Welcome to my blog. It is called Eaves-droppings because many of my short pieces arise from comments I overhear in public places. These comments trigger ideas, thoughts, recollections and even stories. Some are pure stimulus-response, stream of concsiousness reactions.

Cellphones have made my field of observation much richer.

I hope you will enjoy my wandering through public places.

Contact me at ronp70000@aol.com with your comments and observations.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Authored by Mr Ronald B. Pickett

List Price: $9.00
6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
190 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1544866413 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1544866410
BISAC: Fiction / Technological
This story is based on three recent scientific findings - that Empathy is a result of two genes, that genes can be changed by a technology called CRISPR and that the majority of people in prison lack the empathy gene. If we now have the capability to change a person's genetic makeup and return people to the human race, how can we not do that?
The ramifications of trying to bring this change to all eligible prisoners are enormous!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

My latest book, EMPATHS, is now available on Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com and Kindle.

Authored by Mr Ronald B. Pickett

List Price: $9.00
6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
190 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1544866413 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1544866410
BISAC: Fiction / Technological
This story is based on three recent scientific findings - that Empathy is a result of two genes, that genes can be changed by a technology called CRISPR and that the majority of people in prison lack the empathy gene. If we now have the capability to change a person's genetic makeup and return people to the human race, how can we not do that?
The ramifications of trying to bring this change to all eligible prisoners are enormous!

PBS.org released a video on Stacry today. Below is the link.


Stacey Thompson is a member of our Veteran's Writing Group (I have a cameo appearance.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Requiem for the King

He didn’t play a guitar, and he didn’t sing or gyrate his hips; but he was Elvis and he was the King. Next Tuesday, if he survives the weekend, Elvis will be put down, that’s the kind of being put down that you don’t get up from. He stopped eating on Friday and his kidneys are failing so it’s the right thing to do. He’s 14 years old, that’s over eighty in dog years, so he has had a long and wonderful life. Far beyond what he might have expected when he arrived at the Bryant Castle as a small, shivering, black, miniature dachshund. He must have been Prince then, isn’t that what you are before you are a king? But he really didn’t look like he had much in the way of a royal pedigree. Short, soft, black with a tan underbelly, he quickly became the master of the manor, He was a replacement for the greatly loved, and obsessive compulsive Willy (short for Wilson Pickett, a dachshund of impressive personality and charm. The kind of dog that must be replaced quickly, to help ease the sting.)

Elvis, like his namesake had a weight problem, but how could you blame him? His favorite kibble was always right there in the stainless steel bowl on the kitchen floor. Crunch, Crunch, Crunch. While he hated to eat alone, he sometimes forced himself. For some reason, only knowable in the brain of a dog, he would drop each kibble on the kitchen floor tile prior to crunching it – a few crumbs would always find escape from his snout and drift to the floor.

A little extra weight usually isn’t a problem, look at me, but if you are a miniature dachshund, and you live in a place that has occasional snow in the winters like northern Virginia, a two-inch snowfall puts your belly right in the top layers of the cold wet snow – “Don’t know why these humans don’t just give us a litter box like the cats have. But they make you go out to ‘do your business,’ in the most terrible weather.”

There was never a question of who was “In Control.” Oh, the humans acted like he would do everything they wanted him to do. However, the reality was that the dog, the King, would do exactly what the humans wanted, as long as it was exactly what the King wanted to do. This dog could never be let out without a leash! Fourteen years and he still did whatever it wanted to do. A real King!

Elvis saw his career, his calling, his job security as protecting the estate from the potential ravages that could be visited on the premises by  - - -CATS! He could identify a potential intruder from several hundred yards away and would immediately launch into his warning barking and howling and an impressive assortment of other sounds. Sounds carefully designed to strike terror into any cat within miles. If he happened to be outside, all cats were in imminent danger of a deadly (laughably) attack from which they would be unlikely to recover. At least that’s the image he sought to project. The local cats knew better and laughed at him over their shoulder while sprinting to the nearest tree – never seen a cat laugh over it’s shoulder, oh yes, they do.

