Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
NO LAUGHING MATTER
soon as the front door closed, my wife turned and glared at me. “Now
look what you’ve done!” she said. “Can’t you ever be
know I can’t help it, honey,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
really am sorry. I didn’t want to laugh while Mrs. McGillicuddy stood at
our front door and insisted on knowing what we planned to do about our dog
Elvis, who had once again deposited a steaming, fetid token of
appreciation in her flower garden. I was genuinely surprised to hear
myself blurt out, “Don’t worry Mrs. Mac, we won’t charge you too
much for the delivery of fertilizer!” This set me off on a giggling fit,
which only increased when Mrs. Mac stormed away in a huff.
I really can’t help it. I’m afflicted with I.H.D.—Inappropriate
Humor Disorder—which causes me to focus on the strange and comical
aspects of somber situations. Doctors finally diagnosed my condition after
the infamous Uncle Edgar episode a few years ago.
the hushed silence of the green velvet room of the Bertrand K. Farnsworth
Funeral Home, as my dear old uncle Edgar lay in state, I was overcome by
an uncontrollable laughing attack. I just couldn’t help it. Uncle Edgar
had some very passionate beliefs, many of which had been thoroughly
defiled by Mr. Farnsworth’s handiwork. Edgar was very proud of the fact
he had gone countless years since last combing his hair, shaving on a
regular basis, or wearing a suit and tie.
as he was about to face the great beyond, Uncle Edgar looked like a
10-year-old schoolboy all spit and polished for his first communion. There
was even a string of Rosary beads in his hands, instead of the usual
fixture, a long-necked bottle of Budweiser.
was a little stunned by the sight of Uncle Edgar, but fairly composed as I
knelt before the casket to say a quick prayer. Then my mind started to
wander and I began to imagine Edgar’s ghost hovering above the room,
wearing his usual gray T-shirt, soiled khakis (from working in the
garden), mismatched sneakers, and favorite straw hat. I could see him
looking down and speaking to my aunt in his unique, exasperated tone,
“Ethel! Why in the world did you let that man spiff me up like this?
Goodness sakes, I feel like a danged fool!”
I looked over and made eye contact with Aunt Ethel, who was quietly
chatting with Aunt Prunella a few feet away, a wave of giggles suddenly
welled up from deep within my chest.
“Ethel!” I could hear in my head, “Where’n the Sam Hill
didja get this pinstripe monkey suit, anyway?!” I closed my eyes and
strained every muscle in my upper body to keep from bursting into a full
laugh. The voice of Uncle Edgar continued in my head, “Ethel! You know I
hate to get dressed up!” When my body started to quiver, I clamped my
hand tightly over my mouth.
then, Aunt Ethel came over and put her arms around my heaving shoulders.
“I never knew he meant so much to you, dear,” she whispered. “Please
exploded. The shock waves of my guffaw sent Aunt Ethel reeling backward
into Aunt Prunella, causing them both to tumble to the floor, and also
scattered Uncle Edgar’s meticulously combed hair in all directions.
I’m sure he would have been pleased.
my wife grabbed my elbow and hustled me out of the room—still cackling
uncontrollably—as all my relatives stared in frightened silence.
after that, my condition was diagnosed and I began emergency treatments,
which consisted primarily of watching tapes of C-Span for hours on end, in
an effort to convince the subconscious part of my mind that there really
are certain things in this world completely devoid of humor. The
treatments have helped, but every once in a while, as Mrs. McGillicuddy
can now attest, I have a relapse.
as my wife stormed away from the front door and headed into the den, I
quickly followed, apologizing profusely. “It was an accident, honey,”
I pleaded. “One unfortunate slip-up. Please don’t be angry.”
took a seat at the desk and looked out the window. I could tell she was
distraught. I had to convince her this was an isolated incident.
“Honey,” I said in my most sincere voice, “I swear this will never
you really mean it?” she said, turning toward me.
reply, I slowly nodded my head, careful not to dislodge the pair of Number
2 pencils gently dangling from my nostrils.
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