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The Last of Laughter

I have been holed up in my house for the past four days. There is nothing left I can do, at least for now. The events have gone in different directions, the parties have all been canceled. In fact, the only reason my phone rings these days is for people to say, "Sorry. We just can't have you coming by. Maybe next year."

The emails I receive are even worse. "You sad, sad man." And "Why can't you leave us alone, freak." Or my favorite, "Stay out of our town and go back to your camp by the lake."

Mornings have started out like this for the past few weeks. I am once again lost in thought, my bowl of cereal idling by in soggy oblivion. I stare at the start-up screen of my laptop, spoon loosely gripped in my right hand. The point has arrived in which I don't want to get online. I'm scared to see what the next headline will be. What monstrosity will they dream up next? What prank will the people of the world perpetuate now?

Two deep breaths later, I give in. It takes all of the bravery I can muster, but I need to do it. I let the spoon fall into what is now warm milk. I click on the internet icon of my laptop, close my eyes and hope for the best. My thoughts race. "This is my well-being. This is how I make my money."

Gathering every ounce of courage I have, I open my eyes. The inbox is empty. A step in the right direction. No jobs but no cancellations, no hate spewed comments derived from the blackest recesses of the internet's heart. Relief battling disappointment, I've now become the contradiction given to my occupation for years.  Still, the relief is short-lived knowing the headlines that might await on other sites.

The fear is soon confirmed with one click of the mouse. The front page of the website I landed on is littered with headlines that will further hamper my career. It was bad enough living through the most recent recession. Luxuries such as myself were no longer purchased. I suffered, watching the bank account streamline towards zero. I was luckier than others, finding jobs at fairs, carnivals and even street corners. This time around, though, the pit in my stomach told me there would be no such reprieve.  What were these people doing to me and others like me? "Enough," I yelled out loud to an empty room.

The bowl of cereal received the brunt of my anger. My hand sent the bowl flying from the table, skidding across the floor and leaving behind a Rorschach splattered mess of milk and mushy cereal.  I fling my head downwards, face landing in my hands, the remnants of milk gently pressing against my cheeks.

I think back to the Satanic Panic of the late 1980's. Stories of satanic cults taking over towns, newspapers reported skinned cat in school lockers, bloody Pentagrams and cloaked men running around neighborhoods. Years later many of these tales were discovered to be false, hoaxes created to help grow the fear. This had to be the same thing happening all over again. Right?

I looked up, my hand once again finding the mouse of the laptop. I scroll the page, scanning for one positive note. My search comes up empty. Instead, I'm treated to more of the same. All reports of threats, fake kidnap attempts and general creepiness.

I lean back in my chair, resigned to ride out the storm. I decide that this, too, shall pass. And mostly I feel sad of these people because, in this messed-up, confused world, they are destroying something that is so good. All I can do now is hope that one day I can again put on the giant red nose and bring laughter to the world once again.

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