"He walked away, and the clown followed.
Walked away again. And this time the clown in front of a Florida mall toy store not only circled to face the 24-year-old Air Force senior airman, but he also laughed and grabbed Larry Ambrose's left arm.
"So I did the only thing I knew to do - I dropped him," Ambrose says.
A fist to the forehead.
"Little kids were crying. I had to get out of there before the police came ... I guess the guy was just trying to have some fun with somebody he could tell was scared of clowns," says Ambrose, now 47 and a Jackson resident. "But I don't like them. Never have, never will. To me, they're hiding themselves from the world."
Ambrose suffers from coulrophobia - an excessive fear of clowns. "And it's real," he says.
Unlike hundreds of others, Ambrose will not attend the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that is appearing at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson through Sunday. He likes the elephants and the tigers and the showmanship of the circus - but not enough to endure being in the same building with the show's clowns.
"My wife and I went to the see a Cirque du Soleil show on the Coast one time," he says. "I was fine until the mime came out and had his face painted up ... a $48 ticket down the drain. I was out the door."
Ambrose won't even eat at McDonald's. "Don't care for Ronald," he says, referring to the hamburger chain's signature clown mascot.
And he is quick to mention John Wayne Gacy, a 1970s serial killer who dressed like a clown."