"Nope, Butane Bob. Either you suck or you don't. One or the other. It's the Three Ring
"What do you mean I suck?"
"That's the new performance rating—you suck."
"Oh, good grief. What have we come to?" Smoke almost started coming out of Butane
Bob's ears. "OK. Fire's out. Get back to work, all of you."
They all scurried back to their desks. Mandy tried to get some work done, but it wasn't easy.
First, she was hung over, although the laugh attack had helped her headache go away. More
disturbing was that Lulu hadn't been seen since the merger announcement, and now Butane
Bob didn't know who Dimple was. There was a knock on the door
"Mandy?" It was Cassie.
"They're getting hungry out there. Will there be a three o'clock break today?"
"No, Cassie. I'm sorry. The break has been cancelled by Three Ring. We could all stand to
eat a little healthier anyway, don't you think?"
"Yeah, you're right. But we're hungry right now. It's tough—all that marching around and
Mandy thought for a minute. "If I go see what I can conjure up from the cafeteria, will you
get everyone to go home? And come back tomorrow ready to work?"
"You're the best. We all know this didn't come from you, or Gary or Violet."
"Thanks, Cass, I appreciate you trying to see both sides of this. Now get out of here before
someone else sees you. And make every- one go home!"
Her e-mail alert rang, not a moment too soon. It hadn't rung all day. No one was working,
so why would it?
To: All Big Top Employees.
Tomorrow beginning at nine a.m. we will have a celebration unlike any other in the history of our
company. It will be held in the parking lot. Please wear your company clown costume. Please come with
a smile on your face. Be prepared for fun, food, prizes, and excitement! See you there!!
The Board of Directors.
"Perfect! How do I get this to the picket line? They're certainly not able to read any e-mail
First she found a copy machine and made as many copies as there was paper in the machine.
Then she rushed down to the cafeteria.
She stopped to stare at the chairs on the ceiling. All the paper meant for recycling was
strewn on the floor like sawdust in a barn. She was kicking it around as she walked, and some of
the really disgusting stuff was sticking to her ankles. The bins themselves were carefully stuck to
the ceiling, one of each color surrounding each table. About half had been taken down, and the
chef was busy trying to pry the silverware off one of the tables.
"Do you have anything to eat around here?"
"Only thing I can give you is yesterday's three o'clock snack. That was made before we got
the order not to. It's chocolate chip cookies. Everything else is for tomorrow's party. I'd skip the
cookies if I were you. The spread for tomorrow is going to be something else!"
"The cookies are perfect. Can I take them?"
"Sure. They're already getting a little stale."
She grabbed as many boxes as she could carry along with the copies of the e-mail and snuck
out the side door. The minute someone spotted her, she was swarmed. Once free of all the
cookies, Mandy started passing out the invitation.
"Please come. Please help put this to an end."
She didn't get much of a reaction. They were mainly interested in getting the sugar fix. So as
soon as the copies were gone, she headed back inside. She figured once the word got around,
they would start conspiring again. Good or bad, whatever they decided, she wouldn't know until
the next morning.
Mandy had never bothered to open the box containing her clown costume when it was
delivered. Since it was such a big secret as to when she would have to wear it, she took it home
and shoved it in the back of the closet with everything else she brought home from the office.
The box was so big that she tripped over it several times before she figured out a way to wedge
it into the corner. Last night she unwedged it from the closet, but she still didn't bother to open
it. It would just have to be surprise in the morning.
In the morning, she slit open the huge cardboard box only to find a beautiful gift box inside.
She lifted it out and carefully slid off the lid. Inside the clothing was wrapped in pink tissue
paper with a gold circus tent sticker holding it together.
"I feel like I'm eight years old, opening the biggest gift under the Christmas tree." The box
was so gorgeous, she almost didn't want to open it. It was too pretty.
The suspense was starting to get to her, so she slid her finger under the sticker to reveal her
costume. The outfit was neatly folded. It was stuffed with more pink tissue paper to keep its
form. She gingerly grabbed the shoulders and lifted it from the box. As she admired it in front of
her, Mandy was overcome by how beautifully made it was. The fabric, the stitching, the trim, and
the detail were all perfect.
It was a slim style. Thank goodness, no hoop! The fabric was as green as grass in silk
shantung. At the neck, wrists, and ankles were crisp ruffles of yellow and red. Down the front
were four large yellow pompoms covering the buttons. She slipped it on and then admired herself
in the mirror. Not bad for a first-time clown
Next she unwrapped the wig. It was blonde with pigtails tied in big red bows.
"Well, this ought to be interesting. I've never been a blonde before."
Next were her shoes. Mandy was so afraid of getting a pair of big oversized shoes to clomp
around in. Instead they were a pair of ruby red patent leather pumps in a size 7 ?A, just as she
had written on the piece of paper at orientation. They were a perfect fit and looked stunning
even with the eyelet anklets she had on. She slipped on her gloves and her petite red rubber nose
and went off to work.
An enormous tent filled the parking lot. Clowns of all shapes, sizes, and colors were
everywhere the eye could see. Tiffany was making her way through the crowd, shaking her
pompoms and cheering at the top of her lungs.
"Swing to the left! "Swing to the right!
"Stand up! Sit down!
"Fight! Fight! Fight!
"Goooooooo Three Ring!!!"
As she milled about in the sea of clowns, all of the sudden kazoos blared in each of her ears.
She nearly jumped out of her skin. Gary and Violet had snuck up behind her and were laughing
hysterically at her frightened reaction.
"My, don't you look stylish." Gary was not surprised that Mandy had the most sophisticated
clown costume of them all.
"How did you find me? I can't figure out who anyone is—except for Tiffany." She rolled her
"We have our ways of identifying you," Gary said in a mysterious voice.
"Get a load of the shoes." Mandy twisted her ankles about to show them off. "Aren't they