Twenty-ninth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers
AN: Ashton Poe was one of many Tragic Clowns roaming this world. Now he’s seeking a new life in a beautiful starter home, Green Leaf by MisanaBriony.
29. My untested sword
Ashton Poe’s woes didn’t end when the clown strike did: that’s when they resumed. As a clown, he was despised. He had one friend in the world: a worrywart bookworm of a boy, who never saw much purpose in laughing. All the others–even his colleagues–thought of him as a sorry potato sack smeared with grease paint.
“I am so much more!” Ashton told himself. “The nose doesn’t define me.”
“I have dreams!” he told his reflection. “Goals, even!”
“I could’ve been somebody. I could be somebody! Heck! This suit doesn’t define me!”
When he stripped off the face paint and changed into his street clothes, he felt transformed.
“I quit,” he said to the air. “I’m starting anew!”
But what would he do? What was he qualified for?
I have logical mind, he thought. Business. That should suit. Or politics. Maybe law.
He took his new self out to the lounge in Oasis Springs.
What a coincidence! Alec was there.
“How’s the clowning, mon ami?” Alec asked.
“It isn’t!” replied Ashton. “I am done! Done! Finished! C’est fini, mon ami!”
“Oui, non,” said Alec. “This is not for what we concluded the strike. The strike we ended for continuing work, no? And the settlement?”
“Ah! Yes,” replied Ashton. “In fact, it is the settlement that makes this new move possible. In fact, after the negotiations, I got a taste for that sort of thing. I’m thinking maybe a career in politics. You need an aide?”
“Um, no. But no. Certainement. Merci et bonne chance.”
Ah, well. There was a world of opportunity outside politics! Business. Real estate, even.
Walking through the neighborhood the next morning to scope out the housing market, Ashton was accosted by his neighbor Toby Gustafson.
“Clown!” Toby yelled. “We don’t want clowns in this neighborhood! This is a good neighborhood! We don’t need you bringing us down!”
“But I am not a clown,” said Ashton. “I quit! I turned in my card! I threw out the grease paint and the silicone red nose!”
“Once a clown, always a clown,” said Toby.
Not everyone greeted him with incivility.
“You’ve quit then?” Isabel Rosella asked. “Now what?”
“That’s the question,” replied Ashton. “How’s the life of a writer?”
“Oh,” she answered. “Demanding. It asks so much of the heart and the mind.”
But writers don’t get snubbed, Ashton thought, as he continued his walk along the levee.
“Coulrophobic,” muttered his young neighbor Orion. “Eyes straight ahead.”
Ashton felt relieved when he met his one friend Alexander on his walk.
“Darn library fines,” said Alexander. “You would think that if somebody loved a book enough to read it a dozen times that the fees might be waived.”
“There’s rules, though, Alex,” said Ashton.
“Readers shouldn’t have to follow the same rules. Anyway, where’s your nose?”
“I quit!” Ashton said.
“Humph,” Alex said. “Now what?”
“Maybe I’ll become a librarian. I could petition to waive the fines in certain circumstances.”
“Eh. I doubt they’d listen, even without your nose.”
“Good day, Ashton,” said Belle Meinel, who was strolling with a friend.
“Ladies,” Ashton replied. If there were a career that involved being charming, especially to the ladies, that might be a possibility. He really thought he had a talent for politics.
“Don’t look now,” said Nyla, another of his young neigbors, “but you’ve got a butterfly over your head.”
“Just one?” he asked. “Are you sure?”
“If one butterfly is so special, what would you think of two?” he asked.
“Two would be cool,” Nyla said.
“Abracadabra and melafracalasmith!” Ashton said.
A few subtle deflections, a small distraction, a quick movement of the hands, and suddenly, two butterflies hovered above Nyla’s head.
“Is this real?” she asked. “You must be a magician!”
Later that evening, sitting in his back yard to watch the river boat pass by, Ashton recounted the exchange with Nyla.
She was a bright kid, and she didn’t seem to mind him at all. In fact, she seemed rather impressed.
Magicians are charming, aren’t they? Illusion, credibility, distraction. A magician is not that different from a politician, after all, except, perhaps, a bit more honest.
He may have found his true career, he thought.
After all, though they both deal with sleight of hand, a magician is not a clown.
Miranda dropped by in the morning, looking like the world was ending.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You’re moving,” she replied.
“But that’s a good thing!” I said. “I’ll be living on the island! You can take the ferry when you come visit!”
We headed inside. I had a little bit of time before morning ferry left.
“You’ll see,” Tia Berry said. “Not that much will be changing.”
“Everything’s changing,” said Miranda.
