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The Clown Brigade
The Clown Brigade
The Clown Brigade
Ebook48 pages41 minutes

The Clown Brigade

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



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About this ebook

The following story may be disturbing and contains graphic violence which may not be appropriate for all readers/listeners.

Stephen Graham Jones has been hailed as the Jordan Peele of horror lit and is the award-winning author of genre-defying New York Times bestsellers like The Only Good Indians and My Heart Is a Chainsaw. In his Scribd Original story The Clown Brigade, he takes on the horrors of mainstream American life as only he – a literary shapeshifter and Blackfeet Native American – can, reminding us that monsters too often hide in plain sight.

It’s a brand-new day for Kyle: He’s flying across the country to meet a woman he connected with online. His last relationship still haunts him, but just because it didn’t work out with Steph, a wildly popular spin-class instructor, doesn’t mean it won’t with Jenna. When the plane hits some turbulence, Kyle feels the world go still even as the cabin’s insides churn, and he sees down the aisle, of all things, a clown – a real clown, white face paint, eyes drawn like diamonds, a wilted red wig – looking right at him and no one else. He briefly wonders if it’s some kind of an omen. He might be a fool for love, but he’s no clown, right?

He plans to surprise Jenna and shows up at her building with a single red rose in hand. What could be more romantic, more innocent? Yet Kyle’s the one treated to surprise after surprise: Another clown, in white face and red wig – the works – pops up out of nowhere, and security on the premises isn’t as friendly as Kyle had hoped. He’s just a young guy looking for love. But looks can be deceiving, and in Jones’s hands boy-meets-girl becomes daring and darkly funny social commentary, a deeply disturbing and tragically timely Poe-esque reckoning with a culture where the fantasies of fools and clowns – in fact a whole brigade of them – too readily turn to senseless violence and end in chaos and destruction.

Editor's Note

Power of delusions…

When Kyle plans to surprise Jenna with a romantic weekend to help him get over Steph — who's still his go-to spin cycle instructor — he doesn’t anticipate the turbulent flight, uncooperative security, or so many clowns creeping around. Jones (“The Only Good Indians”) takes on the maddening and sometimes deadly consequences of living and loving online, and the power of our delusions, in this chilling Scribd Original.

Release dateOct 26, 2022
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Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of fifteen novels and six story collections. He has received numerous awards, including the NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction, the Texas Institute of Letters Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction, the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction, and the This Is Horror Award, as well as making Bloody Disgusting’s Top Ten Horror Novels of the Year. Stephen was raised in West Texas. He now lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and children.

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Rating: 4.078947368421052 out of 5 stars

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  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    It was an easy read but heavy handed. I enjoyed the set up and the ending was a good kick in the face :)
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    Poor Kyle. All he wanted was to be loved. Although I figured out where the story was going halfway through, I still wanted to read it to the end. Hoping against hope it would end up with Kyle joining a circus or something like that. Alas, no.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    I love a walking-red-flag, unreliable narrator and boy, Kyle is an excellent example. Good read.

    2 people found this helpful

Book preview

The Clown Brigade - Stephen Graham Jones

ON THE FLIGHT to see Jenna, Kyle, for the first time in months, finds a little faith in humanity. In the world. In life.

What happens is a tall, austere businesswoman swirls down into her aisle seat in such a way that her long blond hair drapes over the back of the seat, making the college girl sitting behind the businesswoman have to part that blond hair like a curtain in order to see what she was watching on the little television screen embedded in the seat.

The reason Kyle assumes the woman with the long hair is from the business world is her power suit—both aggressive and reserved—and the no-nonsense way she carries herself. He’s pretty sure she’s used to flying business too, but due to some scheduling disaster, here she is in economy, with all the chickens.

Cluck-cluck, Kyle says in his head, with a grin.

Her having to fly coach isn’t what restores Kyle’s faith, though. What gives him heart, maybe even the smallest measure of hope, is that once the plane’s at cruising altitude and the businesswoman’s made one trip up and down the aisle, her hair again in the college girl’s space, proving that this isn’t a mistake, the college girl pulls her purse up into her lap, digs in it until she comes up with what she needs: fingernail clippers.

You can get through security with them, and with tweezers too, no matter how sharp, Kyle knows. Nothing with an actual blade, of course. The sunglasses he considered for thirty minutes and finally splurged on in Terminal B? The sales rep had to cut the tag off with the cutest little pair of scissors—safety, safety, nothing too dangerous on this side of the scanners.

Fingernail clippers aren’t a weapon, though. Not really.

For the next twenty minutes, what the college girl does, bite by tiny bite, is neatly cut herself a ragged, square window in that blond fall of hair, balling it in her left fist and depositing it under the lid of the medium-size cup of coffee she brought on board. The gentleman beside her is sleeping, oblivious, but, across the aisle, Kyle most definitely isn’t.

He can hardly contain what wants to be his laughter, what finally has to bubble up as a grin of—when the girl glances up, catches him watching—collaboration.

Kyle feels a flush of warmth spreading across his face, and, worried he’s going to give up this wonderful game by making the businesswoman spin around, see what this chicken is clucking about, he makes his way back to the island of bathrooms in the middle of the plane. By the time he makes it back to his seat, the flight attendants are coming through to collect any trash items. By the time he’s buckling his seatbelt back on, the college girl is depositing her coffee cup of hair into the flight attendant’s extended bag just a fraction slower than she has to, as if allowing Kyle to savor this delicious moment with her.

On the college girl’s little television screen now, framed in ragged blond, a clutch of twenty-somethings are going through the motions of some hilarious and relatable drama in a sitcom living room, and Kyle accidentally tumbles onto that soft green couch with them, hears himself trying to join in the good-natured banter, the zingy quips, the effortless empathy, but he knows that if the him in that cheery living room were to touch his face in a lull between zingers

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