Humor Exercise

So this, according to a certain AJC, is “Rex at his drunkest.” This is the consequence of forcing me to write humor over several late nights.

One: Pitch

Cephas Robison put down his empty mug. “I rememba, back in the days when me father still ran the bakery, when auld Tancred Temple came to Silene wi’ his bairns. An upstart he was, mar, bathin’ in his new money, all his children decked out like pheasants. He hasn’t been to Silene since he built tha’ git big house ower in Sarepta, though.”

“Well, it is says tha’ he visited Damascus Hall tha’ day around when Sir Victor ran away as a young thing,” said a scrawny, towheaded young farmhand, Benedict Norris.

Robison waved his hand dismissively. “Afore ye was born, laddie. I knew tha’ Master Temple came then—what was it, forty-five years ago? Tha’s when I was speakin’ o’.” He looked at the others with them in the pub. “Only otha ones here tha’ was breathin’ free air then are Dan there an’ Master Carpenter, an’ they was both babies.”

Levi Bain was a quiet person, small of stature but hardily-built. He spoke suddenly. “Me Fatha used to tell me a story o’ when the lad Ev’rard Temple came into his shop tha’ day. He was about six then, an’ had wandrit away from his mother, an’ as Fatha was out the shop was empty an’ dim. He was sleepy tha’ day, an’ decided to rest in there, though why he chose a carpenta’s shop I couldn’t say. For a seat he foond a half-barrel o’ pitch in a corner, for he discowert tha’ the top o’ the pitch was soft an’ comf’table like one o’ them featha cushions he’d be used to sleepin’ on, an’ so, sittin’ on it wi’ his back to the wall, he drowsed off.

“When he woke he discowert tha’ he had sunk into the pitch, so tha’ it was ower his waist, an’ ernly his legs, his shouldas, an’ his heed was left out o’ it. Then he started callin’ an’ callin’, an’ in due time Fatha came in an’ saw the mess the lad had gotten into. Fatha was o’ the good sort tha’ tries to get to know folk, an’ so he sat doon on a stool an’ began to talk to the lad.

“‘Tha’s me pitch ye’re bathin’ in,’ Fatha says. ‘Isn’t yer father rich enough to get his own pitch?’

“‘I didn’t mean it,’ says Ev’rard right back. ‘I just want to get out.’

“‘Once I set a goose by accident on tha’ there barrel o’ pitch,’ Fatha says thoughtfully. ‘By the time I came back it was sunk in so low tha’ ernly its head was stickin’ out, starin’ at me in a hapless sort o’ way. I couldn’t pull it out without rippin’ the bird’s heed off, so I let it stay there for a few weeks, feedin’ it regula, until the level o’ the pitch had sunk low enough for me to pull it out. We cooked the goose for dinner in celebration.

“‘An’ then there was poor Gideon Picken’s cat. It jumped into a barrel o’ pitch one fine evenin’. James Deans was a rascal then, an’ he pullt the poor creature out tha’ night an’ got a group o’ his friends to hoy sticks from the fire at it. Tha’ moggie soon was alight, an’ there it bolted up the green, past the church like a ball o’ fire an’ brimstone an’ out eastward ower the land. Several farmers lost their fields tha’ night, but Widow Vasey also dropped dead o’ a heart attack, so we forgave James in the end.’

“I don’t know how Ev’rard was eventually dug out, but he was, an’ now they say he’s o’ a proper sort, makin’ watches ower in Newcastle. But Fatha says tha’ he’s nivvor before nor affta heard yellin’ or bawlin’ so loud from gadgie or animal as he did tha’ day.”

“Serves rich folks right,” said Dan Clewley, slamming his hand on the table. “If more o’ them got their arses stuck in pitch, then fewer o’ them would look doon on honest folk.”

“I ernly know I liked tha’ cat,” the baker said. “But it’s canny good to know affta all these years tha’ it was the moggie as it happened to. Ettie telt me when I was a lad tha’ it was Picken’s three-year-auld lass.”

Two: The Search for Vandhyaputra

My name is Dr. Evan Borden. Being of the archaeological persuasion, I am at once an academic, a craftsman, and a manual laborer. As an academic, my goal in life is to not only appear intelligent but appear so intelligent as to make all other academics appear stupid. As a craftsman, my primary goal in life is to craft truth from facts for the consumption of the gluttonous masses who devour my every treatise. As a manual laborer, my goal in life is to process food. Thus I consider my existence to be one of supreme balance and equitable multiplicity.

