Listen kid, I know it’s your birthday and all, that you only turn ten once, and that this is your special day, but, come on, you’re crying over your balloon animal because you wanted a giraffe and you got an Irish Wolfhound, which you say looks retarded, and that I’m retarded; please, give me some respect here—even though I go by Bozo the Clown, I’m no bozo, just part of the franchise—this is my career, my profession; sure, I studied English literature in college, discovering a love for Dante and Milton, and upon graduation I couldn’t find a job anywhere, even in my local strip mall Barnes and Noble or in any of the dozen coffee shops run by the evil empire, Starbucks, and yes, I went a little crazy snorting coke in dive bar restrooms and drinking rail whiskey in the mornings, and my mom kicked me out of the house and I lived with this hooker, kind of acting as her john until she overdosed on Methadone and her dad took her away, placing her in some upscale treatment center, and yes, I continued to squat in that shit-box apartment for a little longer, waking up in my own vomit and just existing for the hit, for the adrenalin pop of making a score, but I cleaned myself up, kid, and my mom eventually agreed to take me back in, though in the basement this time and I had a curfew and I had to promise to stop the drinking and the drugs, and so you have to believe me when I tell you I’ve been to that dark void, that negative space where rock bottom fights back, slaps you over the head, and tells you to get a grip, and kid, really, you should take my advice and stop bugging your mom about wanting a giraffe because she was the one who hired me and I only charge seventy-five bucks for the entire afternoon, which includes entertaining you and your little snot-nosed friends with magic tricks, miming man-trapped-in-a-box, and singing the entire Justin Bieber back catalogue; I have a feeling you don’t know what it takes to make it in this industry: it’s competitive as hell, and I have rivals who undercut on price (but also quality) and sport junk-ass names like Melvin the Magnificent and Chachi the Womanizer and one of these jerks I even mentored for a while, teaching the punk things like the necessary clown poise to juggle flaming torches and how to throw custard pies without blinding the victim, but I didn’t teach him everything—I had to keep something in reserve, like that unusual balloon animal (I mean who else can make a recognizable Irish Wolfhound?), which is one of my specialties, my calling card, if you will, but actually I have to give credit to this street performer, Gregor the Great, or something alliterative like that, who was a world-class twister, and seeing him model that air-filled rubber into all those wondrous taxonomies led to an epiphany that I could shape my own future, and, in fact, Gregor’s the one, even more so than my mom, who helped me pull through the DTs and the projectile vomiting, who called me when I was low—close to breaking—and told me it would be hard and I tell you it was hard for a couple of weeks, but I got my shit together and enrolled in night classes—method acting, circus skills, and contemporary dance—to reinvent myself, to give me a shot at something new, perhaps even take the clichéd route and be an artist and emigrate to Paris, and yes, kid, it took a while and I financed school with a part-time job stacking shelves at Walmart and also a life model gig at the nearby community college, letting those old folks sketch my thin wretched body for $8.50 an hour, and then later on stare at me oddly when they see me stacking incontinence pads in the aisle, but I found a girl, a real blue-eyed blonde named Val, who was a cashier and had a pierced conch, and we dated, the way I always saw couples do in movies: romantic encounters brimming with candle-lit dinners, French waiters, and fancy red wine, which I could never pronounce and never drink (for fear of reverting to my old habits), but would tell her to finish her glass, and then, by midnight, after we kissed and I left her by the bus stop, I could smell only her cherry-red lip gloss, and I went out of my mind and proposed and we got married at the town hall the next year and my mom even came and cried all the way through the ceremony, and though the marriage was annulled, as Val hooked up with Randy in Electronics, I carried on, eventually met someone else … what I’m trying to say, kid, is that it’s all right things didn’t turn out the way I hoped, or expected, as, in many ways, my life’s better and I have a son of my own now, around your age, and he’s nerdy, into board games, particularly he enjoys thrashing me at Hungry Hungry Hippos, but I still love him, apart from the crying, that’s why you should stop, celebrate life, because you have it all in front of you, even though I know you’ve been through some shit, like your mom told me on the phone she was worried about you, that your dad left a year ago, that he moved in with a slut redhead named Babs, and this is your first birthday without him, and I know that’s tough—I never met my father: he ran off after mom told him she was pregnant with me, which led to zero alimony or child support, no visiting me on Sundays, or him in the stands watching my Little League games—but you’ll survive and attend college, like I did, snag a job where you can make ends meet and make good with your mom, maybe even move across town to the suburbs, which, by the way, aren’t that bad, but are a great place to think, even read some of those college books you’re going to skip; so, come on kid—what’s your name anyhow: Tom? Bill? Phil?—your mom’s here with the cake and it looks kind of tasty, chocolate sponge, I bet, smothered in white vanilla frosting; you should get closer, yeah and I’ll sing “Happy Birthday” and cheer you on; there you go you’re almost there, the big ten-o and now, for God’s sake, blow out those fucking candles.
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