Thursday, July 14, 2011

Exxcerpt from PHILIPPINE (one of the 53 women in my novel Daisy Chain)

She was sitting in front of the mirror in her changing room, applying a big red smile to her downwardly arching lips . . .

When her husband first saw her ten years ago, her face was white with makeup, her nose large, red and round like a swollen plum and her eyes, usually doe-like and innocent, appeared comical under rings of cheap multi-coloured eye shadow. The wig she wore that day was a humongous rainbow puff, quite like the clouds of cotton candy the deformed dwarf sold at the snackette on the circus grounds.

     It had not been a good day. The circus was heavily in debt, so she and the other clowns had received only half their weekly paycheque. But what could they do? Leave the circus? Go and become secretaries or bank tellers and earn steady salaries? No, God forbid. Since they had been children, all they had known was circus life: how to be a clown, how to make fluffy cotton candy from scratch, how to swing from a trapeze with anything from two fingers to one foot, how to walk a tightrope even after having had a few rounds of powerful homebrew, how to feed the elephants and how to bathe the lions and tigers without being mauled to death like that unfortunate old gypsy Stanislaus Miklan.

     Because of her reduced paycheque, she was sulky, her frown almost down to her chin with disappointment. She was sitting in front of the mirror in her changing room, applying a big red smile to her downwardly arching lips, when the man who would one day be her husband walked in. He was the technician who had been sent to fix the air conditioning unit in her trailer.

     "Hey, why so glum?" were his first words to her. "Cheer up! It can't be that bad."

     But she was too sulky to respond. She sat there, ignoring him, painting on her happy face and gradually transforming herself into the clown that children either loved, feared or downright despised.

     Realising that she was not in a talkative mood, or thinking that she may have been deaf or mute, he left her to her makeup and proceeded to tinker with the rusty unit. The air conditioner was spluttering like an asthmatic and spewing hot air and dust into the already claustrophobic trailer. No wonder this poor clown was frowning, living in a place like this!

     "Hot in here, isn't it?" he shouted, thinking that she was hard of hearing.

     "I can hear you," she said. "You don't have to shout."

     "Oh, so you can hear then."

     That was how they met. She found out only later that from the time he had entered the trailer and seen her sitting in front of the mirror sulking, he had fallen in love.

     On their wedding day he insisted that she wear more clown makeup than normal, to emphasise her clown features, even though she felt that the almost fluorescent colours on her face would clash horribly with her elegant lace dress, made by the freaky five-hundred-pound circus seamstress. And yes, the extra clown makeup clashed and felt terribly heavy on her face, pulling down her cheeks and weighing down her eyelids. But she was eager to please him, so she convinced herself that she looked like a radiant blushing bride. Granted, the wedding pictures were a bit odd, but it was enough that her husband seemed to love them-in fact, he couldn't stop staring at them and grinning.

"Gordon, I think we have a problem," she finally told him one day after five years of marriage.

     "What's that?" he asked, gazing lovingly at their wedding photos.

     "Well, I'd like to take off my clown makeup and remember what it's like to experience my own face, at least for a while."

     "Do you really think that's necessary, honey?"

     "Yes! Since we met you've never seen my real face!"

     "I don't need to. I love you this way."

     With a heavy sigh she sat on the sofa next to him. What he said was true. He had met her as a clown, fallen in love with her as a clown, married her as a clown, made love to her every night as a clown, awoken daily next to her as a clown, had breakfast every morning with her as a clown, had lunch every lunchtime with her as a clown, had dinner every evening with her as a clown. Everything she was to him was just that-a clown. A miserable, old circus clown. If she took off her makeup, what would happen?

To continue reading this and more, purchase Daisy Chain online now at

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is still one of my favourites!