The jester whirls around the courtyard, the bells in his ridiculous hat tinkling. Laughter presses down upon him from every side, jeering laughter, amused laughter, polite laughter. He whirls. His painted face displays a big crimson smile slapped upon his mouth by a bristly paintbrush. The paint, so roughly daubed on by his wife, still burns. Yet, never does he allow his smile to droop, lest his painted leer get distorted. Someone throws a tomato near his feet, that he misses just by luck of his momentum that pulls him the other way. Poor aim, thinks the jester. The laughter of a thousand must be real loud, he wonders, yet it is eerily silent within his head – only the tinkles of the annoying bells near his ears disturb his meditative reverie.
He vaguely hears the squeals of the little princess on the lap of her daddy on the throne. He dares a glance and sees her clap her hands in excitement of this huge celebration in her honour. There are apples and apple punch, moist meat on a stick – so fresh it is still dripping with the blood of some poor cow, sweet ale flowing and funny jesters dancing. Funny jesters dancing, what a riot it is! What really is so funny about a man with a painted smile spinning around in circles as though his heart depends on it? Well, his heart depends on it. Maybe that’s why it's so funny.
The cruel king on a vicious whim, the jesters had whispered among themselves. Their chains had been removed and they’d been led out of their dungeon their eyes had grown accustomed to, and allowed to go home. Our particular jester had gone home after three years, only to find his wife in bed with another man, the local bodybuilder-cum-barber. He looked flabby. The jester grimaces at the memory, but quickly readjusts his face so his smile doesn’t wilt. His wife unsmilingly painted his smiling face as per the king’s orders and drove him out of the house to the Carnival.
“Hear ye, hear ye”, screamed the pageboy with the wobbly hat at the centre of the Central Square. “The king has pronounced a Royal Competition amongst these criminals – he who shall entertain the Princess the best shall live while the others all die.” The crowd had snickered, loving a good beheading. And today there would be twenty-three of them.
The jester is smacked out of his musing as he bumps into someone else dancing for his life. Ah, it’s Ol’ Tom, his large stomach barely contained in the ill-fitting jester costume he had been handed. Funny, thinks our jester. The ill fit is funny. He whirls, and doesn’t notice the hysteria on Tom’s face because he’s so pre-occupied with the button that seems close to popping out at the widest part of Tom’s belly.
As he whirls he glimpses his wife in the crowd, her eyes trained on him. Bitch’s probably praying I die. Her body-builder friend stands beside her. He’s probably taking a break from showing off his muscles in the Freak Square and barbering the folks who throw him a penny. His well-defined chest glistens with steroid-laced sweat, dripping down his abs into his ridiculously tiny underwear that is striped red and yellow for the occasion. Funny. His wife had hated his red-yellow-striped tie.
Ol’ Tom’s button finally snaps and hits our jester in the forehead. The crowd laughs even louder. Blood trickles down the jester’s face and he accidentally inhales some of it. He snorts, and the snort turns into a laugh. Soon the laugh turns into a guffaw and before he knows it, the jester finds himself on the cobbled street on his knees with tears streaming down his eyes at the hilarity. Bad time for a laughing fit, he manages to think between choking breaths. Central Square is silent as the crowd and the other criminals uncomprehendingly watch him laugh himself to his death. Funny. Ol’ Tom looks concerned. The concern twists up his piggy face even more comically than the hysteria did, and our jester laughs louder.
Suddenly one other noise joins the jester’s chortling and the crowd, like a cow, swings its head to find the source of the noise. The jester is curious too. Amidst his titters (titters, such a funny word!) he turns and finds to his mirth the little princess giggling at the dotty jester.
“Daddy, I pick him!”