He had the same protective attitude about squirrels, which abounded in the nearby trees. They could prance along the tops of fences and dash up the sides of trees. They were never in any real danger from the sudden all-out attacks that Elvis initiated when he thought he might have had a slight tactical advantage. Elvis had a slightly bowed right rear leg, so his high speed dash had a little hitch and loping movement, but it didn’t slow him down much. He never had the slightest idea what he would do with a cat, or a squirrel if he caught one, that wasn’t the point, and it certainly didn’t curb his enthusiasm for the chase. He actually caught a cat once, but that’s another story.

Recently deer have stated working their way out of the woods and up the small creek in back of the house. When he saw them first he rushed at them. Another intruder to be taken care of. However, as he raced closer, these invaders were much, much bigger than the cats and squirrels. He skidded to a stop and reviewed his contract, nothing said about big game, so he decided that a peremptory bark of recognition would meet the expectations of his employer. And if they didn’t like it they could chase them away themselves.

Elvis is at the Lake house this final weekend. He loved to go to the lake. Lots of freedom, no leashes required and some unusual and interesting things to sniff and piss on. There is also a great deck with a lot of sun. I suppose he is lying on the floor fully immersed in the hot sun right now. He likely made a few tentative barks on arrival, just to let the locals know that he was back and in charge and he wouldn’t be putting up with any nonsense. But it would have been a meager and halfhearted bark; not likely to put fear into any locals.

He could always tell when they were packing for a trip to the lake. He would hide near the front door and as soon as it was slightly ajar dash out and stand by the door of the van, leaping in as soon as the door was opened. He certainly wasn’t going to be left behind. But there was another side to the lake, the dark side. While he was a great swimmer with his webbed paws, he could tell that there were wild things in the forest and the underbrush. He had explored everything when he first arrived at the Lake house several years ago, and he very quickly found that there were some strange and terrifying odors on the shrubs and brush. Reptiles, but not like the lizards he would occasionally eat at home. No these were different and scary. He also sometimes heard the sounds of bigger, wilder animals so he decided that his area of concern really didn’t have to be too far from the house.

I once calculated that he was asleep for eleven or twelve of his 14 years, but that was okay. He had an active dream life, although it was mostly limited to running after dream cats and digging for dream badgers. His upkeep has become pretty expensive as he has aged, most of his teeth are gone, and he spends an occasional day at the vets.

He was definitely a one-woman dog (not nearly as protective as Willy) but he tolerated other people - as long as they accepted the fact that he was the King! Farewell Elvis you have been a wonderful friend, companion and watchdog. You will be dearly missed.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Neighborhood Watch

Neighborhood Watch (This was read at the So Say We All VAMP May 26, 2016)

It’s 6:30 AM, I can set my watch when I see her walk past my home. She has been doing this every morning since we moved here 12 years ago. One morning I was outside early and spoke to her. I said something about 12 years – she said no it’s over 25 years now. That was our only conversation – I watch her through my window.

You know how sometimes you only notice something when you are distracted? You suddenly discover that the picture has been there for months, or that a thing that had become a stable and certain part of your life is missing, gone. Now you wonder “where is it?” And when and why, mostly why you didn’t notice that it was gone.

It happened that way with her. Suddenly I noticed that I didn’t see her. It was 6:30 and she didn’t walk past my window at her usual fast pace. I waited, watching for several minutes until well outside her usual time slot and nothing, So, I noted that fact, in my brain, thought about entering it on my calendar but I really didn’t care that much – I really didn’t know her, not who she was,  not her name, not where she lived – oh, it must be up the road from me because 25 minutes after she passed going downhill she would reemerge going up, but that was all I knew.

She is not particularly attractive, somewhat athletic and on the one day I did talk to her, she seemed even more plain than I had imagined through my window – the male brain at work, even an old male brain. She seemed to be in her mid to late fifties, but that could be a wide miss.

When I first noticed that she wasn’t there, I had no idea how long it had been, was this the first day? Had it been a week? a month who knew? Was she on holiday? Was she ill? Would she be back in a few days? Had she moved – this is not a transient community. I began to actively wonder what could have become of her.

