((OOC: Okay, so I filmed this ages ago coughlastnovembercough but I never really finished what I had in mind for it, but also thought it was a shame to go to waste. So here is a minimalistic version of the scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter 22 - “After the Burial”. sorry ‘but dark gifs))
In Hagrids hut around his enormous table sits three shadows. The biggest of them is heavy asleep with his giant head against the wall, snoring loudly. Across from the young boy with the round glasses sits an elderly Hogwarts teacher who finally pulled himself together and asked questions, which have tormented him for so many years.
“I don’t—don’t suppose you remember it, Harry?” he asked awkwardly.
“No—well, I was only one when they died,” said Harry, his eyes on the flame of the candle flickering in Hagrid’s heavy snores.
“But I’ve found out pretty much what happened since. My dad died first. Did you know that?”
“I—I didn’t,” said Slughorn in a hushed voice.
“Yeah… Voldemort murdered him and then stepped over his body toward my mum,” said Harry.
Slughorn gave a great shudder, but he did not seem able to tear his horrified gaze away from Harry’s face.
“He told her to get out of the way,” said Harry remorselessly.
“He told me she needn’t have died. He only wanted me. She could have run.”
“Oh dear,” breathed Slughorn. “She could have… she needn’t… That’s awful…”
“It is, isn’t it?” said Harry, in a voice barely more than a whisper.
“But she didn’t move.
Dad was already dead,
but she didn’t want me to go too.
She tried to plead with Voldemort…
but he just laughed…”
“That’s enough!” said Slughorn suddenly, raising a shaking hand”
Voldemort played by the grossly talented @sirussly
Marilyn Monroe photographed by Gene Kornman (1953) / Marilyn Monroe photographed by a fan in NYC (1955)
One of the most iconic faces of pop culture knew precise makeup techniques: Quoting Marilyn Monroe’s makeup artist, Allan Whitey Snyder: “Marilyn had makeup tricks that no one had or knew. Most of them she didn’t learn from me. She discovered it herself”. In fact, Marilyn did her own makeup for many occasions. Photographer Sam Shaw talked about one day while she was getting ready. “I asked her: ‘Marilyn, don’t you think that this makeup is a little too much?.’'Sam, you don’t understand’, she answered: ’This make-up is for my fans, those people waiting inside the movie houses, or outside on the street waiting in the crowd at an opening. They are the people the studios won’t let close to the theatre unless they pay to get in. When I arrive there I’ll turn to wave to them and they’ll see me and won’t be disappointed. My fans want me to be glamorous. I won’t disappoint them.’
Skin: Marilyn liked her skin with a flawless finish, but yet glowy - you note in many picures that her cheeks, tip of the nose, and under brow area are glowing, she liked the effect that it gave, especially with the studio lights
Eyes: Marilyn expanded her eye crease by overdrawing it with brown eyeshadow. Her eyeliner was not too thin or huge, and it always gave the classic cat eye effect. She also drawn with brown pencil a line in the under eye area to fake a 'shadow’. She prefered individual fake lashes, applying them in a way to maintain the shape that she wanted for the eyes. She also arched her brows with eyebrow pencil.
Lips: By far, the most iconic part of Marilyn’s makeup are her lips. As you can see in her makeup free pictures, they were by far not as plump as they appeared to be. Marilyn always overdrawn her lips, (so did almost all the other female stars on that time period), but she had a especial trick - Marilyn used at least 4 different colors of red lipstick to create a 3D effect; the lighter shades on the center of her lips, and the darker ones on the edges. She applied vaseline to finalize the glossy and plump effect. Her beauty mark was not fake, in fact, you can slightly see it in the makeup free picture - but it’s not as noticeable because it was almost the same color of her skin, so she enhanced it with makeup.
“One can never wakeup in the morning, wash the face and look like Marilyn Monroe. She knew every trick on the book to compose her look” Photographer (and Marilyn’s friend) Milton Greene
okay but can we talk about the 4 biggest movies this week?
Kong: Skull Island
female characters who aren’t sexualized
racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic jokes
Beauty and the Beast
diverse period piece (this almost never happens omg)
characters and men wearing makeup in a family movie
I mention there are GAY CHARACTERS IN A FAMILY MOVIE??
POC female lead
she’s a badass
she’s a kid
offensive jokes yet again
addresses racial issues in a unique way
crew (including mixed-race director)
Two unproblematic action movies, a culturally-relevant,
political horror movie, and a family movie that isn’t just a bunch of straight
white people everywhere. Am I dreaming? We still have a long way to go but this is a great start.
