"Any clown gigs here in Hell, Furcifer?”

“No, light humor is in a recession. Don’t worry, though, you can stay here for awhile.”

“Gee thanks.”

“Don’t thank me. Clootie's taken a liking to you. Cloots is kind of a big deal in hell.”

“Seems more like a bug deal.”

The blue creature looked like a floating tick, except rubbery.

“Bonkers. Let’s go see Clootie’s nan. She’ll sort you out. Get your head on straight.”

“It has a nan?”

“You bet. Hey Cloots, let’s scoot!!”

Clootie led the way. It floated on, just barely off the ground. Its horns were concave, corkscrewing into its head instead of out. They looked like a hassle to clean.

On their way to Clootie’s relative, Nana Nightjar, they passed crustacean architecture in pinks, reds, and bright blues. Houses with topped with luscious lobes and poniards

The sky was of solid substance. The air was overheavy - coagulated. But the upper reaches of the air were pillowy pink with a wet clay look. The clown thought it might be nice to take her friend Una to Hell someday. She missed Una’s hands on her anatomy. She missed Una’s earthly purity.

“Come in - I’m sitting in the kitchen!”

“Oh, Clootie-ootie, you brought Mr. Furze”

Nana Nightjar was sitting in a tall chair. She was sucking on a fig. She kept slurping out the seeds.

In flashes Nightjar’s body glimmered. She’d have a long tube coming from her mouth. And then she was just an old gran eating on a fruit.

Her eyes were large and black, reflecting the clown’s face many times over.

“Just in time for tea!” she said, still sucking on the fig. When she spoke, the sound came from not-her-mouth.

The clown slurped down the hot tea. The burning sensation was familiar and grounding.

Clootie, “Baddie baddie!”

“What a merry-andrew! A total swit! Jackpudding! That was your fortune you drank! What a waste. You remind me of my pal, Yat Chee.”

This spells SNAFU for you.

From some angles, the way Nightjar sucked on the fig she looked like she was devouring a person head-first. The clown did her best to smile and nod.

the clown tried to focus, but her eyes wandered to the granny’s gaudy curtains, a kitschy well of souls. she wanted to giddyup on out of there.

Next, she offered the two and a half visitors each a bowl of pudding.

The clown hesitated before eating the pudding.

Once Furcifer started digging in, she distracted herself by snarfing it down.

Nightjar handed her a fig, but it was dry and hollow in her hand. She split it open gently with both thumbs, and a tiny wasp flew out. Inside the fig it was written: MATRIARCH SAYS “SUBLIMATE YOUR MATE”

Granny talked on and on while the clown stared at the fig fortune.

“So, Mrs. Nightjar, do you know the Devil?”

The granny and the dog laughed in happy anarchy.

“What a gas! Listen to this dunderhead.”

“These are daft days indeed. After the Queen of Hell arrived, no one believed in him anymore. he shrank and shrank to nothing.”

“And the best part? Rumor says he’s holed up in a bathroom. Calls his new realm Elfwhere - holds court in the corner with mites and spiders. To think, the Devil, a toilet troll!”

Mindwhile, elfwhere. Meanwhile, elsewhere. The clown’s flimsy soul wandered… Whatever had sunk its fangs into her, she was stuck in the risible dimension with a chewtoy’s granny.

Nana served them fried flowers of tan with a side of funky fungus bacon. The clown ate slowly, careful not to eat another fortune. There were none.

Nightjar continued Nightjarringly, “You really should show her around, children. I highly recommend Parc Ghöull, the Garden of Infernal Delights. And maybe a beer. But I digress. Sometimes I can get a bit presentimental…”

As they left, Nana gave them a some eggs tucked in a neat little longish sack, “a treat for the road ahead.”

“This sack’s the perfect size for my rubber chicken!” and the clown shoved it in with the eggies.

Three harsh intakes of air from Nana, Furcifer, and Clootie (in his own chew-toy way).

“A chicken?” Nana hissed through her teeth, “Don’t open that again until you really need it.”

The clown was fully in passenger, nodded, and followed her pals out the door.

That night she slept on Furcifer’s couch again. When she got back to earth, she’d change her clownsona. Start fresh with a name… like: