by Angel Luis Colón
They say it’s about three months into a new relationship where things can sour real fast. First night Julia invited me over to her place, the milk completely curdled. Julia ended our grace period like a champ when she came out of the bathroom in rainbow suspenders and a pair of shiny, red clown shoes.
Julia sauntered over to me—each step accompanied by a high pitched squeak. She smiled. “You can laugh. I want you to laugh.”
The situation was ridiculous, but there’s nothing very funny about clowning. Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t the type that claimed clowns were scary as a means of validating my disdain of lowbrow comedy. It wasn’t scary or funny and it was as far away from erotic as penetrating a mime; which might actually be worse.
There were no prior hints of this from Julia. No strange tchotchkes on her nightstand or weird pieces artwork in the kitchen. She normally wore black on black—sometimes charcoal. Everything about her screamed bland city girl. It was disappointing to see her in those shoes, spread-eagle on her bed, and slowly pulling links of colorful ribbon from her lady parts.
The sound of a car door closing snapped me away from the spectacle.
“Oh shit.” Julia clutched the ribbons in a fist as she sat up. She’d gone through three sets of ROY G BIV and there was still no sign of an end. She swung her legs off the bed and stood up. “Shit. You need to go.”
I was disoriented. A college freshman on his fifth shot of 151 proof rum, so to speak.
“What?” was all I could muster.
“Rob listen to me, he’ll kill you. Seriously.” Julia snatched my clothes from the floor and shoved them against my bare chest. “They’re all crazy.”
I stared at the length ribbon hanging from between her legs and trailing behind her like a tail. “Who?” I asked.
Julia didn’t get a chance to answer. I turned and saw I wasn’t far from the bedroom window. Outside in the driveway, I could see a Volkswagen Golf. There was a tall, broad-chested fella with sharp features staring at me and breathing through his nose. Behind him, an entourage of seven emerged from the tiny, German car.
That was impossible. They couldn’t all fit in there.
Julia shoved me and screamed. There was only one way out the bedroom and the hallway led me between the front and back doors. The primate in me finally realized I was in danger and I made a break for it, but Julia’s fella was greased lightning. I ran face first into his heaving chest and nearly landed ass-first on the shag carpeting. His grip on my shoulders prevented that. We met each other’s gaze and he smiled without joy. No, this was a challenge. My primate instinct to run met his primate extinct to tear my face off.
His hairy knuckles met my jaw next.
I always prided myself as the type to have steel conviction. Like, a person would have to kill me before I did anything illegal. I was a self-made man. Graduated from culinary school at the top of my class. Trudged my way from the line to sous and over to executive chef in record time.
Then a dwarf got a hold of my scrotum, made it his personal speed bag, and my mind got made for me pretty fast.
“So what’s the plan?” Julia’s boyfriend, Dmitri, watched me with tired eyes. We were in the back of a dirty van. His troupe all decked out in black tactical gear; AR-45s, facemasks, body armor.
Me? I wasn’t wearing a damn thing except a giant cloth diaper and clown makeup that made me look like I’d been crying.
This was a bank robbery.
This was revenge for checking in between Julia’s legs. For catching the matinee performance of her ribbons trick. My mouth was taped over tight. One of Dmitri’s buddies wrote something on it. I couldn’t see their faces, but every time someone looked at me, I could tell they were smirking or laughing. Every time they cackled, it felt like some new clown hell would be unleashed on me. I’d never understand how Julia could find laughter at one’s expense to be a turn on.
The van stopped. Two of Dmitri’s crew stood at either side of me and forced me out. Dragged me into the bank behind a screaming Dmitri. He said everything I’d heard in movies: “money or your lives,” “everyone stand at the far wall”, “no heroes.”
“Ninety-four seconds,” said one of Dmitri’s stooges. Like they were following a script.
Dmitri nodded and grabbed me by the crook of the arm. Reached into the leather satchel at his side and thrust an over-sized baby bottle into my hands. He pressed his hands hard over mine and I heard a click.
Dmitri smiled. “Hold on.”
I didn’t understand. Tried to voice my concern, but the tape wasn’t letting me gab.
One of the guys held his gun to my head. “Stay right there.”
The gang emptied the registers and collected valuables off patrons. They high-tailed it out the building without a word. Dmitri lagged behind.
When he got to the door, Dmitri turned. “Never fuck with a brozo’s hozo.” He aimed his AR at me, and pulled the trigger.
I felt my knee give out and then the cold, marble floor against my face. Felt like the sun was trying to tear out of my leg. I blinked through tears and realized I’d let go of the baby bottle. Heard a low beep coming from the diaper they’d pinned on me. It grew louder and more urgent. I rolled onto my back and tried to ignore the pain from my leg, the sound of the bank customers screaming.
Brozo, I thought, Oh, I get it…and in the flare of orange and white that filled my vision, I nearly laughed.