Trebor Healey's story, "Pancake Circus," is about a man who walks into a diner of the same name, and falls head-over-Aunt-Jemima in crush with a handsome busboy— who he nicknames Clown Daddy. Mr. C. Daddy turns out to be on serious criminal probation— but in the beginning, it all seemed so innocent...
...HE DIDN'T LOOK AT ME until I thanked him, and then it was just a shy, straight-boy grin. God, but his features were sharp, angled, and clean. His dark, deep-set eyes, the long lashes, the wide mouth with its full lips, the arresting pale blue-white of his skin and the night-black hair—that god-damn shadowed chin. And his eyes: dark as crude oil, raw out of the ground.
He was undeniably, painfully handsome. Prozac-handsome because he cheered me up. Wellbutrin-handsome because one saw one’s sadness disappear like a wisp of smoke—and those pesky sexual side effects? Gone.
Every woman in the place blushed when he cleared their plates. I probably wasn’t the only one stuck to the vinyl seat in my booth. Thank god my cock has no voice or it would have been barking like a dog. But I felt the letdown all the same. He’s probably straight. Though he ignored the blushing dames. He seemed even a little annoyed by their attention.
But we knew who each other were, the girls and I. I eyed them and they me. Did I look as greedy as them? Like there was one Cabbage Patch doll left and they’d kill to wrest it from whatever fellow shopper had his or her eye on it. Fact was, we all had holes we wanted his cock in. Simple as that. It was like there was one tree left in the world and the bitches yelped like graves to be the chosen one.
I gulped my food like a scat queen falling off the wagon. Delirious, my diaper soiled, I paid my check and left, one glance over the shoulder to see him bend to pick up a fallen fork. Damn, Clown Daddy had a butt like a stallion. My dog leapt, knocking over the milk dish again. Jesus H. Cock-Hungry Christ. I lurched out the door as my piss-slit opened like a flume on a dam.
I WENT FOR MORE pancakes two days later, but he wasn’t there. On the third day, he was, with a beautiful zit on his cheek. Clown Daddy looked right through me when he recognized me, and then he pulled himself back out.
I lurched. Shit— I came again.
“Uh, yeah,” I half coughed.
I nodded. The greed. My shorts were already full of it.
“Sugar?” He’s talkative today.
I regained my composure. “No sugar— sugar’s for kids,” I answered flirtatiously.
I don’t know why I said it. I had to say something. I wanted to hold him there, even if for only a few seconds.
He smiled the brightest smile, and walked away.
My head swiveled. What was that? Had he flirted back?
While I waited for my waitress, I read the ads urethaned into the tabletop: vacuum repair, van conversions, derogatory credit, body shops, auto detailing, furniture, appliances, and bail bonds.
The clues were everywhere. It occurred to me then that he was the only white busboy in the place. The rest were illegal Latin guys who didn’t have a choice. What would a citizen take a job like this for?
Maybe he was Romanian or something. But he had no accent. What could he be making—four, five bucks an hour? Hell, his looks alone could get him ten doing nothing for the right boss. He could hustle at two hundred an hour, do porn for a few thousand a feature; he could wait tables and fuck up and they’d still forgive him because the doyennes of Sacramento would return for the way he made them feel against their seat cushions.
What was he doing here?
Who cares. Just let me fuck him. Shoot first, ask questions later.
He was as aloof as ever when he came back with the coffee. Three cups later, I asked for sugar. He smiled again. “Sugar’s for kids. You like kids?”
“Sure, kids are all right.”
He nodded and raised his brows with just a hint of a grin as he said, sort of stoned-like, “Kids are all right.” And he walked away.
Go figure. I scribbled my phone number on the coffee coaster, with a little cartoon kid, waving...
You can read find out what happens in the rest of Pancake Circus, by Trebor Healey, in Best American Erotica 2007
SB:The object of your protagonist's desire, Clown Daddy, is a pedophile. Of course, that's much to your adult narrator's earnest frustration! — "He was just too sexy to fit any criminal stereotype, which shows you what a dumb fuck I was."
I wondered if I'd get any shocked reactions from my readers, some backlash. It's not a regular love story or erotic story per se— it's more like dark humor, scary psychology and politics, and some extreme yet deliberate sexual frustration!
TH: Oh, yeah, I've anticipated backlash too, but so far I haven't gotten anything but laughs and compliments. Go figure. I mean, it is THE disturbing topic of our zeitgeist. That's why I wrote it.
What exactly are these people like "Clown Daddy" supposed to do with themselves, anyway? We don't seem to be having any discussion in our culture about how to address this issue, other than incarceration. Look how that's worked for drugs!
