"Might want to stop at the car dealer on the way home and see about trading that thing in."
He gave her the finger and sped off.
"—if they’ll take it, that is. Hope they can get the stink out."
Violet appeared at Mandy’s door, out of breath.
"We don’t have enough money in the budget for the TV commercials. We have to get one
made today or we won’t be able to get it on TV for Thanksgiving."
"What are we going to do?"
"We’ll make the commercial ourselves. Run home and get your clown costume. Send as
many of your people home to get theirs too. And practice this while you’re driving. The melody
is ‘Jingle Bells.’" She thrust a piece of paper at Mandy and disappeared down the hall.
Dashing through the crowds
In a one-horse open sleigh
To Big Top’s sale we go
Laughing all the way!
Bells and whistles ring
Making smiles bright
Oh what fun it is to shop
At Big Top’s sale tonight
Woo woo woo on the kazoo
Woo woo all the way
Oh what fun it is to shop
At Big Top’s blowout sale!
"What’s she smoking these days? I can hardly wait to sing this while wearing my clown
Mandy returned in her costume with those gorgeous ruby red slippers. They made it all
worthwhile. The auditorium was filled with clowns, and the film crew was ready to roll. A small
set in the front was lavishly decorated with blinking lights and garland. A huge sleigh sat in the
A man stood at the microphone. "Attention, please. I need Mandy, Violet, Gary, and, uh,
Butane Bob to come up front. I need the rest of you to find a seat, and I will let you know when
we’re ready for you.
"My, what attractive clowns you all are." He placed Gary in the middle of the sleigh with
the girls on either side. He gave Butane Bob the once-over and shook his head. He was not sure
what to do with him.
"Just stand over here to the left of the lion tamer. Perfect."
"When I say ‘rolling,’ I want you all to dance. Dance any way you want. I don’t care. Just
keep moving."
The lights were glaring and Mandy couldn’t see anything in f ront of her. The music began
to play, and then he said the word— "Rolling!"
Violet had to take off those clodhopper shoes of hers in order to get into the sleigh. Gary
cracked his whip a few times. Butane Bob was so rigid that, even when Mandy started doing the
bump with him, he barely moved. They had to have looked like they were the klutzes of the
century—hardly like circus clowns.
"Cut! Fabulous!"
"OK, the rest of you fill in all around these four. Good, good." He repositioned a couple of
clowns and then stood back to examine his work. "Now let’s sing. And don’t forget where the
kazoo comes in. One, two, three."
They sang, off-key, Violet’s version of "Jingle Bells." Playing the kazoo was the only saving
grace of the whole commercial. They’d had plenty of practice over the years doing that, anyway.
"Fabulous. That’s a wrap."
"A wrap?" Mandy looked at Gary. "We’ve been here less than ten minutes."
"Low-budget film."
"Who sprang for the decorations and the sleigh?"
"Our old f riend Gertie. We found them while we were cleaning out the storage and thought
we could save some money. Three quarters of the space was filled with Gertie’s decorations. I
found some very expensive German beer steins in her collection. I have to say, her Oktoberfest
was the best bar none. Brats and sauerkraut and an ice cold keg of beer everyday for three weeks.
I sure could use that beer right now."
"I see we brought in the champagne glass too." She pointed to the corner of the room
"That’s in case we need to have an after-Christmas sale too. Violet has been humming "Auld
Lang Syne." My guess is that she’s trying to cook up some more corny lyrics."
One evening a few days before Thanksgiving, Mandy turned on the TV after another long
day at work. She looked up from the mail when she heard "Jingle Bells" begin to play.
"Oh my God! There we are, singing and dancing like a bunch of goofs. Well, we are a
bunch of goofs."
"Doorbusters six a.m. to noon
"Fantastic savings on everything in the store.
"Biiiiggggg Tooooooop Bloooowwwout Saaaaalllllle!!!!!"
"We’re doomed. All this hard work for nothing. No one is going to look at that sorry excuse
for a commercial and then get up at six in the morning the day after Thanksgiving to shop at Big
Top. That’s for sure."
The corporate office of Big Top Supplies was closed on the Friday and Saturday after
Thanksgiving. All the employees had been assigned to a store or the warehouse to help with the
after-Thanksgiving rush. Black Friday, it’s called—the day retailers finally get out of the red and
into the black, or so they say. But there could be a month of Black Fridays and Big Top would
still not be able to see itself out of the red. Mandy and Violet were manning the phones at the
warehouse. Gary was going to a store. He wanted to be part of the action, if there was any. They
had each spent the past few weeks coaching the employees on how to take care of customers in
the store.
"Keep smiling. Use ma’am or sir. Be polite no matter what." Mandy got so sick of repeating
these things over and over that one day she yelled, "This is life or death, and don’t you forget it."
That had seemed to drive the point home.
She decided to call Gramps to see if the message had made its way to the rank and file.
"Gramps, how are you doing? It’s Mandy Maloney."
"Mandy! Everything’s terrific."
"Are you ready for the holiday rush?" "I’m ready. You betcha."
"Well, I’m counting on you to bring in some big numbers for the company."
"My little lady is here to lend a hand. Everybody loves my little lady. She’s as sweet as can
"I’m glad to hear you’re getting along for a change."
"The day I went home, after you and that guy with the funny hair were here, I had a story to
tell. We laughed so hard we were crying. And you know, I had never heard her laugh before—in
fifty years, not once. Then, when the commercial came on, I jumped up pointing at the TV.
‘There he is!’ I told her. She’d thought I made him up. We laughed some more. We laugh every
time it comes on. And it comes on a lot!"
"Gramps, I’m glad to hear you have everything under control. If you need anything, I’ll be
on the warehouse line."
"What’s it to you, cunt?"