“You’re forgetting about the club,” said Tia Berry. “It’ll be like old times, only better. We’ll take the ferry to the island and do yoga under the pines!”
“You think we’ll still meet?” asked Miranda.
“Of course!” said Tia Berry.
“Of course!” I agreed. “The club goes on!”
I left them smiling. I walked down to the ferry terminal myself. Mãe thought it would be easier if we didn’t make a big deal out of the goodbye. I didn’t have much to carry–a violin case, a guitar case, a backpack full of clothes.
On the ferry, I didn’t look back. I turned towards the island and let the mainland recede. I was heading towards something.
The island air brought back so many happy memories, all those afternoons running free through the meadows while the avós were in the cottage.
And now, the cottage is my home.
It smelled so good–like lemon floor wax.
My cousins had taken all the furniture. Avô‘s work became even more desirable after his passing, and since I got the house, they got the furnishings. Monetarily, they got the better deal. But I wouldn’t have traded for anything.
The only piece of furniture was the bed that avô had crafted for me, left up in the loft where I always slept every time I stayed over.
I took a nap, and when I woke up, I heard a girl’s voice calling, “Hello? Welcome? Anyone home?”
I looked out the front window to find a young blonde woman standing before the house holding a plate of fruit cake. We love fruit cake in our family!
I smiled when I saw her. Her eyes were the same color as her sweater–a blue exactly the shade of the clear water in the bay.
“We heard you were moving into Papa Carlos and Bella-Bella’s house,” she said. “We’re your neighbors.”
Her older sister joined us.
“You knew meus avós?” I asked.
Sofia, the older sister, laughed. “Sure! They were like grandparents to me and Elsa! We came over every day after school.”
“Your grandma was teaching me to sing,” said Elsa.
I had a weird moment. Somehow, I’d always thought of meus avós as mine. I mean, I know I shared them with my cousins, but the cousins were nearly grown when I was a little kid, and they hardly saw the avós. These girls were my age! They grew up next door to meus avós. They probably had known them better than I had–or at least they saw them more often.
My friend Max joined us. He’s a neighbor now, too.
“Moving day, huh, Charlie?” he asked.
I’d turned to head inside, when Elsa began to sing. It was that aria minha avó loved to sing to me, “Quando m’en vo!” Though Elsa’s voice was thinner–more like a reed–than the rich velvet voice of minha avó, I recognized the phrasing that minha avó loved to use. In this girl, this neighbor, something of minha avó will live on.
My new and old friends–my new neighbors–followed me inside.
“Hey, there’s no furniture!” Max said.
“It feels kind of empty,” said Sofia.
Sofia looked around the empty room.
“The piano’s gone,” she said. “I can still smell cinnamon, though. Can you? I loved your grandma’s cookies.”
Her face fell.
I’m not the only one to miss meus avós. My feelings must have shown, for Sofia walked across the room and wrapped me in a big hug.
“I’m glad you’re here,” she whispered. Her voice caught a few times, and it grew thick as it moved past stifled tears. “It’s like the house still has a piece of them. You look like them, you know.”
When my friends and neighbors left, I grabbed a slice of the only food in the house–Elsa’s fruit cake–and sat on the only piece of furniture in the house–my old craftsman bed.
I called Mãe after I ate. I’d never had a night in my life where I hadn’t said good-night to her. Even when I stayed over here, I’d always call minha mãe before bed.
“Oh, Spud, I didn’t think you’d call!” she said.
We talked for so long. I filled her in on the neighbors and told her about how a piece of minha avó continues on in Elsa’s singing. I told her how my heart felt wobbly when I saw how much Elsa and Sofia missed meus avós. She told me about how Berry was going through the house talking to each painting and drawing I’d made.
“Put minha tia on the phone,” I said.
Tia Berry told me a story about two pigeons keeping guard along the top of the fence, and something about the way she told it, the voices she used for the sergeant pigeon, struck me as so funny, I was still laughing when I hung up the phone.
And then, the house was silent.
I could hear the foghorn in the bay. I could hear the waves rolling over the pebbles. I could hear the house creak as the timber shifted in the cool night air.
I went downstairs and turned on my old boom box.
While I danced in the empty house, I thought about Mãe and Tia Berry, falling asleep in the room they shared, knowing that when they woke, I wouldn’t be there with breakfast waiting for us.
I thought about the emptiness of this house.
I listened for echos of the voice of minha avó and the chisel of meu avô.
I heard the wind in the pines. I heard the distant foghorn. I heard the music on the boom box, an old recording of “Quando m’en vo!”, the aria minha avó always sung, the one that Elsa sang today.