Last time (look it up), with my dreams of clown college and clowning dashed, I found myself emerging from a haze of debauchery.
My face hurt.
You see, that first banana split in Denison was laced with banana roofies: a secret Jamaican extract that renders the victim extremely impressionable and unable to remember anything that happens while under its influence. Also, I was drunk.
Over the years, Granny Peterson (proprietor of the ice cream saloon) had drugged upwards of eleven unsuspecting travelers, sending them to unknowingly perform obscene acts in an Amarillo burlesque show. She kept us under her control by feeding us daily spiked banana splits.
We were only able to break free when, during the national banana recall of aught four, she was forced to substitute plantains in the splits. Unbeknownst to Granny Peterson (no grandchildren, liar!), the enchanted plantain contains magical enzymes which neutralize the hypno-hallucinogenic effects of the Jamaican extract. Not many people realize that the plantain was botanically and supernaturally developed to aid against the voodoo of the Caribbean and its horticultural precursor, the banana (AKA “the devil’s banana”, AKA “the kitchen-counter banana”).
Reality came crashing upon me like a kick in the face when the bearded transvestites of the burlesque show were kicking me in the face. That was the gimmick: truck drivers and stay-at-home moms paid a quarter to watch men dressed like bearded ladies kick me and two other guys in the face for 20 minutes.
When I realized what was happening, I knew I had to escape. I waited 17 minutes until the show was over (after all, these low-class prostitutes and postal workers paid good money to see the show, and who was I to rob them of their only joy in life?). On the way to the after-party, I pulled aside the other faces (Tom Tom and The Other Guy).
“Hey, you guys,” I said. “Like, crazy, right? We should totally split… Ha ha, split, get it? Bananas. What do you think?”
“Oh, I get it,” said The Other Guy. “It’s not funny, but I get it.
“I think it is funny,” said Tom Tom, “but I don’t get it.”
“The banana splits were obviously drugged,” I said. “But ‘split’ also means to leave. So we should ‘split’, like leave, but also it’s funny because of the banana splits.”
“I still don’t get it,” said Tom Tom.
“Are you stupid?” asked The Other Guy.
But Tom Tom wasn’t stupid. He was just dumb. After 10 minutes, it was clear that Tom Tom hadn’t been drugged. He’d volunteered for this, because he liked getting kicked in the face. He skipped off towards the party trailer yelling “Beer!”, leaving me alone with The Other Guy.
“Are you an idiot, too?” I asked.
“I hope not,” he said. “Let’s get out of here.”
At that point it was well past midnight, and under cover of darkness, we crept to our rooms behind the abandoned warehouse, and gathered our things (which mostly consisted of bottles of whiskey and our stamp collections; I had some leftover clown paraphernalia; The Other Guy had a hat). After brushing our teeth, we cartwheeled toward the train depot, toward freedom.
When we got there, The Other Guy held up his hand. “Wait,” he said. “How can we go out into the world like this?”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Look.” He pointed to our moonlit reflections in a window of the train station.
Unfortunately, months of “You’ll Get A Kick Out of This” shows had caused our faces to become mutilated and malformed. But that’s how I looked already, so no one would be able to tell the difference. The Other Guy wasn’t so lucky.
“It’s not so bad,” I said, swallowing back some bile. “Who needs a nose, anyway? I can fix you up in no time.”
I whipped out my clown attaché case and began applying face paint liberally (mostly blues, whites and oranges, to complement his complexion and downplay the Phantom-of-the-Opera/Mel-Gibson-in-that-one-movie aspects). By the time I was finished, he looked better than Gary Busey—far from passable in normal society, but good enough for a train ride through the desert.
We’d already missed the midnight train to Georgia, but at the far end of the yard, nightshift workers were loading up a 3AM train to Barstow, CA. I knew that was our ticket out of there. But it wasn’t. We didn’t have tickets. But we snuck on the train anyway.
Hiding in a boxcar, under a pile of doggie chew toys, I overheard one of the loading crew ask another, “Did you hear about that kangaroo in Colorado(?!)”. The bellow of the train whistle drowned out any reply. The wheels screeched and onomatopoeia’d to life, and The Other Guy and I were on our way to California—the land of dreams and waking up.
Still to come: Choo-choo, animated assistance, dirt, cacti, the Grand Canyon, The Other Guys dies (to me), and 2005. Don’t mess with Texas.