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Danny rifled through the duffle bag on his lap like a kid rooting through a Halloween candy sack.  “I feel good, Man.  I feel alive.”  The optimistic words were followed by an indulgent swig of cheap vodka.

Michael nervously exhaled smoke out of the cracked window and looked to the passenger seat.  “Are you sure you can do this?  When was the last time you performed?”

Danny stared deep into the clear bottle, looking back through time.  “1995.”

Michael stopped short on the drag of his cigarette, and coughed out, “Thirty years ago!”

“Relax.  I told you that I went to clown college.  It’ll be like riding a bike.”  Danny retorted.

“You have been practicing right?”  Michael implored.  “And take it easy with that shit,” he added in response to another one of Danny’s intakes of the alcohol.

“I need to steady my hands.”  He capped the bottle.  “Yeah Man, I’ve been juggling and making balloon animals every night for the last week.”  From the bag, Danny pulled a flower that squirts water and gave it an admiring look.

Michael calmed down a bit.  He had to admit, Danny looked pretty good.  If he didn’t know the old drunk beneath the amusing facade, he’d think it was the real thing.  “Okay, remember, it’s on the mantle in a little office on the first floor.  The office is right next to the only bathroom on the first floor.” 

“What should I do?” was Danny’s response.  

“Just say you need to use the restroom.  Take your clown bag into the office and make the switch--in and out, a matter of seconds.”  Michael handed Danny the urn. 

“What happens if somebody sees me?”  Danny studied its engravings.  Then ran his fingers over its memorial. 

“Just act like you walked into the wrong room by accident…say you thought it was the bathroom.  Once the switch is made, no one will ever know the difference.  That urn is identical.”

“This feels kind of wrong.”  Danny moved the urn up and down, testing its weight.  “What do you have in here?” he added, his face showing the effect of its weight.  

“Sand.  It was a Great Dane.”

“Is that a big dog?”

“Yeah!  You know, like Scooby Doo.  It was fucking huge...and do not feel guilty.  She didn’t even like the dog, and complained about him constantly.  I did everything.  She only kept his remains out of spite.” 

“Why don’t you just offer her some money?”  Danny placed the urn among the props inside the bag.  

“I tried during the divorce disputes, and offered her a ton.  The dog was technically hers.  She’d rather see me suffer.”

Danny’s face took on a sideways grin, “Maybe I should up my price then.”

“Listen, Johnny is about to cut you off, and your tab is no good anywhere else in town.  How about I lower the price?” Michael snapped back.

“Alright, take it easy.  Our price is good.”  Danny took some deep breaths, his earlier enthusiasm waning.  “Maybe I should just do it right away and say I got sick, get the hell out of there.”

“No way!  My daughter will be devastated.  This is my birthday present to her.  The show is part of the deal.  She’s talked about having a clown for the last two months.  Plus, I don’t want to ruin Bonkers’ good name.     

Absorbed with anticipation, the two nearly missed the cry from the back seat. 

“Guys, what’s going on here?  Untie me!”  

Michael clutched Danny’s shoulder.  “Shit, he’s awake.  I thought you said that dose was supposed to keep him out for a couple of hours.”

“I thought it was supposed to.”

They turned around to an authentic Bonkers the Clown--wearing nothing but socks, underwear, and a blindfold.    

“Damn, damn, damn,” Michael whispered.  He looked at his watch.  “Okay, I’ll deal with him.  Just get going.  I will see you around 3.  One more thing…I know the difference between the urns, trust me.”  He decided it was best to leave Danny with a warning.    

Danny zippered the bag and went to open the door.  Michael grabbed his arm.  “Hold on.”  He sprayed Danny with cologne and handed him breath mints.  “Chew these.  You reek of liquor.”   

After Danny got out of the car, Michael lit another cigarette and rubbed the stubble on his chin as he stared at the back seat.  Bonkers’ flabby body squirmed to get loose from his bonds.  Michael didn’t think that he could move much better if he was untied.  “You won’t get free of those knots.  I spent a good deal on a boat as a child.”

“Where am I?” Bonkers demanded.  “Besides the obvious backseat of a car.”

“Let’s just keep it in the backseat of the car.  You don’t need to know any further information.”

“Like hell I don’t.  You’ve abducted me.”

Michael cut him short, “Whoa, let’s not use words like, abducted.  You’ve just been picked-up for a little while.”

“What did you inject me with?  My head is absolutely killing me.”

“I’m not actually sure.  That is more along the lines of my partner.  You went down like a ton of bricks though.  It was damn hard dragging you to the car.”

“What do you want from me?  Where are my clothes?  Are you going to molest me?”

“What?  God no!  All I simply want is for you to hang out back there a little while longer.  No one is going to hurt you.”  Michael checked his reflection in the rearview mirror.    

“My goodness.  I just remembered.  I was leaving my house to work a gig when you jackals attacked me.  I was hired to do a little girl’s birthday party. I never miss a performance, damn it!”  Second hand smoke slowed his protest.  “I had my bag when I left the house.  Where is my bag?  And what happened to your partner?  He smelled like a bottle.”

