(once upon a time there was a script written concerning a circus and clowns as an episode. This was my take on it.)
Published in Collected by YumYum Zine
Napoleon was leaning against the wall next to the water cooler engaging the latest addition to the secretarial staff in conversation. “I thought dinner, a little dancing, and then….who knows.”
The young lady in question, a petite red head responded by looking pointedly over his right shoulder.
“I am sorry to interrupt, Napoleon, but our appearance has been requested by Mr. Waverly.” The soft Russian voice did not sound sorry at all.
With a growl of frustration, and an apologetic glance at the young lady, Napoleon fell into step with his partner heading toward their superior’s office.
“Another assignment?” Napoleon questioned. “We just got back from the last one.”
Illya spared an uncertain glance to his partner. “I am not sure. The request was rather strangely worded.”
By that time they had reached Alexander Waverly’s door and walked in.
Waverly looked up from the pile of papers in front of him. “Come in. Come in. Have a seat, gentlemen,” his tone jovial.
Napoleon and Illya exchanged shocked looks at each other before sitting in their usual chairs at the round conference table.
“It has been brought to my attention that the two of you have been rather overworked,” Waverly commenced solemnly, though there was a slight twinkle in his eyes.
“No more than usual, sir,” Napoleon said smoothly.
“Be that as it may, gentlemen. The medical section assessment suggested that a little time away is in order.”
“Just how little time away…,sir?” Illya queried. Something about this did not feel right.
“Eight weeks,” Waverly answered.
“Eight weeks!” Napoleon exclaimed in surprise, even when they were wounded they were never out of commission that long.
“Just enough time to go back to school.” Waverly sent a file turning toward the two men.
The two agents exchanged startled gazes. Illya was the first to pick up the file and open it. “
“Here, let me see that,” Napoleon said sharply as he grabbed the folder from Illya’s limp fingers.
Waverly leaned back in his chair, patting the tobacco he’d filled his pipe with into place. “I don’t want to hear any objections from either of you. Medical has made its decision, and I stand by it. Everything you will need is in that folder. Now off with you. That’s an order.”
The two men got up out of their seats, each in a state of shock. Napoleon turned back to ask one last question. “What if something important comes up?”
“If we need you, we’ll call you.” Waverly dismissed them abruptly.
Once outside Napoleon, who had the folder still in his hand, turned to Illya. “This is madness.”
Illya nodded his head in agreement.
So that was how twenty-four hours later the two agents found themselves in
Sitting together at the back of the tent, the two agents listened as Kenneth Field informed every one of what to expect. “You will learn make up, juggling, and the fine art of falling down.” Someone at the front giggled.
Napoleon leaned over to mutter in Illya’s ear. “I already know how to fall down.”
Illya snickered, earning him a sharp look from a nearby young lady.
“You will design a character that is especially you. Make up, clothing, the works. You will work out a routine and at the end of eight weeks you will be full-fledged clowns,” Fields announced.
A hand was raised from the front row. “Mr. Fields, just how many different types of clowns are there?”
“That’s a very good question. If you will refer to your folders there is a list, a rundown of the types, with makeup and costume suggestions for each. As a brief rundown, however, there are four different types of clowns – the Whiteface, the August, the Tramp/Hobo, and the Character. The Whiteface clown is broken down into three categories. There is your classic European whitefaced clown, commonly called the Pierott clown. He or she is considered an elegant clown, artistic, colorful, bright, and cheerful. Its performance is highly artistic and skillful, but with a comedic or dramatic flair.”
Napoleon leaned close to Illya and whispered, “That could be you except for the bright and cheerful.”
“Then there is the straight whiteface clown. This clown is much like the European clown, only more so. In any skit he is the one in charge, setting up the routine, throwing rather than taking the pie, slap, or kick.”
“That would appear to be the one for you,” Illya whispered back to Napoleon with a smirk. It earned him a snarl from Napoleon and a glare from the person seated in front of them.
“The last is the Grotesque Whiteface, a more traditional clown. He is more comical than the straight whiteface, but a bit more reserved than the Auguste. The Auguste is the most comical of clowns. He/she is impish, gregarious, and thrives on slapstick. Actions are usually big, clumsy, and awkward. He is usually the brunt of the joke, though he can also be the instigator.”
“I take it back, Napoleon. That one sounds more like you,” Illya whispered, careful not to earn another glare.
“Then there is the Tramp or Hobo. This classic clown was epitomized by Emmett Kelly, and Otto Griebling. He is usually a forlorn and downtrodden character who has nothing and knows he will never have anything. Red Skelton’s portrayal of the character Freddie the Freeloader is a good example.”
Napoleon grew thoughtful. There were times when that description could describe his partner.
“Lastly we come to the Character clown. Usually an identifiable character or occupation. A fireman, doctor, nurse, cowboy, the list goes on and on. Charlie Chaplin would be considered the epitome of a character clown. When working up your clown’s character – try to remember originality is important. It takes practice, hard work, and determination to be a good clown.”
“Sounds a lot like preparation for being a spy,” Napoleon muttered aside.
“Without further ado, let’s go to the next phase. Developing your character. Follow me,” Kenneth Fields finished off, leading the way to another area.
Napoleon and Illya got up with the rest of the students and followed Kenneth into another tent. This one was filled with makeup tables, wigs, and clothing. Handing each student a drawing pad, he encouraged them to look around and decide just how they wanted their character to look. “When you have decided how you want your character to look, I’ll turn you over to our makeup artist, who will teach you everything you need to know about the types of makeup and how to apply it.”
“Mr. Fields, how long do we have to decide on a character?” someone asked.
“Oh, I think you all should have something ready by the end of the week,” Fields replied.
Checking out the costumes, Napoleon remarked to his partner, “You could probably show them a thing or two.”
