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Not Just Clowning Around


Hi! My name is Bill Arnold, but you can call me Bozo.
Really, I won't get mad! It's my job to be a bozo, so laugh
all you want! You can make fun of my huge green wig, my
clashing stripes and polka dots, even my silly squirting
flower! If you're laughing, I'm doing a good job. 

You guessed it, I'm a clown. (It was either that, or a
deranged psychotic maniac!) I work at the General Hospital
cancer wing, cheering up sick little girls and boys when
they're sad. If they're bored, I also bring them books and
I must sound like a real goody-goody, but I wasn't always
like this. I used to wear three piece suits and work in an
office just like other people. I had a family; a wife, a
son, and a dog. We personified the American Dream. When my
son was nine years old, he got leukemia. We didn't know it
at first; we thought that he was just getting bruised from
playing with his friends, and that he was just tired from
running around all day. Then, when he went in for a
checkup, his pediatrician recognized the symptoms of this
horrible cancer and ran some tests. Eric was diagnosed less
than a week later. I'll never forget visiting him in the
hospital; the stale, antiseptic smell of the hallways and
the muffled sounds of weeping coming from behind closed
doors. Eric was always sitting up and joking with the other
patients. His only complaint was the slimy residue he was
fed, claiming that his medicine looked more appetizing. In
a year, he was dead. I'd be more descriptive, but a
cheerful clown shouldn't cry. My marriage fell apart when
we lost him. It wasn't anyone's fault; we just couldn't
deal with the grief anymore. She's remarried now, and has
two kids and a grandchild. I think she's happy. I didn't
know what to do when she left.
A distant relative of mine died soon after, and left me
some money. I hated my job, so I quit. I "vegged out" all
day in front of the tube, watching "The Stupid and
Tasteless," or some other sappy soap opera. At night, I
roamed around the city streets like a madman, wandering
through the playgrounds where Eric would never again
challenge me to one on one. My life had no purpose, no
direction. The hospital sent me an invitation to attend a
charity function to raise money for the pediatric cancer
foundation. I would have refused, as I had so many times
before, but I felt compelled to attend. Eric would have
wanted me to go; I could hear him imploring me, "Come on,
Dad, get a LIFE!" A shower, a quick shave, a change of
clothes, and I was ready for anything ... even the painful
memories that I was sure would confront me upon entering
the hospital. 

When I got there, I was surprised to see some of the
parents of children who I knew had survived this disease. I
didn't see any reason for them to care; their battles were
over. It seemed that they were ripping open old wounds by
attending. I was touched when they came up and welcomed me,
telling me how much their kids had loved my son, and that
they missed him, too. One of the speakers was a children's
entertainer, a magician, I think. Anyway, he spoke about
the importance of keeping the children's spirits up during
their hospital visits, and how laughter was always the best
medicine against any disease. I thought about all the good
times I had shared with Eric, all the little jokes we had
laughed over together, and I smiled; something I hadn't
done in a long time. I decided that this was the job for
me. It was perfect; I could be around kids again, and I
would be someone important, not just "Bill, the guy in
Copy." I talked to the director of the hospital, and she
thought it was a great idea. I went out and bought the
makeup, clothes, big shoes, and, of course, the props that
give a clown personality. My round blue nose really made me
different from other clowns, along with my mismatched elf
shoes with the pom-poms on the ends and squirting daisy. A
week later, "Bozo" was born. (I got the name from the many
insults I received on the way to the hospital in the clown

I've been a clown for many years now. Becoming Bozo was the
best thing that ever happened to me. In reality, there's a
"bozo" in all of us. It's the part of us that can always
find the silver lining, the part of us that feels the
greatest joy when making other people happy. Clowns are the
happiest people on earth, simply because they have
discovered the one important thing about life: If you can
make just one sad person laugh, then the whole world is a
brighter place. I know it's a cliche, but, hey, I'm just a
guy who gets his "jollies" from dressing up in loud


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