Things a boy does to make people laugh only serve to appease himself and cope with grief.
Do you understand me? You there with the ‘no comprende’ look.
(Aside) How do I relate to this crowd? I lift up the veil, peel off the mask, lower my shield and look... *Whap!*
I think I’ll just lay here and talk...
I'm a comedian, a prankster. People say just looking at me makes them laugh. I just...look...at them, and they...laugh. And I look at them some more, and they're in hysterics. And then I start to smile and they sober up. It's not easy understanding my own hilarity.
My sister always said I was a clown. I would say, "Like this?" standing on my hands to let her borrowed plaid skirt fall upside down over my face. She would giggle at my red wagon print boxer shorts. I sneeze from behind my veil and the skirt blows away from my hidden face. She nearly busts a gut. I fall over backwards to finish the routine and stand up with an anxious look on my face. Her head is like a volcano top, ready to blow with laughing lava. I would win her appreciation the only way I knew how.
My Mom never stops laughing at me. "Do that again. That thing that you did yesterday. You know," she would say, flapping her wrist in a downward motion that showed off her gaudy jewelry and elongated fingernails. "Show your Uncle Herman."
"Uh-oh, okay," my dumb expression already kicking in. I take off my shirt and put it on backwards, then wiggle out of my summer shorts to turn around and reveal my hokey, squirrels-munching-nuts boxers. Uncle Herman never laughed harder. Then I reversed my hat. Eyes serious, I turn on my most confused look, "The lost boy who didn't know if he was coming or going."
It was a ‘gasser’ Uncle Herman snorted. I could see the redness of the bulging veins in his neck, making me think he was about to have a coronary. Made me think of assembling a team of clowns in a tiny ambulance to hop out and put him on a stretcher to haul his laughing carcass away.
No one fell to the ground that time, but I nearly did when I tried to walk with my shoes on backwards.
I love the big top. I think I mentioned that. Anyway, I imagine myself falling down after my suspenders break, letting my pants fall, giving the crowd a glimpse of my tiger-striped (you guessed it) boxer shorts. Then, I get squashed by the tremendous forefoot of an elephant.
I could wear clown make-up and try to look as sad as my Dad did. I would sing "Figaro" or "Oh, My Papa" as deeply and sweetly as he did when he released that hum in his fat throat at full pitch. Everyone laughed. ‘Some tenor!’ He was ‘such a cut up’ they would say. He would give them a timid, sad look and they chuckled some more. What a clever device! I would look at him and think of him as all of Shakespeare's fools, only not nearly as wise. Simply humble -- a natural.
Dad and I never went to the circus together. I would stay in my room for hours on end playing rebellious, heavy metal rock at ear deafening tones while he tended to the garden like a peasant. He never laughs at any of my pranks -- not even the time when I was 13. It seems like only yesterday. How long has it been? Twice those years?
I remember, I ran up to him and hit him right on the big ol' butt with a super fat, plastic baseball bat. He turned. His eyes were red, sorrowful, yet angry. My eyes let him in. My heart shook. I knew I was one of those revolving planets that mocked his empty world. He grabbed the bat and struck me so hard it sent me clear out of the solar system. I said good-bye to the stars and plummeted to the earth and heard a loud thud.
Just about the same time, my 16-year-old sister had grabbed me by the seat of my pants -- scared the life out of me when she picked me up off the ground. "Put me down!" I said, struggling. And she just laughed. "I've had just about enough!" My BVD's dug deep into the crack of my butt, but I wasn't about to tell her. "LET -- GO -- OF -- ME!"
"Okay!" and I fell to the ground. She said she saw stars floating around my head like they do in "Looney Tunes." I spit on the ground and got up cussing. I saw a reflection in her eyes that let me see my real face for the first time. I could say anything I wanted and get respect. I stared at her, and she asked me if I was nuts. I wanted to moon her, but I knew I would draw the wrong reaction. I did it anyway and got a mixed reaction. I heard a groan, a sigh, her throat clearing before she adjusted, righted herself and walked away.
A few days later, everything was back to normal -- good-humored again. I found my Dad in the garden, in a better mood. Then, I amazed my cousins from New York with my acrobatics. With my huge, ultra-pink Hawaiian swim trunks pulled up over my belly, I flopped from the top of the slide into a water hole that I had dug and filled with the garden hose. I could have gotten into trouble for that one. But I figured everyone at the gathering needed a little cheering up.
I could see my father, the melancholiac, amiably looking on at my mother's feigned scolding. He gave me a confused look, as I noticed everyone else holding their sides after my sister peaked my muddy hair into a pyramid.
"Do an Egyptian dance!" The Egyptian dance was a riot. I had my sister and Uncle Herman doing it. But my eyes were focused on the ghostly-looking man. With a towel draped about my shivering shoulders like a shroud, I wondered what to do. I felt as though I was failing him. No one seemed to notice as he picked up a hoe and headed to the backyard. I didn't draw on the clue then.
My high school classmates had also enjoyed my creative antics and took me all over town, bought me beer and got me to do crazy things. They laughed just as hard when I puked my guts out. And the days at the frat house will live forever in my mind. I told them goats and sheep were out, that big cattle was in. How I ever got that steer into the Teke's dorm was beyond them. Someone suggested I had greased the door. Someone else thought I used a giant pulley to hoist it up to the upper balcony. Little do they know it never happened. I had learned how urban legends get started.
I still buy gag gifts for my friends, because that's what they expect. If I tear the seam of my pants at a get together, I have to show everybody or I can't leave the room. I've gained some weight -- from the beer I suppose. I have never had a girlfriend but a lot of come-ons. Evening always rolls around and everyone is going home together, and I want them to stick around for just one last gag. Then I took out the gas can and dumped the fluid all over my body. "Watch this," I would say pulling out a lighter. Everyone screamed. The guys tackled me to the ground and slide off.
"It's vegetable oil!" I got my last laugh and we all go home. I’m walking in the other direction watching them smiling, waving, holding their guts, "That Chuck!" The girls...not so much. I see their pained expressions and realize my loneliness once more.
So I returned to the old homestead that night...about a week ago now. I stared at the posters that haunt my room. I’m 26 years into my life, wondering if the faces will ever change. Reclined, I close my eyes and dream of my Father in heaven, tending to wheat fields with a sickle, singing low and gentle. I don't know whether to laugh or be afraid. He doesn't even look at me. I wonder if he knows me still? He gets closer every night with each sweeping motion reaping what he sowed. And that’s when I yelled, "Uproot me!"
My shout trembled in my body, waking the whole house. The light went on and my Mother appeared in the doorway, head tilted, giving me her best maternal look. I sighed and rolled over. She turned out the light and said 'good night.' The next morning she was on the phone and now I'm here with you.
I'm trapped, envying death, the ultimate trick in one man's lonely life.