Not So Picture Perfect || Kian Lawley Imagine (Requested)
“Literally all I want to do is go home. I really don’t want to be here,” I told Callie as I worked on the gym elliptical.
“What, why? You love the gym. What’s wrong?”
“Kian flies out with Jc and Dom today for the second half of the tour and won’t be back for 3 weeks.”
“Okay, I know you love him, but it’s only 3 ½ weeks. They will fly by, especially with Maya’s birthday party and Ricky’s “I Hit One Million” Bash.”
Even though I hate to admit it, she was right. It’s just 3 lousy weeks and with the technology we have today, it will be like he never left.
“Fuck, you’re right. Did you know I hate that about you?”
“Yeah and I love you too, beyotch. Call me later, okay?”
I finished my 90 minute workout and headed home to see Kian for the last few hours. I grabbed my gym bag and unlocked the door to see Kian’s suitcases against the wall. I let out a sigh and called out to him.
“I’ll be there in a sec!” he yelled back. When he came into my view, I saw that he was on the phone.
“Yeah, Dude. I’ll be there in about an hour. Okay. Bye”
I gave him a confused look,”I thought your flight was at 10 tonight.”
“It was, but there was a screw up with the airline and our flight is 4:40 now.” I looked at the clock behind him and it read 1:27 pm.
“So that means you have to leave now,” I said defeated.
“Yeah, I’m sorry Baby.”
“No it’s fine, it’s not your fault. Did you need me to drive you?”
“I don’t need you to, but I definitely want you to,” he said as he embraced me.
I helped him load his bags into the car and hopped in. I couldn’t help but think that i wouldn’t have moments like this for 3 fucking weeks. I hated it, but Kian loves his fans and would do anything for them. I would never stand between that.
After what seemed like the shortest ride in history, we pulled up to his terminal. Jc and Dom were already out there waiting for us and I helped unload Kian’s things. We stood there for what felt like forever, just holding each other.
“Ugh, ew! Come on already, Vitaly’s inside!” JC whined beside us. Kian and I decided to gross him out even more and started tongue battling each other.
“God! Didn’t you guys do enough of that before he left?!” asked Dom.
“We actually didn’t,” I said to Kian, looking kind of amused.
“Well this is going to be one uncomfortable flight,” he joked.
“Speaking of flight, we gotta catch ours!” JC said.
“Fuuuck, I don’t want you to leave.”
“I know, but I’ll be back soon, okay.”
“Okay, have fun.”
“I will, I’ll call you when we land,” he said running into the airport.
“I’ll be waiting,” I said to myself.
When I arrived back to our place I was finally able to take a well needed shower. When I was done, I ordered food off of Postmates and caught up on ‘Are You The One?’ I really hated being here without Kian, but I had to remind myself that I did it during the first half and was (somewhat) fine.
My phone started to ring and I got excited when I saw that it was Kian calling.
“Hey, Baby. How are you?”
“Lonely. How was the flight?”
“Pretty good. Some kid threw up though, which made Dom almost throw up.”
“Ew, but kinda awesome, haha.” Our conversation didn’t last long due to the fact that he had a long day tomorrow and it was late where he was.
I decided that it was time for me to go to bed as well and try to not be so bleh.
The next few days were getting easier and easier. Almost two weeks have already passed and Maya’s birthday party was a great distraction. I hear from Kian every night and every night I miss him more. Tonight is Ricky’s bash and I’m really excited. I took me like 4 hours to get ready, but I was almost done. I was applying the last bit of makeup when my phone buzzed.
I heard Callie come in and we naturally had to capture this moment.
That night was complete blast. I can’t stress how proud I am of Ricky T for reaching over one million youtube subscribers. Callie and I finally got back to my place and I was about to take a shower when my phone started to ring.
“Hey, I saw your Snap. You look beautiful, how was the party?”
“It was really fun, but tiring. How’s the tour going?”
“It’s good! The fans are amazing, the closer I get to coming home, the more anxious I get to be with you.”
“*Sigh* I can’t wait for you to come back.”
“I know me either, but I’ll let you get some rest and I’ll do the same. Sweet dreams, Babe.”
“You too, Kian. Good night.”
The next few days were quite boring, but Kian comes home in a little over a week and I’m so happy! I had been trying to reach him for the last few hours now, but he wasn’t picking up. I finally gave up on him and tried calling JC, but it was too loud to hold a conversation. My last resort was Vitaly who evidently was asleep and didn’t know anything.
I realized that this was the first night Kian hadn’t called me and I got a sort of uneasy feeling in my stomach. I quickly shook it off and decided to go to bed.
