(Read Luke 18:15-17.)
            “Hey, kids, do you like cartoons?” 
            “YEEESSS.”  Forty-two children, ages three to seven, screamed so hard that Klutzy the Klown’s ears hurt.
            “Well, let’s roll that cartoon then!  Look right over there.”  Klutzy pointed to the monitor for the children, sprawled on the carpet of the corner of the studio where his set was located.  Looking into the camera, the orange-haired, red-nosed champion of goofy fun pointed at all the boys and girls in TV Land:  “Now, you watch too!”
            The picture cut abruptly to a 1940’s cartoon, briefly showing the title and immediately displaying the antics of a street-wise alley cat.
            Klutzy slipped away from the crowd of children and settled into a director’s canvas-and-wood folding chair beside the set.  A table was beside him.  He checked his makeup in a mirror, dabbing sweat with a talcum-saturated pad.  He picked up a clipboard and checked his scribbled notes on a sheet of yellow paper.  After the cartoon, there would be a commercial, then he would come back for a wrap-up.  Thank God, it’s Friday.
            The cartoon wrapped up with the picture shrinking to a circle that collapsed to nothing, then the credits began to roll.  While older kids wondered idly what an Executive Producer is, the picture abruptly flipped to a commercial for a local amusement park.
            Klutzy bounded out of his chair.  He stepped before the backdrop for his show.  “Hey kids!  Everyone turn this way!”  The children obediently swiveled from their monitor-watching position to turn their attention to Klutzy.  “Now, the show is almost over.  I want you boys and girls to know that you’ve been my best audience ever!  Now, when the commercial is over, I’m going to do my ‘Joy Dance.’  When the music starts playing, you clap in time.  Betsy will help you.”  Betsy was Klutzy’s administrative assistant.  She walked up to take her position off camera.  “Now, as soon as I finish dancing, you all begin to shout ‘Yeeaahh!’  as loud as you can.  Then, I’ll ask you to quiet down while I talk to the kids out in TV land.  OK?”
            “Yes!”  The kids were ready to be TV stars.
            “Ten seconds!”  the Director’s voice boomed over the studio.
            “OK, kids, get ready to clap to the music.”
            The music began before the last commercial was over.  When the technicians switched to Live activity, Klutzy was at full throttle.  The recording of a medley of fast-paced tunes boomed rhythmic signals for Klutzy’s remarkable body.  He began with a “Snoopy Dance” that kept heels together and toes pointed outward, knees hardly bending, arms almost flapping like wings.  Suddenly, with a change of music, he locked his body stiff and tipped over like a bowling pin, bouncing off the beach-ball armor of his torso back up to the standing position.  He repeated that maneuver eight times, keeping with the beat.  Then, he crossed the tiny stage, his right foot (housed in a size 30 shoe) whipping up over his left knee, his left foot skipping twice, and his right foot returning to the floor.  He repeated these moves, backward now and with his two hands making a scissor-like motion in front of his face.  Now, he was facing the camera, doing a Bo Jangles kind of soft shoe.  Then, he was on his shoulders and neck and head, his feet in the air, his hands supporting the small of his back, elbows on the floor; somehow his arms managed to walk his body across the floor, his face turned to the camera, a happy grin on his face.  On and on it went, the trademark “Joy Dance” of Klutzy the Klown.  He performed one acrobatic move after another, always in rhythm, never failing the move, yet always looking joyously funny and klutzy.
            Finally, the music ended.  Betsy began immediately to applaud and scream “Yeeaahh!”  The children caught on and joined in.  Klutzy finally got them quieted down and said “Good bye” to all the kids in TV land and to his studio audience.  The show faded with ten more seconds of the “Joy Dance.”
            After the show, Klutzy and Betsy passed out souvenir packets to all the children—three autographed pictures, a local sponsor’s advertising ball point, a little puzzle with numbers you had to slide around until they were in order, a Klutzy the Klown toy that did the bowling pin trick, and a coupon for the local dairy’s milk.  Parents and day-care workers thanked Klutzy.  A seven-year-old studied Klutzy with care as he talked with his mom.  He could for the first time see the human features under the makeup.  The voice was now the voice of a man of 45.  The eyes were not those perpetually-surprised and happy eyes of Klutzy, but the blue-gray eyes of Tom Fitzpatrick.
            The kids and parents dispersed.  Betsy picked up the messes and straightened the set up for Monday’s show.  Tom walked wearily to his dressing room.
