Honk! Honk! Steven Gates grabbed his vibrant red orange nose and smiled at Tom. This year was Tom’s tenth birthday. Steven had been there for his past four. He whisked out a dark blue balloon and tied it into the number ten. He handed it to Tom while continuing to honk his nose. Tom yawned and threw the balloon in a pile of miscellaneous birthday junk. He then ran inside with the other boys to go play Call of Duty: Black Ops on the Xbox 360. Steven knew not to follow him inside as this was a sign that Tom wasn’t entertained by clowns anymore. He was outgrowing the clown phase of the birthday party. Tom’s eleventh birthday would not need the services of a man whose only degree was from Clown College.

Steven looked over at the adults who had remained outside. They were all shaking with laughter at his performance and Tom’s complete disinterest. Steve hobbled over in his two foot long rainbow clown shoes. He hopped in the air, clicked his heels and fell straight on his face. A sea made of glitter and deflated balloons sprang into the air and rested on top of Steven. The adults exploded in laughter. One of the fathers walked over and went to help Steven up. Steven flipped over and kipped himself up to the amazement of all the parents. He gave the father a handshake before turning to the other parents.

“I don’t think he likes clowns anymore.” said Steven as he stuffed a balloon back into his pocket.

“It’s a damn shame as well. This year you’ve really outdone yourself. Some of the moves you’ve done tonight, I sure couldn’t pull off.  You planned on falling right now, didn’t you?”  asked the father who had tried to help Steven

“A good magician never reveals his tricks. Clowns also follow this mentality, though we deal more in general mischief than tricks.” replied Steven whilst shining up his nose

“You’re such a good sport, Steven. I’m sorry that Thomas just ran off like that. Last year he really enjoyed you coming over.” said Janice, Tom’s mother

“The other boys didn’t like me last year though. I suppose my clown work is done with this group of kids. I came. I saw. I clownquered. It’s all been a great time, Janice.” Steven crammed all his stuff into his gym bag and threw it over his back.

“Steven, you don’t have to leave now. You’re just as welcome as any of us. You’ve given a lot of smiles over the past few years. Please at least wait for the cake to be cut and for Tom to make his wish. You always left after the cake was cut and the kids all get hyped up on sugar.  Have some lemonade for now.” Janice said firmly. Steven was filled with a sense of belonging. He was not just a clown for hire as he had thought. He was now a family friend. He and the parents sat down at the table. They all urged him to take off his purple pointed hat and magenta wig. He shook his finger at them.

“You asked for Pedro the Clown and that’s what you’ll have to deal with until the cake is done, people.” Steven smiled as the words escaped his lips.

“You clowns really have a dedication to the act. I guess I shouldn’t call Steven when you’re wearing that.” replied Janice.

Nobody at the birthday party knew him as Steven other than Tom’s mother. Everybody else knew him as Pedro the Clown or Pedro the Magnificent for when Steven tried to mix up his act by adding in magic tricks. Nobody had been happy with that act except for Janice who always encouraged Steven’s attempts. Parents were on and off. Some would stay and others would leave. All of them had heard of Pedro the Clown though. From Tom’s sixth to ninth birthdays, Pedro the Clown was as loved as the freedom that America enjoys. Steven realized that now those days would be behind him. No more Tom rushing to hug him when he walked out of his clown van. No more kids painting their faces to try and look like him. No more Janice convincing him to take an extra slice of cake. No more Janice helping him pack his never ending handkerchiefs into his sleeves when the kids weren’t watching. No more Janice to talk to in the kitchen as the kids played pin the tail on the donkey. No more Janice at all.

“I’ll allow you to call me Steven as this is looking to be my final performance. So you can call me whatever you like. I’ll answer any questions that you might have about me.” Steven honked his nose as he gazed at Janice’s frizzy red hair. He had never noticed how lovely it was. He wouldn’t be seeing it after today. He had to be honest with himself. There’s no way a woman would ever like a clown. He was just a funny guy to her and that was it.

“This is going to be your final performance? Don’t you have other kids to visit? Tom’s party can’t be your only routine in the year.” questioned one of the parents.

“I’m not actually a full time clown. Janice called me up when I was hanging up my boots. I had been clowning around for about two years. It can be very tiring doing a lot of parties in a week. I work as a math teacher at Huntington Elementary. None of the kids recognize me as Pedro the Clown. They really dislike me. One even said that I was no fun at all. ” stated Steven as he applied more white paint to his face. Janice’s jaw dropped. The rest of the parents’ eyes widened at this revelation.

“You mean to tell me that Pedro the Clown is Mr. Pierdo? My children hate you for all the homework you assign.” shrieked a mother out quickly.

