Around the third day, Hoppsapop stopped caring about his make-up. Which, I have to say, is about 48 hours later than I expected him to. We figured he’d come in, pose for a couple of pictures, shake Walter’s hand, and then bolt back to his favorite bar back in the city.
We would have been fine with that.
But the name of the essay contest was, “Why I Want to Spend a Week with Hoppsapop,” and Walter won it fair and square, and some lawyer at the clown show must have worried that we’d sue if he didn’t spend an even seven days streaking our guest bed sheets with makeup and leaving kinky strands of bright red hair in our sink and toilet.
If he’d stayed even sixty seconds longer, though, that’s when I would have sued.
I’m Walter Neussman, and I live in a boring town called Junction Falls full of boring people who think that John Birch is a hero and anybody who isn’t a Baptist is going to hell. It’s the kind of place where the librarian with the skin and whiskers of a potato will call your mom if you try to check out The Lord of the Rings.
This town’s made it pretty clear already that they don’t need or want me (or people “like” my whole family back to the Stone Age), but there is one thing I’m sure they can use: something that doesn’t quite fit into their brains. That could be a Russian invasion or an alien landing, but I figure a big sweaty clown like Hoppsapop flopping his shoes up and down Main Street would do the trick, too.
What did they do all day? Well, Hoppsapop woke up each morning with a groan I could hear through his bedroom wall, staggered into the bathroom for a long sonorous piss, and then dabbed on his makeup.
On the two days it rained, they played checkers and built model airplanes and made a puppet theater from old lumber in the garage. When it was sunny, they went fishing at the pond with old stick poles or on bike rides with Walter perched on the handlebars and Hoppsapop pedaling away. I think they built a fort in the woods, too.
It wasn’t until later when I saw the muddy footprints that I realized they were sneaking out at night.
I’m not even that different on the outside, not like a clown would be. I have no idea why guys like Peter Riggins won’t let me play any of the pick-up games in the lot. My old man says that’s just what people do, find the outsider no matter how tight their group is. If everybody was born a clone of everybody else, they’d still hang the one who parted his hair the other way. Maybe Dad’s right, I don’t know.
Maybe what this town needs is someone REALLY different to come along, different on the inside AND the outside.
No, Walter didn’t know any of the missing boys, except from school. He didn’t play with them and, if I’m being honest, a few of them weren’t very welcoming or kind. He’s an independent kind of kid, though, off exploring the woods or reading in the park by himself. I was a little surprised he even wanted Hoppsapop to stay with him.
So that’s why I want a clown to come to town. He doesn’t have to do much, maybe freak people out a little, stare in a couple of windows, leave his nose under some pillows, honk a few kids awake in the middle of the night, laugh insanely from inside a closet, that sort of thing.
I’m open to suggestions if he’s got any.
Anyway, thanks for your consideration. I’m looking forward to spending a week with Hoppsapop.
What do you mean, Walter didn’t win the contest?