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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Clown In The Sewer

I have to be careful of the tales I tell my son.

You see, ever since he has been really small, it has always been a huge challenge to get him OUT of the bathtub. He loves playing in the water with his bath toys. Even when he doesn't have bath toys, he'll make some sort of fun game out of playing with his washcloth, or the bubbles, or one of the hundreds of experiments he performs with the water itself.

So, in an attempt to keep him from shriveling up like a raisin, and to FINALLY get him out of the bathtub, in all my wisdom I thought it'd be cute to tell him about the evil clown who lives in the sewer and will try to crawl up the drain to grab his foot once I pulled the plug.

Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown in an opening scene from the 1990
TV miniseries IT based on Stephen King's novel of the same name.


I'm referring, of course, to Pennywise the Clown, from Stephen King's IT. You know, the one in which an evil shape-shifting creature lives in the sewers under the town of Derry, Maine and threatens every single child. The shapeshifter, of course, appears most of the time as an evil clown. This is still one of my favourite King novels. In the novel he not only draws on a good many fears, but he tosses out the almost universal fear many people have for clowns.

I've always been afraid of clowns. I'll blame watching Poltergeist when I was young. Of course, I'm pretty much afraid of most things, as referenced in this blog post from 2005 entitled "Under Your Bed, In Your Closet, In Your Head." (which includes a nice picture of the clown from Poltergeist)

But back to the clown in the sewer.

It worked the first time. And perhaps the second or third time. But after that, every time I mention the clown at the end of bath time, Alexander vehemently says: "There's no clown in the sewer!" And, though he lurks longer in the tub each time, he cautiously casts a glance towards the drain.

I hadn't brought up the evil clown in the sewer reference for quite a while. However, to my shock, I found out that Alexander frightened a Kindergarten classmate with the tale at school on Friday.

On the way home from school, he told Francine that he'd been talking to another boy in his class and was telling him about the clown in the sewer. The other little boy had been afraid, and that seemed to tickle my son. It seems he got a taste of the joy of being a storyteller and keeping someone spellbound in anticipatory listening.

When I first heard this upon getting home on Friday night, I thought I was in BIG TROUBLE. When I first started telling Alexander about Pennywise, Francine warned me against it, telling me it was going to give him nightmares. (For what it's worth, I didn't mention ANY of the plot details from the King novel -- they're way too chilling -- I just mentioned the existence of the clown, which, IMHO, is frightening enough, even for this 40 year old). And, knock on wood, Alexander hasn't had any clown in the sewer nightmares.

But when I got home, Francine just shook her head at me with a wry smile on her face, reminding me to be careful the kinds of stories I tell my son. She was wondering if we might get a call from this boy's parents when their child can't sleep, telling them about the clown who lives in their bathtub drain.

No call came. Whew.

But I can't help but be amused by how pleased Alexander seemed to be upon discovering a taste of the magic of storytelling. And, perhaps like his father, a bit of a penchant for tales from the shadows.

And just in case anybody is wondering -- though I do often tell my son a nightly bedtime story made up on the spot, I DO NOT tell him horror -- he gets to hear all kinds of great adventure tales involving him and his neighbourhood friends solving mysteries a la Winnie, Tigger in the Super Sleuth adventures, or joining Wall-E and Eve on an intergalactic quest. While I might occasionally kid about such things as a clown in the sewer, the actual stories I tell are the fun, adventuresome and imaginative type where the good guys ALWAYS win.

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