This week, we present the thrid story in the trilogy of macabre tales by guest writist, Zelda McLeich
There’s them that scoff at the oft-repeated claim that a woman looks for a sense of humour in a man, but Marilyn Monroe said if you can make a woman laugh, you can make her do anything. And you’d think she should know.
Some refine it a little: Alfie (the Michael Caine version, not the awful Jude Law one) tells the viewer that it only works for married women: make one laugh, and you’re half way there with her. It don’t work on the single bird. It’d start you off on the wrong foot. You get one of them laughing, you won’t get nothing else.
And others just point out that if you see an attractive woman walk into a bar where Robert De Niro and Ken Dodd are sitting (bring this up to date with your own favourite moody hunk and gargoyle funnyman), which one do you really think she’ll go home with, however much the other has been cracking her up in the meantime?
At the end of the day, we can only speak from our own experience. My Dan was no great looker, but he didn’t have a face that could turn milk or anything. And no, I wasn’t spoilt for choice in them days, neither. But his wacky sense of humour really did win me over pretty quick. You ever seen that Italian film, Life is Beautiful? The early bit, before it gets all concentration-campy? Where that guy woos the girl with crazy stunts, shouting Buongiorno, Principessa, whenever he bumps into her? Well, it was like that. I’m sure he’d even set up half the meetings: maybe he’d even waited for ages, hoping I’d appear so he could leap out of a wheelie bin, clutching a single rose.
Even then, come to think of it, I got pretty tense, wondering where he’d appear next, and bloody near pissed my panties a few times too, not just with laughing. Of course that means he has to present me with a gift-wrapped packet of Tena Lady pads for Valentines, the daft sod.
Somebody said I’d laugh at him just reading the phone book. And so, next time we meet he brings along a phone book and starts reading it to me, all solemn like. The confusion of the other coffee drinkers only made it funnier — at the time.
Trouble is, a sense of humour don’t always come with a sense of responsibility. He used to tell me there was this clown school, some place Ali G went to, which teaches you to stop self-censoring and to hand over control to your inner idiot. That’s all well and good, but not for someone who lacks an inner sensible person. I should have encouraged him to go; maybe for him it might have taught some self-restraint!
I mean, for example, it rarely worked at all, but I did once have to drag a blind person back from walking under a bus, when Dan whistled like the bloody crossing signal. And his brother stopped talking to him for months after he lent him a carry-on case for that foreign holiday — which he never got to, thanks to the metal plate stitched into the lining — shaped like a bloody handgun.
The progress of love, eh? Things you enjoy become things that annoy and finally things you endure. I can’t recall if I really believed having kids would bring a sense of parental responsibility, but I was a prize pranny if I did. It felt like half my time was spent trying to counter his influence and the rest trying to avoid a disaster. Not always succeeding, either. And that incessant refrain of where’s yer sense of humour gone?
I thought I’d nipped the ‘fake granny’ project in the bud and got him to destroy the dummy, but no. Not only had they hidden it from me but they’d ‘souped it up’ with fake blood sacs in the neck area. Apparently the effect when the little darlings stabbed it had been ‘super cool’. But — and you would probably think this was totally predictable and cause for thought — the drivers following them down the M1 were not amused or even simply shocked, but had whipped out their mobiles and called the bloody coppers too.
What he did to my real Mum was the final straw. You can’t deny the effort he put into some things; that’s no defence, but he had got her handwriting spot on, and bought some post-it notes like she used. I suppose the elephant shape added to the joke for him. But when she got up and found the notes ‘she’d’ put out to ‘remind herself’ she’d been diagnosed with dementia, she was really distressed. She’d even thought of ending it all; thank heaven she rang me to talk about it.
And that’s when I snapped. I’d told him so often somebody was going to die of his jokes one of these days. And that’s what gave me the idea.
It was hard to think of any gag he hadn’t pulled himself. Then it occurred to me that he prided himself on avoiding the obvious, the clichéd, so I wondered if I should start there. In the movies, Hitchcock’s old bomb under the bed sets you up for tragedy, while the banana skin signals a coming pratfall. And boy how the thought of that prat falling cheered me up. But what if the ‘bomb’ just sprays confetti everywhere and the fruit-based fall is fatal?