For the next few days I paid attention. I carefully watched at 6:30 and I made sure to start my watching at 6:25. Nothing, she definitely was not walking past my house any more.

Why did I care? What difference did it make? Her status was completely immaterial to my happiness, my wellbeing, my satisfaction, my future, my life. So why did I make certain that I was at my window every morning at 6:30 or really at 6:25 just to be sure?

Then it came to me – with all of the resources available to me, the internet, social media, search engines, my friends, people who have lived here for a long time, my knowledge of the neighborhood; I was at a loss about how to find out who she was, or is, or anything else about her. It was a sudden implosion of helplessness. And I don’t like that.

Across the lake, the one that is down the hill from my house, the lake that she passes every morning, or used to, a jogger was raped and murdered a couple of years ago. The perp was arrested and convicted and is awaiting execution.  But that kind of event changes the way you look at things; it reinforces the reality that there are really bad people in the world and denying that fact doesn’t make it go away. And it changes the way you perceive the world; it causes me to think about possibilities for my friend, no not friend, this woman who has interjected herself, unknowingly and unintentionally into my life.

It nags at me; what has happened, and how long has it really been since she stopped walking past my window. Two weeks, who knows? If it is a trip, a holiday, a vacation, she should be returning any day, but it could have been much more than two weeks.

I have a routine in the morning, two mugs of coffee, checking email and stocks, other things that take about an hour then I usually go to the gym to work out, I’m not a walker. The rest of my day is pretty normal, writing, painting, cooking, planning a trip, taking a nap. However, this change, this gap in my morning routine, not being able to watch the woman walk past is troubling, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t dismiss the feeling. Even the fragrant, steaming black coffee does little to dispel my sense of unease.

I decide to take a short walk to see if perhaps she has simply changed her route – although I think that is unlikely, we are such creatures of habit. Perhaps she has sustained an injury of some sort and is avoiding the hills.

I walk up the hill and around the block, the street nearest the lake, and I see nothing. I notice several other walkers; pairs, singles and small groups -  some with dogs, some for exercise, some for air, - one man who reads the newspaper, and drinks coffee and walks his dog. I nod, but I don’t say anything. I wonder if they notice too, but I don’t ask – what would I say?

Two more days pass, and she still hasn’t reappeared. I walk again, and this time I go further and stay out longer, hoping to see her ahead of me, or going in the opposite direction. But nothing, and I wonder what I would say if, make that when, I see her again?

One afternoon I decide to go out, not with the hope of seeing her, she never walks then, but the thermals in the afternoon make it possible for the turkey buzzards - the vultures, to fly and search the hills and the brush for food. They are out in force, making their fluttering orbits, never needing to flap their wings – marvelous flyers – shitty diet. If there was a large feast for them somewhere it would be easy to track them, to see the activity and frenzy. But nothing larger than a ground squirrel or a vole or a gopher is getting their attention, so I dismiss that possibility.

I check the homeowner’s association web site – nothing. I’m not surprised, only the occasional break-in, or spat between neighbors about the view being blocked finds its way there.

There is the continuing background niggling sense of loss. I must think; what can I do? Where can I look to try to find something out? I have great resources at my disposal, but I can’t figure out how to apply them. I check to see if names are available for the homeowners in our neighborhood and I find that they are. But I don’t have enough information to use the list. I don’t have an address, or a name or anything else – only an approximate location, not enough to be useful in a search.

The mailman might know! I see him one afternoon and catch up with him. I ask him if he knows the woman who walks early in the morning. He has a blank stare, shakes his head slightly, and says no. I know what he is thinking – “Why do you ask me? How should I know – I’m here in the afternoons not the mornings? And, why do you want to know, why do you care?” But he doesn’t say anything, he asks how my 300ZX is running – I think he would like to have it.

The feeling of loss intensifies, the feeling of lack of control increases, I have a constant sense of impending doom; of subtle dread. I begin to personalize my feelings, what if it was me that suddenly went missing. Would anyone notice, care, how long would it take, could they put together enough information to trace me? The mailman would remember, and he could give them my name – and close neighbors know me. But I only know her from the middle of her routine, not where she begins or ends her walk - that makes it a confusing mystery.