“I can’t believe after all these years; you haven’t told me your last name. Is this some kind of secret from the children? Strict math teacher Pierdo is secretly Pedro The Clown. You’re like Batman, Steven. I can’t believe this.” Janice punched Steven in the arm. Steven rubbed and wagged his finger again.

“You’d best behave before I assign you twelve pages of arithmetic. You’ll have to do all the questions and all the parts to them. A-E, no exceptions allowed.” Steven said as he picked up another glass of lemonade. The parents sounded like they were all children again. The sound of their laughter carried into the video game room. This prompted Tom to yell at them to be quiet. Steven honked his horn until it fell off which got the parents laughing even harder.

“So what do you do, Janice? I’ve revealed my secret.” questioned Steven as he reattached his nose. Janice had always made sure to never mention her job. Steven thought that she was embarrassed by it.

“I’m a waitress. No big secret really. I don’t like talking about it much however. Tom’s father got me the job before he passed. That’s why I don’t like talking about my job that much.” stated Janice with a frown on her face. Steven stared into her eyes and felt the mourning that she felt. He hated how he made her think of such a horrible repressed memory of hers. She looked bothered. Steven was relieved when Tom came back and requested for his cake.

The kids slowly made their way back to the table outside. Everyone sat down at their place. Steven sat there solemnly as he eyed the last plate he would ever have with Tom and his group of friends. He’d ruined everything during his last time with these people. Tom looked at him with dislike.

“Pedro, why are you still here? You’re going to eat some of my cake? I don’t even understand why my mom invited you this year. I told her that I hate you and your stupid balloons. Your stupid face paint is coming off. Your clown shoes are getting all worn out since you wear the same pair every year. I hope that I never see you again. You embarrassed me last year and you’re embarrassing me now. You should just go now. You’re not needed anymore. If you even think of coming next year, then you’re just proving that you’re a complete loser with nothing to do in your life. ” snarled Tom with disdain in his eyes. Steven stared at the boy. He had been called a loser by children before all the time after tests were given. Detentions were usually given, but this was the birthday boy. Tom knew he was untouchable. Tom wanted Steven to know that Tom’s birthday and Pedro the Clown were now mutually exclusive. Tom returned the stare down until his mother called him to go out blow out the candles to his cake. Tom had made his point and now he would bask in the glory in his birthday.

Steven picked up his gym bag from the table. Everyone was now crowded around the birthday boy. Steven walked toward his van making sure that he wasn’t seen by any of the party guests. He took one last look at the group of people that were now surrounding Tom on the tenth anniversary of his birth. Steven remembered the look on Tom’s face when they first met four years ago. Tom was so young and much nicer. Tom had introduced himself to Pedro the Clown. He was so accepting in those days. Every year after that Tom was always so excited to see Pedro the Clown. Steven knew that he would look upon those days with much joy after today is over.

His father’s passing last year changed him much more than Steven had anticipated. Tom had become selfish because his mother spoiled. His wonderful mother was raising one boy by herself. His beautiful mother just couldn’t bear to see her son suffer like she did. Steven didn’t want to waste her time anymore. He had no place here. Her heart was bleeding and Steven could only make things worse. He was no good at fixing things other than student’s mistakes on math papers. He was just a clown. He was nothing more than an entertainer. He should have kept it only business. He should have never offered to come for free this year. He should have known that Tom was going to grow up. He should have known that he stood no chance of ever having Janice.

Steven left the party for the first time without knowing what Tom had wished for. It didn’t matter anymore to him. He just wanted to get out of there before he had the chance to make more choices that he would regret later. Steven went back to his apartment and washed the clown paint off of his face for the last time. He took off his clown shoes and his wig. He threw it in all in a box and locked in it away in a closet. As far as he was concerned, the world would never see the comedic styling of Pedro the Clown. He went off to bed with hope that he could just get back to work on Monday as Mr. Pierdo and leave Tom, his birthday, and Janice all behind him. They would be locked away with Pedro the Clown and become a distant memory.

The weekend passed by fairly quickly. Steven had gone about his day as usual. He had his morning job before breakfast. He ate his eggs sunny side up with a side of toasted bread. He graded papers during the afternoon and made note of which students needed extra help. And then it was Monday. He went into his classroom. None of the students knew what unfolded during the last few days. Pedro the Clown wasn’t even a hero to them anymore. He was nothing more than a lame clown that none of them wanted around. His work day ended just the same as they had always. He went into the teacher’s lounge and saw that a letter had been left for him. Another teacher told him that a student had given it to her and told her to make sure that Mr. Pierdo got it.

Mr. Pierdo opened the letter and it read:

To Steven or Pedro the Clown,

I’d prefer that things didn’t go the way that they did. Tom told me the reason you left early. He’ll apologize to your face tonight when you come over for that piece of cake that I promised you. Please call me sometime. I left my number on the back of this just in case you might have forgotten it over the weekend.

-Janice Strider

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