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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Gary Beck

(Two men in clown costumes are putting on white face. The boss enters.)

Boss: Will you two hurry up. The kids are waiting. It's bad enough that grown men should make fools of themselves, clowning around, but you're late.

2nd Clown: Circumstances beyond our control....

Boss: I don't care about any circumstances. Get ready and get out there, or you won't get paid.

2nd Clown: We have a contract.

Boss: Then sue me. Now get moving, or else.

2nd Clown: That's not the state to put us in just before a show.

Boss: Do you believe these guys? If you're not readyin five minutes, I'll put you in a state of shock. (exits)

2nd Clown: (to his back) That's not the kind of state I meant.

1st Clown: What do you mean?

2: A sovereign state, you fool.

1: Why, then?

2: Because, I'm bounded on five sides by air and on one side by terrestrial matter.

1: I'm bewildered.

2: (posing) I'm a prince.

1: I mean you've bewildered me. Who makes you a prince?

2: No one made me a prince.

1: You better explain yourself.

2: You dare demand.... Well, no matter. Do you attend, you fool?

1: All ears.

2: Admit a little reason, then. I am, in front, back, both sides and on top, encased by air.

1: Ah.

2: And my feet rest upon the earth.

1: Ah.

2: Thus: I exist between aforementioned points, a principality.

1: Ah.... Then you must always fear invasion.

2: How so?

1: Well, neighbors being neighbors, will always.... How shall I say it? Poach?

2: Ah.

1: Seek territorial expansion at the expense of others.

2: A perspicuous comment.

1: What?

2: I don't fear my neighbors.

1: Who then?

2: Rather say what then.

1: Well?

2: Say it!

1: If you insist on being petty. (no answer) All right, all right. What then?

2: Internal revolution. It crumbles the foundation of the state.

1: Do you mean like a disease?

2: Another perspicuous comment.

1: What does perspicuous mean?

2: That you're smarter than you look.

1: Ah. I always knew you recognized my intelligence (he does a brief smart song & dance.)

2: But it doesn't mean anything.

1: Why not?

2: Because once again we're being ordered around by a bully who doesn't understand or appreciate us.

1: It's only temporary.

2: So is this life. I'm so tired of disguising myself in order to hide from so many horrors.

1: But we please so many people, especially children.

2: Pleasure is fleeting. So is everything else, even the sidereal universe.

1: What's that?

2: The past, present and future of all things.

1: So what's left?

2: Enduring until the end.

1: That doesn't sound very promising.

2: Promises are always broken.

1: That's not true. When I was six years old my Mom promised to take me to the movies, if I was good.

2: And?

1: I was. She did. That proves that promises aren't always broken.

2: In the vast scheme of things, what is a simple promise kept to a child? Everything is collapsing around us, despite the promises of our leaders to make things better. Yet we still paint our faces and put on our costumes in our attempt to stem the tide of despair.

1: It's not that bad.

2: It is. It is. And it will only get worse.

(enter Boss)

Boss: I thought I told you clowns to stop fooling around and get ready.

1: We're almost done.

Boss: If you're not out there in two minutes, I'll cancel the show and give you what's coming to you.

2: I hope you get what's coming to you.

Boss: What did you mean by that?

1: (to Boss) He hopes your efforts will be appreciated.

Boss: Yeah. Now get going.

1: We'll be right out. (exit Boss)

2: Will this suffering never end? But no matter what, we must go out there and be entertaining.

1: It's our job.

2: Then we should quit.

1: We can't do that.

2: Why not?

1: Who would make people laugh?

2: They'll find somebody.

1: What if they can't?

2: They will.

1: But what if they don't?

2: Then they'll get along without laughter.

1: They couldn't.

2: Of course they could. Laughter's not that important.

1: You don't mean that.

2: I do.

1: Well, we couldn't get along without people. We need them. (enter Boss)

Boss: This is your last warning.

1: We're ready. (exit Boss. Both clowns stand up, put on red noses and clown hats.) Let's go. And remember....

2: I know. Laugh, clown, laugh. (exit)

Gary Beck's plays and translations of the classics have been extensively produced off-Broadway. His recent fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous literary magazines. He lives in New York.