A Jester's Tale
rating: +156+x

My name is David Rosenfeld, but everyone who knows me calls me Jester. If you've never been stationed at Site 19, you've probably heard some horrible rumors about me - that I'm a killer, a monster, worse. As far as the world outside the Foundation knows, I'm all those things and more, and I've been dead a long time to boot. There aren't a lot of people left anymore who know my whole story, so I wanna take this chance to clear the air and tell you who I am, where I come from, and why I'm the way I am - give you a chance to get to know the real Jester.

I was born in a small town in upstate New York in 1938, and I guess you could say I was trouble from the day I was born. My father was a big-shot banker in the city, real Fifth Avenue, did his best to fit in and make himself presentable. I was part of a set of twins. My brother, Jacob, he came out everything a father could wish for, all his fingers and toes, but me - well, to put it the way dad always did, "No green-skinned freak is any son of Solomon Rosenfeld's." The doctors had never seen anything like me before. Even today, as far as anyone in the Foundation knows, I'm one of a kind.

See, I'm a goblin. I know, goblin ain't exactly proper scientific terminology, but if you showed a picture of me to a bunch of kindergarteners, they'd tell you the same. My skin is green all over, like a bullfrog, and about as leathery. I'm about four feet tall in my shoes. My eyes are yellow and they reflect light in the dark like a cat's eyes. My fingernails are sharp and pointed like talons, and so are my teeth. I don't have a single hair on my body. I wouldn't exactly have fit in at yeshiva - not that I ever got to go, of course.

As far as the world outside our family knew, I died the day I was born. Dad paid someone to make out a death certificate with my name on it, and as soon as I was old enough to be weaned he locked me in the basement and wouldn't let me out. I slept down there, read down there, ate down there, the works, all alone. If there was ever company over, I was to be silent as a mouse or I'd get a thrashing afterward. They fed me scraps and sour milk, and when I was sick I just had to tough it out. It was like being a prisoner in my own house.

Mom tried her best to be kind to me, but dad got just as angry at her whenever he found out. She'd sneak me books, and some decent food now and then. She even let me have a cat for awhile. I named him Mittens and I loved him with all my heart, but he got out one day and never came back. Mom never would tell me what happened to him. I think dad or Jacob must have done something horrible to the poor little boy. Jacob wasn't much better than dad was. I always thought it was kind of ironic back then - the green-skinned monster sitting to himself just wanting someone to talk to, while the normal-looking kid upstairs was a bully and a thug.

By the time I was fifteen I had had enough. Enough of the beatings, enough of the solitude, enough of eating rotten food and throwing it back up the next day. I decided I was getting out of that house if it killed me. It was Seder night, and all of dad's important friends and co-workers and people from the city were upstairs breaking bread, while I was alone in the basement with some limp cabbage and a piece of stale matzo. I started making as much noise as I could. Screaming, knocking over shelves, breaking plates, banging things together, anything to get his attention. Wasn't long before there was a commotion upstairs and I heard him undoing the locks on the door. He was on his way down to give me a thrashing, but I was ready for him - the second the door opened, I socked the son of a bitch right in the face. He went down like a ton of bricks and I ran. Right out the door, down the street, into the night, a thin little goblin, alone, hungry, and scared - but free.

I slept in a park that night and woke up starving. I'd been waiting for weeks for a chance to get out of that hellhole - but what was I supposed to do now? I stole some clothes from the line in someone's back yard, a long coat and a hat. I turned the collar up to try and hide my face so nobody would get a good look at me while I wandered around trying to figure out how I was going to eat, where I was going to live. I didn't know if dad would be out looking for me, or mom, or the police, or what, but I knew I'd have to get out of town. I started wandering down the road out into the country when, in the distance, I heard the sound of a calliope. I'd obviously never been to one, or even seen one, but I'd read enough books, and heard enough shit on the radio, to know that sound could mean only one thing - the circus was in town. And what circus is complete without a freak show?

