The Clown, the Monkey &
the Woman In White

by Tina L. Jens

The Capuchin monkey had negotiated the deal; a romantic liaison between the sophisticated woman and the virginal clown. The woman in white shook hands with the monkey while the middle-aged clown looked askance. The heels of the woman’s beaded shoes sank deeper into the sawdust, the hem of her satin gown became a broom.

The pictures (the woman’s idea): a fashion spread for a Parisian couture magazine. The monkey to be the photographer. The clown’s face paint to match the three-layered outfit: coat, dress, lingerie. Finally, she would perform a striptease with the help of the monkey; the clown behind the camera with his pants around his shoes.

If the pictures were perfect, the clown could have her. He could be naked, but his little man would have to don a coat. The monkey could do...what a monkey would do.

The pictures would take place in the center ring, in front of the big cats, orange and black, on their platforms.

“Why would you do this, miss, why?” whispered Bozono, the shamefaced clown.

“I do not like today’s photographers; I yearn for the days when shoots were both beautiful and wild.”

The clown saw then a much older woman was hidden behind a mask of makeup and collagen. At her words his little soldier shrunk two sizes—what satisfaction could he offer a woman jaded by Parisian orgies?

She patted him on the head and pinched the cheeks of his face, much as she’d soon pinch the cheeks of his behind.

“The lights, the perfect pictures, and the monkey will carry me to the heights of pleasure. You are only the surrogate. The monkey’s equipment is lacking, no?”

It was the monkey’s turn to blush in shame. He doffed his hat and groveled at her feet, even as his tail swept impertinently up her dress.

“Naughty monkey, too soon. First you must sign all picture rights over to me.” The monkey withdrew his tail, and the clown saw it was wet and slick. The monkey signed next to the big red X, and the clown followed suit.

“My dear Bozono, you must at all times keep on the shoes and the nose.” She tutted. “It will make removing the trousers a trial, no? But then, clowns are to always act the buffoon.

“And now let us go: me with the hairdresser and you with the drag queen. He is intolerable, but he will give you the proper colors to match my gown. Go on, shoo!”

It was the clown she shooed away, led off by the dominating drag queen, while the monkey lingered for small talk.

Said the woman in white, “I did my first shoot with the brilliant Avengale in the dark heart of Nairobi, when I was but thirteen. I went a child, but came back a woman, many times over by many species with fur. The pictures were banned, of course, but the legend was made. Mine and Avengale’s. He passed away, poor darling, ten years ago. We’d been lovers more than thirty. I was too young to marry, but my mother approved.

“Next month marks the anniversary of that legendary shoot; the birth of the greatest fashion partnership in history. You can see what this shoot means to me.”

The monkey nibbled on the tips of her fingers, careful not to chip her manicure.

Then she made her excuses and disappeared with the hairdresser and maven of the wardrobe.

The clown returned, but was forced to wait an hour upon the model. The big top, too, had undergone a makeover while he was away. Banners flying and flags unfurled, elephants walking counterclockwise around the orange and black cats. The first three rows of the grandstand were filled with clowns and carnies and roustabouts. The seats above were dark with shadow; it felt like a full house.

Music played. Outside the noise from an empty midway still clashed and jangled in the air.

Bozono wore elastic suspenders on his pants with a hula-hoop in the waist band. The monkey, who now wore a squirting flowerpot as a hat, pulled out the clown's pants, inspected the contents, and shook his head; the band played a loud, wah, wah, wah.

Finally the ringmaster announced the model. The monkey led the clown to the platform in the center ring. Flashbulbs went off. Fleetingly, the clown thought of the medals and stripes and golden eagles his estranged father and the clown's other brothers had earned in glorious military battles.

The middle-aged virginal clown knew his little soldier would never march again.

(Inspired by a photo by Richard Avedon, Paris, Aug. 1955, with the Cirque d’Hiver)


Tina L. Jens has had more than 70 short stories and non-fiction articles published and teaches the Fantasy Writing Workshop at Columbia College - Chicago. Her first novel, The Blues Ain't Nothin': Tales of the Lonesome Blues Pub won the best novel award from the National Federation of Press Women, and was a final nominee for the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Awards in the first novel category.