Fern was convinced that a clown was standing at the foot of his bed when he fell asleep each night. “This was not rational” his parents would tell him. His doctors, doctors for both his brain and his body, all said the cause was something deeply wrong with him.
But Fern knew, oh, he was sure of it. The clown was a constant. Every night, right before he went to bed, he would have a clown standing there, over his bed, staring. Red-nosed and wide mouthed, and with a painted white face. It had long fingers, encased in gloves.
“Why would you say that? No one can get in,” his mother would say.
His father would add: “I know you fear clowns, son, but there is no clown in your room, I promise.”
But Fern would insist, they would medicate him until he could barely see straight—until talking was hard for him, until the side effects ate at his brain—and still, he would claim a clown, a big elderly clown, smelling of roasted peanuts and marijuana, was there in his room.
So, his parents tried something else. They would sit at his bed side for hours, and while he was awake assure him, swear up and down and sideways, that there was no clown, that there could not be a clown in the room, that they had bolted the windows shut. And, if needed, they would sing to him, or read Fern a story—because the usual ways of logic would not convince a kid of the falseness of a nightmare.
And, with every night of this, Fern would fall asleep with them there and wake up without them there, sometime later, his alarm clock saying some horribly early number, usually starting with a three or a four, and, then, he would hear the soft breathing and glimpse the clown. The clown was sometimes holding a custard pie in one hand, but would always have a stillness reminiscent of a wax figure.
“Please,” he would whisper, and the clown would break the stillness and lean forward, and would spill out that smell of peanuts, and would hush him with those long fingers, and then giggle—in a little girl’s voice—just once, before standing up and taking a single step away.
And, as if drugged, Fern would fall asleep again, despite the clown. He would go into a deep dreamless slumber, and would not wake until the next day, when he would complain of the clown to his parents, yet again.
His parents were, of course, flabbergasted, but could do nothing more to change his mind. So, eventually, they switched rooms with him. The father, braver than the mother in this couple, would spend each night alone in his son’s bed, waiting to see the supposed clown. The mother would sleep in the guest room.
They gave Fern a lantern, along with a BB gun for protection. And, finally, he slept soundly and never complained again of the clown—and slowly they took him off the pills, and he lived a normal life for a while. Albeit, with a new bedroom.
The adults though still felt weird about it and were just damn curious—but the father never saw the clown, and the doctors eventually declared it something odd in the kid’s development, and so it was left as it was.
A year later, though, the family moved due to the economy, leaving the house on the market. And, during this time, some who walked by the house swore that they could see a faint outline of a man folding balloons into animal shapes, and violently—though silently—laughing to himself.
The house never got sold. There was still a faint odor of peanuts when it burned down ten years later.