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Writing prompt #195

Write a story about someone having a lightbulb moment of writing inspiration.

Funny No More    by clcronan 2020

I took his picture. I made sure the banana peel was in the shot. Then I sat down on the curb and waited.

He’s been my best friend for the past 20 years and I knew without him to banter with I’d be lost but I guess I finally had my story. A mostly funny story, that ends badly.

Somewhere in our 20s we met at the pub. We were on opposite sides in a fisticuffs that landed us both outside sittin’ on the curb nursin’ our bloody lips and comparing our black eyes. It didn’t take long to figure out we were cut from the same cloth, quick witted, sarcastic and always on the lookout for a good story. We may have twisted it round a bit as time went on but the story we came to about the day we met go something like this:

T’was a dark dreary ramshackle kind of dive, but in what sort of a place do you think you’d find the likes of him? (and we’d point to each other.) When I saw him there dribbling on the bar, I didn’t know if he was clumsy, drunk or falling in love. But I found out quick enough he was hangin with a tough crowd, because as is want to happen with boys like that, a fight broke out, and fists were flying and nobody could tell who was on whose side. And the bartender screamin’ all the while, “take it outside! take it outside!” When the dust cleared and the “replace the glassware and furniture collection” was taken, we two sat there ribbin’ each other like brothers.

“Will ya look at the state of you!” says he.

To which I reply, “ Tiz on you and yours what bring up the shinanigans that landed us here!”

“Ah, there wuz more dan a bit o the Gat in all the gullets. To be sure I was just swinging blind in dere.”

“Glory be we’re a fright. And if ya could see through the fog, you’d know the day was breakin’.” 

“Site, me mum will be a banshee for sure. She tells me she’ll treat me as a lad not a man for as long as I live under her roof.” 

“I’m over at Mrs. McGinty’s boardin’ rooms, and she would’t have let me in past 10, and she’ll not feed me my eggs and bangers til I clean up.”

He stood up, held out a bloody hand ta me, which I took, and he sayz, “Micky.” As I shook the bloody paw, he pulled me up so quick as I flew half cross the road. He laughed so hard I thought we’d be seein’ his dinner. I glared at him and headed off toward old lady McGinty’s. From behind me, and up over me head, come a rotten banana peel and it landed square in the path I was walkin’.” Mick started the uproar all over again, and sayz, “Watch yur step, lad, less folks be labelin’ you a lost cause,”

“Do you spend your days with rotten peels in your pocket just to pull that number on the unsuspectin’? Daft! If daft is your greatest strength yur ma will have some worryin’ to do!”

And as I turn ‘round to face him he’s standin’ in the middle of the road wearin’ Groucho glasses and dancin’ a jig. Now was my turn for uproarious laughter. Never have I seen a sight as him.

We threw one arm round each others shoulders and went stumblin’ down the cobblestones singing at the tops of our lungs, but not in time or tune, bits and pieces of the songs they’d played in the sessions that night. Then Mick pulled a rose from his sleeve and bowed as he handed it to me. I slugged him hard in his sore arm and said, “That musta been keepin’ the banana peel company. You can stuff this right up yur arse you poof. Now keep it down or the guard will be takin us in!”

He stopped short. He looked right and left. He stooped to get his feckin’ roses. And he walks right up in my face and says. “I left my scooter.” His expression moved from sad clown to great bafoon in the wink of an eye, and his great big laugh rings threw the streets again. He starts jigging back toward the bar to get his forgotten scooter, he turns and yells to me, “What is your given name, new friend?”

“Tom!” I shout. And I stand there watchin’ him high-heelin’ his way down the street, wondrin’ 

if he might not be a full shilling, and if we might share a good head of laughter again soon enough. 

  • * * * *

“Forgettin’ a debt doesn’t mean it’s paid!” Mrs. McGinty hollered at my back as I ran out. She knew that what little I got from the dole ended up at the pub, and she was on to threatening to put all my belongings out on the lawn. 

* * * * *

“You, Master Mickelean! Runnin’out again without tendin’ your chores! Well, to that I say, don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out! But better still, don’t be bringin’ that haf-eejit friend of yours round to my doorstep lookin to eat up all my marmalade with his tea and toast, as if all that feedin’ is free! He’s costin’ me an arm and a leg! I ought just take it up with ol’ bat McGinty with her collecting room and board and it’s me providin’ the board!

* * * * *

We both knew the price we’d pay for headin’ out again. But for almost 5 years not much had changed. Micky and I had become a sort of local Laurel and Hardy, performin’ a loose routine of sorts, and if the tips ever came in the form of cash, I’d get caught up with Mrs. McGinty and we’d bring an armload of groceries up to Micky’s mum and even do a few chores round her plot every now and again. But mostly we’d earn a pat on the back and a free round. “The Water o’ Life” was flowin’ freely in those days. I fell into the roll of straight man to Mick’s gags. His props never changed, and folks never stopped laughin’ at ‘em. Ladies just loved all the scarves he kept up one sleeve and the roses he kept up the other. The gents couldn’t get enough of tossin’ that faded rubber chicken around to see who could come up with the bawdiest joke, and more than a few of ‘em pissed themself when he’d pull a pussy out of his top hat instead of a rabbit. And as many times as he’d tossed a banana peel, they’d laugh, eggin’ on any poor soul to go ahead and step on it.

