Both Percy and Bash were rookies in their fields but Bash, despite his newfound pride, still struggled for confidence. Percy on the other hand, felt like a seasoned pro, or rather she felt born to make sick children laugh at her terrible adulting skills. Prior to becoming a therapy clown, she worked in retail. Forcing smiles while ringing shoppers through her register seemed an entirely useless skill at the time, but it served her well in the trenches of the pediatric cancer ward where all the smiles, or at least the adult ones, were forced.
Dollar Moose was the crappiest of the dollar franchises. Being really broke or dumb were prerequisites for entering the place. She took the job because the employees wore headbands with antlers on them and this appealed to her sense of the absurd, as did the store slogan. Employees weren’t obliged to repeat it to customers, but she often did in a voice sodden with irony. Be sure to come back to Dollar Moose for savings as big as a moose, she’d say with a studied lilt. Her cue for rhyming off this clunky jingle happened whenever a consumer requested a receipt which was, in her opinion, another absurdity. The idea of bringing a one, two, or even three-dollar item in for a refund was illogical, as more money would be spent transporting it back to its place of origin than would be recouped. Sure, there were shoppers who went everywhere on foot, and she could understand the reasoning in that case, especially if they were walking out of cash-strapped necessity. But some of the disgruntled shoppers who showed up waving a receipt in one hand and a broken can opener (or some other poorly made utensil) in the other, were preceded by the unmistakable air of financial security. Eventually she surmised bruised egos were at play. These deep pocketed misers prided themselves on their ability to make a buck and if that meant driving a gas guzzling SUV to the Dollar Moose for a tiny refund, then so be it.
Moneyed people also made up the majority of those who offered her unsolicited advice, delivered coolly and rhetorically. Here are a few examples: Are you happy here? Looking for a better job? My good friend owns a five-star restaurant, and he’d really appreciate having a pretty face like yours on his waitstaff, unless, of course, you’re committed to this place…? A few of them would shower her with compliments on her natural beauty and her sparkling wit before telling her not to waste the best years of her life in a dead-end job. Having to remain congenial while being humiliated by these prying advisors became unbearable after a while, so she started smiling into one cheek instead of both, and with an arch tone of voice she’d say, thanks but no thanks, I’m here to conduct important field research before joining the circus. This oblique sarcasm begat wordless stares/uneasy silences that were incredibly satisfying. Any wealthy person who thought they could add a few more dollars to their savings by shopping at Dollar Moose for a can opener that’d break in a few days could not be trusted to give solid advice, therefore, in her estimation, they deserved to be mocked. She wasn’t mean spirited about it, more playful, and besides, not a single one of these clownish life-coaches got wise to her subtle ways. Then, one day, she found herself in the seasonal aisle, restocking Halloween costumes. On her break, she bought one of the rainbow wigs and a red ball nose and wore them along with her antlers for the rest of her shift. In fact, she wore them for two months straight, until November second rolled around. Dressing like a clown felt liberating. She mocked customers all day long and for the most part they’d respond amicably. It was during this time that she decided to turn the joke about joining the circus into a reality, by enrolling herself in clown school.