Mae has a phobia of kids she tells her boyfriend, Leo. And, we're given an example when she brings a young boy who lost a T-ball game to tears. After having lived in their house for six months, Mae and Leo find a mysterious and creepy ceramic clown head in their yard and for some reason Mae decides to take it to her four-year old niece's birthday party. Well, Becky wants to make "clown brain tea." The theme of the story, for me, has nothing to do with clowns but has to do with being a parent. Mae has no children, her sister, Jill, has one. Mae is trying to retain all parts of herself while her sister has, perhaps, lost some part of herself and the clown incident illustrates it to Mae but doesn't solve anything. Isn't that so much of life. Something can be illustrated or finally understood but there's no fixing it.
"I think it's more likely something important that made Jill Jill was killed by this mom-part in the process of giving birth, and at some point in her life when she least expects it, she'll realize what part that was and finally ask herself if it was worth it."
"Clown Brain Tea" is the opening story and the prize winner in the 2017 Mississippi Review.
Link to an interview with Sarah Hulyk Maxwell at NANO Fiction