Joseph James Cawein

The Happy Ending

Harry Childs was an aggressively existential child.

When he was only seven years old, he wrote an essay in which he explained to a puzzled teacher his proclivity for sad clowns. “Clowns are fascinating creatures,” he wrote. “I can think of no trade more noble than clowning, and no thing more noble for a clown to be than sad. A sad clown is the perfect symbol for the emptiness of our existence. Any man can pretend to be happy, but it takes true courage to admit that one is sad.”

Harry’s teacher was more impressed than she was concerned. Over the next few years, the school district did everything in their power to foster his intellectual growth. He began high school four years later, at the age of eleven. By 15 he was attending NYU on a full academic scholarship.

Harry was a brilliant student of philosophy. He was viciously nihilistic and his older classmates abhorred him. It was rumored that he was sleeping with one of the professors, Dr. Goldstein. She was an attractive woman with large breasts and small, black eyes. Harry only noticed her eyes.

One day Harry stopped speaking. He arrived at class with his usual air of melancholy, but there was nothing anyone could do to get him to respond to them. Doctors were sent for and diagnoses suggested.

A week later Harry returned to class. The moment the professor began their lecture, Harry began to openly weep. He fled from the classroom and no one ever saw him again.

Three years later, a young man dressed as a clown appeared on the Atlantic City boardwalk. His face was painted white with three blue tears streaming down from each eye, and a frown painted red around his lips. The man sat on the pier day and night, crying.

After a few weeks, he had begun to attract something of a following. A crowd would gather around his bench every day, and every day it would grow larger. They thought him to be a great artist. He did not think of himself as an artist, but merely as a model for the emptiness of existence.

One day the crowd had grown especially large, television crews doing live reports on the boardwalk’s latest wonder, when someone did something that no other had ever done before.

A young woman approached the bench and sat down next to the clown.

Before he even knew what was happening, her arms were around him as she, too, began to cry. When she eventually released him, he finally saw her face for the first time.

She had the most beautiful and ponderously sad eyes he had ever seen. Her face flushed with a youthful maturity, and the man felt that he was in love. His eyes roamed down to her lips, and he found himself wondering what secret depths they concealed.

That was when he moved in to kiss her.

The crowd did not understand, but they whooped and cheered just the same. When the woman finally pulled away from Harry, they shared a faint smile.

The woman then slowly reached into her purse, produced a long, thin blade, and pierced herself through the heart.

By the time the police and ambulance arrived, Harry had already done the most noble thing he could think of for a clown to do, throwing himself into the ocean.

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