I cite one time when I was on a dig in India. I convinced my benevolent sponsor, Sir Graham FitzGraham, Fifth Count of the Court of Cracker College in the County of Cornwall, to pay for an expedition into India to search for the lost city of Vandhyaputra. I suppose I forgot to mention that my vocation as an archaeologist also necessitates a skill in oratory and rhetoric. Half of my job is to persuade the wealthy that there is a vault of priceless treasures in remote areas where whether or not a civilization existed is a matter of opinion. One of the most glorious triumphs of my career was to observe in front of the awestruck business magnate Harry Herring that it was possible that the pre-Columbian African civilization of Bunga Bunga transferred its vast riches in meteoritic gold to an island off the coast of Antarctica which was so remote and of such hostile aspect that no-one had dared set foot on it before or since which provided perfect conditions for its preservation from the grasping fingers of Egyptian grave-robbers of piratical inclination. It is through this sentence (after which I am said to have passed out from lack of air; I am a bit foggy on this point) that I received half a million dollars, a ship, a crew, equipment, and frostbite scars on both of my ears. I have never cared for Antarctica since, and have generally steered my patrons toward sending me to warmer climes.

To return to the dig in India, it had been decided by Sir Graham to open up the dig site to tourists. This was decided beforehand, and so, when choosing a place to start digging, my team and I decided on a large mud-hole that, when brought into conjunction with the tourists, might provide entertaining diversion from digging up rocks and pronouncing them as being the foundation-stones of Vandhyaputra, until of course we prove that these were of a later period of the city and so we need more funding to keep digging.

The first batch of spectators appeared in mostly pink and orange, speaking of women and men respectively. I haven’t any idea why the men decided to dress in orange; considering their near-uniform height and that they mostly spoke Korean, I have an idea that they were all foreign, but I would think that dislike for safety-jacket orange would be universally a part of the human genome. Perhaps it was this fact that predisposed me to changing the road signs so that their bus stuck in the mud. Unfortunately, our entertainment turned to alarm as the bus continued to sink into the mud above the level of the wheels, and we hastened to evacuate the tourists and push the vehicle out of the mud. It only occurred to me after the fact what a gift we were depriving future archaeologists of: practically gift-wrapped, a bus of Korean tourists. But I suppose that cannot be helped. It also meant that the tourists did not stay, although we did have the pleasure of seeing the orange somewhat hidden by the mud and the mosquitoes.

One of the tourists pulled a large object from the mud, thought it was a rock, and threw it away. This tourist was evidently an undiscovered baseball legend, for the object followed a perfect arc to strike the head of our guide, Acetanam, whose legs promptly failed to support him. Upon investigating the instrument of his near-demise, we found it to be a fossilized skull. This, as I told Sir Graham, indicated that we were on the right track following the city of Vandhyaputra. The fact that the skull resembled that of the Indian treeshrew proved this link, since according to ancient texts the Vandhyaputrans were small, hirsute persons. From the lack of sediment accumulation in its teeth we further judged that it once belonged to a middle-aged man who died from poison being poured in his ear while he slept after overeating at the High Priest’s funeral banquet at which there were a dozen sacrifices of chosen virgins who wore white robes and crowns made of Apatosaurus teeth by dropping them into 1000-foot-deep wells in Vandhyaputra. Our next project, therefore, would be to find these wells.

Now, the question that naturally arises, at least to my mind, is, “Am I a fraud?” I couldn’t say. I suppose I’ll know when I find Vandhyaputra, or at least a Vandhyaputran’s rock collection. The thought is comforting, however, that no-one else will either.

Three: Vita Alexandri

I, Jacob of Cattham, write verily of our good bishop, Alexander, who perished in the year of Our Lord thirteen hundred sixteen, being falsely accused of heresy by that envious and pestilential Baron of Nussence. Although I am but a lowly friar of the Order of Saint Malchus’s Ear, I followed in this holy one’s footsteps and studied his every writing, and I now seek to record his great works for the Lord and vindicate his name.

He was born in the hamlet of Cattham in the year of Our Lord twelve hundred fifty. It is said that as a youth the Virgin appeared to him and gave a rose-colored scapular into his hands, saying as she did so, “This is for you and yours a privilege; the one who dines in it will be saved.” In this way Alexander in Cattham established the Sup-At-Ten Rule, and those who followed in his footsteps took on the rose-colored scapular. Inscribed on the table of Alexander was a verse, recalling Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians, declaring, Caritas omnia suffert, omnia credit, omnia sperat, omnia consumit.[1]

And yet the Heaven-blessed Alexander was not content merely to live with his followers under the Sup-At-Ten Rule. His holiness was renowned, and he soon became Bishop of Cattham. Fascinated by tales of travels over the sea, he soon learned of those animals languishing in captivity in heathen lands and desired to bring them into Christendom. Most notable of his acquisitions was that of the Dromaius, brought by John de Sterteford on his second voyage to the awful Isle of Gamegobelinerd. Alexander loved this Dromaius as a close friend, and often declared, “Brother Bird preaches to me through the Holy Spirit whenever I lay down my head, and I weep as I enter sleep, thinking of the Providence of God.”