It was about 7:15 am when I was woken up by the constant vibration of my phone. After about 2 solid minutes, I groggily turn over and check what it is. I see that it is a bunch of Twitter notifications and I decided to open them. I see an assload of pictures of Jc with some random girl wither ass out, but that’s when I see it.
“What the fuck?” I say to myself as I read the tweets. I feel my heart drop as I see my boyfriend cradling another girl’s ass. I immediately decide to call him and of course it goes straight to voicemail.
Over the course of the next 9 days, I didn’t leave the house. Ricky and Callie came over to keep me company, but I just wanted to be alone. Kian tried calling every 5 minutes, except when he was on stage, but I ignored all of them. Even the rest of the boys were trying to contact me, but I only talked to Vitally since he wasn’t there that night. He tried to get me to talk about it, but knowing that he would relay it all to Kian, I just changed the subject.
So many people were talking about what happened, even Kian’s ex Andrea. All I could do at this point is cry and look at old photos of Kian and I.
Kian comes back tomorrow and I had to make a hasty decision. I was in the middle of my thoughts when my phone vibrated over and over again. I thought I shut that fucker off. I go look at it and I see it is the man of the hour once again.
I can’t help but smile a little bit as I cry even harder now. Is it worth letting go? Is it worth staying? Then he said it.
tony stark was captain america’s biggest fan before getting to know and fall in love w/ steve and steve rogers was tony stark’s biggest fan before coming to know and love him as iron man too and if that’s not the most beautiful thing ever idk what is
They couldn’t even go outside to play in the sparkling white snow
After through planning and it freezing to death all the losers are in the safety of Bill’s house
They’re fighting over what movie to watch when Bev dumps out her backpack that was filled with makeup and I mean filled
The boys have never seen so much makeup and just gape at the sight
Bev declares that she’s gonna do each boys makeup
They protest so loudly and almost hysterically
But in the end they couldn’t say to no to Bev I mean how could they
So with some pop music (nkotb) playing in the background Bev gets started
Ben is first why because Bev has always wanted him in makeup
She sets aside neutral colors like olive, grey, muted blue, champagne and a few other colors for Ben
She gives him olive eyeshadow with touches of neutral blue, it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t make him look awkward but enough to bring out his eyes with brown eyeliner
She uses champagne powder to cover up any red spots and blends them into his skin and lastly she applies some nude lipstick
Ben looks freakin gorgeous omg were the losers in awe
Next was Bill, for Bill she mostly used light colors like pale pink, coral, light purple, and a little lavender
Lavender and light purple was his eyeshadow with a little brown eyeliner to accent his eyes
Pale pink blush and soft tan to to hide and blemishes
She gives him coral lipstick as a finishing touch and Stan almost faints but how attractive and beautiful Bill is like Stan just can’t cope
For Richie, Bev gives him a punk rock look I mean it’s not like they’ve discussed this before oh no definitely not
She applies deep purple eyeshadow with thick black eyeliner cateye style
His blush is a dark brownish and his lips are coated in black lipstick
Richie flips and he is so excited I mean he looks so badass and Eddie can’t stop staring at him with utter fascination
Stan gets all nude colors and boy does he look good
She gives him light pink blush to bring out the natural beauty Stan already has I mean this boy doesn’t need makeup he’s so gorgeous without it and Bill just keeps stuttering
Mike gets all the bold colors and I mean bold. Bev uses bright orange eyeshadow and he just looks stunning, she adds highlights to his face to bring out his features and man it does lastly she gives him sunshine yellow lipstick and Mike is practically glowing that’s how stunning he looked with the bold colors on his dark skin
Eddie gets all the glitter and sparkles
His eyeshadow is a glittering pink that makes his soft eyes shine, he gets the lightest powder and then sparkle blush that make his cheeks look so pretty and then Bev gives him cotton candy glitter lipgloss
Richie just starts crying because Eddie looks like a god he’s just so beautiful
The boys decide to collaborate and do Bev’s makeup instead of her usual look they use soft colors
It takes them many tries but they give her sky blue eyeshadow and pale green eyeliner
Light champagne powder and pink blush they also give her the glitter lipgloss she gave Eddie and she looks like a goddess as well
Ms. Denbrough takes a couple Polaroid shots of the group and each loser gets a copy
“Ah~ This recipe is too hard!! I give up on cooking”
Jimin exclaimed, looking at the piece of paper that was in his hands. Cooking was never his forte but today, he wanted to make dinner himself. His plans quickly went downhill though as soon as he started reading what he had to do. Looking over at your boyfriend from the other side of the room you couldn’t help but chuckle, walking over to him.
