What Happens At Bedtime

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Cody had never seen a clown before. This clown was beaming at him with his cherry lips while twisting a little dog to life from a red balloon. A smile twinged at Cody’s mouth as the clown handed the dog to him. His big red nose caught the bright sunshine. A thin, worn hand caught Cody’s shoulder. Looking up into his mother’s somber eyes he let himself be guided away from the bright clown. Looking back over his shoulder Cody grinned. The clown winked.

That night dad was drunk again. Tonight was worse than most nights. Apparently he had been let off at the car shop. Screams and shouts filled the house. Cody hugged his balloon dog and curled up under his bed. His little heart beat to the rhythm of his dad’s shouts. Maybe if he pretended he didn’t exist the fighting would go away. His mother’s screams shot through his bones like razors. A door slammed and all was quiet again. A few hours or maybe minutes, he couldn’t tell, his mother came up the stairs and into his room. She pulled him out from under the bed and took him to the bath. Cody stared at his mother’s bruised eye, and puffy lip. Her mascara was running and her nose was red. Like the clowns, he thought. But unlike the clown’s her’s did not catch the happy gleam of sunshine.

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She bathed Cody and prepared him for bed. The towel was soft and fluffy, and his pajamas had red fire trucks on a blue background. She tucked him in with his balloon dog and kissed them both goodnight. Downstairs the door opened again and furniture began to bang around. With a heavy sigh she headed back down to her drunk husband. Cody began to cry.

The morning sun woke up the sleepy boy. Opening his crusty eyes Cody groggily climbed out of bed and headed to the kitchen. He pulled out some cereal and began to pour himself a bowl. The day was bright and fresh. Eating his Lucky Charms Cody went into the living room to turn on cartoons. A bright clown filled the tv screen laughing and honking a large cartoonish horn. Cody beamed. He watched as the clown threw puffy pies in a grumpy old man’s face while singing the ABC’s. The morning passed by. Neither mom nor dad came down to join him watch the funny clown. Finally Cody had had enough and turned of the tv and put his bowl in the already over flowing sink. Grabbing his balloon he began to make his way back upstairs to get dressed. But something caught his eye in the laundry room under the stairs. Curious he went to the door and pushed it open. Inside was a woman who looked like his mom. She lay on the floor her neck twisted like a doll that had a revolving head. Glassy eyes stared up at the ceiling. A trickled of blood ran down her chin. Cody stood there staring. Suddenly a heavy hand fell on his shoulder and another hand closed the laundry room door. “Cody lets go get dressed ok?” it was his dad. Picking up Cody they headed upstairs. “Dad, who was that lady?” Cody asked, “She looks like mommy.” But dad just shook his head and pulled out clothes for his son. “Don’t worry about it kiddo.” was the reply. Dressed and ready for the day Cody and his father went out. They bought ice cream and went to Chuckee Cheese for lunch. Then they went to a movie  about cartoon ants and bought rosy pink cotton candy. As they headed back to the car dad asked, “Is there anywhere else you wanna go kiddo?” Cody shrugged. Then he remembered the clown. “I want to see the clown! The one at the park!” His dad laughed a deep harsh laugh and off they went to the park.

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The clown was there in his usual spot. Cody ran up to him smiling. As if he could read the little boy’s mind the clown began to make a blue doggy out of a balloon. Cody’s dad just stood there, tapping his foot and looking at his watch. The clown looked at the dad smiling, then for a second the smile dropped. But only for a second. Cody laughed out loud when the blue doggy was made and handed to his sticky hands. “Thank you!” he cried and skipped away, his dad following. The clown waved a white gloved hand at the small boy and his father.

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Back at home Cody took his bath and climbed into bed. “Daddy, where’s mommy?” he asked. The dad just shrugged. “But daddy I want mommy to kiss me and the doggy’s goodnight. Where is she?” Again no response. Cody was begining to get impatient. So he began to have a tantrum. “Where is she daddy! Where is mommy! I want mommy!” Frustrated his dad slapped Cody across the face. “Shut up! Mommy is not coming home! Go to bed now.” Shaking with rage his dad turned and slammed the door. Cody stood there tears welling up in his eyes, his cheek burning. Climbing into bed he sobbed himself to sleep again.

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Cody wasn’t stupid. He knew where his mommy was. He had liked to pretend he didnt know. But he had had fun with daddy today, so he had to pretend. That didn’t mean he didn’t know though. As he lay in his bed sobbing a face appeared in his window, only for a second. Cody stopped his tears. The face had looked a lot like the clown from the park. Frozen Cody stared at his window. Again it appeared beaming. Slowly it raised a finger to its lips and mouthed a shush. Jumping out of bed Cody ran over and put his face on the glass. Nothing was there. Outside in the hallway a crash sounded. Cody ran to his door. He tried to pull it open but he couldn’t, it was stuck fast. Again a  crash sounded in the hallway. A cry from his father came from his parents room. “Dad!” Cody cried out. “Im in here! Im stuck!” he pounded on the door. Again he heard his father cry out. Scared Cody grabbed his balloon dogs and held them close. There were several loud bangs and a sound like metal on metal. His father cried in fear, while a cheerful laugh echoed through the house. Cody shook with fear and sobs. The noises stopped. His father wasn’t shouting anymore and there were no more laughs. The house was silent. Fear and exhaustion finally won over Cody and he drifted off to sleep.

The next morning Cody was awakened by a hand on his shoulder. A police man was looking down at him with a sad face. “I found the boy.” he said to another officer in the other room. Scooping Cody up the police man carried him downstairs and outside. The sun was hot and blinding. There was a lot of people in his front yard. Neighbors, police, EMT’s, firemen all were standing around busily talking and whispering. “That bastard. It was only a matter of time before he killed her.” One neighbor said.

“Well then who killed him? The boy?” another whispered.

“Please ladies and gentlemen, just step away. Give the family some privacy.” A policeman shouted.

“What family? They’re all dead.” muttered a disgruntled old man.

Cody was taken to an ammbulance and placed in the back while a nice lady began to examine him. She asked some questions and handed him him a drink and placed a blanket over his shoulders. Cody looked out over the sea of people. Some pointed at him, others were busy going in and out of his house. But they were all busy talking. Except one, in the back, barely visible. It was the clown. He was standing and watching Cody. Smiling the clown waved. A small smile crept over Cody’s face. He waved back. Then just like that, the clown was gone. Cody just sat there looking after the clown, wondering where he had disappeared to. Cody had never seen a clown before, but he liked them. He definitely liked clowns.

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