clorinda was a difficult child, even by the standards of her generation of rottenly spoiled little monsters.
she had a shaky grasp of the rules of civilization, and of polite society.
most things in the world bored her, if they didn’t disgust her.
she did like to get presents. and she liked her birthday, and holidays, and other pretexts to receive presents.
she professed to like parties , i e , those scheduled in her honor, and to like clowns and magicians, although she never seemed to show much enthusiasm for them when she was actually being entertained by them.
one day clorinda told her mother, “today is national grapefruit day.”
“so?” her mother responded without looking up from her laptop, where she was organizing an awards ceremony at one of her foundations.
“and if that is not enough” clorinda continued, “it is also substitute teacher appreciation day, and the anniversary of the execution of mary queen of scots.”
“you don’t even know what a substitute teacher is. but i suppose all these things call for a celebration?”
“or at least a present. i want a present.”
“have you ever thought of trying to do something useful with your life?”
“what kind of remark is that?” clorinda glowered. “now i want a really nice present, to make up for that nasty remark.”
“daddy will be home this afternoon. you can ask him.”
“oh.” this mollified clorinda a little bit. “well, he better get here quick.”
daddy was the richest man in the world, and he didn’t come around much, but when he did he generally did clorinda’s bidding.
when he asked clorinda what she would like for national grapefruit day she responded without hesitaton -
“i want a clown.”
“a clown? is that all? that shouldn’t be a problem. i will just have marker - “
“i don’t mean a clown to just rent for the afternoon,” clorinda interrupted him. “i mean a clown to own, to do exactly what i tell him.”
“well, honey, i don’t know about that -“
“ it sounds like slavery,” put in clorinda’s mother. “we don’t want to open that can of worms.”
“yes,” clorinda’s father agreed, “if the new york post got hold of it - “
“you mean the daily news,” said clorinda’s mother. “the post is your friend.”
“whatever. i can never remember which is which.”
“i want a clown,” said clorinda, “for my very own. you can work out the details. isn’t that what you have lawyers for?”
“they can probably work something out,” clorinda’s father sighed. “come up with some kind of contract to keep everybody happy.”
“aren’t clowns supposed to be sad?” asked clorinda’s mother.
the clown arrived the next morning. a tall thin fellow in full sad clown regalia, with a big green clown nose.
“you’re a shabby looking son of a bitch,” clorinda greeted him. “we might have to polish you up a little bit.”
“at your service, miss,” the clown replied, straightening himself up a bit, and giving clorinda a weary smile.
“you must be some kind of sorry refusenik, to hire yourself out to be a slave to a little girl.”
“be that as it may, miss, i am here, so what would you like to do?”
“i’d like to kick your ass. i bet i can kick your ass. what do you think of that?”
the clown smiled. “at what, miss? chess, monoploy, gin rummy…?”
“no, dufus, i mean real fightiing. with weapons of your choosing.”
the clown looked at the wall above clorinda’s head and noticed a pair of crossed cavalry swords, which had seen use in the civil war and the indian wars by one of clorinda’s great-great-great grandfathers.
the clown pointed to them. “i suppose those will do as well as anything, if you are serious.”
“you’re on, goober. let’s do it. i know just the place in central park where we can get it on.”
the clown was tall enough to take the swords down from the wall without having to stand on anything, and clorinda and the clown took them down the elevator and out into the street without attracting attention, or at least without causing any comments.
clorinda and the clown began marching down broadway toward central park with the swords over their shoulders.
it was a bright sunny day and as they strode along, clorinda noticed something strange.
the clown’s shadow.
it just kept getting longer, and longer, and longer…