Uncle Harlequin

by Chad Smith

Oh yes

That's your Uncle Harlequin.

Old photograph, greenish color yellowness

Brown thinning hair, sideburns

Thick bushy 70s mustache

Tired eyes


I was a kid then when I learned

That his real name was George

Surprised that I always thought it was Uncle Harlequin

Someone said something in the next room

About George

I asked

Who's George?


My Aunt's husband liked to dress up like a clown

Not the Bozo type, or the things in the circus

More European, like something from an opera

Don't think harlequin was quite right either

But that's what the family called him


I can imagine

Maybe there was an argument or correction

I'm not a clown

I'm a harlequin

Was the family making fun of him

By calling him that?


Thought there was another photograph

Of him in his costume

At my cousin's fourth birthday party

But that couldn't be right

He died before my cousin turned two

Seems my childhood memory of another party had

Transformed into the birthday photo


I was told then that there had been an accident

Uncle Harlequin drove his Volkswagen under a school bus

And had been beheaded

What kind of malcontent talks to children about decapitation?

My frightened young mind pictured a clown's head

Rolling down the street


Now I am older

At an age that Uncle Harlequin will never make it to

As we get older

Each member of the family

Unveils new snapshots of their insanity

Was it always like this or is it more apparent

Now that I am not a kid?


Thinking about Uncle Harlequin often these days

No one in the family ever talks about him

A family secret kept a mystery

Wouldn't dream of asking my aunt about him

Sure it would make grandma cry

Seems like there was something more than

Him just losing his head


Can't help but see something curious

In the photo of him, in those tired eyes

I wonder what George knows

What's his side?

Family histories are written by the winners

While the other stories are left alone to die