When the door swung open a brisk morning breeze cut through the layers of frying oil that hung thick in the air.
Most people remained slumped in the pair of lines that led up to the glistening counter beneath the illuminated menu. The cashiers stood in their bright orange polo shirts and jaunty angled conical hats. Their swiftly moving finger tips brought beeps that resonated above the murmuring conversations that were struggling to wake in the early hour.
Shuffled steps sent customers away with their trays loaded with breakfast biscuits, hash browns or platter of pancakes. Each was decorated with tiny primary colored flags and marching animal figures on the wrapping paper, tray cover or cardboard container. As one left, another another blearily eyed body stepped to the front.
The louder flops that walked through the opened door echoed over the soles of other shoes hitting the recently moped tiles.
The energetic squeal of excitement turned a few heads. They first meandered towards the source of the cry and then slowly shifted to where the little girl’s plump finger was pointing.
Frowning faces that seemed to be questioning whether or not they were still dreaming poured over the rest of the newcomer in stares that were bouyed by fatigue.
Meanwhile the flopping slaps slowed until the shiny, red and ridiculously long shoes found the end of one of the lines.
Baggy sky-blue pants that billowed in a surge of the rumbling air conditioner seemed large enough to blanket the heads of everyone in the fast food joint. The fuzzy yellow spots shone like the rising sun while the bright purple streamers gleamed and fluttered like feathers.
The blossom of white silk that made up the blouse fought to use as much fabric as the lower half of the costume. Sleeves draped down arms whose shape and size were lost beneath the tent like columns. They ended in a fluttering array of frills at the cuffs and engulfed what hands might have been at the end of the invisible arms. Ruffles poured down the front in a roller coaster of bends and curves. Round plastic horns wobbled where they were pinned to the front of the shirt, giving off tiny toots as they banged against the body. A water squirting flower drooped lazily from the lapel.
Even sloping, the shoulders still managed to support a mane of bright blue hair that rose like an untended bush to mount the head like a halo.
Where most people lingered however was the face.
The white paint was almost fresh. There were splotches that were growing thin and hinting at a more flesh colored tone underneath. The broad cherry colored lips stretched from cheek to cheek and chin to just below the bulbous caramel apple of a nose. Streaks of black made happy triangles around a pair of weary eyes that were slashed with red veins.
The eyes barely flinched as a few rounds of laughter built up in the waiting lines. The few tables that were being used continued to gawk and giggle as the red shoes slapped again as he moved forward to the front of the line.
The sloppily shaped mouth flickered at the corners, bringing out a pair of crescent dimples as the little girl waved.
“Welcome to Bozo’s Circus,” offered the cashier beneath her spotted hat. Her eyes bounced between the painted face, the register and her co-workers in a ping ponging double then triple take on her newest customer. “Um… Can I take your order?”
“Coffee,” said the clown, his voice low and hoarse as if burnt out on too much laughing. “Black.”