To keep it fresh, we’d sometimes hitch a ride on a bus or a cart and go out toward the other neighborhoods. Drumcondra if there was a match on, Howth for the festival, or up to St. Stephen’s when a big conference was in town. 

As the years passed by, I got rounder, Mick got balder, and all that did was boost the cartoon-like appearance of our act. Our Act I say, because by this time we’d really polished tings up. We’d rewritten the lyrics to every pub song we knew. We’d figured out how to hurt ourselves less while kickin’ up the slapstick. And we’d conjured up wives for ourselves that would take the brunt of more jokes than any flesh and blood lass every would have. 

* * * * *

C’mere while I tell ya a bit o’ malarkey. 

   I don’t mind takin a load off if it is that you’re feelin’ flush.

Flush? You can check my pocket to see if theres more in it than lint.

   Lint? You haven’t even that much - all you’ve got is a whole.

Well, perhaps the good lord will see fit to have it rain money before long.

   If it’s rain like that you be waitin’ for, you’d better find a good way to pass the time.

A song then?

   Aye. A good one.  

If it’s good you be wantin’, I for sure won’t know the lyrics!

     We’ll sing for you, for a quid or two,

     Or we’ll trade all that, for a pint o’ Gat,

     And we’ll tell a joke, it’s good fun we poke,

     Laddies, we’re rabble rousers!

(Micky started carryin ‘round a bodhran, and me a tin whistle, that we’d use to accent a punch line.)

Mick would turn to the room and tip his hat in such a way it landed on my head.

I’d look up toward it and it would fall to the floor, when I bent over to get it I’d fumble into a patsy we’d picked out before the show.

The way I could dance that fumbling hat around a guy could be dragged out for as long as folks were laughin’. That is when the improve would start and things could go in absolutely any direction.

I tink that’s why we never tired of it. The risk made it fun. And if we wuz havin’ fun, the folks were havin’ fun and when folks have fun the whiskey flows. Sure once in a while we’d pick on the wrong guy, but we got good a gettin’ out too. Leave all the brawlin’ to the locals, that was our motto.

With all this meetin’ new people all the time, we always had new stories to tell to the folks back in our own end o’ town. I was always sayin’ to Mick that if ever we wrote down a story, we could get rich enough to own the town and even the Liffy itself. He never took me too seriously, but the idea never left my head. I’d just need a real good one to get started.

We went on. We delivered old insults, but folks would laugh like it was original material. One out-of-town bloke said it was because we were “the real thing.” Which I took to mean he found our lot amusing, but Micky said to let it roll off because that stranger just left us a 20 note.

The years went by without us noticing. But we did get stiffer, then achier, then our slapstick rhythm was off. But we just kept at it. We weren’t runnin’ after busses any more like we could once, and we seemed to be gettin the Irish Flu more than we ever had. But we lived for the laughs. 

I think that about brings us to now, and why I am sittin’ alone on this curb, waiting to tell my story to the Guarda.

Me an Micky wuz’ headin’ for a train to take us home. We wuz’ lookin over one shoulder for a big galoot who didn’t appreciate us makin’ a bit o fun of him in front of his girl. We stepped up over the curb and straight into a construction sight. A whole new routine played out in slow motion as we tried to keep our wits, our props, and our trousers from endin’ up in wet cement. I grabbed at the top hat goin’ one way, and the pussy goin’ another while I felt the cement suck my left shoe right off my foot. 

While me own struggle left me choreographing a jig and a reel as had never been seen before, Mick looked more like he was in the throws of a great game of rugby with invisible competition. His trip over the curb sent him headlong into a bramble of thorns. For this he invented a new kind of grunting holler. He whipped himself back out of the branches that torn at the yarns of his jumper, only to get both feet deep into the wet cement, his arms swung round like pinwheels with the scarves on his right looping like he was puttin’ on a show. The roses appeared to be stuck in the sleeve on his left. He growled like a bear tryin to free his feet. One came free and that was the end to his balance. He fell headlong into the old part of the street. That was when the most terrible sound rang out. The devils pitchfork went right through me heart when I heard the crack. A crack so loud it stooped the world from spinnin’. The crack of Mick’s head on the road. He died straightaway, you could see it. 

Somewhere off I heard voices screamin’ ‘bout call an ambulance. I was still moving in slow motion. I jammed my bare foot back down in the muck, and slowly trudged, now shoeless, out of the pit where I’d caught a glimpse of hell itself. When I reached my friend, I pulled out my instamatic and took that dreadful picture of peaceful repose.

I seemed to be unnatural calm. I kept thinkin’ ‘bout keepin’ Mick alive. Alive through stories. For sure now I’d write the stories. It would be a funny book, until it wasn’t funny anymore.

June 18, 2020 12:27

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1 comment

Deborah Angevin
22:08 Jun 24, 2020

Hi from the critique circle here! The story is great, but a couple of typos and I wish there are less slang/accent used :)


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