            An hour later, Tom had removed his costume and makeup and had showered.  He felt a little better, but he sat down wearily in his desk chair.  A monitor overhead, sound turned off, showed the network evening news.  The door of his office-dressing room opened without a warning knock.  Brian Fitzpatrick slipped in.
            “Oh, Hi, Brian!”  Tom’s voice was happy as he greeted his son.
            There was no greeting in reply.  The nineteen-year old didn’t bother to shut the door.  His body seemed to roll in one motion across the room into an easy chair.  Despite the “Thank you for not smoking” signs, Brian lit up a Winston.  He picked up a Styrofoam cup for an ashtray.
            Brian had a way of sitting in a chair that at once commanded the whole room, like a king on a throne.  Yet, at the same time, he slouched and burrowed into the chair, pushing his hips half-way down the seat, his torso bending just below his chest.
            His dress was in concert with his posture—black jeans, sneakers, a t-shirt cut off to reveal his cigarette-slimmed abdomen, a biker’s leather jacket.  His hair was short, straight with bangs over his forehead.  His only jewelry was a diamond stud in his left ear.
            “I found another bike to buy.”  Brian began a story.  His voice was close to a monotone, so low that Tom had to listen closely.  The expression on his face, his voice, his body was an expression of long-practiced cool.  Brian had been this cool when he was thirteen.  He was a phenomenon to Tom.  Somewhere, between eight and thirteen, Brian had caught on to everything.  There were no more surprises.  He understood everything.  The world was no longer to be explored, just to be done.  He could spend eight hours in the early teen years on a skate board.  Then, he turned to motorcycles and cars.  Mostly motorcycles.  Spending afternoons working on them, nights riding them.
            Tom and Anita, his wife, had tried to give Brian direction.  Brian just simply refused.  He refused to do anything in school and dropped out after ninth grade.  He left church and Sunday School by the eighth grade.
            Once, Tom had asked Brian if the fact that he was Klutzy the Klown embarrassed him.  Brian was fourteen at the time.
            “Aw, you know, maybe when I was little I hated it.  I mean, you making a fool of yourself and stuff.   But               , if that’s what you gotta do, you know, to make money, I mean, who cares?” 
            Now Brian lived in a house with five other people.  Tom had gone there once.  The living room was filthy, beer empties so packed the coffee table that the surface could not be seen.  Bean bag ash trays were on the arms and backs of couches and chairs, each filled to overflowing with butts.  The TV was on, but no one was watching.  An open door to one bedroom revealed a bed and the fat backside of its sleeping contents.  As Tom wandered through the house—the cluttered kitchen, the trashy back porch—and saw the sleepy residents at eleven on Saturday morning, he made a discovery:  no one seemed happy.  There were lovers who did not seem in love.  There were rebellious youth who had won the war with the establishment and did not really care.  There were forty-five-year-old men with twenty-year-old girls, but the men did not exult in their success.  All seemed only bored, but with no particular desire to break the boredom.
            And so Brian droned on about the new machine he was going to trade for.  For a moment, Betsy dropped in to say her final good-bye for the weekend.  Betsy said “Hi!” to Brian in her usual friendly, perky manner.  Brian said off-handedly, “Hey.”  Betsy left for her home and family.  Brian continued his story.
            Finally, Tom said, “Brian, would you like to come over for supper?”
            “Yeah, sure, I’ll be there.”
            Tom got up, and Brian followed lazily.  The two of them spoke no more as they made their way to the parking lot.  Brian mounted his bike and shot out of the parking lot.  Tom maneuvered his Pontiac into traffic and headed for home.  He called his wife on the cell phone to let her know Brian would be there for supper.
            When Tom entered the kitchen, Anita whirled from her salad making to greet him.  Her dark, round face was filled with a smile.  She threw one leg up into his waiting hand, Harpo-Marx style.  It was an old joke that still cracked them both up.
            “What’s for dinner?”  Tom sniffed and looked over the kitchen table at taco fixings.  “Mexican food!  Great!  La cucaracha, la cucaracha, dah-de-duh-de-duh-de-duh!”
            Anita laughed and began a dance with invisible castanets, and Tom grabbed her by the waist.  Together, they were doing a combination of all the Latin dances they had ever seen on TV.  Then, Anita turned, large, brown, laughing eyes meeting his as they embraced and kissed.  She slipped out of his arms and finished her salad.