I went for laughs but what I wanted to do was make Clown Daddy attractive enough so that he couldn't be dismissed as inhuman. The guy who's crushed out on him attempts a solution, at least. Every love story eventually has to ask that question: How are we gonna make this last?
SB: Your story reminded me of those teenage fables where the innocent girl is asked to "hold" the bag of drugs by the greasy dealer who she's hung up on— and then of course the cops nab her instead of him... "Oh Betty, Don't Do It!" How have you been influenced by those kind of moral tales?
TH: I love to laugh at people's folly, including my own. Those Betty-Holding-the-Bag stories crack me up because all you can do is howl. There's something very human to foolishness. Moral stories— where good triumphs over evil in a heavy, serious way— seem cruel and inhuman. Where's the laughs?... with the fools and clowns, of course! I'll hang with them.
SB: What do you do when you're in love with someone who has a "type," or fetish, that is never, ever, going to be anything like you?
TH: Well, it's an adventure to get hung up on someone who is out of your realm. It's a challenge to look at one's stereotypes and complacency. I have a problem with boredom, so I find it fascinating. But I'm also cynical enough to realize that we're all pretty much the same as humans, with our own unique problems. So how do we get beyond the differences and find the humans underneath? When you can do that, you reach a world where peace, understanding, all that— is actually possible. Maybe that's not cynicism at all.
SB: Where is the diner that inspired "Pancake Circus"? It reminds me of the all-night Clown Alley in San Francisco...
TH: Oh, yeah, I know Clown Alley. Pancake Circus is a similar place, but in Sacramento, and far more twisted. The walls are covered in bad clown art, home-made, and it hasn't been remodeled since it opened. As I ate my pancakes there, I just felt the place had the stink of a crime about to happen, and thus was born Clown Daddy and the poor fool who wandered into his lair.
SB: What were the first "dirty" pictures you ever saw?
TH: My first dirty pictures must have been the Playboys, Penthouses, and Cavaliers that my neighbor Jeff kept out in the woods behind our house, in a hole covered over by fern fronds. Later, I came upon another girl's stash of Playgirl magazines. She also kept them in a hole out in a field. Odd that all these things were kept in holes.
Seattle was a great place to be a kid: all those forests, lakes; no one had fences. Tons of sex happened in those forests.
My family was just an average middle-class suburban family. I was one of four brothers and my father was a coach when he met my mother, so it was a total jock-reality. That sucked a little, as I was an artsy little sensitive fag type. But my parents were very decent people who gave their lives to raising their kids, so I was lucky.
My sex education was the usual thing as one of four sons. I was the third so it trickled down from the older ones. I was a bit precocious though... When very young, I asked my mother if my father and her had done what my brothers and I suspected. We were horrified at her answer, and I remember being surprised that my father was a co-creator. I had assumed mothers were earth goddesses who spawned their children and husbands!
After that, it was out to Jeff's hole in the woods, and then there were the stripping rituals that a crippled boy organized. These were pagan affairs in the forest, where willing girls would be chosen to strip and then get marched out to another giant hole. It was creepy and sacrificial and this crippled boy had a weird power that originated with his disability, which facilitated the whole thing. I don't think it would have happened otherwise.
When I was twelve, my father took me out for pizza and root beer and told me the facts of life. A bit late, but this was how he did it with each of us. Not only did I already know what-went-where, but I was also aware of being gay.
We moved back to San Francisco, my birthplace, when I was in high school, and I went to college at Berkeley— where I joined a fraternity and furthered my homoerotic education in a last attempt to dodge my queerness. Talk about folly and foolishness— I joined the one with the cutest boys. A blessed disaster.
SB: How does sex writing affect your own sex life?
TH: I think it's the other way around. I see people as living, walking stories— and sex is part of that story with the ones I have sex with. I'm aware that a story might actually grow out of an encounter. But I'm always surprised when it does, and I never look for stories. They just come to me. A lot of stories are wish-fulfillment, either regarding certain people or certain fantasies that never happened in reality. Or speculations, such as "Pancake Circus."
SB: What do you do when you're not writing... any children, pets, odd dependents?
TH: I work part-time at a lefty nonprofit, doing fund-raising, communications, and some teaching. I don't have any pets now, though I had a gay dog growing up, and a goldfish in my twenties, who I really loved. I am into toys and stickers and dolls, which are kind of my dependents, as I have four doll children (Billy, Henry, Red and Kim)— one of whom I lost custody of, and now lives with my friend Karen.
And yes, I do have lots of clowns! I love clowns and have a clown outfit. I've always had imaginary friends, and I guess they're my dependents too. They can be rather demanding and needy.