out and touched my shoulder, smiled, and mimed that I should smile with him.  For him I did.  Then he softly patted my cheek, waved goodbye and walked out the door.  I could see him take off the ring, like a prop he no longer needed.  He slipped it into a pocket as he left.  Within a day, I left the hospital eating an ice cream cone (after a very sizable bowl of Cheerios for breakfast).

I hear you rolling your eyes.  Yes it is unlikely that I would remember any particular day of my life, much less one from when I was 5.  Well I do.  When we were still in the hospital, I couldn’t help but hear everyone talking, asking what could have happened.  Why did I start eating and digesting again?  They were perplexed. They scared me so I started asking myself, as best I could, what did I do that was different?  I kept coming back to my clown visit.  I went through a few days in my head, in detail, over and over and over and over, hoping I could find something that I could report to my parents.  I didn’t imagine a clown could have been responsible, so I never talked about him/them to anyone.

If the clown was somehow responsible, what can you call it if not magic?  This is why I’m making the same assumption about the Copasions.  Two instances fifty-some years apart suddenly made some weird kind of sense.  Both are very puzzling, but they’re consistent, or something. 

Oh, the other reason why it is so easy for me to remember is that the ring on my clown was the same as the ring on the Copasions’ clown, which is the same as the one in my father’s jewelry box.  When my father died, my mother gave me that jewelry box.  I asked her about the ring.  She knew.  It was my Dad’s brother’s ring.  Apparently Charles became ill and died during the second World War, as a very young man, and never came home to his waiting mother and brother.  Ever since my father died, I’ve worn that ring – from the Uncle I never met.

Part III

Without an appointment, I asked around the hospital to find someone in charge.  The hospital in town, where I had my miraculous recovery – it was still there.  There was a head doctor, but more importantly a head of operations – not the surgical kind, the title was in reference to the operation of the physical facility.  I even got as far as his secretary.  She said he could not be disturbed, certainly not without an appointment.

“What can I help you with?” she asked, smiling. 

All I could be was honest with her.  I told her that I was here fifty some years ago.  I gave her the dates.  I told her that, this many years later, I still remember the high point of my stay, a clown who came to visit me one evening – perhaps a volunteer or something.  Maybe the circus was in town.  I knew it was a long shot but I was very much wanting to know if they kept records on such things.  It is important to me to track him down if I could.  I couldn’t say why.

She wrote it all down as I was talking.  “Please sit down,” she said, motioning to a chair on the far wall.  She walked into the Director’s office and closed the door behind her. 

It was a full five minutes that she was in his office.  It said “James Olsen” on the door.  I read it over and over, waiting.  I even wrote it on my hand, just to remember.

She came out, shut the door behind her and sat down beside me.

“Well,” she said, “I had no idea you were such a celebrity.  Mr. Olsen had heard about your miracle recovery, a minor legend here, and actually had pulled your file.  He had it on his desk and we looked through it.  He said he was surprised you hadn’t come sooner.”

(I fought back a “WHAT?”)

“So, he and I looked through the daily logs of your time here.  I’m sorry but there is no record of anyone scheduling in a surprise visitor.  We’ve used volunteers, Candy Stripers, since they were first created, but we never kept records on them, still don’t.  They come and go.  But this helps us understand that maybe we should start to!  I’m so sorry, sir, it looks like a dead end for your search.  Probably he’s not alive anymore anyway.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked her.  “I am!”

“Didn’t you say he was an older gentleman?” she asked.

I nodded.  I nodded but no, I hadn’t.

I thanked her for her help and her time.  As I stood up I shook her hand and walked out of the office, almost bumping into a delivery guy running in with a pizza box in his hand.  He’s lucky I didn’t take the box and run; I was hungry!

Half way down the bleak hallway I realized I hadn’t asked the secretary to thank Mr. Olsen for me.  How rude!  I turned around and passed Mr. Delivery Boy mid-hallway, and I heard a door open and I heard the secretary say, “Lunch is here Mr. Olsen.” 

I started to turn the corner, to go back into the office, to ask her to extend my thanks to the boss, but spotted him through the door, and quickly deflected my path so I was just casually walking by. I had seen Mr. Olsen.  I watched his chair spin, and watched him climb down onto a step, then onto the rug.  He needed that extra step because, after all, he was a little person.

Part IV

Rings and making good things happen to/for people and clowns and little people, yes perhaps it is enough to make a conspiracy theorist out of me.  But I haven’t become one yet, I don’t think. 

However the most likely explanation is that I’ve witnessed something very special.

I suppose there are many choices for me, from going to the police to the FBI to some private agency, to find out what these people are/have been up to.

