The Last Laugh
(Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood)
Hi, my name is Hymie Ludicrus and feel free to laugh. I love laughter directed at me.
At parties, people would break up when I gave them my name. What’s in a name, right? Laughter. Those party folks gave impetus to my being as funny as I possibly could. The ‘life of the party’, that was me (or, ‘I’, if you want me to show I know a bit about grammar). I didn’t leave the party with a girl – I had this crazy looking nose: it went down so far, then dipped and went further down almost to my upper lip…made eating and drinking some interesting experiences, particularly at a classy joint.
I remember as a kid, I didn’t get a lot of laughs with my name because the other kids didn’t have the vocabulary to connect my last name. Of course, my first name ‘Hymie’ would get a laugh now and then. Hey, it’s true, some people have very strange names one can use for comedy.
One kid on the varsity football team had the last name, Chitwood. I played with that name in my mind for quite a while until I came up with something. Chitwood was a pal so I knew he wouldn’t deck me or anything – probably, just laugh along with me and our other buddies.
So, our little group came out of Assembly one morning, walking to our next class, and I say to Chitwood: I’ve got you figured out, Chitwood. He says with a smile: Okay, wise guy, how am I figured? I make sure the group is tuned in to what’s being said, so I say: Is it true, Chitwood, that you eat sawdust and shit 2x4’s?
All in the group laughed, but Chitwood chased me all the way to my next class…which just happened to be English. I wondered if our attractive old maid English teacher would enjoy the question I asked of Chitwood.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before the entire football team was razzing my buddy, Chitwood, with my little mind quip. (Incidentally, you folks reading this, sorry for using the word, ‘shit’, but ‘crap’ just didn’t have the alliteration I needed…)
Well, let the record show I tried to become a real-life comic, worked on routines days and nights and finally got my shot at the Scottsdale Comedy Club. There was not a time in my life when I was so excited, and those ‘butterflies’ were giving me fits long before my Saturday night ‘gig’ – I was so proud I could now use a word (‘gig’) other comics, singers, and groups used.
My entry on stage I worked on relentlessly before the big night came. With a large crowd in the audience, I heard my name booming from the microphone. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, brushed the backstage curtain aside, and walked on stage. People were cheering and applauding though they didn’t even know me.
Halfway toward the mike, in full view of the audience, I stumbled and fell (the routine I had worked on). The crowd was mixed with ‘oohs’ and laughter. When I got back on my feet, I gave them my grimaces, my head jerks, my crazy gyrations – all of which I worked on for weeks. When I grabbed the mike, I said: Is there a doctor in the house? A very pretty lady will work fine, as long as I can see her credentials… Only modest, likely, courteous laughter.
That entrance was to break my opening jitters and loosen up the crowd, and, to some degree, it did. My Shtick went over very well, got some good laughs, even used my crooked nose and a girlfriend I didn’t have in many of my routines,
Management invited me back. I started making a few bucks, hired an agent, Gail Pepper, fell in love with her, and, oddly, she with me. Her nose was a bit like mine, only smaller…kissing was a bit of a chore. (Laugh cue card, please!)
I started every comedy performance with the same joke – mostly for the new people in the crowd, but the ‘regulars’ loved it and roared every time I told it. It became my ‘signature routine’, with all the gyrations and facial expressions…
Two good friends are playing golf at their beautiful country club course. Both players are ‘scratch golfers’ and play the first six holes with no one in front of them. Both guys hit booming drives down the middle on the long par five 560-yard seventh hole. When they approach their second shots, they see a couple of women ahead of them some two hundred yards. The women are chopping up the fairway grass, hitting their balls maybe five or ten yards with each swing, unmindful of the players behind them. The guys are really getting fed up with the waiting… Finally, one of the guys tell his buddy, ‘Hey, I’m going to run up there and tell them to let us play through’. So, the guy runs up the fairway, gets within twenty yards of the women, stops, and runs back to his playing partner. ‘Wow’! the guy says, ‘I almost made a terrible mistake: one of those women is my wife, and the other is my mistress’… So, the other guy says, ‘Hell, I’ll run up and tell them to let us play through’. The other guy runs up the fairway and gets within twenty yards of the women, stops, and runs back down the fairway to his playing partner. ‘My God! Freddy, small world, isn’t it’? (Laugh cue card, please!)
