The Clown

During the 20-odd years we lived in our 15-room, three-storey house on Maplewood Avenue in Winnipeg’s old Riverview district, we had a Clown living in the attic. He appeared when visitors came with kids the same age as our daughters.

He wore a colourful outfit that looked like pyjamas. His face was that of a mask with a broad smile.

There was a diminutive door on the third floor which led to the attic. That’s where the Clown lived with only a bare bulb for light and tidbits from the table I brought him daily, together with a glass of water. Being very light, he slept between two rafters.

One summer my nephew Mel and his wife Vicki came from California to visit. They had three girls just like us. The six of them got along well.

It was a sunny afternoon during their visit when the Clown made his appearance. He came out of the front door of the house to the swing on our front lawn where the kids were playing. They stopped what they were doing and stared.

The Clown said nothing, just walked around and shook hands with each young girl. Vicki and Diane were sitting on the porch laughing.

The Clown pushed the swing for each girl, still saying nothing, then went back into the house.

That was that.

At supper I told the girls how the Clown lived up in the attic. They wanted to go and see his living space, but I wouldn’t let them go up to the third floor. Next day Mel and Vicki left to visit other relatives in Winnipeg.

One Sunday morning the Clown appeared in church. He sat six pews back from where my family was sitting, and my place was empty.

“Where’s Irv?” someone asked Diane.

“Oh he’s not feeling well today,” she said.

The Clown said nothing, sitting there in church. When everyone stood up to raise their hands in worship, the Clown sat still and still said nothing.

When everyone bowed their heads in prayer, the Clown stared straight ahead, his hands not folded like the others.

When church ended, he sat in his pew until everyone had gone, then slipped out a side door, walked to a van and drove away.

Next Sunday someone asked me where I was a week ago.

“Oh I just wasn’t feeling well,” I said.

No one ever confronted me on the appearance and disappearance of the Clown that never said a word.

The other day, years later, I asked my three daughters if they knew the whereabouts of that Clown’s outfit.

So far it has not turned up.

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