Or, I could do nothing.  Weird goings on, for sure.  But in the two cases I saw firsthand, it was not clear that my investigating in any way would be useful for anyone.  Then I saw the movie “Eyes Wide Shut”, and decided that secret society investigations could be interesting.

I felt I needed some facts to calm me down, or something.  I decided I would do a little investigating.  Someone hadn’t been telling me the absolute truth so far.

I had shared with you that I’d been a clown with the Shriners.  Actually the Shriners are a set of organizations associated with the Free Masons.  You have to become a Mason before you become a Shriner.  I was never actually either, but when I was younger the Shriners advertised a need for clowns, for a parade mostly, and I went in for a little training back then as a non-Shriner member of the Shriner’s parade in Philadelphia. 

If there is a building in Philadelphia, I probably worked in it.  This was, fortunately, true for the Masonic Temple downtown.  I collected trash for the city and often would go inside the Temple with some of the staff after a party, when they had exceptional piles of trash that needed to go.  I’ve had a few opportunities to roam around inside, had a tour, and I felt like I generally knew the place.

I patiently waited until Thanksgiving started to approach. The local public television station, WKAR, sent out a request for volunteers to be balloon handlers.  I’d always wanted to be one of the two dozen people holding the big Garfield balloon down as he walked down Market Street.  Apparently families and groups volunteer, so as they make assignments, as volunteers started to pile up, a list of balloons and accompanying volunteers was assembled on Facebook.  I watched.  Sure enough, a Shriner local group or two was associated with each large float.  Every night I’d go through the names that were posted, trying to look them up, to find a picture, whatever.  I had quite a collection of names, with notes on each.  These people loved to volunteer.

Paul Davids. He was perfect.  I found everything that I wanted on him.  He was a Mason, a Shriner, all of the handlers for the Strawberry Shortcake float were going to be dressed as clowns (how convenient), and I even found some photos of him dressed in his clown personna, “Cleo”, on Google Images.

I also kept track of all the Shriner and Mason sites that I could find, and sure enough, the Shriner clown volunteers were scheduled to meet early that morning, at the Temple, and then fan out to their assignments after a hearty Masonic breakfast.

I had learned years ago that the back door at the loading dock was almost always unlocked, and that was certainly the case early on Thanksgiving morning when I arrived.  I moved from the back door almost to the front, where there was a coat check room.  I stashed my backpack, slid up the panel exposing my new position as coat checker, pulled out a mirror to look at myself in my white shirt and black tie, and waited for people to come in.

I didn’t know that the coat check had not been used for a few years, so was a little surprised when people started commenting, asking what was going on.  I told them that I was sent, and I couldn’t say from whom, just to try to make their day of volunteer work a little bit nicer.  I was a gift to them, and no one, not even the Installed Master, questioned it.

As they started coming in, handing me their coats and usually a suit bag with their outfit in it, I checked them in, casually asking for their names which I wrote on a clipboard beside the claim number I gave them.  Paul showed up in the middle of the crowd.  I looked at his face, at his clothes, so I’d remember him. 

I stood as a little soldier in the cloak room and smelled the amazing breakfast the ladies made for their men.  I handed each man their outfit after, as they returned to me.  I watched them disperse into a number of rooms where there were many mirrors available for doing makeup.  When they had their makeup about 10% done, I quietly approached my new friend, and informed him that someone was out front to see him.  We quietly left the others.  I unceremoniously pulled a gun on him and held it to his head.  As I requested, he tied his own feet together, nice and tight. I then tied his hands behind his back, put duct tape over his mouth, and duct taped him securely to a radiator in an empty room.  No, the gun wasn’t real!  I don’t know how to use a gun.  But I needed his cooperation.  I told him that if he made a noise I’d shoot his wife, and that he just had to accept that he was going to miss a parade.  If he cooperated, I informed him, he could make lots of noise when everyone came back from the parade and I’m sure he’d be found and rescued. 

I put on my makeup, his makeup, following what I could find of his look, and when I was done, I walked back into the room where he had been, and put on his outfit.  I was a clown again.  I was Cleo. 

A gong sounded, and we all headed out into the cold Philadelphia air.

It didn’t take long for one of the others to notice that I wasn’t in fact Cleo.  I asked him be quiet.  I explained to them that the real Cleo had been having some minor heart pains and decided he needed to see a doctor, but didn’t want his wife to panic.  It was probably just heartburn.  So he called me, an old friend and neighbor who had done some clowning, and asked me to sub for him.  It was the least I could do. I also made a cryptic comment - not to worry, off the record, I was completely trained to be Cleo the clown.  As I said that I realized that I had my Uncle’s ring on!  I slipped it off and into a pocket, just in case.

