The Shaken Clown

January Gorbachev married Junior Farquahr in April 1984 at their church, Handmaidens of the Precious Paraclete – a match made in heaven. They sailed next day for Dalmatia, land of the pale spotted heroes, and set up house in an old stone mill with unheatable rooms in a sad little village with a tiny slice of the coastline just visible from its highest point. It was a good time to think about tourist dollars and bed and breakfasts for the marauding hordes of Lonely Planet travelers probing the lesser-known corners of the globe.


Junior was a handsome Marlboro man whose Christian name was Wenceslas, but Wenceslas Farquahr was too weighty a name for wee Junior, growing up in Sacramento, small and even frail until he suddenly blossomed into beautiful Tom Selleck-like masculinity at around 25 – around the time he and January met. January was selling compost kits and pussy willow cuttings and queen sego palms at a garden-supply store, teaching the first of the straw bale construction classes that would later finance the B&B in their new life together.

Junior had a habit or a tic maybe of singing boogidee boogidee shoop, doowah pa doo wah, shing-a-ling a-ling – with tongue-popping and finger-snapping and a constant internal drummer keeping him thin. Their guests at The Shaken Clown found Junior vastly amusing, charmant even, for the first 48 hours, at which point January would send him off to the village for light bulbs and soap, and bring the guests back to a calmer, more arboreal state of mind. Quiet walks in the black forest, hot tomato soup in thermoses with crusty bread, no more human popping and fizzing, just a quiet day in the deep woods with occasional scolding from ravens and jays.

In the 11th century in Dalmatia, in the tiny stone village of Venslasovik, the downtrodden peasants ate hard sour bread and plotted in smoky taverns to kill kill kill the lords and ladies with their soft loaves, their salt and their silks – and they did. There were fires, and heads on stakes, a bloody revolution and a rebuilding of Venslasovik with no castles, only the rubble left when the villagers tore them down with their own bare hands. When the black plague came, four hundred years later, they had not forgotten. And when January and Junior came to open The Shaken Clown 580 years after that, they still had not forgotten, although they welcomed the rich Americans and their fat down comforters, with tight little sharp-toothed grins.

In 1998, January and Junior sold the business to Hette and Steinar Ratelband, of Amsterdam, and moved to Wyoming, where they sat on their porch and watched the thick dust trails from the ranch trucks going by, every day, like clockwork, until the snows came.


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May 2006
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