Below is my very first real attempt at a short story as an adult. Thanks to short story writer John Holton for his class and inspiration a good few years ago now. Since it never was published anywhere else, I present it to you, Gentle Reader. Enjoy.
A man slipped on a banana peel…the audience laughed as he struggled and failed to stand. It was a good episode this one, Lenny remembered, as he settled into his elderly armchair, “Martha, desert – bring it here. I don’t want to have to miss this,” Lenny’s gaze didn’t waver from the television as he sweated into his singlet.
“You should really eat desert at the table,” said Martha, protesting again as she balanced bowls and drinks on a tray…
Suddenly the audience gasps as Martha’s heel catches the rug – banana split everywhere. The audience is in paroxysms as she lurches forward screaming, and the audience is roaring as the two kids run in, slip and land on Martha, all crying hysterically. Meanwhile, Lenny hasn’t moved; he is in his lounge chair stoically watching television, immune to the drama around him…
“So, as you see, this clip demonstrates my point about classic comedy from the golden age of humour, I would venture to say it is timeless and universal in its appeal…” the media studies lecturer pontificated as the clip finished, “and that’s how successful comedy works: simple, clear and familiar.” In the audience a student pushed up his glasses and stood, while a camera turned toward him.
“Will your analysis reveal why the sketch is funny? The fact is, many in this day and age would see that as predictable and offensive. Doesn’t this detract from the appeal of such attempts at humour?” The lecturer stared; he didn’t think this audience would question him. He took a deep breath before he replied.
“Ah, a student are you? Posses a sense of humour? Thought not. Look really, tastes may change, but it’s our sense of humour and our capacity to feel embarrassed that separates humanity from the animal world and what best transcends time and taste than the ability to appreciate the humour in the pain and humiliation of others?” The student scowled and sat down. The lecturer smiled.
“Any more questions? No, well that about wraps it up.” Lights flashed, the audience applauded and the cameras went off. The lecturer relaxed; he thought he’d coped rather well for his first television appearance.
“This has been recorded you know. I’m a part of TV history, a signal travelling through space forever.” The lecturer enthused to his wife in front of his TV. “See that’s me, I’m on now. The college will love this.”
“You know I have better things to do, I hate television.” His wife didn’t look up from the bowl of fruit in front of her. “Why do you have to eat and watch TV, can’t you sit at the table for desert?” She carried over the serving dish. “Well, do you want it or not?” The lecturer took it absently, transfixed by the TV. Abruptly he changed colour.
“They’ve edited me, I sound like a pompous…” The lecturer bounced to his feet, the bowl, forgotten in his agitation, smashed to the floor, fruit everywhere.
“Dammit! Watch out before you’ll -” said his wife. But hastening to the telephone, he didn’t heed the broken glass, the cutlery or the fruit… it all went into slow motion. He felt his feet slip up and out from under him and saw them level with his eyes. He noted a terrible cracking reverberation: the pain. He heard his wife laughing, and himself on the television in the background. She’s laughing, he thought, this is not funny, this is…
“My husband’s death revealed a fundamental law regarding the occurrence of events in our lives. I can truly say his death is both sad and sweet; without him I would not have completed this research or launched this publication.” The audience clapped warmly as she wiped away a stray tear. “Thanks to my husband, and to extensive laboratory testing, my research team has revealed that there are two special kinds of events: the ‘stereotypical’ and the ‘coincidental’. When they operate together they form a loop of continuous events. Thus, I was able to conclude my husbands’ death wasn’t accidental but a foreseeable occurrence, taking place at one point of the curve of time. Or the ‘Banana Loop’ as the press have labelled it.” Muted titters rippled through the crowd as the lecturer’s wife continued.
“However, since we discovered my husband’s death was not random, we’ve realised the very act of becoming conscious of this means the event becomes a pseudo end-point on the time loop. That is, through the research itself, the cyclical nature of these events is both revealed and ended. Thus, it is not a ‘Banana Loop,’ but rather a ‘Banana Paradox’.” As she glanced up around, journalists raised their hands. The lecturer’s wife nodded towards one.
“So Doctor, what you’re saying is that now you have revealed the nature of the banana peel incident it will cease to act as a series of related and continuous events?”
“Yes, precisely. Slipping on banana peel has simply ceased to occur as an event on the coincident curve of time, which means the force of the event has been reduced to a once off, non-cyclical episode. The practical upshot is no more people will suffer as I have. Slipping on a banana skin will no longer generate any further events whatsoever, not death, not injury or indeed comedy. And I think that my husband would agree we’re all better off for that. Thankyou.” There was applause as the lecturer’s wife sat down. The pack lined up clutching copies of her book – a banana on the cover. A frowning man was first. She picked up a pen. Finally, she thought, it has all gone full circle. She smirked; revenge, like a banana, is sweet. “To whom should I make this out?”
The man pushed up his glasses, “a serious student of comedy.” The lecturer’s wife smiled.
“You know, you seem very familiar…”