Saturday 18 June 2022

'The Clown Scanner' by Kati Bumbera

You lie in the machine while it reads your fortune, metal clanging as the parts align and you stay still just like we told you, think of good things and pretend to sleep, we said, and you remember scented erasers, you remember animal pillows, you remember dad coming to check on you at night, after a childhood by the river, swimming and fishing while summers went on for years, dad had a folding table and built a fire, you waved a stick drawing fast rings around the stars, and by your bed there was the clown lamp, the lightbulb in his head behind round cheeks, you had to take off his hat to change it, and then you’d find darker things too, like dead moths, you see, that’s what we’re doing now, scanning your head for dead moths, turning the wire this way and that, like dad setting up the portable TV, black and white, we are watching it now in our lab coats, make sure you’re lying still, and now it occurs to you to play the old trick, pretend to be asleep when dad comes in to check, keeping your breathing light, your eyelids still, your face on the animal pillow, it works sometimes and the door closes softly as dad leaves, but sometimes you crack and start giggling, sensing his eyes scanning your face, and then he giggles too, and that’s your favourite way to remember him, back here, where he’s long dead and you wait to hear if you’re dead too, but now you know the trick, for when we let you out, squinting against the light, you must look into our faces, no matter how serious we are, and wait for us to crack, just wait for us to start laughing.

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