And now for a bit of truth.
“Hey, Mark . . . could you look at this?”
“Maybe. What is it?”
“Just something I wrote. I think it’s funny, but I want a second opinion.”
“I hate reading things before you publish them. You always get mad at me.”
“I promise not to get mad.” He looks at me doubtfully, and I reassure him, “I promise.”
“I never react the way you want me to react.”
“Geez, you big baby. It’s not a test. I just want to know if you think it’s funny.”
“Alright, but go in the other room while I read – you know I hate when you hover.”
“All I want is to see if you think it’s funny. Why can’t I stay to see if you laugh?”
“Because if I don’t laugh at the right parts, you get all pissy.”
“I do not get pissy.”
“Yes, you so do.”
“Other people think I am a riot, babe. People write to me and they tell me that I make them laugh. Would it kill you to let me hear you laugh?”
“Shhhh. I’m reading.”
“I don’t hear any laughing. Will there be laughing?”
“Out loud, babe. Would it kill you to laugh out loud?”
“Let me read.”
“How far have you gotten? Did you get to the second paragraph yet? Seriously? No reaction at all? That’s a funny part! Maybe you didn’t understand the joke. Want me to explain why it’s funny?”
“No. Go away.”
“OK, but that thing I said about pockets is kind of subtle . . .”
“Seriously, if you want me to read this, you have to go away.”
“But there’s a metaphor I think you are missing. No way that’s not worth an audible chuckle. No way. That part about the bracelet and eating the ham sandwich? That’s hilarious!”
“Fine.” So I go away, far enough away that he can’t see me, but not so far away that I am unable to hear the dead silence as he reads. I get a little bit seetheful about the silence as it stretches.
When he finally walks into the room, he says simply, “It’s good.”
“That’s all you have to say?”
“I like it. It’s good.”
“It’s good? That’s your review?”
“Kris, I like everything you write. It’s good.”
“Augh! Now I have to rewrite the whole thing. Was it the elephant? The doilies? The bald woman? What needs to be changed? Tell me!”
“I like it. No need to change anything. It’s fine.”
“It’s fine? Augh! The whole thing sucks! I knew it!”
“Kris, the whole thing does not suck. It’s good.”
“You are so annoying.”
“Listen to me. It’s good. I read it. It’s good.”
I wring my hands, “Why did I let you read it? Now I’m all paranoid and doubtful! You didn’t laugh one time! I didn’t hear you laugh one time!”
Mark sighs, “Just because I didn’t laugh out loud, that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny. It’s funny.”
“I’m done talking about this.” He walks downstairs.
After a few minutes, I follow him. I stand across the room from him and glare at him until he feels the heat of my seethe. He looks over at me and laughs nervously, “What?”
“Nothing,” I say seethefully.
“Kris, how can you be mad because I didn’t laugh out loud? It’s funny! That part about the goat cheese? That was funny!”
“Oh my god . . . that’s not even a funny part! The goat cheese is not a funny part! How am I married to a man who not only doesn’t see the funny but then misidentifies the humor entirely? Goat cheese? Seriously?”
“I thought that part was funny. And also the part about the . . .” he waves his hand as though searching for a word, “thing . . . with the thing . . . that was a good part too.”
My voice goes cold, “The thing with the thing?”
He doesn’t look up from his computer, “Yeah, that was a good part.”
“I am going to smother you in your sleep with a large soft pillow.”
He is startled, “What?”
“I can’t believe I let you read that. I can’t believe you hated it. I can’t believe you are lying to me to spare my feelings. Now I’m all sad and depressed and filled with a sense of failure and nothing I do in this world has any value and I . . . am . . . worthless.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“You’re not kidding.”
I snuffle loudly, “Would it kill you to laugh when I so obviously need you to laugh? Would it kill you? It’s a small thing . . . just a little bit of laughter . . . WOULD IT KILL YOU TO LAUGH?”
He walks to hug me, “Kris, you are blowing this all out of proportion. The story is good. It’s funny! You know I don’t laugh out loud every time I think something is funny. I’m a more reserved person than you are. That doesn’t mean it isn’t funny.”
“Come on . . . you are brilliantly funny. You know this. You know I think you are funny, whether or not I laugh out loud.”
I relax into his embrace, “Fine. Sorry. Maybe I’m being too sensitive.”
“Maybe? Yeah, maybe a little bit. Seriously, Kris . . . sometimes, I just laugh inside. Not everything has to be big and loud and obnoxious. I sometimes just laugh inside.”
He walks with me into the family room, picks up the remote control, “Want to watch a show with me?” We’ve been watching old episodes of Warehouse 13, a goofy science fiction show. I’ve grown bored with the show, but Mark likes it.
I consider, “You mind if I type while we watch? I think I might try to rework the story I showed you.”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
“So you acknowledge that it needs reworking?”
“Oh my god . . . I am ignoring you now.” He clicks PLAY.
With the show playing in the background, I start editing the piece . . . OK, so maybe if I rearrange the order of these paragraphs and take out the part about the elephant and then add some explanation here . . . and maybe another joke here at the end . . . I work quietly, not really paying that much attention to the show, which involves an attractive man and an attractive woman working as federal-agent partners to track down potentially evil artifacts that bad guys might use for nefarious . . .
My attention is drawn by a few lines of dialogue in which the male partner is trying to guess the female partner’s middle name, which apparently starts with O. There aren’t that many O names, and I watch as he runs through several of the names that occur to me . . . Olive, Olga, Odette . . . the female partner finally reveals that her middle name is Ophelia. Nice.
I am about to return to my laptop when I hear the male character say lecherously, “Can ah-feel-ya boobies?” I’m still working out if he really just said the lame-ass thing I think he said when Mark explodes with laughter. He roars with laughter. The room is filled with the sound of Mark’s enormous amusement.
He laughs so hard he chokes on his beer, dribbling a bit of liquid down his chin.
I reach to tap him on the shoulder, and he turns, wiping giggle-tears from his eyes.
He stares at me blankly for a few seconds, and then realization dawns, “No, wait! This is different! This is funny!”
“Wait, that didn’t come out right.”
I sigh, “Can Ophelia boobies? Really?”
He is reduced to helpless giggling again, even as he protests, “It’s funny!”
Can Ophelia boobies?
I sit there for a few minutes, contemplating this turn of events as Mark returns to his show.
I lean to tap him on the arm, “Hey, Mark? Can Ophelia boobies?”
He snorts with happy laughter.
I am going to kill that man.