Sightings by B.J. Hollars

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Authors: B.J. Hollars
scene as they watched my drunken uncle attempt to mow zigzagged lines in our lawn in his squeaking 26EEE sized shoes. Likewise, the mailman took it upon himself to forward their subscription for
American Clown Quarterly
directly to our doorstep, and even the Jehovah’s Witnesses managed to walk on past every time they spotted the red-nosed man passed out in the kiddie pool.
    Yet despite their eccentricities, my parents were right, they were good people – at least good clowns – and Aunt Clown always offered to help wash dishes or set the table. And better still, she left intricate balloon animals on my pillow on the days she changed the sheets – a menagerie of latex walruses and white-handed gibbons greeting me every few nights.
    Yet the Clowns couldn’t stay cooped up in the house forever. Most mornings they’d load up their Volkswagen and tour the city, working the street corners, “prostituting ourselves,” Uncle Clown often grumbled, “turning tricks for cash.”
    But it was more than that, more than simple tricks.
    They actually made quarters leap from behind people’s ears, pulled rubber chickens out of their armpits. They had the unique talent of juggling apples and oranges and pears all at once, as if they alone kept the universe in motion. In the evenings we’d all watch television while Uncle Clown – pre-nightcap – struggled through a few sets of push-ups. And other nights – post-nightcap – when he was feeling extra loose, he and Aunt Clown would sit us down in the backyard and put on their show.
    They only had so many routines, but we clapped and cheered even at the ones we’d already seen. That handheld tape recorder played the same calliope music again and again, but we pretended we were hearing it for the first time.
    â€œSophie,” Uncle Clown often gasped, his throat laced with whiskey. “What’s that . . . quarter doing behind your ear?”
    He’d remove it, of course, amid our clapping, and after his grand finale – involving a unicycle, six bowling pins, three shots of tequila, and a hula-hoop set aflame – he and Aunt Clown would take a knee, waving their hands in the air, perfectly synced with the music.
    While Mom, Dad, and I wished they didn’t feel the need to perform for us, we couldn’t do anything to stop them.
    â€œLook, just enjoy it,” Uncle Clown begged, sweating like an iceberg. “It’s all we know to do to pay the rent.”

    And then one day the water pipes burst.
    A Sunday, after Uncle Clown had done two hundred push-ups the previous night in preparation for what he called his “reunion tour,” which was actually just a brief appearance at Clarence Robards’s eighth birthday party. Still, it was $50.00, and neither he nor Aunt Clown was in a position to pass it up. Mr. and Mrs. Robards had been quite clear in their expectations – “We don’t want a lot of circus tricks,” they’d informed him. “Just pull some quarters from their ears.”
    Thankfully, this was Uncle Clown’s forte.
    â€œLike riding a horse,” Uncle Clown whispered, sitting me down in the kitchen that Saturday night as he practiced pulling all kinds of currency from behind my earlobes.
    For a brief moment, everything seemed almost right in the world – people were laughing, money was falling out of my ears – but then we woke the next morning to find the bathroom pipes hissing sprits of water, the cold mist collecting across the tiles, covering the entire room in a slick glaze.
    â€œThis ship’s going down!” Uncle Clown yowled, his idea of a joke. But when Dad came pounding up the stairs, he was less than thrilled by the water damage.
    I stepped into the hallway to find Uncle Clown dancing in the spray, rubbing a scrub brush along his polka-dotted jumpsuit while singing “I’m so Excited” by the Pointer Sisters. Dad kept a

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