The Clown [Part I]

“The Clown” follows a real estate agent who daydreams about his inner persona, a murderous clown. For the coulrophobes (those afraid of clowns) out there, this premise will immediately have you on edge, and Mayer does an excellent job building suspense by keeping readers close to this unforgettably unsettling narrator.

The clown counted his murders as he drove the new couple to the house on Rocking Horse Lane. Not few. The Lexus needed air again, according to the little orange light, the man in his passenger seat was offering original commentary on the Clintons, and behind the clown’s left eye a toothache and an earache were collaborating. Not few at all, and some of the murders had been admirably painful, admirably patient. Outside the Lexus it was seventy-two degrees in October, and inside the Lexus, according to a different screen, it was also seventy-two degrees, the car’s climate system blowing hard even so. The clown hated the Lexus and was wearing a blazer he’d bought to match it. In the backseat, the woman, very pregnant, was picking her teeth with the aid of her phone. The clown’s mouth—thirsty—tasted like waffle fries and crispy chicken sandwich, and so did all the rest of him. Salt, grease, a synthetic drive-thru savor—he was likely composed of it by now. No matter how many times he sucked the straw the soda was still out.

“We hate to leave the downtown,” the man, Seamus, was saying again. “Our apartment is five minutes from Pinche Taco, five minutes from Cerebral Brewing, like two minutes from Über Dog, but how fast I got her pregnant, we’re going to need rooms.”

“Congratulations,” said the clown, shaking his ice. Any kind of knife murder, some hooks, some rod-and-fire stuff. One dehydration. He tried to recognize himself, his life and effort, in the résumé, but it was like he’d consigned his life effort to a secret man. What was left ate waffle fries, sold houses, awaited the secret man’s return.

But he had a good feeling about this couple. Early thirties, Apple Watches, fecund. He wanted to kill them. That was something. The woman, Eliza, was very quiet. All she had said since the place on Ridgeway Row was “Hi, Daddy” when they passed a trim tort lawyer’s billboard. Seamus was lavishly freckled, in an overlaundered polo probably assigned to lazy weekend wear, curling collar leaning toward the postnuptial paunch.

The clown had been preparing this for a while.

The houses on Vinci Park and Ridgeway Row, where the air still smelled of other people’s lentil soup, had been staged disappointments, unmowed drabnesses after which 404 Rocking Horse would gleam like a mirror. It was the perfect place for Eliza and Seamus; Eliza and Seamus were the perfect pair for it. The clown had been preparing this for a while.

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