“C’mon.. Let me help you”
You offered, bending over to see what the recipe called for. Of course he starred at your clevage, almost instantly. How could he not?
“Hey.. Cooking can wait”
He smirked grabbing your waist to bring you closer.
Taehyung’s whiny voice could be heard from his room and you couldn’t help but chuckle. This must have been the fifth time in the past ten minutes he called for you. Turning off the television you walked to where he was, only to find him furiously looking at a piece of paper.
“What’s wrong this time babe?”
You asked giggling slightly as he raised an eyebrow. Turning over to you, he motioned to come closer, obviously needing your help with something
“How do you pronounce this?”
“Hmm.. Lemme see”
Your eyes scanned the text with Tae’s lines, more specifically English lines, bending over a bit, to see better. His eyes immediately met with your upper body area, fighting himself to not look
“No, you have to study!”
He practically screamed at himself, leaving you very confused.
Jungkook whined from your shared bedroom causing you to sigh. He truly acted like a baby when he was sick. Placing the bowl of soup, along with a glass of water and his medication pills on a tray, you made your way upstairs.
“I’m here, I’m here~”
You smiled sweetly at him, leaving the tray down at the nightstand next to him. Despite his annoying behavior, he looked so cute. Makeup free face, with the blanket almost up to his chin and his hair messy, he looked at you with big puppy eyes
“Jagi.. My head hurts”
He complained pouting. Fearing that his fever might have returned you instantly bend over to place a kiss on his forehead, wanting to check his temperature. I guess, being sick, was not going to stop him from getting horny, as he wrapped his arms around your waist leaving small kisses on your neck, being obviously aroused by your cleavage.
Roman swallowed thickly, his legs trembling a bit. A took three deep
breaths and closed his eyes, the hands tight around the flowers.
As soon as he opened his eyes again, after sinking down, he felt the
heaviness in his eyes. He blinked his eyes open, biting his bottom lip, his
breath shaking again. That room still gave him the creeps.
“Of course it does Roman, you’ve been here what? Two times?” he asked to
himself, sighing and shaking his head. “Focus. Focus” he looked around again
and froze, seeing the other trait in the kitchen, making something. Probably
Thankful for being wearing his socks, he walked to the kitchen slowly,
his body trembling as he approached the dark figure. He held back a groan as he
pushed his hair away from his face. This whole ‘being anxious’ thing was too
annoying for his liking. He approached the trait slowly, moving the hand with
the flowers to his back and the other over his shoulder, touching him.
That… earned a jump and two wide eyes turning to him, before he relaxed.
“Roman, for god’s sake, why did you come here so… quietly?” Virgil
asked, putting his mug down and turning around. He furrowed his eyebrows,
lifting his hand and pushing Roman’s fringe off his face. “You guys get ruined
when you come down here, seriously” he chuckled and Roman smiled a bit, shrugging.
“Make up is nice sometimes” he said and fixed his back, cleaning his
throat. “I… um… I came here because… well… You know, after our little fall out the
“Roman” he said, and he looked at Virgil, who was smiling softly. “Don’t
sweat it. I forgave you guys and you guys forgave me. It’s all settled now
“Yeah…” he mumbled and bit his lip as Virgil turned away to grab his mug
and turned around again. “Still An… Virgil” he tried, and he looked up again. “I
still feel sorry. I was the last to accept you… at least to myself” he chuckled
and looked down before he sighed. “Just… here” he pulled the flowers from his
back, handing the black roses to Virgil. “I thought they would… give a little
life to the place”
“Oh…” he mumbled and slowly the flowers were taken away from Roman’s
hand. “I’ll find a vase for it, wait a second” he said, rushing around and
grabbing a big glass, filling it with water and putting the flowers in before
returning, smiling. “Thank you Roman. That was really nice of you”
“Maybe I’m learning with Patton” he chuckled quietly and looked at the
other trait, tilting his head. “But can I… Can I do something else?”
“What?” Virgil asked, eyes narrowing. Roman chuckled and shrugged.
“Close your eyes”
“Your eye shadow is getting darker, why are you anxious?”
“Just close your eyes if you trust me”
Virgil narrowed his eyes before slowly closing them, a frown on his
face. Roman’s heart fluttered at the act of trust and he took a deep breath,
leaning close, a bit down, tilting his head and closing his eyes.
Their lips touched, and he expected a slap on his face.
He pulled away, eyes fluttering open, and Virgil was there, his eyes
still closed, lips slightly parted, makeup almost gone. He opened his eyes slowly,
eyes shining, looking at Roman and making him gasp quietly. He was so beautiful…
“Roman…” he breathed out, lifting one hand to his lips, and Roman
chuckled nervously, his body squirmy and weird, insecure.
