This is an excerpt from my second novel.
(Three days until the Mayoral election)
A scrub is a guy that thinks he’s fly
And is also known as a buster
Always talkin’ about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass
TLC – No Scrubs
Chapter 1 – Fairfield
Joy Fairfield could remember the punchline, but never the premise. The stakes are too high. This declaration was trapped in her skull. She had no meaningful way to communicate it. She was sure it was appropriate; it could be her gateway back into the conversation, out of lexic paralysis.
‘I said, “I wish I had an orange for a head.”’
And now they were all laughing and she had missed another set of premises. Another meaningless punchline to haunt her in situations like this one.
Paul did not know it, being semi-literate and not inclined to self-analysis, but he was part of an ancient oral tradition; he was propagating the culture of joke-telling. Partly because he had a good memory for jokes, but, more importantly, because he had long recognized their value: they killed dead air, they ingratiated him to others, they lubricated social interaction. He was a link, one of many, who would pass these folktales on from the dawn of the history of mankind until the last gallows whisper before the asteroid, or the hydrogen bomb, or whatever it ended up being, finally put an end to jokes and everything else that was human.
And from nowhere she had one, not the stakes one, a different one. It was the one about the wish slide and the three foreigners. But Paul had already started on the one about Quasimodo; a joke with two punch lines and much additional humour to be derived from the long explanation of the premises, which mainly were in the shaggy-dog format and featured highlights of mime. Joy was poised, ready to butt her way in, when the group of strangers had entered the bar, disturbing the equilibrium, causing Paul to miss his cue.
She had thought they were tourists, not foreigners though, although everyone in Paradise was both to some extent. They were fully clothed; four young women. They were overdressed in two ways. It was a Wednesday night, and, by Paradise standards, they were in formal attire, ready for a cocktail party or a wedding. And the Garden of Paradise was, of course, Paradise’s number one clothing optional bar. They took a look around, met the stares of Paul, Chad and Joy; saw the indifference of the few other people who were quietly drinking in the corners; noted the boredom of the two grad students sipping glasses of iced water, topless, at the other end of the bar from Joy’s group. Then they turned and left.
‘That’s the mayor’s girlfriend,’ said Paul, ‘one in the white.’
Joy judged herself harshly against that girl—the symmetrical mistress, generically attractive, genetically wealthy. And girl was right; she must have been fifteen years younger than Joy, who in turn must have been fifteen years younger than the mayor. It was her beakish mouth that she hated the most. What jinx led her to store such weight on her face? Her lips protruded, and were dragged down by the extraneous skin on her cheeks. Like a sad duck. Of course, there was also: the paunch, the fat ass, the double-chin and the pancake tits. She was shapeless; she was sack-shaped. But why the duck face?
‘Isn’t he married?’
She got her laugh, another punchline whose premises she did not know.