Fiction University Writing Prompt

This week’s prompt is a story starter, so take the element provided and turn it into a story of any length you choose. If you’re stuck on size, I suggest aiming for 1000-2000 words. This week, let’s start with an opening sentence. 

It was a lousy place for a clown.

Take this opening line and run with it. See where it takes you.

My youngest is sicker than sick but not sick enough to take her to the emergency room on Sunday. I called her pediatrician an hour ago and he said he would phone in a prescription for her. Of all the times for the car not to start. Sub-zero temps. I don't care, it's only five blocks and I'd walk five miles in a blinding snowstorm for one of my kids.
The day is cold and dreary, typical December in Chicago. I pull my coat tightly around my shoulders and tuck my chin against my chest, diving into the bitter wind headfirst as I make my way to the pharmacy. I shouldn't be out on a day like today, but I have no choice.
I leave Adam, her older brother in charge. At fourteen, he's got a real smart mouth. Old enough to think he doesn't have to listen to me, and young enough to know he better.
"You know the routine, Adam," I tell him as I pull the stocking cap down over my ears. 
"I know, Mom." He rolls his eyes at me. "Don't answer the door. Don't answer the phone. Don't leave the house unless it's on fire."
"And don't get fresh with your mother," I remind him with a sideways glance.
My eyes are the only part of my body uncovered and I keep my head down, watching my footing on the snow-packed sidewalk. The streets are bare. Only a fool would leave the warmth of their home to venture out in this biting wind-chill.
When I round the corner at St. Joseph's Catholic Church something catches my attention. What the heck? Standing at the back of the church in the alley, someone has their face pressed against the back window.
I've been in that church enough times to know the view beneath that window is the classroom in the basement where they hold Sunday school. I stop and stare. Something alerts him to my presence. Maybe it's that creepy, skin-crawl feeling you have when you think someone's watching you. I don't know.
His head turns slightly in my direction.
It's a man and he's wearing a clown costume. It's a lousy place for a clown. Be reasonable, I tell myself. Maybe there's a birthday party and he's checking to see if they're ready for him.
I might convince myself of that, if there wasn't something so completely off about him. I've never been a fan of clowns, but there is something almost sinister about the way his makeup is applied. The sharp edges at the corners of his mouth. The garish red painted on smile doesn't disguise the evil in his eyes.
It's a lousy place for a clown.
That was just before Christmas in 1978. To this day, I can't look at another clown the same way. I've never been a huge fan of clowns. There's something off about a grown man dressing up to entertain children. Maybe it's my suspicious nature, but in my opinion, it's something a pedophile would do. Yes, I know that not all clowns hunger to have little boys and girls sit on their lap for deviant reasons. But after the story of John Wayne Gacy, Jr. broke, I never questioned my suspicious nature again.
John Wayne Gacy, Jr, also known as the Killer Clown, was a serial killer and a rapist. He sexually assaulted and murdered at least thirty-three teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, Illinois.
All of Gacy's known murders were committed inside his Norwood Park, Illinois home. Just blocks from the home where, as a single mom, I raised my two children. I shudder to think about the number of times I sent Adam and Wendy alone to Sunday school.
I never asked Adam if he remembers seeing anyone odd hanging around the neighborhood, too afraid of his answer.
Gacy's victims were typically lured to his address by force or deception, and all but one victim were murdered by either asphyxiation or strangulation with a tourniquet (his first victim was stabbed to death). Gacy buried 26 of his victims in the crawl space of his home. Three further victims were buried elsewhere on his property, while the bodies of his last four known victims were discarded in the Des Plaines River.
Convicted of thirty-three murders, Gacy was sentenced to death on March 13, 1980 for twelve of those killings. He spent fourteen years on death row before he was finally exectured by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Center on May 10, 1994.
Gacy got his nickname as the "Killer Clown" because of his charitable services at fundraising events, parades, and children's parties where he would dress as "Pogo the Clown", a character he devised himself.
This creeper is the reason I don't trust clowns. Not even Ronald McDonald!

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Lori L. Clark

Lori L. Clark currently resides in Hazelwood, MO with three rescue dogs. When Lori isn't listening to the voices in her head, waiting for the next creative inspiration to strike, she also loves to read, run, paint pet portraits and save dogs. Email Lori at

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