I found the boss' tent and introduced myself. I lied about my age, of course, and I told him flat-out I wanted to be a freak. He spent a good fifteen minutes looking me over and asking me questions - can you juggle? Can you sing? Can you wrestle? Do you know any magic tricks? He wasn't too keen on hiring someone with no experience, but once I convinced him I wasn't just wearing a costume he said he could pay me and find a place for me.

The next couple years I went all over the country with that circus. City by city, places I'd never even imagined I'd be able to see. I didn't usually go out in the towns on my own - too many gawkers - but I made some good friends in the sideshow. Hell, I even got married to a midget named Annie - the moment she stomped on the glass was the happiest moment of my life, and though we agreed we weren't ever gonna have children, it didn't stop us from having some fun behind the big top after all the lookey-loos had gone home for the night. The circus was more like a family to me than my real family had ever been.

At first I was called "Monstro-Boy" - they'd dress me up in a loincloth and put me in a corner with a chain around my neck, and I'd act like a rabid dog and lunge at the marks as they walked past my little corner of the sideshow. Sometimes they'd do me up with fake blood or foam around the mouth. It was fun at first, but it wasn't all that fulfilling. Scaring people wasn't hard for me - it was natural for people to startle when they saw me. I spent a lot of time hanging out with the main acts and learning their tricks - tumbling, tightrope-walking, magic, so on - but I didn't get my big break until 1959. Boggles, one of the clowns, got thrown in the pokey after he got into a fight at a bar in town, and the boss needed to find a replacement fast for that night's show. I leapt at the opportunity. The boss wasn't so sure about it at first, but I begged him and I showed him some of the moves I'd learned, and he got an idea. He went back in one of the costume trunks and spent about five minutes rummaging around, and pulled out a tiny little motley and a patchwork jumpsuit that looked like it was sewn together out of kids' pajamas. That night, under the big top, Jester the Goblin was born.

I did eight shows that weekend as Jester, and every one was a hit. They were rolling in the bleachers, and I felt something I'd never felt before. All my life, people had been scared, revolted, disgusted when they saw me. But now, they were happy instead. Boggles got canned and in six months' time I was the biggest clown (figuratively speaking, of course) on the tour. They even started putting me on the posters - "SEE THE ONE, THE ONLY, THE WORLD-FAMOUS JESTER THE GOBLIN LIVE IN THE CENTER RING!" We went back to New York City and I even got to do a routine on Ed Sullivan. Life was good - but like the book says, there's a time to laugh and a time to weep.

July 23rd, 1964 - that was when the first murder happened. One of the trapeze artists was found dead in his tent the day after we rolled into St. Louis. His eyes were gouged out and his skin had been cut to ribbons like a giant pair of claws, and on the inside wall of the tent was the number 1, written in his own blood. Of course they suspected the guy with the claws - but I had an airtight alibi, I was with Annie the whole night. Still, people started looking at me real funny after that.

There were three more murders the next three nights. The lion-tamer, the unicyclist, and one of the other clowns, all killed the same way, all with a number on the wall in their blood. One, two, three, four… Everyone was wondering who was gonna be next, and the longer it went on the more and more people started doubting me. The boss said the police couldn't find any evidence that I did it, but just to be safe he was confining me to the "jailhouse" tent on the edge of our camp, and he sent Omar the Strongman to make sure I didn't leave. I felt like I was back in dad's basement again.

That night I woke up to the sound of a scream. Annie's scream! I yelled at Omar to wake up and we rushed to her tent. It was dark, but I could tell she was hurt pretty bad. There was a man standing over her, taller than me, wearing some kind of metal claws on his hands, just cutting at her with them. Omar shone a flashlight at him and I recognized the face - it was Jacob! I told Omar to stay back and I jumped right at him like I was Monstro-Boy for real. In thirty seconds I had him flat on his back, and I would have cut his throat with my own claws if the police hadn't rushed in and separated us.