“I kind of discovered… that all the hatred I felt was actually… me
denying myself” he mumbled and scratched the back of his head. “Sorry for
giving you so much problem… All these months, and now even”
“Roman?” he asked, and Roman looked at him. “Close your mouth”
“Shut it” Virgil groaned and grabbed his face, kissing him again and
making Roman close his eyes and melt against the trait, holding his waist and
pulling him close, just as Virgil slid his arms around his neck, pulling him
down and tilting his head, deepening the kiss and tangling his fingers on Roman’s
It wasn’t fireworks.
But there were definitely some butterflies in his stomach.
honestly dan has always made the “dark sad aesthetic” his thing, a trademark almost and the fact that now hes talking about makeup, embracing his natural hair, wearing fricking nailpolish, caps (even a yellow one!!!) makes me so proud and it only shows that you shouldnt be scared of stepping out of your comfort zone or the persona you created and embrace how you really feel inside, who knows maybe its the next step to feeling happier
Listen: Grantaire as a makeup artist in the fashion industry.
All the creators WANT HIM because he’s so talented at what he does. He’s totally against that “hide people’s flaws behind makeup like a mask” bullshit. Grantaire sees beauty and magnifies it. Fashion designers call him the Michelangelo of make up and fight over who will manage to get him to work for them.
Grantaire has been working with Jehan lately, a new upcoming designer in the ashion industry, who impresses everybody with their bold choices, colour patterns and fabric associations. Everything Jehan was called weird for wearing before is now trendy and visionary. Plus, Jehan defies expectations by breaking gender barriers and working with models who don’t fit the runway’s standards.
So Grantaire goes to work one day, and there’s this new model who’s just started working with Jehan. Rumour has it he used to work with Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, but he ended his contract to work with Jehan, because their beliefs aligned perfectly. His name is Enjolras, and Grantaire is convinced he’s seen him on billboards before. But that was nothing compared to reality.
Grantaire has never seen someone that breath-takingly beautiful before. The new model’s divine, in an actually god-like way. Grantaire tries to keep it cool and shakes his hand, invites him to sit, the way things are usually done, but his throat has gone completely dry.
They’re here to determine which makeup style suits Enjolras best. It’s the standard procedure when a new model is hired. As ever, Grantaire tries to cover his nervousness but thinking out loud and talking, so the two of them end up having a conversation revolving mainly about makeup. Grantaire’s almost done when Enjolras asks him:
“So why did you choose to become makeup artist?”
“I guess when you’re fuck ugly you just want to compensate by making something beautiful.”
That kind of answer usually weird people out. But Enjolras simply looks at him, all gold and eyeliner, glitter shining on his lips:
“You have beautiful eyes.”
Grantaire’s heart skips a beat. He does not fall in love so much as he plunges head first into it
Once upon a time - which is a terrible way to start a joke - there was a little boy named Billy.
Billy was six years old, and for the whole of his short life, he had been utterly and intensely obsessed with clowns. He had clown bed sheets and clown posters; he had clown toys and clown-themed games; he had towels with clowns on them, a toothbrush in the shape of a clown, and - if it had existed - he probably would have used clown-flavored toothpaste, as well.
Try not to think about it.
The point here is that Billy loved clowns, and his parents were well aware of that fact. (They’d have to be, right? I mean, how is a six-year-old going to buy all of that stuff?) Thus, they decided that for their son’s seventh birthday, they’d purchase front row seats at the circus, which just happened to be in town at the same time. Upon hearing this, Billy was absolutely overcome with excitement, and he was scarcely able to sit still until his family arrived at the big top.
Billy and his parents walked in, took their seats, and waited for the show to start.
The music flared to life and the lights came up, and in a dazzling display of merriment, everything began. First came the lion-tamers with their whips and chairs… and yeah, they were intriguing, but they didn’t hold Billy’s interest. Next came the feats of strength with strongmen (and one excessively suspicious woman) smashing bricks and bending bars… and yeah, it was impressive, but Billy didn’t really care. The sword swallowers followed, and the trapeze artists, and the tightrope walkers… and yeah, someone might have died at any moment, but it all seemed so boring.
Eventually, Billy began to worry that he wouldn’t get to see clowns at the circus. After all, he knew very well that clowns usually only appeared when something went wrong. (You didn’t know that, did you? Yeah, clowns are typically kept on standby in case someone screws up.)
Suddenly, all of the lights went out.
A single spotlight shown down to one corner of the arena.
A tiny car came puttering into view, while discordant, almost forlorn circus music played.