Michael swallowed hard.  “Just relax.  Your bag is safe.  When you get back to your house, you’ll have a bag with a nice little something extra inside it that will make you forget all about this little experience.”

Bonkers couldn’t help but like the sound of it.  The clown business wasn’t as lucrative for him as it once was.  He cleared his throat.  “So young man, what do you do?  You don’t seem like the criminal type to me.”

Michael was apprehensive, but decided to converse, keeping it vague.  “I freelance with computer work.”

“You must be good at it because whatever you’ve gotten yourself into, I imagine it is taking you a great deal of money to get out of it.”

“I hit it big with something I designed for a social media company.  To be honest, the stuff bores me to tears.”  Michael flicked some lint from his pants.  “I’m under the impression that you still love your job?”

“Yes, yes.  I’ve loved it since I was eight years old.  That’s when my father scraped together enough money to take me and my siblings to the circus when it came to town.  I was enamored with the way the clowns had the audience totally engaged.  The next day, I had my mother sew together three beanbags.  I practiced juggling until I thought my arms were going to fall off.  Real beans inside too!” he chuckled.  “We were very poor.”  Sincerity oozed through each word. 

Michael felt a pang of guilt and turned the knob of the radio.  He scanned around a little and stopped on, Love Me Do.  He turned up the volume.  “Now that’s a damn good song.”

“Paul with Wings is better,” Bonkers countered.

Michael immediately hit the power button.  “Are you nuts?  How can you even admit that thought to another person?”

“At the Speed of Sound is better than any Beatles album, period.”

“Abbey Road is the best damn album in any genre or era.”  Michael slapped the passenger seat.  “Now, if we’re talking about sitcoms, with Wings the show, you have a case.”

“Hell of a show,” Bonkers enthusiastically agreed.

Michael lit another cigarette and looked at his watch.  He was enjoying the conversation to the point that he forgot about the time.  He spoke softly to himself, “He should have been back by now.”  A bad feeling crept over him.  “How could I have put my trust in him?”

“Young man, what seems to be the problem?  Untie me.  Maybe I can help.”

Michael considered it for a moment, but quickly shrugged away the thought.  He rechecked his knots and rolled-up all the windows to deafen any possible pleas for help.  “Sorry, it’s going to be a little stuffy in here.  I’ll be right back.” 

He rushed out of the car and trekked down the street.  Having parked only a block away, he bounded through his old gate in a matter of minutes.  He heard the gathering on the back patio and slowly walked around the side of the house.  When he turned the bend, he found Danny at a picnic table taking a shot of tequila with his former brother-in-law.  “Of course,” he muttered to himself, “Water seeks its own level.”

His daughter was the first to notice him.  “Daddy!” she squealed, while running over to him with a big hug.  “This is the bestest party ever!”

“I’m so glad sweetheart.”  Michael kissed her forehead.  

“His ex-wife wasn’t as excited.  She walked over.  Through gritted teeth and a forced smile, she said, “Oh, wow, you’re here.”  She stroked their daughter’s hair and said, “Run along Dear.  We’re going to cut the cake soon.”

Her new husband, Greg, joined and shook his hand.  “Michael, what’s up Man?  Glad you made it.”  

Tanya gave Greg a piercing look.  Now that their daughter was gone, she spoke freely, “What the fuck are you doing here, just showing up like this?  You weren’t invited.”

Michael began to stammer, but quickly gathered himself.  “I forgot to pay the entertainer, so I brought him a check.  Weird, he doesn’t take online booking, guess he’s old school.  Sorry to drop in like this.”  

He hurriedly gathered Danny, and the two slithered out around the side of the house and back through the gate, evading Tanya’s questioning glares.  Michael exhaled forcibly when they hit the sidewalk.  “Please tell me you made the switch.”

From the bag, Danny lifted out their prize.  

Michael let out a cackle of rejoice and slapped Danny on the shoulder.  “I can’t believe it!”  

“Your brother-in-law is crazy.  He was practically forcing them down my throat.”  Danny said.

“Former brother-in-law,” Michael reminded.  “And I’m sure it took a lot of coercing.”  He smirked.  

They nearly walked past where the car should have been.  Michael suddenly stopped.  “Where is the car?” he said with confusion.  He frantically patted his pockets and pulled out the keys.  “Bonkers couldn’t have stolen it.  Could he?”   

Danny pointed to a street sign that read, “Towing Enforced During Street Cleaning Hours.” 

Michael kicked the curb and said nothing.  From his coat pocket, he pulled out an envelope filled with cash and gave it to Danny.  Danny handed Michael the bag, and the two parted ways.  


“Why didn’t you rat me out?” was Michael’s greeting upon Bonkers opening his front door.

Bonkers smiled.  “I’m glad to see you again.”

“The lady at the front desk called me a freak when I picked up the car.”

“That’s because I told the tow truck driver that I was being taken to a sex party.  I had to tell him something.  I was tied up and blindfolded in just my underwear for goodness sake.”

Michael handed him the bag.  “I told you that you’d get your bag back.”

Bonkers opened it and a grin spread across his face.  “That’s the second bonus today.  Somebody named Greggy42 posted a five star review regarding my show at the birthday party this afternoon.”  He winked at Michael.

Michael always did like Greg.



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