I was booked at the station house for aggravated assault and attempted murder. I had a feeling it wasn't going to go well for me, but I never made it to trial. The next night I was taken out of my cell in the middle of the night and put into a windowless van, and by morning I was at Site 19 - where I've been ever since. The doctors ran all kinds of tests on me, talking about how I was a "genetically unique specimen" and an "atavistic recurrence of an extinct forebear of homo sapiens" and all kinds of scientific mumbo-jumbo that I still barely even understand. I plead my case and they told me they knew I was innocent. Annie and Omar and the boss had vouched for me, and Jacob had confessed to the murders - he'd seen me on TV and decided to get even with me for running away. I asked when I was free to go, and that's when they told me never - I had to be protected and kept secret from the "civilian" world, because my existence was an abnormality and I was a threat to normalcy. It surely wasn't the first time a man in a lab coat told one of my people something like that.

They put me in a windowless cell and only let me out to run their tests on me. It was like being back in the basement. It was worse than being back in the basement. After three weeks I tried to hang myself with the bedsheets and they put me on suicide watch. They sent a shrink to talk to me and I told him the truth straight up - I'd spent my entire childhood in a box, and now I was back in that box. The best days of my life, the only time I'd truly been happy, was when I was on stage making people laugh, and the Foundation had made sure I'd never have that opportunity again.

The shrink had an idea. I hadn't been the only person to try to take his own life lately - suicide rates among the people working at Site 19 were way up. This was a hard job, he said, and sometimes the things people have to do catch up to them. A lot of the people working on site were there 24 hours a day for long periods of time, and there wasn't much for them to do between shifts. Maybe laughter was the best medicine? And so it was decided - Thursday nights in the Site 19 auditorium would be Standup Night with Jester.

It took a few weeks to hit my stride - standup is a little different than clowning, of course - but before I knew it I had the swing of it and the crowds kept getting bigger and bigger. Sure, I worked a little blue sometimes - these were soldiers and scientists, after all, not blue-haired old ladies and their grandkids out for a nice Sunday matinee. Soon we were getting enough attendance that I had to do two shows a week. Staff morale was up, suicides were down, and I was happy again. I had to talk the director into letting me read the papers and watch some TV every now and then - had to keep my material fresh, after all. First it was three channels, then a dozen, then thirty, then hundreds, then there were millions of people making jokes on the internet for me to keep up with. Not that I understand a single thing about how the internet works, but the doctors let me watch some of the popular videos and keep up with the trends.

So that's been my life for the past 45 years. Eventually I couldn't keep up the routine like I used to and had to cut back to one show a week, then one every two weeks. I do one once a month now, and I still draw crowds to the Site 19 auditorium - I hear they even do a "live secure webstream", whatever that is, so that people at the other Foundation sites can tune in. I've been entertaining three generations of Foundation employees, keeping them sane in between the things they have to do to protect the world.

Once a few years ago there was a guy named Able that got stationed at Site 19. I never found out what his whole story was, but I don't think he was any ordinary joe - he was covered in all these strange tattoos, and looked like he'd just as soon kill you as talk to you. Always had the same look on his face, didn't seem to care about anything but work and training. One of the squaddies bet me an extra weeks' worth of dessert rations that I couldn't make him laugh. I put on the show of my life for him, and in the end I lost that bet - but as I left the stage at the end, I would've sworn I saw him crack the slightest little smile.

The doctor told me last week that I have cancer. I guess it runs in my family - I heard eventually that my mom died of it in '88. He says the prognosis is good since they found it early, but considering my "unique physiological condition", that's a wild guess at best. I've got a biopsy scheduled for Tuesday, and after that they'll decide whether to operate or put me on chemo or what. In the end, I guess you could say I've lived a blessed life. It hasn't exactly been the American Dream, but I went from being an embarassment locked up in a basement to being a man who's touched thousands of lives in a little way, and maybe nobody outside the Foundation will know when I finally kick the bucket, but I think I can say I've made a difference in this world. I don't know how many years I've got left, but G_d willing, I'll be able to spend them doing what I love the most - making people laugh.

-David "Jester" Rosenfeld

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