The two women were “on duty”—but it was a low-key parade in a low-key town, so there was no pressure, they thought. They—Lola and Macky—were reaching for their second donuts when they saw the man with a pasty-white face and red rubber nose. The crowd gave him just one glance, then returned to guzzling soda and devouring fried dough, but Lola and Macky could not.
There was a Halloween float, a float promoting some apple orchard, and so on—but no float for clowns. This pasty man who didn't belong took something metallic and heavy-looking from his baggy trousers, then hopped down from one float to scramble after the next, and Lola and Macky felt their hearts lodged in their throats.
An old man with hair all over his hands and none on his head directed the one passing, on which a massive tractor with the words “John Deere” painted on the side sat. He faced left and right, waving so mechanically you might think he was part of the float. He paid no mind to the clown, either.
The clown hurried after the old man, taking great leaps until he finally landed on the back of the float. Then, like a spider, the clown inched up the back.
Lola and Macky cried for the clown to stop, seeing him shifting something heavy and silver in one hand while he used the other for balance. They, too, scrambled after the float.
In a hot minute they were on the back of the float, as well, and now the number of passengers had risen to four. The armed clown looked back down, startled and panicked and hurried up the side, shifting the metal object from one gloved hand to the other. The onlookers pointed and made disapproving noises.
The officers' hearts skipped a beat. They saw the clown reach the top of the platform and confront the old man. The old man blinked, and stared at the clown with a confused and horrified expression, and the officers drew their guns.
Bang—sizzle. The tazer wasn't quite a gun, but was enough to knock a man clear off his feet, and another scrambled down the side of the float and into the crowd. The old man fell, and the clown fled.
Lola put her tiny on the old man's hand to feel for a pulse, and Macky bitched and cussed after the clown who'd vanished from the scene. And, after a moment, they both noticed the heavy metal piece the clown had dropped beside the old man in his panic.
No barrel, no trigger—It was a key. A key that had “John Deere” scribbled on it, like the float. A key that was apparently meant to be returned, Lola and Macky realized, as they looked to the controls of the farming float and noticed that one shiny piece was missing from beside the steering wheel.
The crowd took more embarrassing photos of Lola and Macky than they would ever care or need for, then paused and continued to photograph the next float. It was a float late to the parade, apparently still a little premature, which was short of one clown.