Nocturnal clowns


deep late night voices
rumble beneath my window.
Flexing my brain in preparation for
sociability exercises
I stretch my doubting spine,
grab my keys and go outside
to find John
with his oft-repeated claim
“I worry about you Jane,”
and his questions
“Are you glad it’s Sunday tomorrow?”
which pass for conversation,
and Clive
with his attention-seeking need
to be less well than anybody else
for which there is stiff competition in this complex.
He invites me to put my hand on his knee
so he can demonstrate the vibrating creak
as he straightens it.
I cringe at his questionable treat,
thereby encouraging a continuation of his guided tour
of physical ills, free of charge.
He lifts his vest to display impressive scars
and to wiggle the pacemaker beneath his skin
while regaling me with tales in the timeless style of
“my wife doesn’t understand me,”
although he’s not actually married.

Maybe that’s a tale for later, but probably not.

Meanwhile John vies for my attention:
“I worry about you Jane.
I’m a doctor.”
The second part of his repartee is his idea of a joke.
He doesn’t know
that the phrase is meant to begin with the words
“trust me.”
I’m squashed on the bench between the two of them,
or rather, I’m crushed against Clive because
I have a pernickety aversion
to the proximity of John’s right leg.
I haven’t experienced intimacy with the left one,
but I expect it would bring about
similar squeamishness.

John again reminds me that he worries about me.
Clive wants me to go to Bingo on Wednesday.
This sounds like the kind of life I could lead
if I was rather less


I try all the usual excuses, but
he has no intention of accepting a refusal.
Perhaps it’s time to mention
that in spite of his limited intelligence
and his valuable collection of ailments and fading wounds
he’s kind of


like a homeless chihuahua with a sore paw –
which is an odd comparison, because
while I like dogs
I’ve always ignored chihuahuas,
and I wonder if they are funny too.
That’s what really appeals to me about Clive –
he can make me laugh like a runaway jack-hammer,
or a wild-eyed child, without doing much.
So I agree to join his crew at Bingo
with the ridiculous proviso that I don’t have to play,
but when it comes to it
I don’t show.

Lacking the dubious advantage of
smelling like sewage
or a talent for drooling,
I consider unreliability to be an acceptable way to dismiss
any minor risk of amorous advances
while exercising my right to sit on the bench
with John and Clive,
making inane remarks, laughing –
a trio of nocturnal clowns stifling yawns,
too old to be sent to bed, and
too big for the naughty step.


©Jane Paterson Basil

9 thoughts on “Nocturnal clowns

    1. When I sit on that bench with those two daft men I feel like a teenager – but without the messy hormonal junk 🙂
      This place is teeming with grouchy old people who seem to have never been children, but there are about four of us haven’t forgotten how if feels to hang upside down from scaffolding and hide in neighbours gardens stealing the odd apple.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Do you think you will ever get to expereince an intimate connection to John’s right leg? You may be quite surprised if you ever did 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. NO NO NO! 🙂 How to describe John? (Whispers) Here’s a couple of clues:
      a) He often comes outside with his dinner all over his face.
      b) Sometimes he asks me how I am, because he was taught to be polite. He doesn’t understand the answers I give – that was too difficult for anyone to teach him.
      And anyway – Clive sits on the left side of the bench, and John on the right – that’s the unwritten rule. We’re not complete anarchists! What would happen if everyone sat wherever they wanted, willy-nilly? One has to have rules when one is British. Stiff upper lip and all that 🙂
      If Richard’s there (naughty-boy -who- stays-up-late-No.3) he sits to the the right of John. He’s just got himself a lady-friend, so he doesn’t mind not sitting next to me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like you’ve got the pecking order all sorted then. I must say the extra face decor is – well, um, interesting. It’s a diverse and vibrant community you’re in 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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