The Shrieking Flesh 

Chapter Two

Ken Preston

24 April 2024

A German expressionist illustration of a dark angel with frayed wings.

‘Clowning is a serious job,’ Herman growled, his vocal chords wrecked from all the cheap cigarettes and whisky he had consumed over the years. ‘It’s not for the cowardly, you know? You’ve got to commit. It’s that moment you climb into the cannon, you know? You can't back out. Sure you can pretend, you can cry and yell and kick up a ruckus, but you don't follow through, you’ve betrayed all those kids out there who came to see a clown get fired out of a cannon. And it don’t matter that they’re hoping you’ll miss the net, that you’ll break a bone, or something worse. That’s all part of the deal.’

The cigarette bobbed up and down in his mouth as he talked. He had to crane his head back to look at Lori.

‘Or a pie in the face, it’s not just comedy, you know. It’s a … waddaya call it … ?’ He snapped his fingers, his painted white face scrunched up with thought.

‘A statement,’ Lori said.

‘Yeah, that’s right, it’s a statement, a political statement, you know?’

‘Clowning is politics?’

‘Yeah, the schmucks out there, they love it, like you’re shoving a pie in the face of the bastards in power. Wouldn’t they love to do that? Wouldn’t you?’

Lori took a drag on her own cigarette. Canvas flapped in the wind. Outside the tent a tiger roared, followed by screams.

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