After looking around, Illya found himself a quiet corner, opened his pad, and started sketching. Napoleon, totally frustrated, came up behind him and looked over his shoulder. With a few strokes, Illya had managed to convey a unique and original character. The face was of course white, with black lids and lips and a small tear in one corner. The clothing was simple and typically Illya-basic black. “I didn’t know you could draw,” Napoleon said with amazement.
“There is a lot about me you do not know,” Illya replied absently as he put a few final touches to his drawing.
“Could you do one for me? I was never very good at that sort of thing,” Napoleon asked.
“Sure. What did you have in mind?”
With a sigh Napoleon said, “If I knew that I wouldn’t have asked you to do it for me.”
“It’s never stopped you before,” Illya said with a smirk, folding the paper for a fresh sheet. In a few strokes he created yet another character, white face and bald.
“Il – lya!” Napoleon growled.
With a chuckle Illya turned the sheet to start again.
A pixie like girl came close and addressed Napoleon. “Excuse me…but I couldn’t help but wonder. I don’t want to offend you or anything. But you don’t seem the type to be here. You just don’t look like clown material.”
Without looking up from his drawing, Illya answered for him. “Napoleon will go anywhere, if there is a chance to meet girls.” Napoleon nudged him with his elbow. “Actually he is here humoring me.” He tuned his pad around to display the character he’d created for Napoleon. The whiteface was simply done; the head topped with a top hat, and the body in a rather shabby looking tuxedo.
Napoleon grinned his approval.
“That’s really good!” exclaimed the girl. “What do you plan to call him?” she turned to ask Napoleon.
Napoleon in turn, turned to Illya.
“Code names are your area of expertise,” Illya responded.
By the end of the second week, they had graduated to doing makeup.
The makeup lady had started her lecture with, “There are several different types of makeup. There is water-based, Halloween, cream-based, and greasepaint. The choice of most clowns is greasepaint. Greasepaint is impervious to all but the heaviest of soakings, holds to your face and retains its color well.” Groans could be heard from various people in the class.
“If you will refer to your information sheets, you will find a few helpful tips. One. Apply makeup only thick enough to cover your skin. If you apply it too heavily it can flake off. Two. Powder your makeup with baby powder or talc. This helps set it and prevents it from running. Do not use powder with cornstarch, unless you want a yellow face.” This statement was greeted with laughter. “Three. Do not apply colored makeup to your upper lip. This should be left white or flesh to provide some definition between your nose and mouth from far away. Okay now let’s get to it.”
Illya, of course, was enlisted by the teacher to help once his knowledge of makeup became evident. He was currently working on applying makeup to Napoleon’s face.
“You’re really getting into this, aren’t you?” Napoleon asked, his eyes closed while Illya worked on him. “Maybe Waverly was right. Maybe we did need to get away.”
“Napoleon, will you please keep quiet. I can’t do this properly with your mouth moving.”
By the end of the third week, their routine was in the process of being worked out. Each group was to show what routine they had worked out so far in front of the rest of the students. Illya was dressed all in black, wearing it like a second skin. The wig atop his head was also black. Napoleon had on a dusty old tuxedo and top hat. He sported glasses and a handlebar mustache. The only thing was…their act – it wasn’t funny. Napoleon could do the rolling and the tumbling, but he couldn’t do funny – at least not intentionally.
“Come on, Napoleon,” Illya hissed. “You’ve got to do better than that.”
“I know,” Napoleon moaned. “It’s just that I find it inhibiting to perform in front of a crowd.”
“Since when?” Illya asked wickedly. This earned him a slap in the back of the head by his partner. Suddenly there was laughter. The two men didn’t notice.
“Just what is that supposed to mean?” Napoleon asked sharply, advancing menacingly on his partner.
Illya backed away slowly. “Oh just that I’ve heard…”
“And what have you heard,” Napoleon demanded to know, his eyes flashing angrily.
“Ah, well…” Illya said as he retreated further. “It was all over the office.”
“What was all over the office?” Napoleon roared.
Illya turned and ran, his eyes alight with mischief.
Laughter resounded throughout the tent, but neither man noticed.
Illya hid behind the center post that held up the tent, peeking around with a wicked smile, unaware that he was unintentionally making his partner angrier. Napoleon rounded on him ready to do damage. They circled each other until Illya found a ladder leading up to a platform and climbed it briskly. Napoleon with his large shoes followed slower. Illya backed away. “Now, Napoleon, do not do anything you will regret.” He wasn’t really worried. After all there were witnesses, what could Solo do?
“What makes you think I’m going to regret it?” Napoleon growled.
Illya had reached the end of the platform. There was only one thing to do. He did a back flip and landing gracefully on the ground.
Napoleon rushed to the edge, frightened by what he might find – a smashed body below.
Illya looked up at him grinning.
Tremendous applause broke out, as well as stomping of feet and catcalls. The two agents froze in astonishment. Mr. Fields, still chuckling, came up to them. “I think you have finally got it.”
They were in the process of removing their makeup when a familiar beeping sounded. Napoleon looked around, found a quiet out of the way spot and opened his pen. “Solo here.”
“Ah, Mr. Solo,” Waverly’s voice echoed. “Sorry to interrupt you…but we have something rather urgent that has come up.”
Illya had edged close so he too could hear what was said. “And what would that be,” he muttered.
Waverly responded almost as if he had heard the remark. “You both are to catch the next flight for
“Yes, sir. What are we to do when we get there?” Napoleon asked.
“You will be met by the manager of the Cirque du Soleil. He’ll brief you. Report in when you arrive. Waverly out.” The channel went dead.
“He did say Cirque du Soleil?” Illya asked.
Napoleon stared at his communicator; obviously there was more to their clown lessons then met the eye. “Ahum, the old fox!”