I’m at my desk, it’s where I belong, I’m comfortable here, it is an environment that I have created. I gaze out of the window and I’m suddenly brought back from my daze – there she is! I lurch back in my chair and almost fall over. I stand and my pulse races, I want to dash outside and talk to her, find out where she has been, tell her about my fears, my inability to trace her. Then reality emerges – she has no idea who I am, she would be surprised and probably worried about my attention, my “stalking” almost, but of course it isn’t really.

I decide I’ll walk for a few days, perhaps pass her going the other direction, nod, say hello - then perhaps engage her in a conversation. But, how will she feel? I retreat from my plan; I retreat from even considering approaching her. I walk for a few days and then return to my routine, email, coffee, the gym. And she will never know that for a few brief days, someone she doesn’t know exists was concerned about her, cared about her, wanted strongly to interact with her, she will never know – but I guess I will never forget.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Tricksters

There was a special section of the cemetery. I finally found it and parked. The grass was thick and lush and sloped down to the creek bed that marked the edge of the property. The creek was dry, had lots of brush and chaparral and small trees, very typical for this part of southern California.

There were about 50 people in the parking area when I arrived. They were dressed more formally than most of the attendees at the recent funerals and memorial services I had attended; I have usually been the one that is a little overdressed in my black suit, the suit that has gotten too much use lately.

The rabbi was almost late and I think my friend was getting a little concerned; I don’t think he has a strong religious affiliation, sort of a rabbi for hire connection. Now, things could begin.

The funeral director, who had passed out yarmulkes and pieces of black cloth with pins, I passed on both, now invited the attendees to the seats. The chairs were placed under the temporary awning that was near the newly dug grave. This was about a hundred feet from the parking lot and navigating the thick grass looked to me like a serious issue for some of the women who were wearing high and in some cases stiletto heels – but to my surprise they did well!

The sun was shining brightly as if the morning fog had burned off a little early seemingly just for us. About 5 minutes after the service began, a strange thing happened; at first, it was a sharp singular sound, the bark from an unknown source. Then, almost at once, the chorus began, the sound of at least six individuals singing, barking and howling. The tempo and excitement rose into a crescendo that filled the air, and it went on and on. There was a quiet under current of whispers among the audience, “Coyotes, coyotes, coyotes.”

And then as suddenly as they had started, they stopped. I, and I’m certain many of the others though it must have been the soul of one of the recent internees, perhaps the woman we were burying, moving among the wild animals. But then, my serious self took over, as he so often does and I could see a mother returning to her family with a rabbit, or a vole or a gopher, and after the greeting ceremony and the re-establishment of relationships and hierarchy the prey was ripped apart and devoured.

These animals were permanent residents here, and they simply could not be bothered to this extent by the passing of a thousand souls every year. No, it must have been a rabbit. But then, the Indians do call them the trickster or the spirit animal. Who knows?

The Invisible Man or Regrets, I’ve had a few . . . .

Ron Pickett

“Escondido, CA. A ‘John Doe’s’ body was recovered from a culvert on Tuesday. His body was thrown off the bridge. Identification is pending.”

Walking was not easy any more, the pain in his left foot caused him to cringe with every step, and the throbbing ache in his right knee made him walk in a strange rolling motion. They would go away, they always had, but now, nearing eighty it took longer to heal, the body was not as resilient as in the past. But the brain was still there, still flashing from thought to thought, it was where he found refuge when his body failed him, or slowed him down.

He thought about a lot of things, the ferocity in the modern world, and then he remembered that this was perhaps the least violent time since humans emerged from the savannah. But now we see it as it happens – on a large screen - in vibrant color – with high fidelity stereo sound. What would the life of a medieval serf look like on a 55” screen? Maybe, he thought, seeing such violence can soften us a little, unless it makes us numb to what we are watching.

He thought about how his temper was shorter than it once was, perhaps he knew he didn’t have enough time left to wait, to watch, while people learned what he knew already. And he could only observe and try to keep his frustration in check when he saw things happen that he knew would be the result of actions he had cautioned against. He wondered about other old men; was he now, the person he had been frustrated by in the past? Perhaps.

