“Roll up, roll up!” bellowed Sillywig Stevenson, gesturing with his cane. “See the Fantabulous Clown Machine: capable of inflating thirty-eight balloons per min...erm, hour, and with a repertoire of...several theatrically distinct pratfalls.”
“This R-valve’s getting awfully hot!” came a voice from inside the machine.
“New to Roger’s Discount Circus,” he added, with a flourish of his hat, “the Clown Machine will occasionally utter such gems as ‘Ouch, my face!’ and ‘Let me out!’ Guaranteed hilarity! Ah-hah-hah...”
The audience were not impressed.
“Why don’t you give these nice people a wave, Benn...I mean, Clown Machine!”
The Clown Machine’s arm flapped to and fro in a less than fantabulous manner.
“And how about a pie?” Stevenson winced at the less than elegant segue into the machine’s next bit.
The clown machine flung the confection more into its shoulder than its face. “Ta-daa,” came the voice from within.
There was a patter of polite but ultimately quite disheartening applause, accompanied by someone muttering “Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.” The small crowd moved on.
Bignose Benny’s head appeared from a hatch in the clown’s posterior. “When’s it going to be my turn?”
“To stand out here exposed? In the open? Where anyone might recognise you from that regrettable incident in London Superior? No no no, my most dear friend. Rest assured, it will never be your turn. I am resigned to accept the slings and arrows of these uncultured...non-Londoners.” He shuddered.
“Hey!” shouted Manny the Bearded Maiden.
“No offence,” added Stevenson.
“But if anyone’s going to recognise anything from that mechanical clown rampage, surely it’s going to be the clown? And...I’m inside it. So it seems like you’ve got the safe job.”
“Of course it seems that way: your job is deceptively safe, mine’s deceptively dangerous.” He spread his arms. “That’s the beauty of it.”
“Yeah, okay.” Benny conceded this was true. “But I really think we should at least do something about this R-valve.”
“Do what, exactly?” Sillywig Stevenson booted the crate of scrap tucked away behind the clown machine. “In case you haven’t noticed, mechanical clownery just doesn’t bring in the same kind of dosh it did two years ago. It’d be hard enough to pay for parts even if we could find them in this godforsaken armpit of a county.”
“What?” Manny stroked her beard. “I didn’t say anything.”
Stevenson looked past the bearded maiden, and was dismayed to see a blue policeman’s helmet approaching through the crowd.
The face underneath it did not look pleased. “I’d recognise that clown anywhere!”
“Now now, officer,” Stevenson lifted his hands. “There’s no need for that truncheon, I’m sure.” He turned to Bennie. “Fire up that engine!” he hissed. “Full steam pressure!”
“I really don’t think it’ll take that...”
“Just do it!” He turned to the policeman again. “I’m afraid we’re in the middle of a performance here. This one’s called...HIT IT, BENNIE!” He clambered onto the clown’s shoulders, laughing maniacally.
“Erm...” called Bennie, over the thrashing of the engine. “I really, really think we ought to do something about this R-valve...”
“Hm?” Stevenson peered down through a gap in the clown machine’s neck. “Oh, for fu...”
The explosion was fantabulous.
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What do a squeamish torturer, an intelligent zombie, a newspaper-phobic superhero and Genghis Khan have in common? They're all in this book, and their stories were all written for Flash Fiction Month 2014. With one story for each and every day of Ju...