This story burned down ten years ago, to the day …
By Matt Jeakle
Jane, a girl in her teens, is babysitting for a family in Newport Beach. The family is wealthy and has a very large house — you know, the sort with like a million rooms? Anyway, the parents are going out for a late dinner and a movie. They don’t want Jane wandering around the house doing teen stuff, so they tell her to just watch TV in their room after she puts the kids to bed.
The parents take off and Jane gets the kids into bed, and then she goes to the room to watch TV. She turns it on, but she can’t get comfortable, because there’s this really creepy clown statue in the corner of the room. She tries to ignore it for a while, but it’s really creepy so she calls the father and says, “Hey, the kids are in bed, but this clown statue is really creeping me out. Can I put it in a different room?”
The father seems really scared, and he says, “Jane, get the kids, go next door and call 911.”
“What’s going on?” she asks.
He says, “Just go next door. WE DON’T HAVE A CLOWN STATUE.”
“Oh,” she says. “I forgot to tell you. I bought a clown statue.”
“What? Why would you do that?” says the dad. “And why would you then ask me permission to move it?”
“I bought it with the money you gave me before you left,” says Jane. “I had to spend it on something.”
The dad pauses.
“Jane,” he says. “That money was for food. That was the pizza money. If you bought a clown statue with it, you won’t have money for pizza. YOU’RE GOING TO STARVE, JANE!”
Jane doesn’t respond. She has grown too weak from hunger. In her final moments, she contemplates the events that have brought her to the cold bedroom floor and wishes that a past version of herself had understood the possible consequences of fiscal irresponsibility.
It’s too late now, though, and as massive organ failure sets in, Jane wishes she had the strength for last words.
The next day, when the family finds Jane’s body, they click their tongues and whistle softly.
“Leave it to a teen to get killed by that most prolific of serial killers: starvation,” says the dad.
And the family laughs. They laugh at the father’s joke, but also because they feel afraid. Afraid, not of death, but of that secret part inside of all of them, the part they’d rather not exist. The part that they cannot see when they look at themselves in the mirror, but still stares back at them because they do not need a mirror to find it. They often see it on the ceiling as they lie in bed at night, or in those quiet moments when there is nothing to do but think. So for now they laugh, at Jane, and at jokes, but also at a larger, cosmic joke. They laugh to hide the pain. Father, mother, and children. Because they know that somewhere, deep inside, they are all teens.
Then the maximum security prison next to their house explodes and all the serial killers turn into ghosts and murder them.
Matt Jeakle ’17 looks like a live-action version of Tin Tin.