            Tom leaned in the doorway into the living room.  The lights were out.  Across the room, on the couch, still in his biker’s jacket, Brian was slouched and burrowed, his hips pushed half-way down the seat, his torso bending just below his chest.  The only light was the glow from MTV, the purples, greens, oranges lighting up his face. 
            “Dinner!”  Anita sang it out happily.
            Brian did not move.  Tom walked across the room.  “Dinner.” 
            Brian silently arose, his eyes still fastened to the Tube.  He walked into the kitchen without seeming to see anything.  He pulled out a chair and sat down, scraping the chair legs noisily on the linoleum. 
            Tom and Anita sat down.  Tom bowed his head and prayed.
            “Now get you a taco shell first, and then we’ll just start this stuff around,” Anita instructed with joy.  The food began to fly around the table.  Anita began the story of her day.
            As she chattered, Tom tried to act interested.  But his eyes kept sneaking looks at Brian.  Brian was able to sit at the table with two other people and not seem to see either of them.  His expression was blank.  He ate hurriedly, but with no particular gusto.  After two tacos and some ice cream, he reached for his cigarettes.
            “Oh, Brian, please, not in the house,” said Anita in a pleading tone.
            “Whatever.”  There was no anger in his indifferent tone.  “I guess I’m off.  With that, he arose, and headed for the back door.
            “Well, it was good to see you, Brian!”  Anita jumped up.  She ran behind him and pulled at his coat in a flirtatious, possessive way.  Brian stopped and looked at her over his shoulder.
            Anita was rattled by his reaction.  “Are you, are you doing OK?  I mean, are you eating right…?”
            Brian’s head rotated away from a direct look at her.  “Yeah,” was his reply.  He continued to glide to the door.  Anita stood, her hands frozen in a half-reach out to her son.  The door closed firmly.
            Anita went back to the supper table.  The tears had already begun.  She crumpled on the floor beside Tom, her wet face on his leg, his body bent over hers, one arm draped down across her back.
            They stayed that way a long time.  Then, Tom slipped off the chair under the table.  He knelt with his hand gripping the chair opposite the one he had been sitting on.  His head was caught between table and the seat of the chair, his face framed by the horizontal braces of the chair back.  He was the captain of a U-boat, gripping the periscope.  His crew crawled in beside him, her arms folded on the chair next to his, her head in the crook of his elbow, her large eyes studying the captain’s face.
            The captain was weeping.  Anita had never noticed how you can see the individual tears leap out of a person’s tear gland and roll down the face, how the tear follows the course of least resistance, obeying gravity’s call.  For several minutes, she studied the phenomenon of tears on her husband’s face.
            They both bumped their heads when the phone rang.  Chairs scraped and hands and shoes squeaked on the tile floor as they scrambled for the phone.  Anita answered.  Her eyes were wide, she said almost nothing.  Tom was beside her, mouthing “Who is it?”  But Anita just shoved the phone into his hands.
            “This is Tom Fitzpatrick.”
            “Mr. Fitzpatrick, this is St. Matthew’s Hospital.  Your son is being admitted.  Do you think you could come down?”
            “My son?  Brian Fitzpatrick?  He—He just left here!”
            “Yes, sir.  Do you think you could come down?”
            “I guess so—of course, I’ll be right there.”
            “Thank you.”  The phone clicked, and the dial tone seemed to roar at Tom.
            The two of them held hands as they entered the lobby of the hospital.  It took several minutes for the lady to decide that maybe the person they were looking for was in Emergency.  They hurried along dreary corridors and then into the glare of the Emergency Room.  A nurse directed them to an examining room.  A policeman had been listening to their inquiries. 
            “You related to Brian Fitzpatrick?”
            “We’re—I’m his mother.” 
            “Yeah, well, I was at the wreck.”
            “Wreck?’  Tom’s mind did not really comprehend.  “On his motorcycle?”
            “Yeah, he slid it up under a truck.  Could I get his address and phone number?”
            Tom tried to think of it.  He gave up and looked at Anita.  She rattled it off for the policeman.
            “Thanks.  I think it’s that room over there.”
