Klepto the Klown collapsed onto his baby seal skin covered couch. His gold and pink parti-colored silk pajamas, the diamond pattern delineated by real diamonds, bloused out around him like unfolded sheets except where they mounded over his vast belly. There they were capped by little puffy balls made of shredded money.
“Well, I’m glad that’s done,” he sighed.
His daughter Tinkerbelle minced over. She walked on tippy-toes even though she was barefoot—everyone except Klepto went barefoot in the Ivory Tower—her calves and tendons having been deformed by wearing high heels since she was three. Her gold lamé dress clung like a second skin. Its tiny skirt barely covered her bottom and its sleeveless, strapless top barely contained her bosom.
“It’s not over, Daddy,” she crooned in her spokesmodel’s voice. “You have to give a speech.”
“I SAID I’D NEVER CONCEDE!”
Harlequin stepped forward to stand beside his wife. His suit was elegantly tailored and fit his slender frame closely. It had the same pink and gold diamond pattern as Klepto’s pajamas and, in a show of solidarity, both men wore tiny triangular gold hats with green shredded money pompons bobby to their hair, though Harlequin’s hair was real and Klepto’s was stapled to his scalp. Beneath his suit jacket, he wore tights: one leg green, the other gold.
“You don’t have to. You won.” Harlequin said. His voice was soothing.
Klepto relaxed. “Well, it’s good to be renewed,” he said. This had been the longest publicity campaign he had ever been on.
Every year he worried whether his reality show, Celebrity Klown Prince, would get canceled. It was a piece of shit, after all. And all he did was sit on his ass and say, “You’re expired!” while his kids, Tinkerbelle and the Scarecrow, did all the work. In his heart, Klepto was sure people mostly watched to see if Tinkerbelle would fall out of her dress or if Scarecrow would suddenly forget his lines and just smile blankly at the camera. That’s all his brother, the Cowardly Lion Killer, did. He never said anything.
“Not ‘renewed.’ Won,” Harlequin said.
“The ‘election,’” Tinkerbelle coaxed. She held her hands in front of her waist as she had been taught to do when she majored in Public Speaking and Presenting at her finishing school where everyone majored in Public Speaking and Presenting. She bounced encouragingly and smiled for emphasis.
Klepto was confused. He was usually confused; that was why he always seemed angry. “But the other guy—or was it a woman? I can’t tell if they’re less than a five. Or older than…how old are you? Anyway the other one got more votes.”
“But not the votes that count,” Harlequin explained patiently. “About seventy-seven thousand people chose you and the hell with the three million more who voted for the other one.”
“Yeah, the hell with them,” Klepto said. He didn’t really understand what Harlequin was talking about but he spoke with conviction. He also held his hands in front of his waist the way people did on TV but never in real life.
Then Klepto had a thought. “Her ratings were higher? That means she’ll get better advertising rates.”
Harlequin said, “No. It’s not a show. You’re the Precedent. You’re in control of the country.”
Klepto squirmed trying to understand. His pajamas shimmered and his big red shoes moved like big red scissors where they rested on Louis XIV’s old coffee table. “What country? What control? You mean residual rights, like the producer? How did that happen? And why didn’t I get to say, ‘You’re expired!’?” He made his signature scowl and pointed.
Tinkerbelle said encouragingly, “Daddy, I explained it all the other day when we were cuddling. And Harlequin before that. Remember?”
Klepto grumbled, “Sure. Sure. But I’m still on TV, right?”
“As much as you want,” Tinkerbelle said.
Klepto said, “Oh. That’s a good deal. How much does it pay?