May 21, 2013
The Shortest Distance Between Two Opposing Points of View Is a Punch Line
Posted on May 2, 2011
By Mr. Fish
Our summer began with me and my best friends, Beats, Lewis and Zeeker, peeing on the roofs of houses.
This was in 1979 when I was 12, and we were all doing it for Zeeker, who hadn’t been the same since he saw the Easter Bunny drop dead at Pennebaker’s Drugstore three months earlier. Three months before that, Lewis, who was always trying to one-up everybody, claimed to have seen his next-door neighbor, Mrs. Jerblonski, run out of her house shrieking and windmilling a flaming Miss Piggy puppet that she’d tried to use to pull a meatloaf out of the oven. According to Lewis, the puppet was still holding the meatloaf when Mrs. Jerblonski was tackled on the lawn by her husband, who rolled around with her, beating out the flames with his fists inside a bedspread—a large toast-colored replica of the Shroud of Turin with the words to “Jingle Bell Rock” printed across it—that had been a Christmas present from Mrs. Jerblonski’s mother.
According to a conversation that had bled out through the Jerblonskis’ kitchen window and into Lewis’ tree house on the other side of the fence, Mr. Jerblonski admitted that, yes!, he might’ve tackled his wife sooner had he not taken so much time digging through the hall closet to find the bedspread, and that, yes!, perhaps he might’ve been able to save his wife the humiliation of having the rubberized pig snout of the puppet fused to the inside of her hand. Lewis went on to describe how the sound of Mrs. Jerblonski’s pounding on the counter to make her point was not unlike the sound of CPR being performed on a rubber ducky, the nostrils on her palm kissing the Formica like the pope blessing, with super-suctiony lips, a fatal disease over and over and over again. Still, I and Beats didn’t think it compared to Zeeker seeing the Easter Bunny drop dead.
Here’s the story.
A week or so before the Easter Bunny drew his last rabbity breath, I cracked a joke that nearly got me suspended from school. The joke was about a 500-pound restaurateur in New Jersey who had made the national news for raping a little girl. I was sitting at the lunch table in the cafeteria, and everybody was talking about the crime and the case when somebody asked the obvious rhetorical question: “Geez, how would you like to be raped by a 500-pound restaurateur from New Jersey?” For me, even without the rape, the New Jersey part of the equation was upsetting enough, particularly since there existed all around me proof positive that New Jersey had the ability to rub itself up against anything, animal, mineral or vegetable, over and over and over again and to magnetize it to attract the sort of mediocrity and dimwitted acquiescence to broken dreams that gave the Jersey stereotype real credibility.
Then, looking from face to face and watching while the question sunk into each person’s visual cortex with all the grace of a halved onion being eased into a bouquet of lilacs, I noticed, sitting next to me, Kimble Hoffbeck, a brittle Methodist notorious for her sensitivity to both full-frontal verbal engagement and any subject matter that couldn’t be whispered to a sleeping baby. Anticipating high hilarity from my actions, I leaned into Kimble’s doe-eyed innocence, as if listening to her response to the question, and said loudly in mock disgust, “It depends on which part of him weighs the most?! Jimminies, Kimble! That’s … not even funny.”
Looking back, I guessed that I could’ve tried harder to catch her head before it hit the floor, but I drew the line at assuming I had any control over: (1) the floppiness of her Birkenstocks, which she somehow got tangled up with the flailing metal legs of her chair when she was wrestling her enormous Christian redundancy out of her seat for the purpose of running away or (2) her misconstruing my joke to be the sort of sexual harassment that stopped just short of dry humping. “What were you expecting?” asked Beats on the bus ride home that day. “That’s like waving a lighter around in front of Frankenstein and then getting pissed off when he upsets the coffee table by uncrossing his legs before charging headlong into the woods with his eyes bugged out and a load in his pants.”
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