Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
DON’T SAY IT AGAIN, SAM
Marge Dweebler enters the living room and says to her husband, “Vern, are you watching that stupid video again?” Vern does not answer. Marge looks at him closely and stops short. “A bow tie? A white dinner jacket? You’ve got to be kidding me!” She notices his hair is slicked back and he’s chain-smoking unfiltered Camels. “Vern, when did you start smoking?”
“That’s so long ago I don’t remember,” he replies without looking at her.
“Are you going to come to bed tonight?” she asks.
“I never make plans that far ahead,” Vern mutters, his gaze remaining fixed on the black and white images on the TV screen.
“Vern, please!” she says. “You’ve watched that tape a hundred times. All you ever do is sit there like a zombie and recite lines from the movie. Oooh! I curse the day you bought that stupid video!”
an easy day to forget,” Vern says. “I remember every detail. The
Germans wore gray, you wore blue.”
it!” Marge yells. “Oh, Vern, you’re driving me crazy. Don’t you
care about me?”
“Well, if I gave you any thought, I probably would,” he says.
“That’s it! I’m leaving! I’m packing my bags and taking the kids, and we’re going to my mother’s house!”
Vern looks up at her and says, “Tell me, who was it you left me for? Was it Laszlo, or were there others in between, or aren’t you the kind that tells?”
With that, Marge screams and stomps out of the room.
The next morning, Vern arrives at the office and sits down at his desk. His boss walks in and says, “Dweebler, we need to talk. We’ve got a little problem—” He stops in mid-sentence and stares at Vern. “A trench coat? A fedora? Vern, this has gone far enough. People are starting to talk. I hate office politics as much as the next guy, but—”
not interested in politics,” Vern says. “The problems of the world are
not in my department. I’m a saloon-keeper.”
“No, you’re not,” his boss says. “You’re a district sales manager. And your little fantasy world is hurting business. I want to know what you plan to do about it.”
want my advice?” Vern asks. “Go back to Bulgaria.”
Come on, pal,” the boss pleads. “This has become a real problem.”
“Yes, well, everybody in Casablanca has problems,” Vern says. “Yours may work out. If you’ll excuse me.” With that, he get up from the desk and begins to walk away.
“That’s it! I’ve had enough,” the boss yells. “I’m calling Security! You’re finished, Dweebler!”
Suddenly, Vern pulls a pistol from the pocket of his trench coat. “Not so fast, Louis,” he says. “Nobody’s going to be arrested—not for a while yet.”
“Whoa, whoa, hold on, Vern,” the boss says. “Don’t do anything rash.”
I wouldn’t like to shoot you,” Vern says, “but I will if you take
one more step.”
we can work this out,” the boss says, his voice trembling. “I know
some doctors who can help you. How about I call them? They’ll come over
and talk to you.”
answers, “You call the airport, and let me hear you tell them. And
remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.”
yeah. OK, Vern, I’ll make the call,” the boss says as he fumbles with
Within five minutes, police detectives, SWAT team snipers, doctors from the State Hospital, and Marge Dweebler arrive at the office building. They cautiously approach Vern’s office. Marge begins to weep when she sees him. “Oh, Vern!” she sobs.
“Oh, it’s ‘Richard’ again,” Vern says sarcastically, turning toward Marge. “We’re back in Paris. Your unexpected visit isn’t connected by any chance with the letters of transit? Seems as long as I have those letters I’ll never be lonely.”
A SWAT team sniper whispers, “I’ve got a clear shot. Should I take him out?”
One of the doctors, a movie buff himself, sizes up the situation and says, “No, wait. I’ve got an idea.” He slowly walks toward Vern and says, “It might be a good idea for you to disappear from Casablanca for a while. There’s a Free French garrison over at Brazzaville. I could be induced to arrange a passage.”
looks at him with surprise and says, “My letter of transit? I could use
a trip. And it doesn’t make any difference about our bet. You still owe
me 10,000 francs.”
that 10,000 francs should pay our expenses,” the doctor replies.
“OUR expenses?” Vern says.
“Mmm, hmm,” the doctor nods with a smile. Then the doctor nonchalantly reaches up and sticks Vern in the arm with a hypodermic needle filled with a sedative.
Vern’s eyes slowly glaze over and a crooked smile spreads across his face. As the doctor gently guides him down the hall and toward the elevator, a dark, misty fog rolls in and envelops the black and white world of Vern Dweebler. He turns to the doctor and says, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
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