But in the quiet times he was haunted by waves of darkness that came in from the corners of his mind. Times when he had used his stable, “average” white man appearance as a cover to hide his actions. He could easily be lost in a crowd, never seen, never remembered – he could expand like a cat being attacked by a dog, or, when he wanted to he could seem to be much shorter than his 6’1” frame, and he wanted to - often. He could put a completely bland look on his face, he practiced in front of a mirror, and he had to hide his eyes, his green overly bright and penetrating eyes. So, he wore sunglasses when he could and he let his specs get dirty and fogged and he wore a prescription that was much stronger than he really needed. Sometimes he even rubbed his eyes intentionally to make them red and rummy and to cloud this view into his inner self. The eyes are so telling and express things that are hard to disguise. Most people try to enhance their eyes, not dull them down, but he had learned that people would remember his eyes at times when they would not remember anything else about him.

Strange he thought, he had never been in prison; he had spent a few hours in police stations, being questioned about events that took place where he had been seen. But none of them led to anything more, he simply didn’t fit the image of a criminal and he was careful to seem bigger, or stronger, or more imposing than the faint and blurry video out-takes. He knew that with the new equipment, it was becoming much more difficult to take advantage of his ability to modify his appearance from inside. He could only do so much! Perhaps it was time to call it quits, but probably not for a while, he enjoyed his “hobby” far too much, and there was one big score that he wanted to pull off.

He thought, it’s hard to categorize who he was and what he did, perhaps that was one of the reasons for his success. “Robin Hood,” as the idea entered his mind, he laughed out loud. He thought about all of the criminals, “bandits,” that wanted to be thought of as “Robin Hoods,” the only poor people that they gave the proceeds of their crimes to was themselves! But he supposed the idea made them feel better about what they had done. Then he thought, “Steal from the rich! Laughable, the poor don’t have anything I want!”

At times he tried to put himself in a category. Con artist? Okay, he liked the artist part of the term, but it really only covered a part of his significant repertoire. Thief, sure, that was one of the things that he did really well, but it hardly honored his unique skill, sense of style and his passion for professionalism. Grifter was probably closest, although he didn’t like the sleazy, carny feel that it carried with it. He actually thought of himself as an entrepreneur; studying the market place and developing “solutions.”

 He wondered about the dark side, why did he have these feelings of dread; anxiety in the late night hours. When he was focused, he had no negative feelings about what he had done at all. Still he wondered, why the unsettling undercurrent that nibbled at him when he allowed it to. He thought about a couple of his capers, that’s an old word he thought, now it usually means a small kind of onion savory thing with the current emphasis on stylish cookery, but it used to mean an action or event or an escapade. He smiled, recalling being so transparent, normal and trustworthy that jewelry clerks would leave him with several trays of expensive baubles while they went to the back room to get something special he asked for. He could net a couple thousand dollars for a few minutes work and it would be weeks before the loss was discovered. All he needed to do was recall which stores he visited and not to go back for a year or so. But it was so easy that he quit doing this scam after a while.

He seldom worked with anyone else; could never trust them to keep their mouths shut. Occasionally he would use a friend as a distraction, but usually they didn’t even know that they were involved. A ride to the doctor’s office was a pretty good cover, and he had a built in alibi. What could be better. He had learned early on that the second thing people did when they got some money was to talk and brag about it – the first thing was to spend too much money!

He’s learned quickly, each of his capers (he was beginning to like the term) taught him something new and he looked hugely for those tidbits. He went back over each time as a sort of debrief. What had gone well, where had he made mistakes? How serious were the mistakes? What should he do differently the next time? One of the things he learned early was that he had to keep inventing new things to do, new ways of using his anonymity to disguise what he was doing. But he knew that if he repeated the same thing over and over he would get caught.

He looked for marks, people who he could scam. He was surprised by his discovery that the smartest people were the easiest to take; they assumed that they were smarter than he was and he found some easy ways to make himself seem a lot denser than he was. Asking questions that had obvious answers did two things, it made him seem both dumb and vulnerable and it made himself seem like the mark and an easy one at that. As soon as he had someone trying to help him, he was almost home free. He learned to look and sound defenses and nonthreatening through his demeanor and voice.

