The Clown King’s throne is a folding chair in a one-room apartment with a dripping faucet and starbursts of mold crawling across the walls. Her face is a roadmap of origami wrinkles, the laugh/frown lines of her mouth, a balloon animal knot. The tiny apartment can fit a troupe of forty. Clowns, as showcased by the physics of clown cars, are known to bend space and, occasionally, time.
The Clown King lives in a city of baguette crumbs gobbled down by oil slick-plumed pigeons. She spies the geraniums on balcony flowerpots along Main Street and thinks they look durable enough, if a little droopy, to squirt water out of their pollen hearts. The Clown King, ever-vigilant, rides her velocipede around the city in order to look after her people as they work. Lately, there have been some coulrophobic incidents in the gray-stone streets. They make the Clown King wary. A group of factory workers called one of her harlequins la féerie, while the mimes, in their striped uniform and tear-painted faces, have been told repeatedly they’d look prettier if they just smiled more.
The pierrots down by the riverfront are faring better, the Clown King is relieved to find out. They play their weeping violas and the tourists toss coins in their ripped-velvet cases. Most popular of all are the regular clowns hired for birthday parties of rosy-cheeked local children.
Life in their city of canals and towering monuments hasn’t always been all fun and games, but they manage. The Clown King pedals home before her troupe arrives, bags of groceries hung from either side of the handlebars. She’ll be making pies, filled with days-old cream and discount strawberries. She sits at the table and waits, a stolen flower in a tin can, pie-crust perfume covering the odor of mold.
In the evening, after her troupe of clowns and pierrots, mimes and harlequins, have broken bread around the kitchen table, the comedy and tragedy masks come off. The Clown King slips into a threadbare nightgown and washes the pancake makeup off her face.
They sleep stacked one atop the other, warm bodies a shield from the damp and cold, red noses brushing together in kaleidoscopic dreams.
Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, The Forge Literary, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Argot Magazine, and other venues. Avra won the 2019 Bacopa Literary Review prize for fiction. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.