Monday, August 2, 2010
"Your mother is gone. You boys are gonna have to go with the clown."
So said the teenaged girl in the maroon Mount St. Mary's Academy polo shirt, Jenny, according to the gold name badge fastened above her developing right ta-ta.
My mother dragged my brothers and I, against our will, to a Cub Scout Den Mothers' Training Seminar, and everyone was gathering in the school's main foyer. Mom stepped out for just a minute, or so we thought, leaving us wandering around alone. Eric, Bobby, and I waited, confused, having no idea what we were supposed to do or where we were supposed to go. Mom had somehow neglected to provide us with a game plan. With limited options, and against our better judgment, we ignored the time-honored "don't go with strangers" warning and followed Giggles McYukyuk (or whatever his name was) down the hallway, and into a large classroom.
For the first hour or so, everything was somewhat normal. Our greasepaint-wearing abductor had apparently taken us to the free daycare provided by the Cub Scout seminar's organizers. It would've been nice if Mom had prepared us for this, but being the resilient pre-teens that we were, we adapted. There were lots of kids our age, so we played games, watched TV, and Jenny helped us with a variety of arts and crafts. Giggles was in high spirits as well. He helped out with the crafts, led a rousing game of "Simon Says," and he even possessed a couple standard clown skills, including obscure balloon animal sculpture.
"Okay, youse kids," said Giggles. "Who wants a squid?"
"I do! I do!" screamed everybody.
Giggles inflated a round, full-sized balloon, and then fastened six long balloons which represented the tentacles. Then, using a black marker, he added two gigantic eyes. It actually looked pretty good.
Right around noon, things started getting weird. Not only had Mom forgotten to tell us about the plans for our supervision, she also failed to provide us with lunch. This realization sent my youngest brother Bobby into a hyper-ventilating fit of hysteria, screaming something about starving to death and not wanting to eat bugs. Fortunately, Jenny had access to the Mount St. Mary's Academy kitchen and was able to rustle us up a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She even sprung for a couple sodas from the vending machine. We sat under the trees outside with our stale P.B. and J. and flat Fresca, gazing with envy at the kids who were munching on chicken salad, Fritos, Hostess cupcakes, and a wide array of other kids-whose-moms-love-them lunch fare.
Giggles, meanwhile, was leaning against the fence chain-smoking unfiltered Camels. His medication had apparently worn off and his attitude was deflating faster than one of his balloon critters. During lunch, a cute little seven year-old asked to see a magic trick, and Giggles responded with a surly, "Not now, kid, I'm on break."
After lunch, we went back inside and watched TV for a while, wondering how Mom could've possibly forgotten about us for this long. Had she been kidnapped? Did Giggles have an accomplice? Around 4:00, Jenny began cleaning up the toys and art supplies while Giggles paced back and forth - makeup smeared, curly wig all askew, muttering something about getting home to see the rabbits. One-by-one, parents arrived to pick up their children.
Mrs. Snyder arrived to pick up her son Joey.
Mr. Berkshire picked up Patrick.
Mrs. Franks picked up the twins, Oscar and Mayer.
And then there were three. A trio of panicky brothers, shaking in their Keds, trying to avoid making eye contact with the neurotic clown.
Four-fifteen came and went with no sign of Mom. Four-thirty. Four forty-five.
That's when we huddled up and decided to make a break for it. Since Mom had dropped us off in the foyer, we figured that we'd better head back that way. When Jenny went into the side room to put the cleaning supplies away, we made our move. I held the door open as Bobby and Eric dashed out into the hallway. I followed, shutting the door behind me. We made it! Freedom!
Well, not so fast. Giggles must've heard the door close, because before we'd even gotten twenty yards down the hall, we heard his size-38 Buster Browns flopping on the linoleum. He called out after us, "Hey, youse kids, get back here! You ain't s'posed ta leave till your ma shows up!" Terrified, we kicked it into a higher gear and flew around the corner . . .
. . . and there was Mom. Bobby slammed into her leg, and hid behind her as Giggles skidded to a stop.
"Are you their Ma?" asked the clown.
"Yes, I'm sorry I'm late. I had to help clean up. Do I need to sign them out or anything?"
"Nah, that's okay. See ya."
"Bye. Say goodbye to the clown, boys."
Eric and I mumbled our goodbyes. Bobby gave him the finger.
We let Mom have it on the car ride home.
"You didn't tell us there was gonna be a clown!"
"I had to eat a stupid peanut butter sandwich! I HATE peanut butter!"
"We were the last ones picked up! Don't you love us anymore?" Eric was the master of the guilt trip.
I don't remember Mom ever giving us an explanation for this traumatic event, hell, to her it may have just been another meeting. But to us it was an afternoon in the Giggles McYukyuk House of Horrors. "Permanent scarring" isn't the right phrase, but it's the first one that comes to mind.
I'll probably forgive Mom someday. Probably.