One of the first scams he used was the “found wallet.” Make sure someone else is watching and “find a wallet” on a sidewalk. Open it and show the money inside then offer to split the cash with the other observer after getting their agreement to post a bond. There are many variations using fake money in the wallet, giving offering to keep only the credit cards, calling the person who’s identification is in the wallet and offering to return the wallet for a reward, etc. It’s been done so often and has so many variations that it has gained a history all it’s own. He learned soon about the incipient larceny of the average person on the street. Calling the owner was one of the hardest variations to pull off; the observer would almost always object and would say something like “Wait, wait, why should we give it back? Finders- Keepers! And they are probably insured anyway.” He worked this for years occasionally, never too often and never in the same area, although his blandness made it really almost impossible for his marks to remember him. “Average height, average hair, no distinguishing characteristic.” And that was only for the ones who reported their loss, most were too embarrassed and never did figure out what had happened to them. He also found that there was a range of pot value – too big a wad of cash and the mark was overly cautious and dubious, too little and it wasn’t worth their time.

He found that this worked even better as he got older, people trusted him more and challenged him less.  One of the few things he had found about aging.

Sometimes he simply picked things up. Usually the items were not very valuable, but they added up. Sometimes it was just an apple from a fruit stand. He found that as long as he had a bag with something else in it, he could easily slip things into the bag.

He noticed that there were some groups that took all of the attention of store owners and employees. Young men, minorities, especially if they were a little raucous and having a good time could create a vast empty space for him to work. Lately, loud and angry groups of girls were beginning to have the same effect. He could become a ghost easily when there were teenagers about. Sometimes he even would tell a clerk that they better keep a close eye on a group of teenagers, then he would ease away picking up anything he saw of value. This technique gave him a “double blind;” the distraction of the unruly group and the comradery of sharing the same concern with the staff.  

For a while cell phones were really easy and valuable. He learned quickly which ones were equipped with antitheft devices or apps and he left them alone. Actually the way that he found out about this software was when a large angry man knocked on his door with a demand that he give him back his cell phone. He apologized and claimed he thought it was his own. He then became indignant with the man, asked him if he had picked up his phone by mistake and when he said that he didn’t he handed it back and the man left! He thought about becoming indignant and telling the man to leave his property, but a quick thought made him realize the man would be back in 20 minutes with a cop! But the lesson was clear – new technology could track itself.

His life was as normal as his persona. He had a wife and two kids, grown now, who helped him seem completely ordinary. He took the name John Smith, it wasn’t the name he was born with that was Ivan Petrov. He got the chance to change his name when he registered for Social Security. Even at the age of 16, he recognized the value of being invisible. His job was simple and provided a reasonable income, and it gave him both opportunities to be in the right place at the right time, and to think about new ventures that he could refine while doing his daily tasks. He only use part of his brain to do his job.

All of the money he “earned” went into a special place, and he tracked his treasure with some care. He was well into six figures now, and his final plan was just beginning to emerge. He needed to do a couple of things to finish his “second career.”

The decades of being hidden in plain sight had been a burden on his mental health. He had increasingly wanted to be the center of attention, the focus of interest. His final act would be something that would make him famous; everyone would know who he was.  He had considered several things: running for office was one, but his background would certainly come out, and he couldn’t stand a detailed scrutiny of his past. He thought about a very large donation to a charity, but that was fleeting and only a few people actually heard about such a donation. Certainly he thought about a magnificent score, a really big take that would make the front page of all of the newspapers and the 24 hour cable news networks. The problem there was that unless he was identified with the crime, he would still be in the shadows, the “invisible man.” He looked at other events in his neighborhood; chili cook-offs, children focused activities, sports and similar activities. But what could he do to really stand out and become known and famous?

He noticed that there was a convention that was coming to town. It was a national convention which was unusual for the small community where he lived. But it was for a small group, Professional Clowns. As he found out more about the convention, the possibilities intrigued him. Clowns were enigmatic; funny, light, jovial, fanciful and at the same time terrifying and dreadful. He liked clowns and had dressed as a clown in the past. It was one of his personas that he found strangely relaxing and always put him at ease. He played at birthday parties for a while, but the children got on his nerves so he quit. He began to like the idea of using the convention as a way to make his mark, to overcome his decades long insignificance.