Within an hour I was hanging on for dear life as a balloon took me for a long and exhausting walk.

Part V

I don’t know if every clown was “working” that day, but my time did come.  Yes a midget clown did approach me. 

“You’re Cleo?” he asked, gruffly.

“Yes I am,” I replied.

“Well focus, man.  We should have spoken by now.  You’re half a block a way. He shook his head.  “On your right will be a father, mother, son and two daughters.  The daughters are wearing matching striped hats and the father will have his arm around his wife.  Do the wife.”

And with that he walked away.  ‘Do the wife.’  Interesting way to say it.

Half a block away I did see the family.  I handed my line over to the clown behind me, apologized, and hopped over to the crowd.  I gave all of the kids some silly trinkets I’d found in my pocket.  Since I had no idea what to do, I found Cleo’s ring (that matched mine), and put it on my left hand.  I moved close to the mother and said, “Problems come and problems go.  Be optimistic, love.”  With that I put my left hand on her shoulder.  She looked back at me a bit surprised that I knew anything about her at all.  I gave her a big smile. 

“I’m just a friend,” I said.  And with that I ran back to retrieve my balloon line, slipping Cleo’s ring off and putting it back in the pocket. 

Probably two blocks away, I spotted the small clown, far from me, standing with his hands on his little hips.  Waiting for me.  Two men with suits on came up on either side of me.  I felt their hands rest on the small of my back as they guided me away from the balloon, a new clown appearing to take my line.  They guided me into a side alley where we met with the small painted one.

“You’re not Cleo,” he said.  “You’re a very foolish man.  You can’t just walk in and become part of this particular story.  It runs very deep.”

“You just saved a human life, you fool,” he continued, snapping at me.

I didn’t see the downside and I told him.  I swore my silence.

“It’s not just the ring, ‘Cleo’”, he said.  “You’re not one of us.  That makes the story very different.”

“Then let me be one of you!” I begged.

“It doesn’t work that way, son,” he said, sadly.  “Could you please take the ring off and give it to me?”

I looked down and realized that I had put my ring back on.

“Oh, this isn’t Cleo’s ring, this is mine,” I explained.

“What?” he returned.

I told him that it had been my uncle’s.

“That’s not possible,” he said.  “Who was your Uncle?”

“Charles Allison,” I said.

“He must be one of our missing,” he stated.

“Well he did die during World War II,” I told him.

He nodded. 

“All such a waste,” he repeated.  “I hope you know that you did a good thing.  That mother, Megan Wilson, is very sick, and now she will be OK.  You cured her.  You made it all just go away for her.”

“It sounds like such a good thing,” I said.

“When we touch, we don’t heal, ‘fake Cleo’.  If it’s an illness, we take when we touch,” he tried to explain.

“Take?” I asked.

“Take.” he answered.  We take because we can heal.  We don’t always heal, sometimes we just alter a life direction.  But healing is very personal.  Unfortunately, you’re not one of us.”

“What are you telling me?” I asked.

“You now have a very nasty form of cancer, ‘fake Cleo’, something you took from her.  If I had done it, I would have been able to then cure myself.  Unfortunately, you can’t.  Just like she would have soon died, now you will soon die.”

"No, no," I protested, "this is just silly.  Touch me!  Heal me!  You can do it.  The solution is simple.”

“Well, no it isn’t.  This is a disease that you willingly accepted.  We have no power over your free will.”

I vaguely remember blacking out, and I remember waking up.  It looked like a hospital but the walls were a dark maroon.  My bed was surrounded by clowns when I opened my eyes.  The little clown was lifted up onto the bed, where he stood looking down on me.

“You’re not very good at infiltration, John.  You’d make a terrible spy,” he said.

I laughed, so they could.

“We recognize and applaud you.  You saved an important life.  A mother’s life.  If she could I’m sure she would thank you.  We’re sorry it was such a nasty disease.  It is spreading quickly right now in you, doctors tell us.  We can make you comfortable.  Other than that, we are here to give you a full clown salute – best we can do, my friend.  I wish I understood why you did this, but at this point just save your strength.”

They stood in a moment of silence, then each shook my hand, and lifted it to their face so that a little greasepaint got on the back of my hand, from each of them.  I glanced over to the side of the room where there was a small sink and mirror.  Only then did I realize I was in full clown makeup – as Pesky the clown, as the real me.