John de Sterteford is also said to have traded for a large, spiny fruit named after the dragon the Greeks spoke of known as Echidna, but this was thrown away as worthless when the crew found it impossible to cut away the skin and eat what was beneath due to the length and sharpness of the spines. More successfully, John fought a duel with one of the natives and killed it to bring back the skin. Upon examination, it was declared that the natives must be descendents of the Northmen, as the body was covered in red hair, had long ears and feet, and possessed strength and speed beyond the reach of mortal man. John also took a live specimen of the Pudding-Faced Small Bear,[2] which passed most of its hours sitting upon the edge of a knife.

And yet he should not only be remembered for his love of animals. He was also an innovator, conceiving of numerous practical inventions such as the Idiocy Scale, which was disavowed by King Richard due to its repeated malfunctions within his court. Nevertheless, it was used, according to several chroniclers, to elect Ottomanus as King of the Turks.[3] It has been said that for this reason the Turks consider Alexander a saint, though they are pagans.

Alexander was also a philosopher. At some point between lunch and dinner he wrote Flumina Cogitationis,[4] an allegory analyzing the soul of man. Therein Hungryman sits at breakfast with three guests: Winelust, Womanlust, and Insectuality. A dialogue follows in which Hungryman discovers, through eighty-one theses wrung from various passages of Scripture and the writings of Saint Augustine, that the deepest longing of man is to partake of Insect Essence. The voice of God comes to Hungryman, warning him of the evils of committing to the three lusts, but Hungryman ignores this and chooses Insectuality to share his cheese custard. But then Insectuality turns into a hag and eats Hungryman. The moral of the allegory is that the mortal must overcome his desire for Insectuality by love of God and not permitting cheese custard to be divided. It was proclaimed by the Holy Pontiff Clement the Fifth himself to be “most glorious of the English tales.”

Unfortunately, the Pope in Avignon, John the Twenty-Second, approved in his first year in the Holy Seat the trial of Alexander before a tribunal in Camelford on the charge of heresy for his claim in Flumina Cogitationis that Insectuality is a deadly sin. The Baron of Nussence and other false witnesses argued, using the story of Lazarus and Dives, that Insectuality is not grave enough to merit Hell in itself, and rather those who commit the sin merely serve an additional five thousand sixty-two years in Purgatory. Alexander was condemned to be devoured alive by twenty-four starving housecats, and thus his glorious life was ended. Still, as he was devoured, he looked up into heaven and saw the Virgin, and she was preparing cheese custard for him in the banquet-halls of Paradise. So he perished with the cry, “It is finished, and I am hungry!”

Although the Baron of Nussence was later excommunicated, none of the efforts of the brethren who followed the Sup-At-Ten Rule could make up for Alexander’s blessed career. Cattham, perhaps, shall fade into obscurity, but with Our Lord’s blessing his works remain, and he shall rise in the last day in his rose-colored scapula to sit at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

[1] “Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, ingesteth all things.”

[2] Identified with Phascolarctos Lethe or Bespectacled Koala.

[3] Osman I (1299-1324)

[4] Or Streams of Consciousness, as it is popularly and idiomatically translated.


3 comments on “Humor Exercise

  1. salvageroost says:

    I am horrified that you were able to make such a great percentage of this actually funny. Granted, much of it probably wouldn’t be funny to me if I didn’t understand at least a fraction of the inside-jokes, but still… good job.

    Going to start mine now… X)

    • I pretty much gave up thinking of intelligent ways to be funny after the first one. After that, I wrote pretty much whatever came into my mind that seemed remotely amusing. The last one is, naturally, based upon the Dromaius letter, although I don’t think it’s quite as good. Now to consider the aesthetics test tomorrow and the honors paper….

  2. salvageroost says:

    I don’t know what Mr. Bahr will think to be the objective, outsider value of the Dromaius piece, but I certainly enjoyed it.

    The second one is my favorite. It feels a bit clumsy in places, but I didn’t mind; I enjoy that particular brand of humor–the stream-of-consciousness that turns out to have a special appreciation for the absurd.

    The first one started out slow, and initially I didn’t think it would be that funny. The dialect annoyed rather than amused me at first, and I just skimmed it; the comedy snowballed after the middle of the fourth paragraph, however. By the line “but Widow Vasey also dropped dead o’ a heart attack, so we forgave James in the end,” I was laughing audibly.

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