FAIRY TALES, WITH CLOWNS
'Do you love me?' he asked in the third month of their relationship. 'If you love me, then why don't you kiss me?'
'It's impossible,' she replied. 'My father the King will never consent to our being together. I'm a princess and you're a clown. I should never have led you on. Should never have let you hope that we could ever be anything more than friends.'
'If you kiss me,' said the clown, 'then I will be transformed into a prince.'
It was true, and the King was content to give their match his blessing.
But things were different between them. He no longer made her laugh and she no longer loved him.
And they did not live happily ever after.
'O grandpa, what big feet you have,' said the woodcutter's daughter and sniggered.
'All the better to trip over them, and fall and break a leg while people like you guffaw,' said the clown, the resentment obvious in his voice.
'O grandpa, what a big red nose you have,' said the girl, and found it hard to keep a straight face.
'All the better to shine in the dark, and get stung by bees who think it's a flower and peppered with buckshot by hunters for your amusement,' said the clown, and gritted his sharp white teeth.
'O grandpa, what long bony fingers you have,' said the spoiled little madam, and wiped a smirk from her face.
'All the better to tickle you to death with,' screeched the clown, and leapt out of bed and seized the girl up in his arms.
Fade to black, as laughter turns to screams in the little red brick cottage at the heart of the forest.
It was the social event of the year, and simply everybody had been invited. There were Zeppo, Groucho, Harpo, Chico and even Gummo. Pantaloon and Granfaloon put in an appearance, as did Gargantua and Pantagruel. Huey and Loey were there but kept mainly to themselves. Coco made balloon animals to amuse the little ones, while Grimaldi stood in a corner and watched the room. Yes, all the most important clowns of the kingdom were invited, except for one. The royal flunky in charge of the guest list for the royal christening had forgotten to invite Bepo.
Who came anyway. Uninvited.
He was that sort of a clown.
And by way of a present to the newborn, made a laughing stock of them all for a hundred years.
Moral of the story: manners maketh the clown.
Alternatively, never underestimate the malice of a funny man when he is not amused.
'This is a very special costume,' said the first tailor.
'Yes,' confirmed his partner in crime. 'It will be visible only to those with a sense of humour.'
The clown said nothing, only handed over the exorbitant sum they demanded in payment for these magical threads. He had long suspected that he had no sense of humour and was not cut out for a life of buffoonery, and so the invisibility of his new costume was not of any great concern to him.
When he first stepped out on the stage in his new attire, the audience were soon falling about in the aisles, and the lachrymose clown felt sadder still that he would never know the hilarity it was his destiny to ignite in others.
The prince danced with her all evening, ignoring the ladies of the court and the ladies of the town with their grand designs on his bachelorhood.
He laughed at the things she did and the things she said. He was enchanted by her white face and red nose, was delighted by the way in which her hair shot off in all directions like a bird's nest torn apart in a high wind and absolutely charmed when the faded flower in her buttonhole spouted water in his face. He simply adored the rags she wore, far too big for her petite and girlish figure, with shiny patches where the material had worn thin and dotted here and there with food stains like a Rorschach sampler.
She was a real woman, and not at all like the fine ladies of the court and the fine ladies of the town, all of whom were draped in designer label evening gowns that clung to every curve and with every single hair in place, the superficiality of their lives mirrored in the plastic beauty they sported for all to admire.
And then she disappeared. On the stroke of midnight.
Courtiers dispatched in hot pursuit returned with a shoe, found abandoned on a staircase.
It was at least eighteen inches long, the leather old and cracked, the uppers coming away from the sole in several places, and with an unpleasant smell about it, the lingering residue of some fungal foot infection perhaps.
The prince took one look and, with a wriggle of his patrician nose, decided that maybe there was something to be said for superficiality after all.