Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fiction exerpt: The Last Laugh

Stitch earned his nickname as a boy because he had a knack for making people laugh. Later, after a divorce, he went bankrupt, and those who knew him expected that he would lose his zest for life. But he hasn’t, and still jokes about everything.

His current favorite theme is marriage and money. At a party thrown by his friends in honor of his father, Stitch says: “There are two kinds of people, those who marry for money and those who divorce for money! … Oh! That still makes only one kind of people!”

“I’ll marry you for money,” Kate says, “who’s got a buck?”

Kate is just back from Australia. When she introduces herself, everyone thinks her name is ‘Kite.’

Andy is Stitch’s neighbor. He asks him: “How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“How do you do it? Laugh everything away.”

“Oh! That!”

Stitch remains silent a moment. It’s not that he is prone to introspection, or that he wants to find a profoundly funny response. It’s just that the expression Andy used ‘laugh everything away’ is the exact expression his father used sarcastically when he was a kid and his father wanted him to be serious. Stitch never really laughed that out. He pretended, when he was a kid. He poked his dad about it. He would say: “Dad, why do you have to take everything so seriously?” But there’s no more pretending. Not anymore, because his Dad just passed away. He called Stitch to his deathbed last week. The first thing he told him was: “Son, I knew you would never amount to anything. Divorced and bankrupt, you’re a disgrace to the family. I fault myself for it. I should have never let you get away with laughing everything away like you did.”

“As I recall, Dad, you pounded on me almost daily with your comments about needing to be more serious. What else could you have done?”

“I could have sent you to a boarding school. I could have sent you to the army. Living is a serious business … if you want to succeed at anything. But, obviously, you don’t.”

There was a fierce look on his face.

“You know why I made jokes of everything, Dad?” Stitch asked him rhetorically. “It’s because I never saw you laugh. When I was a kid, my greatest wish was to see you laugh. Why don’t you ever laugh, Dad?”

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)