Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dead Clown Highway

Scenery out of a Roadrunner cartoon. Towering cliffs, mesas, etc.

MAN driving on a winding road hugging the cliff face. Young. Late 20s, early 30s. Cliff to his right, sheer drop to his left.

MAN passes a sign:


Gets a puzzled look on his face.

Keeps driving.

All of a sudden there’s a loud …


And the body of a dead clown (whiteface clown in polka dots) lands smack dab on the hood in front of his car.

The clown, Pulp Fiction style, rolls over the windshield, shattering the glass.

Much blood.

MAN: Aggghhhhhh!

The MAN fights for control of the car, desperately swerving. By some miracle of God, he doesn’t go over the cliff.


Ambulances, police cars. The MAN is huddled in a blanket.

A COP walks up to him, cynical and hard, wearing mirrorshades like the badass in “Cool Hand Luke.”

MAN:(shaking violently)The clown, he … He just … He just …

COP: Dropped down on top of your car?

The MAN nods.

COP: And that took you by surprise?

The MAN nods.

The COP finds this amusing. Points at sign.

COP: Son. Why do you think they call it "Dead Clown Highway?"

The COPS and MED TECHs share a laugh at his expense.

MAN: Well, OK. Why?

COP: Tell him, Pops.

Out of nowhere, POPS, a grizzled old prospector type, walks into the scene.

POPS: Lemme tell you a story, son. Look up at that cliff, there. Way up at the top. You see all that there circus shit? Right next to the bigass ladder?

The MAN looks up.

Shot of rusted, ancient circus wagons, etc., at top of cliff. Right next to, yep, a bigass ladder.

POPS: You see all that shit?

The MAN nods.

POPS: Well, sir. Here’s the story.

Fade to OLDEN TIMES. Illustrate POP’s narrative with scratched, grainy black-and-white footage.

POPS: Back in the 30s, there was this outfit called the Smiling Jack Traveling Show. Rinky-dink circus, few clowns, two acrobats, a bearded lady and a dog act. Lean times back then; they’s about to go under. They was starving, I tells you! Just plain starving! Old Smiling Jack, he was stringing 'em along on promises. 'There's better days to come, I tell you, better days to come, you'll see!' Well, sir. One fine day in 1936, this outfit come rolling through these parts. Then a miracle happened! Back in town, Smiling Jack and his crew, they put on such a show, whole damn town came out to see. Kept coming out for days and days and days. End of the week, old Smiling Jack had him a big pot of money. He says to the clowns, ‘I’m driving into town for supplies, while I’m there, I’ll buy everyone a pie.’ ‘Sure boss, bye,’ sez the clowns. So—off he goes. Smiling Jack tore out of there—with the gate in his hot little hands, sure as hell. And he never comes back. Days pass into nights, one, two, three. Acrobats figured it out. Bearded lady figured it out. Damn dogs what jumped through them damn hoops figured it out. They all figured it out. And they all cleared out. Except for them clowns. Goddamn dumbass, pitiful clowns. They just didn’t get it! They just stayed there, like a bunch of clowns! For days and days and days. Clowns was all that was left. Couldn’t believe Smiling Jack sold ‘em out like that. Them clowns loved smiling Jack with all their heart. Well, sir. Few more days pass, few more days under the hot Arizona sun, them clowns finally faced facts. They had to! Cause they was starving to death. And the hard facts they had to face were these: Smiling Jack was gone, Smiling Jack took all the money with him; Smiling Jack does not love you clowns. Well, sir. You know what them clowns did? They commenced to grabbing all the circus gear they could find, all the hammers and nails and saws and so forth, and they built them a big old ladder, right by the side of that cliff, going straight up to the sky! Then, when they was done, them there clowns, they all climbed up that ladder, did a little dance, and jumped off, every last one of ‘em. Fell down the canyon below, hundreds and hundreds of feet, till there was just a tangled pile of bloody clown bodies down in the hard scrabble. Horrible sight to see. Just horrible. Bones are still down there! Folks in the town was scared this here place was haunted, ghosts of dead clowns and whatnot, so they left all of Smiling Jack’s circus stuff up there. Well, sir. After that, it become like a tradition. Sorta like a circus tradition. Well, more like a circus clown tradition. Anyway. Ever since then—a clown gets to feeling poorly, feels like doing himself in—that clown comes here, climbs up that ladder, does a little dance, and jumps off too. Just circus clowns, mind you. Not no rodeo clowns or birthday clowns. But that's still too much! And we can't stop 'em. We’ve tried to rope it off, stop the clowns from coming here, but it ain’t do no good. We took all that crap away to the junkyard. The damn clowns put it back! They want to come here, they come here. No way of stopping ‘em. So, we put up them signs. Least we could do. ‘DEAD CLOWN HIGHWAY’ Fair warning, I’d say. Well, what the hell would you do?

POPS whacks the young MAN on the side of his head.

POPS: And that's why they call it Dead Clown Highway!

POPS and the COP share another good laugh.

INT: AMBULANCE. MAN is sitting up inside. The TECH is above him, trying to calm him down.

MAN: Jesus, what a messed-up place.

AMBULANCE TECH: Better lie down, sir. We need to take you to the hospital.

The ambulance drives off.

A dead clown falls on top of the ambulance with a loud WHOONT!

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