Deet deet deedle-deedle deet deet dee deeeeee…
The car’s doors sprang open, and out poured the most amazing collection of clowns that Billy had ever seen! There were fat clowns, thin clowns, tall clowns, short clowns! Clowns with bright red hair and enormous red noses! Clowns in silly suspenders and oversize shoes! There were clowns wearing every color of the rainbow, and clowns that moved like psychotic ferrets on speed! There were more clowns than Billy had ever dreamed of watching all at once!
Then, just as it seemed like that tiny car couldn’t produce a single soul more, another clown stepped out. He was too fat to be thin, yet too thin to be fat… but somehow wasn’t average, either. He was too short too be tall, yet too tall to be short… but still managed to be both at once. He had pale, almost white skin - not the product of makeup - and deep, almost black, sunken eyes. He had a shock of bright red (and completely natural) hair, and a bulbous, equally red nose.
Billy looked on with awe and wonder as he realized what he was seeing: This wasn’t a person in makeup who was putting on an act; this was a real clown. The man - if indeed you could call him a man - reached into the front of his pants, wiggled his hand around for a little while, and pulled forth a bright silver microphone. After offering a conspiratorial wink to the audience, the clown cleared his throat… and his dry, raspy voice boomed out for everyone to hear:
“I need a volunteer!”
Before Billy had even completely processed what he had just heard, he discovered that he had leapt from his seat and thrust his hand as high as it would go.
“Pick me!” Billy screamed. “Pick me!”
The clown extended a finger and cast it over the audience, drawing lazy circles through the crowd. After what felt like an eternity, he finally aimed his cracked fingernail directly at Billy.
“You there, little boy!” the clown barked.
A cheer went up as Billy clamored over the railing and dropped down into the arena. The smell of sawdust and sweat reached his nose, but he paid it little mind: He was focused entirely on this dream of his coming true; on the opportunity to meet and perform with a real clown.
“I need to ask you a question,” said the clown. “Tell me: Are you a horse’s head?”
Billy laughed aloud, as much from glee as from the absurdity of the question. “No! No, I’m not a horse’s head!”
The clown nodded, apparently having expected this answer. (After all, who would say yes to that question?) “Well, then… are you a horse’s body?”
“No!” Billy giggled. “No, I’m not a horse’s body, either!”
Once more, the clown nodded, and his broad smile - his thick, red lips - grew wider. “I see. Are you a horse’s leg?”
“No, I’m not a horse’s leg!” Billy replied. His own smile grew to match that of the clown.
“So…” the clown said, pacing around Billy. “You’re not a horse’s head, and you’re not a horse’s body, and you’re not a horse’s leg.” He paused then, and stood completely still. A hush covered the audience. Then, in a whirl of motion, the clown jammed his finger through the air and brought it right up into Billy’s face.
“Then you must be a horse’s ass!”
Laughter exploded from everywhere at once. Billy looked around, shame and betrayal filling his heart, and saw the faces of all those strangers laughing at him. He saw his friends from school laughing at him. He saw his own parents laughing at him. Something broke inside of Billy in that moment, and with a scream of agony and anguish, he ran from the arena and didn’t stop until he had reached his house.
When Billy’s parents returned home, they discovered that their son had trashed his bedroom. He had snapped his clown toothbrush and torn apart his towels with the clowns on them. He had smashed his clown-themed games and broken all of his clown toys. He had shredded his clown posters and burned his clown bed sheets. (I don’t know where this kid got access to fire, but clearly he was pretty serious about destroying stuff.) Worst of all, Billy’s parents found that their son - who had once been so cheerful and outgoing - had sunken into a deep and unbreakable silence.
Billy did not speak for a year. Therapists and counselors were wholly ineffective, and no amount of bribery, threats, or pleading could pull even the smallest word from his lips. His parents eventually gave up, resigned as they were to the fact that their son was lost to them… but then, on his eighth birthday, the little boy held up his head, blinked his eyes once, and spoke with a clarity and a maturity not heard from most adults.
“Mom, Dad,” he said, “I want you to know that I’m okay. From now on, though… it’s just ‘Bill.’”
Ten years passed.
Bill went on to become something of a legend in his little hometown: He was a perfect student and a dedicated volunteer. He was involved in every extracurricular activity in some way or another. He was captain of the football team, head of the chess club, first-chair violin in the orchestra, and valedictorian. By the time that he was ready to graduate, Bill had been offered a complete scholarship to literally every college in the country (with some schools even offering free alcohol after he turned twenty-one).
It came as something of a shock, then, when after crossing the stage, Bill approached his parents.