            Anita pressed on the door.  It yielded to her touch and swung open.  People in green suits were bending over Brian’s slender frame.  Tom thought he recognized Brian’s black jeans with a big grease spot below the knee.  His boots were off, revealing dirty white socks.  Most of his shirt was cut—or torn—off.  His right arm was wrapped in gauze from knuckles to just above the elbow.  There was a man at the far end of the table, where Brian’s head was.  On either side of him were two women.  The three of them, with six hands, were installing a brace that encompassed Brian’s head, neck, and shoulders.
            Anita and Tom stared in horror.  The three—doctor’s? nurses?--seemed in such deep concentration, their conversation in hushed tones, their eyes fixed on their work, that Tom and Anita dared not interrupt.
            Finally, the man, who seemed to be in charge, began to speak louder.  The two women now looked at him, taking careful note of his orders.  Then, they pulled the sides up on the gurney.  They looked for the first time at the couple standing in the doorway.
            One of the women said in a kind voice, “We’re going to take him up to a room now.  You can follow us.
            Anita and Tom stayed through the night.
            The next morning, Tom and Anita finally talked to the doctor.  There would be a CAT-scan to check for damage to the neck.  At nine that morning, Brian was wheeled to Radiology for the test.  Then, he was back in his room.
            Anita and Tom had followed their son to the test and back to his room.  Both were in uncomfortable arm chairs.  Sleep was beginning to conquer them.  They had been awake for over 24 hours.  Brian had been semi-conscious during the trip down to Radiology, but now, with another pain shot, he was deep in sleep.  Tom was the first to succumb, then Anita dozed, her head supported by her left hand.
            At one that afternoon, the doctor came to talk to them.  Brian was half awake and seemed hardly to comprehend the conversation.           
            “We’re concerned about the spinal cord.  But the CAT-scan does not show any injury.  There’s a lot of swelling.  His fourth and fifth neck vertebrae are cracked.  We’ll keep the neck immobilized for some time.  After the swelling goes down, we should see improvement in his motor control.”
            “So, is he going to be…paralyzed?”  Tom had to ask.
            “We don’t think so.  We just have to wait and see.”
            Tom glanced over at Brian.  Though he had seemed totally out of it a few minutes before, Tom caught a look of intense interest in the steel blue eyes.
            Tom spent Sunday night at home.  Anita had thought he needed to sleep in his own bed.  He went to the station that morning.  There was a meeting with the Program Manager and Betsy.  The Program Manager took one look at Tom and decided he was in no shape to do a show.  They would show a tape of an old show.  That meant that Betsy would have to call the adults who were bringing children and cancel the afternoon of fun with Klutzy the Klown.  Tom said he would try to do a show on Tuesday.  He and Betsy spent 30 minutes planning the show for the next afternoon.  Tom would come in at two to get ready.
            The rest of the morning was spent running errands, talking with Brian’s friends about his bike, and dealing with insurance people.  Early afternoon, he picked up some Big Macs, fries, and Cokes.  He had his hands full when he stepped into the hospital room.
            Anita sat in a chair on the other side of the bed from the entrance.  Her hair, clothes, and make-up were vibrant.  She had been home.  Brian was in the same—his only available—position:  flat on his back.  The TV had been mounted on a frame almost directly over his head, cocked at an angle so that he could see it clearly.  There was a slight glow reflecting on his face—purples, greens, oranges.  But the music coming from the speaker was not the Honda-650-like roar of MTV.  Tom was transfixed as he listened.  He stood in the door, and behind him were the random hallway sounds of a hospital in prime time.  The volume was only moderately turned up, but Tom could not mistake the medley of happy tunes lilting his way.  Then, he noticed the cable from the TV was connected to a VCR.  He slipped over to the head of Brian’s bed and took in the image on the tube.  There was Klutzy the Klown, doing his Joy Dance.  Tom recognized the vintage of the clown suit.  It was a tape from about seven years ago.
            Anita slipped out of her chair and made her way toward the door.  Tom followed her.  They walked silently down the hall to an alcove set aside for families.  Anita said grace over their McDonald’s stuff and settled into an easy chair.
            “He came out with it very suddenly,” she explained.  “He said, ‘Mom, I’d like to look at some of Dad’s stuff.  I want to see his Joy Dance.  I want to see how you do the Joy Dance.”
            Tom walked back to Brian’s door.  The colors of Klutzy the Klown reflected off the gaunt face that was encircled by the plastic frame of the neck brace.  At the corners of Brian’s mouth, there was a twitch, the hint, of a smile.  Tom wept silently.


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