Sprinkles, by Peter S.

I was sitting next to a clown on the bus. His skin was very white and he had a red dot on each cheek. His hair was tall and red, and his eyes were blue. He got off at Carpenter, but a camera fell out of his big yellow bag. I had just assumed that the bag was full of gags and spoofs, but I guess it had at least one normal thing in it.

I picked it up when no one was looking. They were all paying too much attention to the clown. It was a pretty nice digital camera. I couldn't have afforded one like that. He must have been paid better than me if he had a camera like that. I might have tried harder to tell him his camera fell out of his bag, but I was too busy looking at all the pictures.

It looked like he lent the camera out to a lot of people, because most of the pictures were of him. There he was at the beach, all dressed up, and there he was juggling. I couldn't make out what exactly he was juggling, they were going too fast and it appeared like a colorful blurry circle in the picture. There he was in front of a waterfall with a woman and a child who looked a lot like him. They had tall red hair and moon-white skin, and red dots on their cheeks.

There he was at a children's birthday party, twisting up a balloon animal, though what sort of animal it was I couldn't figure out. Above his head, hidden a little by his tall hair, was a festive yellow banner that said "Sprinkles the Clown." I was paying so much attention to the pictures on the camera that I almost missed my stop.

I got home okay, but I still had the camera. Sprinkles had probably noticed it was gone by then. I put the camera down on the kitchen table and pulled out the Yellow Pages. I flipped to the clown section and found Sprinkles' name between Rolo and Toot. No wonder Sprinkles could afford a camera like that, I was thinking. He was the best name in town.

The Yellow Pages said Sprinkles lived on Carpenter Street. By the time I walked back to where I saw him get off, it was getting pretty dark. There weren't any lights on in his building, and I wasn't sure which button to press.

There were a couple of gray steel garbage cans by the stairs. A long stringy thing was sticking out of one of them. I looked more closely, and it turned out to be a popped balloon animal. I knew I had the right place, so I opened up the trash can and looked through its contents. Sprinkles had thrown away a few popped balloon animals and some old Polaroids. I was guessing he scanned them into his computer, because they looked precious. In one the same woman he was with on the camera was in a hospital bed, her white skin sweaty, her red hair even more frazzled than in the other pictures of her, and her torso distended. In another picture Sprinkles held a very small naked clown in his arms, gazing at it lovingly. I guessed that was the child he was with by the waterfall.

I didn't see any empty make-up bottles or ripped red noses in the trash, but I did find a book in another language about flying saucers. I hardly got through the first few inches before I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned around, and there was Sprinkles, his big red lips pursed kindly. He looked at me silently, but pointed at the camera in my hands.

"Are you Sprinkles?" I said. He nodded happily. "You left this on the bus. I was just returning it."

Sprinkles smiled. He picked the trash can lid off of the ground and put it back on the can, and quietly shook his finger at me. He took the camera out of my hands, and his big white gloves felt warm and leathery. He started to go back into his building. "Goodbye," I said. He turned and winked, and went back inside. Not even a thank you.

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