A man aimed his rifle at a poorly painted target on the trunk of a willow tree. The target was of a smiling clown, standing in profile and waving. The man aimed for the clown’s nose. He missed. He then aimed for the clown’s heart. Another miss. He was down to his final shot. The man aimed his rifle at the clown’s predictably large shoe. He fired and hit the clown right in the big toe. The clown let out a violent cry, “I’m hit! I’m hit!” In utter shock, the man threw down his rifle and sprinted in the opposite direction. He searched for his canoe amid tall swamp grasses. When he finally found it, he jumped inside and pedaled for his life. Later, he turned around and saw the clown limping toward the water, with a machete in hand. The man put his head down and didn’t stop pedaling until he reached the small town. When he finally saw the locals gathered in the town square that summer night, he never felt a greater joy.
Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He holds degrees in English and creative writing from the University of California, Berkeley, and Antioch University Los Angeles. His work appears in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Green Mountains Review, Huizache, The Journal, New American Writing, Pleiades, The Progressive, Witness, and other journals. He has served as an editor for Floricanto Press and Lunch Ticket. He tweets at @JoseHernandezDz.