A nurse came in and injected something into an IV bag, and that put me out.  For all I know I died after that, but since I’m continuing the discussion, I’m obviously still here.  I awoke in a nice bed in a nice little empty room back in the Temple.  The Temple was empty.  I got up from the bed, feeling not bad at all, and began to find my way out.  My greasepaint had been cleaned off, but more importantly, my ring!  My ring was gone!

I noticed on the side table an envelope addressed to me.  It had a short note inside.

John (Pesky),

Sorry we had never met.  You would have been a good nephew – a bit mischievous, just as I was.  Anyway, I took my ring back.  Because of you, I think I may be out of retirement for a bit, even though I am awfully old.  Please don’t try to find me, because you won’t.  It’s time to just go back to living your regular life; time for me to live out the last few weeks of mine.

And since you were so curious, perhaps I can convince you to stop your search for that clown you remember from your hospital stay when you were five.  It was me.  I came out of retirement briefly for you.  A thousand questions I’m sure, like why did I fake my death during the war.  I can only assure you it was for a far greater good, even though it hurt my family.

I miss your Dad.  I’m sure you do too.

Best wishes,

Uncle Charles

I smiled because, along with the note, he left a KitKat candy bar.  Too funny.  I guess Uncle Charles has a sweet tooth.  I was surprised, though, that he would have made such an error.  The wrapper didn’t look right.  It was a little different from the KitKats I’ve seen.  It was made with white chocolate!  I gently separated the wrapper and broke off a piece to taste.  Too good!  Then I sat before I left on the bed, and read the wrapper.  Exciting reading I know.  Ingredients, a comment on some other products in the Nestle line.  And there it was, just as I was hoping.  I ate the rest and put the wrapper in my pocket, then walked down Market Street and into the first Walgreen’s drugstore I could find.  They didn’t disappoint me – they sold KitKats but none made with white chocolate.  So this is “exotic”!  I read the label of my drugstore purchase and it indicated that it was made and packaged in Atlanta GA.  I pulled out the wrapper of my Uncle’s KitKat and there it was.  It didn’t come from the US at all.  It was made in Scotland.

I’m not getting any younger, and who knows what another adventure may lead to.  I touched my hand, feeling a large hole where the ring used to be.  I missed it.  I pulled out my phone and Googled Isle of Rum.  I’d been in England twice.  Once my then spouse and I took a few days and took the train north from London into Scotland, to Glasgow.  A few Google jumps and I realized that the West Highland train line will somehow get me from Glasgow to Fort William, which seems like a good place to start if I want to get a ferry to the Isle of Rum.  London to Glasgow to Fort William to the Isle of Rum.  It seems like a good time of year to see Great Britain again.  I think I want “my” ring back, and perhaps a few answers.  I know I was warned not to do such a thing, but in my old age I don’t’ take warnings very seriously.


A few other minor points of interest.  (I surfed the internet on the train) – The Isle of Rum is the largest of the “Small Isles” off the West coast of Scotland, and is inhabited by about thirty people, who live in the village of Kinloch on the east coast.  The island has been inhabited for thousands of years, and may be the first part of Ireland ever inhabited.  From the 12th to the 13th centuries on, the island was held by various clans including the MacLeans of Coll.  While I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs in a small town called Collingdale, it may be less of a coincidence that my father’s middle name, which he very much did not like to use or even acknowledge, was McLean.  Apparently it was a family name from his mother’s side.  This can’t be important, can it?


Hi Readers!  This started out as a short story that just begged to be more.  I spent a few hours reading about all sorts of things - clowns, Shriners, etc.  For awhile I was just assuming it could evolve into a full size book.  Unfortunately, if I were to take the time to write another book, I'd rather spend my time on other subjects.  I weave into this story many aspects of my own life.  Anything related to my father, his brother, and his brother's ring are real (there really is one, and I wear it every day).  I really do want to help control a float during a Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia some day.  I really was sick when I was little, just stopped eating.  They say 'write what you know', so I don't hesitate to throw in my own people, places and things when it works.

If you write, there are many e-magazines and web sites where you can get your short story out there.  However, everyone is sensitive to the cost of maintaining so many gigabytes of information.  So, for example, at Readwave where I post lots of stories, they are discouraging stories that are more than 800 words.  If you write a poem, many options seem to want you to stay under 40 lines.  I don't think this is good for the field of poetry in general, but if you want to get your creations out there, know the limtiations and create within them!

There are places on the web that will post larger stories such as this one.  If you have a story substantially larger than 800 words, you might want to look at the SHORT STORY SYMPOSIUM BLOG.  I had a longer short story published there, "Red Light Plywood".  You can find it at

FYI, Clowns is more than 6000 words.  The previous short story, Sailing on the Edge of Numb, is 374 words.

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