The small world was my ‘oyster’ for many years. Gail and I bought our dream home. We had a son (Brooks) and a daughter (Belinda). We doted on them. Thank God! they both had their mother’s smaller nose, and, with no hooks. Our life was full. Gail and I bought and ran our own comedy house. We featured some top comedians and made lots of money.
I still did my gigs but somewhere along the way lost the sharp edges to my routines. At what would become my last performance, ironically enough, at the Scottsdale Comedy Club, it was not my finest hour.
My Shtick was stuck in neutral most of the night, but the crowd loved me: they even brought me presents – I just don’t know where the hell they got them. In fact, they threw them at me, big lush juicy tomatoes…just their way of showing they loved me!
As a closing routine, I stumbled and fell going off the stage and got the longest, loudest laugh of the night.
It turned out I got the last laugh.
Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – June 20, 2017
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Howling at the Moon
My howl grows weaker as the Summers come and go,
And the Winter’s bitter gales bring harsh realities to my world.
My aging body grows weary in its long seasonal quest to know,
To find in my meandering search the truth unfurled.
Yet, some abiding glimmer of Faith bids me journey on
As I see the eager and the young give rise to the next tomorrow,
To kindle old desires, awaken my mind to a new kinder dawn,
Tease me with truths-bearing wisdom I might better know.
Then, as years speed by steadily, and my steps limp along,
The world seems more precariously out of its orbital sync
As though some treacherous fate on wicked winds so strong
Comes to claim its ownership of an orb no longer able to think.
Poem by Billy Ray Chitwood – June 12, 2017
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“You’re a filthy beast!” she spoke as tears fell down her cheeks.
“And, what kind of beast, would you say?” his face squinted in a soft strange sadness.
The woman did not understand the expression, read it as a ‘mocking’ of the situation. She appeared cautiously in conflict with her emotions. She spoke again.
“Oh, go ahead with your ugly passion, Willard. I can’t stop you, but you can know this: I’ve never hated you more than at this moment.”
Willard stopped mid-stride and stared at the woman in the wheelchair, his brow wrinkled, his tired face showing an anguish she could not comprehend. His steps were measured and slow as he neared the wheelchair. The woman quavered and showed a fear she sought to hide. She hunched as much as she was physically able, and spoke:
“Please Willard, don’t slap me again, and don’t do the other thing…please! If I ever meant anything to you, please, please, don’t go in there tonight!”
For some terrible seconds, Willard stopped, stood erect, and appeared to consider what the woman was saying. With reticence, he looked wearily into her sad eyes before responding.
“It was you, Bella!” He spoke in a soft voice with a hint of some sort of pity. “You put yourself in that wheelchair when you tried to kill me. You do remember that night, don’t you, Bella?”
“I didn’t try to kill you, Willard. I only wanted to keep you away from Marcie, just trying to scare you, that’s all. I could never kill anyone. Marcie did something bad that one night, and you’ve been making her pay for it ever since. For pity’s sake, she’s only fourteen years old. You said you loved her as your own. What you’re doing is criminal and sinful.”
“You rushed me. I dodged. You went flying into the coffee table and damaged your back. I’ve gone all these weeks caring for you, Bella, while Marcie kept flaunting her blossoming body at me, smiling and inviting. You never saw any of that, Bella. Yes, it’s criminal and sinful, what you’re thinking, and I’m also a man who has needs – needs you can’t satisfy until you mend.”
“Can you so easily justify your actions against our daughter, Willard?”
“Our adopted daughter, Bella, fourteen years, going on twenty-four. I’m justifying nothing! You believe what she tells you. You don’t see her coming on to me every night. She’s insatiable in her own sexual needs, a nymphet right out of a Nabakov novel. She must be. I avoid her. I tell her it is all wrong, both legally and morally what she wants from me. That doesn’t stop her from coming to my bed each night. I never harbored a sexual need for her. It never entered my mind and still does not. You remember that night when she came out to the den in only her panties and bra. You went to bed. I was drinking and half-drunk. She tried to seduce me with her eyes, with her swinging hips, with her sitting on my lap and tormenting me with her moves.
“You came out and saw it all, Bella, and knew that it must be my fault, not Marcie’s fault, the little girl we brought home when she was six years old. You didn’t notice me trying to disengage from her that night, struggling to get her off my lap. Whether she learned about sex from her many ‘night-stay-overs’ with ‘school friends’, or, watched porno movies, she tried to seduce me with her knowledge of every move in the sexual manual. She showed me filthy pictures to seduce me. She…”
“Stop, Willard! Please, stop! I Can’t listen to your vile comments any longer.” Bella started to move her wheelchair toward her bedroom, but he stopped her.
