Stan sat in his car staring blankly out across the sea of traffic that had turned into a parking lot on the interstate. Suddenly an image of a bulbous, red nose flashed across his daydream. No, it wasn't Santa's lead reindeer whisking across the night sky. Nor was it the image of the cartoon cat Sylvester with his large bright red nose. It was not the memory of his deceased alcoholic dad. And it was most definitely not Karl Malden.
It was a clown with a bulbous red nose.
For Stan, clowns had always freaked him out, and not just a little. He became trembling, sweat-over-the-brow, heart bounding, hyperventilating scared! Even now with just a fleeting picture of a bulbous red nose struggling up from his memory, Stan could feel his pulse quicken slightly.
The cars around him inched forward gradually. Stan could feel his hand tighten on the steering wheel. Traffic had bogged down once again. Probably an accident, and everyone has to take a look. Damn rubberneckers, he thought growing more annoyed.
After a half-mile or so, the left lane of traffic was being squeezed over into the next lane. "That must be where the accident is," he muttered.
A quarter of a mile further, traffic came to a halt. This time it lasted for a long time. Stan noticed that he was very near the accident. He looked to the left to see a mid-sized sedan smashed into the wall. A few feet further and he was opposite the wreck.
Stan diverted his attention to look in the rearview mirror. "What the fu...?" Doors on the driver's side of several of the vehicles behind him were slowly opening. People were getting out. He turned around to look. Directly behind him, he could see the driver emerge. Stan immediately saw the clown suit. Fear gripped him with a vengeance; it tightened every fiber in his body. He could feel his fingers wrapping around the steering wheel as if they were demonically possessed vise grips. Blood drained from each of his fingertips.
More drivers got out. Each one dressed in the same clown suit, and each had the bulbous red nose. Stan screamed, but couldn't move. The clowns stood next to their vehicles staring at Stan. He screamed again.
Trying to block out the visions behind him, Stan looked over at the car wreck next to him. Fireman and medics worked feverishly to open the car door where the occupant was trapped. The Jaws of Life spewed blue smoke as they readied themselves into service. The ear splitting groans and screeching of metal being ripped open caused Stan to cover his ears. Filtering through the noise was the bellow of a clown's laugh.
With one last loud grating cry of metal tearing and glass crumbling to the ground, the passenger door flew open. Stan quickly grasped the steering wheel as if it were a shield to protect him. As the body slid out of the car onto the ground, the scream inside of Stan exploded, but no one heard him.
"Come on, move it!" the officer standing off to the side yelled.
Stan looked down at the bloodied man on the road. Another scream welled up inside of Stan, but he couldn't get it out. Then, as if in slow motion, the car crash victim stood up. Stan shook slowly as he recognized the clown costume. Blood streamed down the clown's garish white face soaking the mammoth polka dotted bow tie. The bulbous red nose dangled from strands of pink flesh. The clown passed in front of the police officer, all the while grinning at Stan.
The passenger side of Stan's Prius opened slowly with no sound. "Hey, buddy. Long time no see. How the hell have you been?" the clown said slamming the door.
Stan's head twisted violently to glare at the clown sitting next to him. A plethora of screams swirled inside Stan, but the muscles around his mouth wouldn't set them free.
"So, what's it been about ten or twelve years?" the clown queried. "Hey, check this out." The clown lifted the lapel on his jacket revealing a bright yellow plastic flower. Blood squirted out splattering the dashboard. The clown laughed maniacally.
Stan's head remained twisted and his eyes were the size of dinner plates. His fingers were now almost white from grasping the wheel.
"Wow, the last time we met, you were about eight or nine. Your mom had brought you to the circus. I came up from behind you and tickled you. Remember?"
Stand remained taut and silent.
"Guess I scared the shit out of you. Oops...then you fell through those bleachers. The look on your face is about what you look like right now. Oh, and the sound...the sound of your head hitting that cement was deafening. It was much louder than any melon falling to the floor."
Screams boiled inside Stan. He never heard the rap on the window. The only sound was the sustained voice of fear.
"You've got to move, now," the officer yelled.
Stan's head remained twisted to the side.
"Well, that's my cue," the clown said. "I'll come visit again soon. You take care now."
"The guy won't move," the police office said rapping hard on the window.
"Maybe he had a heart attack," a fireman nearby said loudly.
"We need to get this car out of the way. Break the window," the officer ordered.
The fireman used a special tool to shatter the window. The police officer unlocked the door. He examined Stan. "The guy is stiff as a board. I can't get his hands off the wheel." Stan's fingers remained like strands of steel wire welded to the wheel.
After they cut the steering wheel off, they lifted Stan out of the car and placed him in an ambulance. One of the firemen was able to move the vehicle off to the side of the road. As he was getting out, he noticed a large red rubber nose sitting on the passenger seat.
Stan Decker's mom walked down a long corridor with the doctor.
"This is the most severe catatonic case I've ever examined. Something has frightened you son to such an extreme that all his muscles have constricted. I'm hoping that maybe you can connect with your son."
"I'll try doctor."
After the doctor left, Stan's mom sat across from her son.
"Honey, can you hear me?"
Each time his mom spoke all he could hear was the high-pitched maniacal clown laugh.
"It's your mom, sweetie."
"I love you."
It was the only image Stan saw sitting across from him.
His mom slumped over and buried her face in her hands.
For 38 years, James enjoyed a productive career as a music educator. He taught at the university level as well as high school. The longest stretch was 16 years at Winona State University in Minnesota. He is also a composer with works published by Zames Music Co. Two CDs of his chamber works are available from iTunes and CDbaby.com.
His new writing career includes articles with the magazine Marathon and Beyond. His articles were about running the Norwegian Wilderness Marathon and the Wyoming Double Marathon. Additionally, James was writer and publisher of a local newsletter in Minnesota on RVing. His foray into the area of writing novels begins with his first full-length book-- Milford Spitz and the Very Fast Machine. "I've discovered that letting my imagination run amok and getting it down on paper is addictive. Now if I can get the voices to stop, I'll be fine."
In January 2010, SynergEbooks released James' second novel, Reveka's Return. This paranormal romantic vampire thriller is the first in the series, The Crimson Pursuit. Book 2, Reveka's Revenge was released October 2010. In August 2011, SynergEbooks released a print version of "Reveka's Return."
James retired from Winona State University in May 2008 to begin a vagabond existence as a fulltime RVer. Along with his wife Zoe and dog Ruby, the three travelers love the freedom to roam.
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