Monday, November 11, 2013

I Will Not Click On This Link

I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link I will not click on this link

Thursday, November 7, 2013



In 1876, Italian circus performer Paulo Duccio, like millions of Europeans, immigrated to the promised land of America. Unable to find work, he bummed his way west until he wound up broke and desperate in St. Louis. The Gateway To The West they called it, and the train station was the point of departure for everyone bound for California. Duccio figured it would be the perfect place to hustle spare change.

As he had done many times before, the clever carny reached into his bag of disguises. This time he pulled out a clown. Dressed as a bumbling aristocrat, Duccio became an instant hit on the station waiting platform. Weary travelers loved his disappearing tricks and slap-stick comedy; loved him enough to throw a few coins into the stove pipe hat he passed around.

The railroad company liked Duccio too. They hired him to perform at employee functions and shareholder meetings. Performing in halls all across the Midwest, the clown gradually took on the role of jester. Dancing and cavorting in total silence, he became Punchinello, the fool.

After every performance, with great fanfare, he produced a gilded hand mirror from his baggy trousers. Staring intently at himself for a few seconds, the clown suddenly burst into silent laughter. Then, slowly shuffling through the auditorium, he showed people their image in the mirror. The clown clearly enjoyed this burlesque, and his self-deprecating buffoonery soon had the shareholders chuckling. Many saw in the mirror that they also looked foolish, yet all chose to join in the charade.

The clown’s performances injected levity into the serious business of making money, and Duccio found himself in demand for other corporate meetings. Famous at last, he began wearing his Punchinello costume everywhere. At restaurants he sat at special tables, eating in silence as patrons laughed and applauded. People recognized him on the street, men tipped their hats.

Over time, Duccio forgot his other self and could often be seen at home in the evening reading his paper, dressed as the clown he had become.

One Fourth of July, the clown was hired to provide laughs at a picnic for railroad employees. This time, however, he was given a different task to perform. A tiny platform had been constructed high above a great wooden barrel filled with water.

For his part, the clown must somehow climb a flimsy rope ladder to the platform. After much melodramatic hand-wringing, he would leap into the water forty feet below. His practice jump had ended badly when he bruised his shoulder on the barrel’s edge.

The afternoon performance arrived, and the clown seemed understandably anxious. Clinging to the swaying ladder and unsure of himself, he sweated profusely in the blazing sun. With great effort, he crawled onto the platform and stood, eyes closed, now shivering in the Midwest heat.

As the crowd cheered wildly, the clown inched his oversize shoes to the platform’s edge. Sweat stung his eyes, and he felt like puking. But he could not go back. Duccio was, after all, a performer. So, crossing himself once, he raised his arms high and jumped.

Down and down he plunged and every mother and every child gasped in astonishment. In a blur of color, the clown hit the water, a warm spray splashing the circle of excited onlookers. He surfaced, gasping, alive, and checked to see that all body parts were accounted for.

Under a darkening sky, the clown treaded water, marveling at his good fortune. Everyone squeezed forward for a better look and did not mind when the skies finally opened. It rained long and hard, like on a Kansas corn field summer day. Not one person walked away.

And then a peculiar thing happened. The rain, and water, and sweat began to have an effect on the clown. His gaudy grease paint make-up puddled and ran. His bulbous rubber nose gave way and slid into the water, followed by fuchsias, yellows and blues.

As the clown slowly washed away, the crowd stared in disbelief. Someone else began to emerge, someone altogether different; a pink incredulous old man. From somewhere deep under water, a shiny mirror found its way to the surface. The man held the mirror up and gazed, unbelieving, at his reflection.

Lifting his eyes, he looked out past the people and railroad tracks, out beyond the rows of tasseled corn to a spot on the horizon. Fierce rain pelted his wrinkled face, but he continued gazing into the distance. Now the gilded mirror fell from a gloved hand. Duccio the forgotten man gave an audible sigh and slipped beneath the rainbow waters.