Christmas Clown

      When I was a little girl, my father gave me a clown doll for Christmas.

       This is interesting, because my father seldom gave me toys and he certainly never gave me dolls.  He gave me gifts for my birthday and Christmas, but they were almost invariably practical: a new pair of shoes, books I needed to read, a winter coat.  The closest thing to a toy he ever gave me was a huge set of tin soldiers so that I could re-create Civil War battle strategies following diagrams in his military science books.  Oh, an a chemistry set (the chemistry set was fun).  

        So, the clown doll was atypical.  

        I don’t remember how old I was, but this was before he was terminated at work for being hostile and contemptuous, so I was probably about nine.  He said that someone from work had brought in the clown doll to give it away, because his kid didn’t like it anymore, and it was still like new.

        It was hideous, it was ghastly, and I hated it on sight the second I saw it sitting underneath the Christmas tree in a drift of dry brown pine needles, which had fallen off because my father could never be bothered to water the poor thing.  

         The clown was a fabric doll with a firm, squat, barrel-shaped torso.  Its arms were very long and skinny, like fat pencils, and it had white gloves on its hands and pointy-toed elf shoes on its feet.  It wore a vest with red buttons on its chest, pinned with a silk carnation.  The head was oblong-shaped and it had a mane of red yarn hair that stuck out from underneath a conical dunce-cap-looking hat, and it had a long pointed nose and a huge-mouthed bloody-red smile and shiny metallic black buttons for eyes.  Held upright, it was almost as tall as my chest, and it cast hideous shadows on the wall.  

        I became intimately familiar with the clown’s shadows because my father parked that ugly motherfucker in a wooden chair directly opposite the headboard of my bed, and at night, whenever a car drove by, the light from its headlamps would stream through the blinds and throw the doll’s shadow on the wall.  The shadows would change and move depending on the direction the car was travelling and the color and quality of its headlights.

        At first, I merely disliked the doll and found that its appearance ugly, but, at time wore on and my imagination began to work, I came to fear it.  It looked like it was moving at night, when the cars drove past.  When I came back from school, it looked like it had changed positions.  A few times, when it was new and I could still bring myself to touch it, I threw it into my closet and covered it with a towel, but Dad always took it out and put it back in the chair.

        It got to the point at night where I would get ready for bed, turn off the light, and then launch myself into bed and cover my head with the blankets so that I wouldn’t have to look at it.  

       I’d never been afraid of dolls before, and I was fast approaching an age where imaginary things would cease to terrify me.  Prior to the clown, my only make-believe terror was boa constrictors–I’d seen a Nature special about them and how they could eat entire antelope in one sitting, which I found morbidly fascinating, and I had been afraid one would somehow get into the house and swallow me up.

      Anyway, after a month or two I started avoiding my room, even in the daytime, and keeping the door shut from the hideous clown.  

      I told my brother about the clown one day, who went and tattled to our mother, who then called my father on the phone to complain about the clown doll. 

      “But she never said anything about it to me!” he protested.  As if I would complain about anything under his roof to his face, ever. 

       Dad took the clown back to work.  Some other unlucky kid got it next.  It was a perfectly good toy and there was no reason for it to go to waste, he said.  

2 thoughts on “Christmas Clown”

  1. There is definitely something about clowns that realise a deep seated fear in a lot of people. Not something I would ever give a child. Hope you have had a Christmas that brought you joy.

  2. I wouldn’t give it to a child either–the doll was weird-looking and ugly by any objective standard–but, to be fair, I don’t think Dad meant to scare me with it. It would never occur to him to be afraid of a doll. He’s not imaginative in that way. I’m the exact same way now, but when I was a kid, I was more suceptible to spooky make-believe shit.

    The funny thing about the story is these parents passing the clown-doll around, totally clueless.

    No Christmas joy…but it was better than last year.

    Thanks for reading.

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