“Just one last thing, Bella, and you can go to bed… I will say no more after these last comments. Please, hear me out.”
Bella looked down at her hands, intertwined on her lap and remained silent.
“Yes, I slapped you a few times, not hard, just enough to stop your rants about Marcie and me. You would never let me tell you what I’m saying tonight, and I’m sure you will never believe me. I’ve tried to tell you before tonight but you always get so angry – and that gets me angry, and I don’t tell you. That changes tonight…
“I have never had sex with Marcie, Bella…not that night you saw her on my lap in her panties, not any night. Yes, she comes to my room, and, in my anger, I sometimes slap her, warn her about losing her home, having her put in some squalid detention center, and come short from really strapping her, finally getting her back to her own room.
“What you saw weeks ago is all that happened, Bella. I repeat, I have never had sex with Marcie. AND, it would not have happened when you saw her on my lap. Yes, I had liquor working in my system, but I would never lose sight of my moral integrity altogether.
“I don’t know what Marcie is telling you, what kind of lurid tales she is spinning, but this I do know. She is an evil young lady, and I have spent all the time I care to spend on trying to straighten her out, talking to her in matter of fact terms, paternally and with caring feelings. AND, you need to know that, today, late this afternoon, after using up all my clear thinking in trying to save Marcie, I visited state officials and alerted them that the situation was no better than when I first reported it to them weeks ago. Yes, I reported Marcie to state officials and followed up on several occasions to keep them informed.
“They will be picking her up tomorrow morning. The officials are my friends, Bella, and they believe what I’ve told them. They believe me because what I’ve told them is true…they even did background checks on her former life before us, on her sinister parents.”
“My God, Willard! She’s our daughter.”
“Bella, do you not believe the words I’m telling you? Marcie is evil! I’ve tried to save her! Can’t you see that? She is telling you unsavory lies, working against us. She cannot stay any longer in this house. I truly can say, I’ve done all I can do… She now belongs to the state.
“I know this is difficult for you, but you have not seen Marcie as I’ve seen her. You have been wheelchair-bound, unable to lend your maternal counsel to her. You must know I would not lie to you about this. You know how I’ve loved you over the years…that has not changed. I still love you and long for the day you’re out of that wheelchair. Marcie is a victim of her previous parents, a ‘bad seed’, and I’ve come to know she cannot be here any longer. She is trying to hurt us, Bella. PLEASE! Understand that.”
Tears rushed down Bella’s face, and she could see the tears on Willard’s face as well.
With some effort, she reached a hand upward to her husband. Willard caressed the hand, kissed it, held it against his cheek for some seconds, and smiled gently down at his wife.
“Now, you must go to bed and get your rest…”
Bella tried to speak, to give one last attempt at saving Marcie, but she knew, now, without any doubt, that Willard had spoken the truth to her. Her voice rendered incapable of speech by the tears, she sighed deeply, slowly shook her head as Willard wheeled his distraught wife to the bedroom.
Willard pulled the bed cover up to her chin, and, as he took a sleep capsule from a pill bottle on the bedside table, he spoke gently and with love.
“Take the pill, dear Bella. You need aid to get you to sleep and away from the thoughts. Take also my love and know that, tomorrow begins the first day of the rest of our lives. All our days will be happy and good after this darkness leaves us.”
Bella took the sleeping pill, wiped her eyes with a soft tissue and allowed Willard a kiss goodnight.
When three state officials arrived the next morning, no one answered their front door ring.
Concerned because the dire circumstance of their visit, they jimmied the door and entered.
An odd odor greeted them, along with splattered blood on the tiled floors and walls of the master bedroom.
A portion of the big king-sized bed was covered with the blood of Bella, half-covered on the bed, her face oddly peaceful as though still sleeping.
Stretched across Bella’s lower body was Willard, his own blood oozing out of the multiple stab wounds to his now mutilated pajama top.
The officials searched the other rooms of the house but could not find Marcie.
“Oh, my God!” cried the lone lady in the group. “It must be obvious that Marcie murdered her adoptive parents. We need to alert the Sheriff’s office and the State Police.”
Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – June 7, 2017
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