“I know that you won’t understand this,” he said, “but I’ve decided that I’m not going to college. You see, all of my success and all of my ambition has been driven by a deep, horrible wound that I still carry. I’ve tried desperately to cover it, to let it heal… but each night, I still hear the voice of that clown in my head. That’s why I’m leaving for Tibet. I’m going to seek out and join the monastery where they teach the ancient art of Comebackery, and once I have mastered all that they can offer… I’ll come back and have my revenge.”
Bill’s parents tried to dissuade him, but he was adamant. True to his word, Bill boarded a flight that very evening. He landed in China and trekked on foot to a village at the base of a snow-covered mountain. A year passed as he learned the language and earned the trust of the people who lived there, until the day when one of them gave him whispered directions to the hidden temple. Bill set out again, carrying only a few days’ worth of supplies, and finally found himself at the doorstep of the monastery he had sought.
A knock at the door was answered by the head monk; a small, wrinkled man with a bald head and a serene smile.
“My son,” the head monk said, “I can see that you have been wronged.” (This guy spoke Tibetan, obviously, but the general meaning was the same.) “Normally, you would have to wait here for three days and nights to show your devotion… but I sense that you are a special case. Come into the sanctuary, and we will teach you what you wish to know.”
Thus began Bill’s life as a Monk of Comebackery. He learned jokes, japes, and jeers. He learned witticisms and retorts. He learned insults, insinuations, dares, and double entendres. Before long, he was able to verbally spar with the very best of his brethren.
Yet still, even after another decade of training, Bill did not feel any closer to learning what he had hoped to find.
One cold winter morning, Bill approached the head monk with his concerns. “Master,” he said, “have I not been a good pupil?”
“You have been exemplary,” answered the head monk.
“And have I not upheld and embodied everything you have taught?”
“Indeed you have,” the head monk replied.
“Then,” Bill said, steadying himself, “I wish to learn the forbidden knowledge. I wish to learn… The Ultimate Comeback.”
The head monk looked into Bill’s eyes for a long, ominous moment.
Eventually, he smiled.
“My son,” the head monk said, “when you came to us, you were but a youth with a scar on his soul. You had been cut more deeply than any man should have to endure, and yet you persevered. More than that, you excelled. You have inspired us all with your strength and conviction, and also with your insight.” The man stepped forward and clasped a hand over Bill’s shoulder. “I cannot teach you what you seek, for you already know it.”
At first, Bill felt himself reeling inside. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Had he thrown his life away for nothing? Had he wasted all of those years training, only to fail at the last step? The thought was too terrible to consider, and Bill experienced a sense of loss unlike any he had felt since…
In a flash of clarity, Bill understood.
The Ultimate Comeback, he knew, was a weapon of untold power. It was to be wielded only by they who had discovered it for themselves, and it could only be discovered by they who had felt its devastation firsthand. It was so elegant, so perfect, and so deadly… and Bill knew that it had always been inside of him.
The head monk, watching Bill’s face, smiled again. “You are ready.”
Over the next few days, Bill made preparations to return home. He bade goodbye to his brothers at the monastery, then trekked back down to the village at the base of the mountain. He worked tirelessly in their fields and households, saving every bit that he could in order to afford a plane ticket back to the United States. It took still another year, but finally, Bill found himself stepping off the airplane onto American soil (or, rather, onto American linoleum in an American airport), and hitchhiking in the direction of his hometown.
When he finally arrived, Bill was aghast at what he discovered. This once-welcoming neighborhood had descended into squalor and disrepair. Shops were boarded up and trash littered the street. Stray dogs ran in packs, fighting over scraps of rubbish. What few people Bill encountered would quickly avert their gazes and hurry on their way. The warmth and compassion that he had experienced in his youth were both gone, replaced by a desolate despondence and an overcast sky.
It didn’t take long to find that Bill’s parents were long dead. His friends had all moved on, and the legend of Bill’s high school success had faded into little more than an unlikely memory. Despair filled Bill’s heart, along with a thrum of rising panic. Was he too late? Had he spent so much time abroad that he’d missed his chance to have his revenge?
As if in answer, a gust of wind brought a scrap of paper to Bill’s feet. He reached down and retrieved it… and realized that it was a ticket to the circus’s last-ever show. Not only that, but the performance was being held that very day, and the ticket would grant Bill access to the very same seat he had occupied all those years ago.
This, Bill decided, was fate.
He squared his shoulders and walked in the direction of the big top.