The Clowns Convention would be like most conventions; opening ceremonies, workshops, demonstrations, a dealers product display area, awards banquet and specialty groups. The demonstrations were different from most conventions since they exclusively used members. Clowning had moved far from the days of “how many clowns can fit into the small car?” And the happy circus clowns. There were video displays, computer games, and very athletic events including dives from high platforms, somersaulting through burning hoops, rodeo clowns and special effects using indoor pyrotechnics.

Clowning had made substantial strides from the 1940s when clowns were innocuous and tame.  Now there was an entire group of clowns that used the dark side very effectively and intentionally. Glow in the dark clothing and face paint had taken the field into entirely new areas.

He was there for the opening ceremonies dressed as the quintessential Emit Kelly “Tramp clown.” He counted twenty others that were virtually indistinguishable. He wasn’t surprised. His time was spent checking out all of the areas. He was impressed by the technology and he purchased a few items, and he picked up a few items to add to the convention goody bag – he simply couldn’t help himself!

Then he saw it; he was at the opening ceremonies and at the side of the stage he saw the tower that led to a platform that would be used for high dives. He studied it carefully and decided that it was perfect. He had to do some preparation, a silk suit that he could fit inside the voluminous sleeves of his “Tramp” suit ready for a quick change. He could ditch his Charlie Chaplin shoes easily and he calculated he could make the switch in under two minutes. His special suit was really “special,” it glowed in the dark, had numerous lights and a special section that could hold a wide variety of pyrotechnic devices. It also had fake wings that would make it seem that he was flying when the lights came on. He loved it and had spent a lot of time in development and testing over the last few years.

He also noticed that there was a platform about 18 feet off the ground, a little less than half way to the top. That would be fine for his purpose. His plan developed over the next two days of the conference. He walked past the main stage at every opportunity he had and felt like he really knew the set up the “set” as he began to think of it. He would slip back stage and take off his “Tramp” outfit, take off his over large shoes, put on his new suit and swiftly climb the stairs. He would stop at the half-way platform and get the attention of the spotlight operator. Then he would set off a series of flash bangs, and cascade the bag of $100 bills over the audience. He would then take off his mask, tell them who he was and then make the announcement that the cash was to go to the Hospitalized Children’s fund, the clown’s favorite charity. He would say, “Turn in the cash and add a $100 of your own.”

Each time he thought through his plan, he would smile broadly. No more would he be invisible, unknown, the bland and boring person he had been all of his life. It was a brilliant plan!

The final day of the conference came and he was elated. He smiled and chuckled to himself all day; some people actually noticed him and nodded or waved or introduced themselves. He had hidden his bag of costumes behind the curtains of the main stage. He was wearing his normal flat, boring clothing and as had been his practice for years, he carried no identification. There were no marks on this clothing, he did not have a wallet or a watch or any other item that might identify who he was; it was a practice that he had learned the hard way – once when he was taken into the police station for questioning.

The final ceremony was scheduled for late afternoon, and he had taken a bus to get to the Conference Center. Most of the riders were in costume- happy clowns, sad clowns, and the viscious clowns that had become popular lately.   His mind was busy going over the plan in strict detail, the feeling of elation that overcame him was unlike anything he had experienced before. It was like the feelings he got when he pulled off a great scam, but it was better. The “scam high” always had a little edge of darkness attached to it; someone had to pay for his gain – it was a classical zero sum game.

The bus arrived at the front of the Conference Center and he settled into the crowd that was getting off. As they got to the sidewalk, he felt like the crowd was slowing him down, inhibiting his freedom and he had always rebelled at that. So he moved out of the small knot of clowns. He ducked under a rope and started across the street. The traffic pattern was changed, they had decided to change the directions of traffic flow because of the large crowds. He looked the wrong way and was struck by a bus that was accelerating much too fast. His body arched through the air and into the drainage ditch. He smiled as his body fell just far enough to be fatal.