I don’t think I’ve posted this before. I can’t find it, anyway. I wrote this earlier this year. It has no crime in it, unless you count the way this guy tells a joke.
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“I’m afraid I don’t dance.” Ted thought he should let that be known at the beginning.
Ted was forty, and Jerry, his work friend, was only a couple of years younger, but apparently middle school never ended: Jerry wanted to go out with Angela and Angela’s roommate, Bibi, had just been though a bad breakup and he, Ted, had been drafted to fill out the foursome. It seemed like a rotten thing to do to a woman who had been though a bad breakup.
Someone had once told Ted that boring people never think they’re boring, but he knew that wasn’t true. Sometimes, he stopped listening in the middle of his own sentences.
“We may not even do the dancing,” Jerry said.
“I had a hard day at work,” Bibi said. “I might make an early night of it.”
Ted’s dates often–usually–always made an early night of it.
Jerry arranged the seating at the restaurant so that Ted and Bibi sat next to each other, then Jerry, then Angela. Jerry monopolized Angela’s attention, leaving Bibi stranded with Ted.
Tonight would be different. He hadn’t once caught Bibi rolling her eyes or exchanging Looks with Angela. It would be nice to alter his pattern and show a woman a good time for a change.
She didn’t look bored, but she did look sad. He took his napkin and reached across Bibi’s plate to dab at the tears in the corners of her eyes. It seemed to surprise her. Perhaps he shouldn’t have done that.
“Do you like jokes?” he asked.
“Jokes? I suppose so.”
“Okay. Well. It seems a man walked into a bar, possibly the bar here.”
“Oh, no,” Bibi said.
“I mean, oh, no, it’s Paul. Of all the places he could have gone–” She tried to say this to Angela, but Angela had eyes and ears only for Jerry.
“So,” Ted said, “this man puts a box on the bar and opens it. Inside there’s a little piano. Well, not extremely little, but rather small. A toy piano, in fact.” He indicated the size he meant with his hands.
Bibi looked at his demonstration, and Ted glanced at the man whose entrance had made her turn pale. He was tall and blond and tan, like a Slo-Poke all-day sucker. He was with a woman Ted felt compared most unfavorably with Bibi.
“All right, yes, I see the size you mean,” Bibi said.
“A ferret in a tuxedo was on the piano bench–a ferret-sized tuxedo, of course–and began to play. A mouse in a slinky red dress stood on her hind legs, leaning against the piano. She began to sing.”
The man passed right by their table, though he could have taken many other paths.
Bibi fixed Ted with a gaze more concentrated than any he’d ever had from a woman before. “A mouse-sized slinky red dress,” she said.
“Ah. Yes. I should have said that. Exactly.”
Bibi looked up at the man’s retreating back. Ted tapped the table to recall her attention.
“And the man with the box–you know, with the piano and the ferret and the mouse in it–the man says, ‘It really isn’t that wonderful. The mouse can’t sing. The ferret is a ventriloquist.'”
It seemed bad form to laugh at his own joke, but Bibi didn’t seem to know it was over. He suspected she had something else on her mind.
“That Paul,” he said, “is a stupid idiot. And his ferret is a ventriloquist.”
Now, she laughed.
WRITING PROMPT: Have your main character tell a joke.