Feeble Punchline #1

As inspired by Ian Stewart

B was standing outside the bank in a queue for the Drinklink machine one Saturday afternoon, when he saw A approaching, his head bowed and a miserable look on his face (well, as much of the face as B could see, what with the thick woolly scarf and the handkerchief and all).

"Well now, A. How's the crack?" B asked, he being his usual cheery self.

"Dying of a cold", A answered. You could tell that poor A was suffering from an awful headcold. He was at that stage of his ailment where his nasal passages were all b'ocked up with mucus. His diction was severely impaired. Now, I'm not the type of person who'll attempt to portray A's compromised vocalisations by using such silly devices as "Oh, by dose". Frankly, I just don't have the time. If you want to approximate A's speech patterns, take a deep breath and pinch your nostrils shut with your thumb and finger (I don't mind which hand you use or which finger you use, either, just as long as you don't use the one that you...you know...with). Oh, and feel free to open your nostrils when A isn't talking, alright?

"Jesus, you sound terrible. You should be in bed, man", B said, his heart going out to poor A. "What the blazes has you down town in your state?"

"It's Young A's birthday tomorrow, and I haven't got a present for him yet. Mrs. A. will have me hi - hi - haaaaashuurrrrrrrrrraggggh! Hurrghurr!...hide". A had just sneezed the most spectacular sneeze that B had ever seen or heard. A had been lucky to have his cloth handkerchief in his hand and had managed to get it up to his nose just in time to prevent disaster. As he removed the handkerchief, B could see a thick string of mucus stretching from A's nose to the handkerchief. "Christ, look at that", A said, staring into the gloopy contents of his handkerchief. "There must be half-a-gallon of snot in there!" A rolled up the handkerchief into a ball, and after wiping the residue off his nose, he threw the handkerchief into the nearest litter bin.

"What did you do that for?" B was amazed. "That was a perfectly good handkerchief"

"Yeah, WAS" A cursed. "Mrs. A would have me roasting slowly on a spit if I went back to her with THAT thing for the wash"

"Oh, yeah, right. Anyway, maybe I can help you out about the present", said B. "What does the young fella want?"

"That's the problem" A moaned. "I haven't a clue what he wants. He's at that funny age when I don't know what he's into. And of course, I can't ask him what he wants, because it's supposed to be a surprise"

"Doesn't he follow Man U?"

"That was last year" A cursed. "He changes like the wind, that fella"

"Well he's still playing football though..."

"Yeah, so...?"

"Well, how about a pair of football boots, then?" B suggested.

"B, pal, it's obvious that you don't have any kids. I haven't a clue what size shoes he wears, you NEVER buy shoes for other people without them trying them on themselves and I'm BOUND to buy the wrong make of boot! Kids are so fussy about that stuff!"

"How about music?"

"Have you heh - heh - heh - heeeaaaaaaauuurrraarrghrrrrrruuurrh! Arrrgh!" A sneezed again, this time into a paper tissue which he'd swiftly extracted from his pocket. Again, he conducted a post-mortem on the event; this time saying "I just don't know where all this stuff is coming from. It's like I've got a reservoir of snot in me head! Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, have you heard the type of noise and rubbish they're listening to these days? Christ, it's like an army of navvies drilling all the roads from here to Hell!"

"Sorry, A, I'm all out of ideas..." B said.

"Don't worry, B. I think I'll just go around the shops and see if anything strikes me"

"Mind if I come along?" B asked. "I've got nothing much to do today, and it's one good way of keeping me out of the pub"

"Fairenuffski"A replied.

They spent the whole afternoon traipsing through the shops. Now, don't you believe those boyos in the Chamber of Commerce who'll try to tell you that K----- is the shopping Mecca of the Midlands. It's not. It's a miserable dump of a place at the best of times, but it becomes even more miserable if you decide to set off on a shopping expedition for a vitally-required item. The shops just AREN'T there. The selection of goods on offer is appallingly out of fashion and over-priced. If you're really stuck for buying something, particularly in a hurry, you're far better off driving or taking the bus to F-------, which is truly the shopping Mecca of the Midlands (it says on the back of this five-pound note...)

A and B went into every shop in K-----, but inspiration failed to descend upon them. Young A was too young for after-shave, too old for a jigsaw puzzle, and, according to A, "the little fecker can hardly write his name, not to mind read a book"

All in all, it was a disastrous afternoon for A, not least because he sneezed loudly and voluminously in each and every shop in town. He went through two of those little packets of tissues, and he STILL had a head full of guck. He eventually ran out of paper tissues and decided to amend his strategy for disposing of the mucus. Instead of waiting for a sneeze, A would snort back the snot until it went down into his throat, then he'd spit the offending matter discreetly onto the footpath (if no-one was watching). He got caught out once, though, he had the ball of goop in his mouth, all ready to spit, when Father C came round the corner and said " A! B! How're the men?" A had no choice if he wanted to be polite and answer the priest. He swallowed the mucus in his mouth and said "Fine, Father, just fine..."

His feet hurt, his head felt like a balloon full of warm, salty Swarfega and worst of all, he'd notmanaged to get a present for Young A. "We might as well go for a pint", B suggested, hoping that this would perk A up.

"Naaah" A muttered, "I can't taste a thing with this headcold. And anyway, if I go home without a present with a couple of pints in me, Mrs. A. will think I spent the evening swigging beer. She'd kill me! No, I'd better just go home and face the executioner..."

A and B trudged away from the town centre, back up to St. D----'s Terrace, where they both lived. As he approached his own house, A asked B "D'you want to come in for a cuppa?":

"Why not? And can't I back you up when you break the bad news?"

"That's the best idea I've heard all day" A said. They'd got to the front door and A was fumbling in his pockets for the front-door key, when he felt a huge sneeze coming on. "Haaaa! Haaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaa! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA..." A's body tensed and jerked backwards, almost like a soccer player about to take a throw-in. Then, he did a strange thing; he cupped his bare hands over his nose. "CHHHHHHHOOOOOOOoooooo!" A's body snapped forward with the power of the sneeze. With the follow-through, he doubled-over forwards and ended up with his knees bent, like a parachutist landing on terra firma. He straightened himself up. Another thick string of slime oozed from his nose into his still-cupped hands. He opened his hands and gazed intently and ghoulishly at their contents. Snot squleched out from between his fingers and one pioneering portion attempted to bungee-jump onto the concrete path. There was a curious look of glee on A's face. B was horrified.

"Christ, what did you do that for? I'd've given you a hanky if you'd asked"

"Naaah, it's quite alright", A replied. "I didn't want to come home empty-handed..."

(c) Daniel Prendiville - 1997

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