When Bill arrived to the circus, he found that it had fared no better than the rest of the town. The tents all hung in tatters, barely more than faded scraps of cloth. The seats were rickety and rusty, and even the sawdust bore the telltale scent of rot. Despite the dilapidation, though, it seemed that the final performance had drawn an enormous crowd, and Bill had to shove his way through the audience to reach his seat at the front row.
He held his breath, waiting for the show to start.
The music moaned to life and the lights flickered up, and in a halfhearted display of merriment, everything began. First came the lion-tamers with their whips and chairs… and yeah, they were intriguing, but Bill was otherwise occupied. Next came the feats of strength with strongmen (and one excessively suspicious old woman) smashing bricks and bending bars… and yeah, it was impressive, but Bill stayed focused on his own thoughts. The sword swallowers followed, and the trapeze artists, and the tightrope walkers… and yeah, someone might have died at any moment, but it all seemed so irrelevant.
Eventually, Bill began to worry that he wouldn’t get to see the clowns. After all, he knew very well that clowns have a remarkably low life expectancy as compared to other professions. (That’s probably not accurate, but it sure sounds true, doesn’t it?)
Suddenly, all of the lights went out.
A single spotlight shown down to one corner of the arena.
A tiny car came puttering into view, while discordant, almost forlorn circus music played.
Deet deet deedle-deedle deet deet dee deeeeee…
The car’s doors creaked open, and out shambled the most pathetic collection of clowns that Bill had ever seen. There were fat clowns, thin clowns, tall clowns, and short clowns, all of them bent under the weight of age and depression. Clowns with ancient wigs and crumbling rubber noses. Clowns in stretched-out suspenders and orthopedic shoes. There were clowns wearing every faded shade one could imagine, and clowns that moved like they were inches from the grave.
Then, just as it seemed like that tiny car couldn’t produce a single soul more… the outpouring stopped.
Bill’s heart jumped in his chest. Where was the clown who had wronged him as a child? Where was the monster that had haunted his dreams? Where was the target for his Ultimate Comeback?!
A shaking, rattling cough called Bill’s attention to the other side of the arena, and he watched as an old man limped into view. Streaks of grey marred what had once been a shock of bright red hair, and those deep, blackened eyes seemed to have sunk even further into the white face that contained them. Yellow teeth spoke of fetid breath behind those broad, cracked lips, and tremors shook each lanky limb… but it was very clearly the clown from Bill’s past.
The clown raised a tarnished microphone to his mouth and spoke.
“I need a volunteer.”
Before Bill was even aware of his own actions, he discovered that he had stood from his seat and thrust his hand in the air.
“Me,” Bill said. “Pick me.”
The clown extended a finger and cast it over the audience, drawing lazy circles through the crowd. After what felt like an eternity, he finally aimed his cracked, dirty fingernail directly at Bill.
“You there, sir!” the clown rasped.
A reluctant cheer went up as Bill climbed his way over the railing and dropped down into the arena. The smell of mildew and death reached his nose, but he paid it little mind: He was focused entirely on this dream of his coming true; on the opportunity to get his revenge on the clown before him.
“I need to ask you a question,” croaked the clown. “Tell me: Are you a horse’s head?”
The single word rang out like a gunshot, echoing in the silence that followed.
The clown, visibly shaken by the response, coughed and continued. “Well, then… are you a horse’s body?”
Once more, the syllable cut through the air, piercing everyone who heard it to their very soul. There was an icy, powerful venom in Bill’s voice, and it utterly captivated everyone within earshot.
The clown shivered, clearly unaccustomed to this kind of behavior, but pressed on nonetheless. “I see. Are you a horse’s leg?”
“No,” Bill calmly replied, “I am not a horse’s leg.”
Nobody said a word. Nobody even breathed. Nobody had ever experienced anything as chilling as the tone in Bill’s voice… but the clown had a secret weapon, too. With an evil, sinister smile, that pale-faced, red-haired monstrosity summoned forth the unspeakable power that rests within the blackened heart of every clown, bringing it to bear in a horrifying smile that should not have been able to exist outside of a nightmare.
“So!” the clown said, pacing around Bill. “You’re not a horse’s head, and you’re not a horse’s body, and you’re not a horse’s leg.” He paused then, and stood completely still. A hush covered the audience. Then, in a whirl of motion, the clown jammed his finger through the air and brought it right up into Bill’s face.
“Then you must be a horse’s ass!”
Laughter exploded from everywhere at once. Bill looked around, and suddenly, he was a little boy again. All of that shame and betrayal filled his heart, and he couldn’t help but imagine the faces of all those strangers laughing at him. He saw his friends from school laughing at him. He saw the ghosts of his parents laughing at him. Something broke inside of Bill in that moment… but rather than scream and run, he held up a hand.