The heavy makeup intended to make him eternally sad did more than that after the crowds were gone and he was alone in the dressing room, facing a mirror, smoking a pipe. He looked as if he were about to die.
His plan, like the night before, was to go home, eat leftover pea soup and go to bed. He would rise mid-morning, drink coffee and read the paper. In the afternoon he’d walk to the park on his way to a bistro for a sandwich and a beer before returning home to prepare for his stage routine. In fact, his entire life was a routine designed to help him go through the motions without confronting the weight of misfortunes that had befallen him over the years.
This night he was too tired to remove his makeup, so to avoid the crowd, he left by the rear door. Outside he turned to the soft glow of street lamps in the fog at the end of the alleyway and wondered how much longer people in the city would pay to see slapstick, a thought lost when he reached the sidewalk.
A large man had a pistol pressed into the chest of a woman in a dark raincoat. The startled gunman turned towards to the gruesome face emerging from the alleyway. The diversion allowed the woman to grab the pistol. The gun went off and the large man fell to the sidewalk. The clown kept his arms by his side.
“Take this and shut up,” said the woman.
The clown stared at the wad of bills in his hand—he didn’t see her run away. He counted out $150. He looked down at the body, stepped over it and smiled for the first time that day. It would be pea soup as usual but with a special lunch tomorrow.