By Douglas Hackle
Waldo finished overloading the plastic food tray with grease burgers, burnt fries, and paper cups filled with flat, syrupy cola. Like every other Klown Burger employee, he was dressed as a clown: greasepaint, rainbow afro wig, oversized polka-dotted bowtie, baggy pants, suspenders, big floppy shoes—the whole nine.
“Take that to table seven, boy,” his dweeby-looking manager ordered, arms akimbo, watching and waiting for Waldo to make the tiniest mistake.
As if Waldo needed to be reminded where to take the order. Table seven was where his ex-wife Eileen, his three kids, and Eileen’s new husband were sitting. It was their favorite table.
They came into Klown Burger to eat and make fun of him two or three times a day.
Waldo had lost custody of the kids, was denied visitation rights too. Eileen had told the judge that Waldo was verbally, physically, and sexually abusive to her and the children, a crack head and an alcoholic to boot. All lies. Waldo had never been anything but a hard-working, loving father and a devoted husband. He hadn’t taken a drink since college and certainly had never smoked crack. He damn sure had never touched a hair on those kids’ heads or had ever spoken an unkind word to them.
Sure, he’d lost his job as a financial analyst at Morgenstern & Cruthers, but that wasn’t his fault. Rather, the firm’s president promoted his eldest son, Rick Morgenstern, to VP. And the very first thing Rick did as VP was fire Waldo. For no legitimate reason. Rick also happened to be Eileen’s new beau. Prior to their split, Eileen had been cheating on Waldo with Rick for the better part of a year, a fact they were fond of reminding him whenever they dined at Klown Burger.
The economy was still shit.
Waldo had a hefty child support check to write out every month.
And Klown Burger was the only place hiring. In the world. Literally.
“Make sure you’re smiling, boy,” his manager said as Waldo slogged by bearing the overflowing tray.
All Klown Burger employees had big blood-red smiles painted on their faces, but they were also required to smile for real, creating smiles within smiles. Not smiling for real could get you written up, fired even. All Klown Burger employees were also forbidden to take their clown gear off—ever. Even when they were off the clock. Video cameras were installed at their homes to enforce the policy, even in their bathrooms.
As Waldo approached the table, Rick was the first to point and laugh at their favorite lanky Klown Burger clown. The brawny senior executive was wearing a custom-printed muscle shirt, the front of which showed two side-by-side pictures: one of Waldo’s tiny penis (a pic Eileen had likely snapped sometime before the divorce while Waldo was asleep in bed), the other a shot of Rick’s ridiculous cucumber cock. The captions “Waldo’s dick” and “Rick’s dick” were printed below each respective full-color image.
Eileen joined Rick in the laughter. (The woman was so enamored of her new husband’s ridiculous cucumber cock that she had recently gotten a life-sized tattoo of it on her neck and face; the swollen helmet of the tattooed penis was positioned suggestively at the corner of her mouth.)
Waldo’s two oldest children—Ashley (seven) and Toby (just turned ten)—were next to join in the chorus of scornful laughter. Without reason or cause, they hated their real daddy just as much as Eileen did. The only person at the table who did not hate him was Baby Josh. Whenever Baby Josh smiled up at Waldo in his clown costume, the smile was all beautiful, untainted innocence. Even now from his highchair, Baby Josh looked up and smiled at the funny clown that was his real daddy.
How Waldo longed to hold him—it had been over three months. He wondered if his baby boy even remembered who he was.
“Oh, Waldo,” Rick said, suppressing his hearty laughter for a second. “We’re gonna need your child support check two weeks early this month. Got that, fuckface?”
“Yes, sir,” Waldo replied wimpily, careful to show respect; his hawk-eyed manager was still watching from the counter.
Waldo gingerly placed the food tray on the table. “Would you like any ketchup today, folks?” he mumbled morosely.
“I hate you, Daddy,” Ashley giggled in reply.
“Me too,” Toby said getting up from his seat, brandishing the wood baseball bat he’d been concealing under the table.
Before Waldo had a chance to react, his son cracked him on the side of the head with the bat. Everyone laughed as the clown toppled over, smacked the grimy floor. And not just Waldo’s ex-family—every grease-dripping mouth in the dining area burst into shrieking laughter too.
Waldo defensively cradled his head in his arms, curled into fetal position as Toby mercilessly brought the bat down on his father’s knee, his hip, his ribcage. With each strike, the mad laughter of the dining room crescendoed. Eileen, Rick, and Ashley sprang from their chairs to assist Toby, began stomping the fallen clown with their heels. Other joined in as well—a veritable mob of grease-fed children and parents. Even the manager, armed with a broomstick, jumped into the fray.
Someone must have called the cops, because two boys in blue soon burst through the glass doors, batons drawn, badges glinting.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” one officer shouted as the pair marched toward the mob.
“Look!” said the other. “See that guy they’re beatin’ up on? He’s that fuckin’ clownfag!”
“Yeah, you’re right!” the first cop concurred, a goofy smile plastered to his fat face.
The cops joined in too, ruthlessly clubbing Waldo with their batons.
The beating and lunatic laughter went on for hours. It went on until there was nothing left of Waldo but a pile of blood, guts, bones, shit, and the tears of a clown.
Not sure what happened next.
It doesn’t matter.
Bio: Douglas Hackle writes fictions that are bizarre, darkly humorous, horrific, veiny, vainglorious, stupid or some combination thereof. His stories have [vein poppet] appeared in several online and print publications. Douglas resides in Northeast Ohio with his wife and little boy, and he’s not exactly sure how that blasted vein poppet be gettin' all up in his bio n' shit.
Visit him at: http://douglashackle.wordpress.com/