By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 1/23/2021
Topics/Keywords: #ShortStories #Humor Page Views: 1841
Carlos needed the job…but somehow, he just felt like a clown.

Trying not to perspire, Carlo forced his hands not to clutch at each other like a pair of frightened children. He made them rest quietly at his side, but he knew the moment he forgot about them they would again leap together and then he would look desperate. He didn't want to look desperate. Desperate people weren't offered jobs, and Carlo needed a job…desperately. He hadn't worked since graduation. There just weren't that many jobs for men of his profession, and the 1930s were tough times…

He had to get this job. Had to.

There was a mirror behind Mr. Bailey's secretary, a large mirror that was probably intended to provide her with a view of the room when she pounded at her typewriter. But for Carlo, it merely provided a view of Carlo, sitting in the reception room's sofa, trying to look confident.

But his suit…it looked so different when viewed at a distance than it did that morning in his bedroom. Carlo knew how important it was to dress just right for a job interview. Entire books had been written on the subject, and Carlo had read several of them during his enforced vacation. Of course, most of them didn't really apply to a man in his line of work, or so he had thought while reading them. But now, well…he wasn't so sure.

Was blue really his best color? Perhaps it was too conservative. Of course, he was applying for work with an old, established, company. But, in that case, maybe this shade of blue wasn't conservative enough. It wasn't a navy blue, such as is often used in pin-stripe suits. It was more of a royal blue. Well, no, calling this shade of blue royal was giving it airs. Actually it was rather brighter than that. In fact, Carlo realized in panic, looking at his reflection in the mirror, this blue was just short of iridescent. In a darkened room, you could read by the glow of his suit.

Of course, it was probably all in his mind. His suit had looked just fine that morning, in the calm light of his bedroom. It was perfect for a man of his profession. Still…weren't the buttons just a tad large? He tried not to stare at himself in the mirror—being caught like that would certainly brand him as being vain, and, if anything, he was not a vain man. But his buttons had never seemed so large before. Usually one just ignores buttons, but these seemed large as plates. What had he been thinking? You could have lunch on these buttons. You could actually detach one of these buttons and use it to hold an entire enchilada. There would even be room for a side of guacamole. Heck, there would be room for a side of rice.

Perhaps he should just go home right now. Mr. Bailey hadn't made him wait all that long. He might even have time to change and come back before the owner called for him. He could tell the secretary that he was just going to the men's room; she could hardly blame him for that. Then he could sneak home, change, and be back almost before she thought he had a problem with his, well, constitution.

But what if she did think he spent too long in the bathroom? She might even suspect him of having gone in there to sneak a quick drink before the interview. He peeked hopefully at his reflection, but it only confirmed his worst fears. He knew his nose was big, but it was also red. He looked for all the world as if he were just recovering from a three-day drunk. And his five-o'clock shadow looked more like a ten o'clock shadow, or even a five o'clock-last-Thursday shadow. No one was going to believe he had prepared for this interview. The circles under his eyes hung to his jowls, and his normally golden face bore the pallor of a man weeks dead.

But it wasn't his fault! How could Mr. Bailey blame him for looking the way he did? He'd been unemployed for six months! Maybe he had stayed inside a little too much during that time, but he'd been busy checking advertisements and calling contacts in the business, trying to catch some leads for a job.

And yet…looking at himself critically, it was easy to imagine Mr. Bailey refusing him, telling him that he couldn't be hired, that his appearance would frighten children.

He had to admit he looked a little wild. It was his hair, basically. He had none on top, but the hair at the sides of his head was long and luxurious. It wasn't subtle hair, either; it was bright red and Carlo had always worn it brushed out for maximum effect. But, looking critically in the mirror, Carlo had to admit that it just made him look like all the other clowns who tried to compensate for baldness by growing it where it could be grown.

Finesse…that what Carlo lacked. If ever there was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, that was Carlo. If you wanted delicacy, you were looking in the wrong place. If you wanted subtlety, if you wanted the polished glaze of a society man born to old wealth, if you wanted the grace and daintiness of a master ballet dancer, you were looking in the wrong place. If you wanted a pie in the face, then, Carlo was your man.

Carlo had had plenty of chance to assess himself honestly during his weeks at home. He was clumsy; there was no denying it. Actually, clumsiness was good. Clumsiness was his strong point. It was his big feet that did it; you couldn't do anything about your feet. Carlo wasn't tall, but he still had big feet. His feet were size 12. But the clumsiness stemmed from the fact that his shoes were size 40.

Well, 40-G, to be exact. And maybe he did trip a lot. But, dammit, those shoes were comfortable. It was like wearing nothing. Or, perhaps, like wearing Chevrolets.

"Mr. Bailey will see you now." The secretary's voice startled him, breaking into his reverie like a banana up the nose. He smiled at the metaphor, but in fact he had had many bananas forced into his nose and that was exactly what the secretary's interruption had felt like.

Carlo rose to his feet and shuffled into Mr. Bailey's office. The famous man looked him over: bright blue suit, yellow plate-sized buttons, enormous shoes, flaming red hair, bulbous red nose and circled eyes. In spite of his intentions, desperation poured from his face. But Mr. Bailey only laughed.


"You look like a clown!" he cried.

"You mean—?"

"That's right, son. You're hired. Welcome to the Barnum and Bailey's. Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth!"