A piquant drop of red slid out of a cut and down the peachiness of Jeremy’s index finger. His instinct was to lick his wound to savor the electric stab of the iron in his blood but he stopped himself. Not because he believed that to be an uncivilized or unsanitary procedure, no—Jeremy had a better idea. He gazed at himself through a shard of his broken mirror and smeared his finger around his nose, painting it sanguine. He admired his new look. Red is his color.
“Poser. You’ll never have a nose like mine!”
“Be nice, it’s my first try,” Jeremy defended.
“Why should I? Everyone called me ugly when I first painted my nose. And I’m not nearly as ugly as you are.”
Jeremy’s eyes welled up. “Why are you always so mean?! Your words wound me.”
“Oh shut up, you little crybaby. I am a vessel of the truth. And the truth is you’re as ugly as they get! No amount of red makeup is going to hide that!”
Through the mirror, Jeremy’s eyes met those of the man he had been talking to. “Whatever. You’re just as ugly as I am. Uglier, even. I’m not going to listen to you anymore. I don’t have to take this.”
The lips of the pale-faced man in the mirror stretched into an ear-to-ear smile, pulling his leathery skin tight. He giggled. “Get real kid. Who else you gonna talk to? I’m all you’ve got now. It’s just you and me. I might be rude, but I’m trying to toughen you up! You’re too soft.”
Jeremy searched within himself for a cutting rebuttal. Something that knocked this jerk off his big, red feet. He came up short, but his heckler already knew that.
Jeremy decided to take the high road. The road of inner peace. “There are many different kinds of strengths, Bozo.”
“Who you callin’ Bozo?”
“You. That’s your name.”
“Oh, you finally decided to give me a name, huh? Took you long enough. I thought I was going to have to start begging!” Bozo said.
“You…beg? That’d be the day!”
“That’s right—Bozo begs for no one! And neither should you Jerm.”
“I told you that I don’t like it when you call me that. My name is Jeremy.”
Jeremy put his mouth over his wound for a moment, enjoying that iron lightning. Although Bozo had no matching cut, he mimicked Jeremy’s behavior.
Both of them slicked their hair back, synchronized, as if they were rehearsing a dance they’ve choreographed before.
“Well kid,” Bozo continued, “since I have such a lovely name now, you need to pick a better name for yourself.”
“You know why.”
“But I don’t want to change my name.”
“Listen—like it or not—Jeremy has got to go. Jeremy let daddy push him around, but you? Us? We’re not Jeremy. We’re something magical, you and I. We don’t take shit from nobody! Daddy calls you weak. Daddy calls you a spoiled little brat and what did you do? POW! Slammed daddy’s head right through the mirror! Now daddy can’t call you nothing because daddy’s not movin’ no more.” Bozo let out a sharp laugh. “Who’s weak now huh? Face it, that’s not something Jeremy would do. We’re something new now, baby! Fresh start. We deserve a new swanky name to match our new swanky life. Something…special.”
Jeremy fell silent and left the room. After a short time, he came back into the room with his hands full of various bottles of all shapes and sizes.
Bozo scrunched up his face. Some of his white makeup fell from his dry skin, exposing speckles of the splotchy peachiness hidden underneath.
“What you got there?” Bozo asked.
“Before we can give ourselves a fresh start, we need to complete the look.”
Jeremy picked up a shard of glass. Blood ran down his arm from gripping it too tightly. Bozo proudly supervised as Jeremy carved into his face. Finally, Jeremy was in control of his own destiny. He was free. And with this newfound freedom, he would remake himself as he saw fit. When he felt like applying makeup, he would. When he felt like cutting, he would.
Once he was satisfied, Jeremy let the shard rest at his side. Red dripped down the glass and his face onto his clothes, but he didn’t mind. Jeremy cut shapes into his face in the image of Bozo, with gashes from his mouth to each of his ears, exposing his back teeth and tongue. He cut little v-shapes above and below each of his eyes. He covered some of the blood in white powder but spread most of it around his mouth and nose.
Jeremy looked over at the clown. “What do you think?”
“Kid, I don’t care what everyone says about you, I think you’re beautiful. Now all you need is a good name and you’ll be all set.”
“Yeah, what is it?”
“No, that’s my new name. It’s not just you—it’s me. It’s us.”
He turned the makeup and mirror shard on his slain father. He used his father’s pooled blood to give the dead man a similar red nose and painted his cold, pale face even paler. When he finished with that task, he slowly pushed the glass through his father’s solar plexus, just under the rib cage. His face swelled with pleasure.
Jeremy was displeased with his father dying with his eyes closed but that wasn’t a difficult problem to solve. He retrieved another piece of glass and, using it like a scalpel, traced the upper half of the eye socket until the skin came free. Jeremy ignored the growing cuts on his palms. It’s best to focus on the delicate procedure at hand. Bozo put a supportive hand on Jeremy’s shoulder. Just as soon as Jeremy felt Bozo’s touch, he also felt Bozo stepping into him. Becoming him.
Where two entities once were, one remained. He admired his reflection again.
“We are Bozo.”