One great thing about unpredictable people is how predictable they can be. I was still a bit worried, as I dropped the kids round at their Gran’s and came back to arrange everything, but I had no real doubts about how he’d come in, given the right encouragement.
I was quite proud of my practical and joinery skills too. Doing my share of the diy down the years had certainly paid off. So I gave myself plenty of time to get into costume and even relax with a glass of chilled pinot grigio before positioning myself on the bedroom balcony, just as his car came up the drive.
Sure enough the bedroom light shining through the twilight gloom drew his attention, and seeing me standing there sure held it. Perhaps the new, diaphanous nightie with the plunging neckline had something to do with that, or maybe it was that I was also ostentatiously combing an unfeasibly long, plaited flaxen wig.
“What’s all this, then?” he called up as he got out the car.
“I’ve decided you’re right — I should be more fun. So the kids are round at Mum’s for the night, and I’ve got a surprise or two for you up here.”
“Oh, have you really?” His voice betrayed a rapidly growing interest and anticipation, so I slipped into character.
“Indeed. And, oh, kind Sir knight, I am trapped here in this tower, by a wicked witch.”
As expected, he got the idea pretty quick.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair, that I may climb up to you,” he called, softly.
“I thought you’d never ask, my kind, dear Prince!”
And I looped the blonde rope around the handrail for support and lowered the rest of it down to him.
You can’t say he hadn’t kept himself in good shape. He was up the rope, on the balcony, through the French window and out of most of his kit before you could say ‘Rumplestiltskin’ (though why you’d want to say that is beyond me).
“Where’s this surprise, then? — What the f…?!”
He’d turned around as I slid the window closed with one hand, to see the gun I was pointing at him in the other.
“Sorry, but I’ve had enough of your stupid jokes, buster,” I said in totally unfaked anger. “I said someone would get killed one day. Well, I’m afraid the last laugh is on you.”
For a delightful moment, he looked genuinely shitless, but then a look of relief spread across his face, followed by a broad smile.
“Life of Brian, yeah? Always Look on the Bright Side. I know a fake gun when I see one, you’re talking to an expert. Does the bang flag come out now? — No, come to look closer, it could be a very upscale water pistol. Oh, go on, then, squirt me, squirt me!”
“Oh, I will, Sweetie,” I replied with glee, the true reason for which he completely missed. “But it’s not exactly water.”
With that, I directed a steaming stream at his bare torso.
“What the fuck’s this?! That’s not funny! It stings — it burns! You stupid cow, what is it?”
I didn’t tell him. I didn’t help matters by shrieking It burns! It burns! in my best Exorcist voice, as he dashed for the door, heading for the bathroom, turning the air blue with agonised expletives and acrid smoke.
As he pushed the bedroom door open, those cries were soon muffled by the plastic bucket full of gunge that fell onto his head. I find it sad that he failed to appreciate the comic figure that he made as he pirouetted along the landing, pulling the bucket from his head and trying to wipe sticky gloop from his face at the same time as beating frantically at his singed chest.
By the time he reached the head of the stairs and turned towards the bathroom door, he’d just about got his mouth clear enough to resume shouting that this joke wasn’t funny — and his eyes clear enough to see the plank with the custard pie on it, as it swung down and smacked him full in the face. And that meant he didn’t see the skateboard. Nonetheless he stood squarely on it, with perfect comic timing, causing him to tumble down the stairs with Chaplinesque elegance — right into the middle of the well-filled paddling pool.
And, for what you might call the coup de grâce (if your husband didn’t insist it meant ‘mow the lawn’), his impact caused the precariously balanced figurine of a Victorian bather to teeter deliciously on its shelf, before toppling off and into the water. Well, a man who’d paid such attention to detail deserved only the best, and I thought the extra effort it took to find a large version of the diver from the old Mouse Trap board game was perfectly justified.
Of course, poor Dan was in no state to appreciate the detail, or much else really, as the diver’s main function was to convey the loose ends of electrical cable into the water, and put my poor husband out of my misery.
Oh, the look on his face. I’d have asked where his ruddy sense of humour had gone, only there’s no point asking questions of the dead.