The violins swirled their notes like ribbons of color as Jeremy launched into his last monologue. “Indeed, you call Framm a fool and rightly so. So it is true. But he is an honest fool and I count him amongst my truest friends.” He rested his hand on Framm’s shoulder.
His voice was note perfect. Every word came out loud and clear and well-enunciated, but enriched with emotion and truth. “So, I pray, my friends. Do not mock and speak derisively of Framm. For he has spoken true. Weep. Oh, my friends, weep. For we have witnessed the end of an era.”
The violins twirled up into a single, sweetly sorrowed note.
“We shall never see its like ever again.”
Jeremy closed his eyes and felt the ribbons’ glowing touch as the crowd rose to their feet with “Bravo!” and sharp whistles and applause. Wondrous, joyful applause. It was what he lived for. It was his breath, his heartbeat’s rhythm.
“Hey, Jere.” Alfred knocked on the door.
Jeremy reluctantly opened his eyes. He was no longer on stage.
“We got another one. Could you come out and do your thing?”
“Of course.” He hadn’t been on stage in thirteen years. “I’ll be right there.”
Alfred left the room.
Jeremy pulled a tub of greasepaint and a make-up kit out of his desk. “Another opening.” He slathered the white grease all over his face. “Another show.”
“I don’t care what my credit rating is.” Ms. Olga Glothenstroth towered over poor five-foot-zero Calvin. “I haven’t been to Monte Carlo in years. YEEARS! You hear me okay, little man?”
“But I can’t go to Monte Carlo because I need a certain amount of money. I don’t have that money on hand because I’m broke. I need a loan.”
“I am aware of that, Ms. Glothenstroth, but we—”
“It is your job to give me that loan so that I can go to Monte Carlo and fritter away my money as I see fit. So, sit your tiny little self into your—”
“But Ms. Glothenstroth—”
“—your credit rating is—”
“—I can’t give it to you.”
“But it’s against company policy.”
She snorted. “You think I care about your dippsy-doodle policy? What are you? Stupid in the head? I WANT A LOAN!”
“But, Ms. Glothen—” Alfred came up to him and whispered in his ear. Calvin relaxed. “Oh, thank God. Ms. Glothenstroth, I’m afraid I can’t help you with your needs.”
“Oh, so you are stupid. I knew it all along. Could you please get me someone who knows what he’s doing?”
“Actually, he’s coming to talk to you right now.”
“Good. Why don’t you get your itty-bitty self out of here?”
“But…this is my office.”
“You think I care about that?”
“No. I don’t think you do.”
“HELLLLLOOOOOO, EVERYONE!” Jeremy walked over to Ms. Glothenstroth. His kayak-sized shoes slap-slap-slapped with every step.
She gave him a condescending look. “Who invited Bozo?”
Jeremy grinned. “I’m not Bozo.” He leaned forward into her space and whispered, “That name’s been trademarked. Can’t use it at all.”
She backed away from him and managed to stomp on Calvin’s foot in the process.
“I am—” He spun in a circle and extended his arms in a ta-da! position. “—Mister Jehosaphat Jiggles and I am here to help you out with your loan, you lovely fat thing you.”
“If this is a joke—”
“Oh no, Ma’am.” said Calvin. “It certainly isn’t.”
“Now,” said Jeremy. “this—” He put on a pair of white gloves and took hold of her hand. The gloves let loose a rude “PFFFBBLLTT!” “This is a joke.” He laughed.
She pulled her hand away from him.
“What? You don’t think it’s funny?”
“I came here for a loan, not to become part of a deranged clown’s act.”
“Well, that’s just a mean thing to say. I’ve worked very hard on my act. Every word. Every intonation. Every gesture.” He pulled a long, inflated balloon out of his pocket and twisted it several times. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to apply clown make-up?”
“Well. It’s hard. If you put too much on—”
She leaned into his face and bellowed, “I JUST WANT A LOAN!”
“And I just want to make you laugh.” He handed her the balloon, which he had twisted to look like a dachshund. “Here.”
She growled. “I don’t want to laugh.” She popped the dachshund with her talon-like fingernails.
“You should. It would do wonders for your complexion and it might eliminate some of those angry wrinkles.”
She gaped at him in wordless shock.
He pulled three tennis balls out of his sleeve. “So, what kind of loan are you looking for?” He juggled the balls. “We have a short term loan, a long term loan, and an eternity term loan.” He stopped juggling to wink at her. “That last one will take you an eternity to pay off. You’ll be floating around in heaven in your angel gown—”
“Angel gown?” Calvin exclaimed. “Her?”
Jeremy resumed his juggling. “—and you’ll still be paying it off. We’ll have a medium contact you in the afterlife five times a day and harass you for your payment. We’ll absolutely spam you to bits.” He grinned at her. “Doesn’t that sound nice?”
“I want a long term loan.”
“Sorry. We’re all out of those.”
“What? How can you be out of a loan?”
“Oh, some clown came and bought the last one. I called our stocking people and they said that we just don’t have any spares.”
“Fine. I’ll have a short term loan.”
“Sorry. We can’t do that either.”
He stopped juggling. “Our short term loan boat broke down tomorrow in the Caspian Sea and we’re waiting for the cable guy to come bash some repairs into it.”
She frowned. “That doesn’t make sense.”
He laughed. “I know!”
Her frown deepened. “You know what I think?”
“I think you are a liar and a fake. You are not a loan officer!”
“I am too. I am Mr. Jiggles, loan officer extraordinaire! And I will help you choose the right loan.”
“I don’t want you to help me.”
“Aww.” He reached under his fluffy red wig and pulled out his five-color paint set. “At least let me paint a self-portrait on your face.” He winked at her again. “You know, a portrait of me.” He dipped the paintbrush into the yellow paint. “Now, do you want my portrait to be clothed or naked?”
She slapped him across the face and marched towards the door. She stopped halfway there to announce, “You are all horrible people.” And she left.
Calvin applauded. “Bravo!”
Jeremy smiled. He could almost hear those violins again.