The Joke That Kills
She swears a few more motivational thoughts and turns in her chair, makeup thick on her face. Time to face the music. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath before opening them.
'$50 is $50,' she says to herself again.
In front of her is a sea of tiny, anxious faces. She picked up a gig as a clown for a kids party. A kid who just happened to be named Lou. Awfully old name of a kid, she thought, but she needed the cash.
'They're kids,' she says to herself, 'they laugh at anything.' This will be easy, as long as they don't look at her, talk to her, or even worse touch her. As the mob of mini faces looks on she shudders silently to herself. Well as long as they don't talk to her or touch her...
‘Yea so fuck, how you doing? she begins.
The room is a brief rush of chaos. The parents who decided to watch gasped and clutched anxiously their picnic paraphernalia as the little sea of susceptible minds whispered fervously the four letter word amongst ranks of hissing cohorts. The room grew silent once again and all eyes were on her.
'A talent agent is sitting in his office and in walks a normal family, dad and mom, son and daughter. And so the talent agent, naturally curious says, what do you do?'
Five minutes later.
The gate bursts open and out tumbles Jaclyn with two of the father's grabbing into either of her arms and a third with his hands firmly around her neck. She struggles a hand free and slugs one across the mouth.
The three tumble to the ground as Jaclyn struggles for breath, hand reaching in vain for her waistband.
A man with two small horns and a tail that sways behind him as he moves wearing a bowling shirt and khaki shorts paces back and forth behind a blond woman in a white robe. She is almost luminescent in essence and flutters a pair of thick white wings behind herself as she turns to the man.
The demon stops in his tracks, frustration clearly mounting.
Waffles: What are we ever here for?
Ariel: Comic relief?
Waffles slumps down and the two sit silently.
Waffles: Should we tell a joke?
Ariel: I don't know any jokes. Do you?
Ariel: Were you going to tell it?
Waffles: I'm the straight man.
The angel stares at Waffles. He absently scoffs and rolls his eyes slightly.
Ariel: Was that the joke?
Waffles: If we're comic relief and we don't make anyone laugh, do we even exist?
He raises an eyebrow.
Ariel: Deep stuff.
A silence descends upon the room once again. Ariel crosses her arms across her chest and begins to tap a single bare foot before she sighs once again.
Ariel: Are you going to tell that joke?
Silence. Ariel tosses her hands into the air, clearly becoming fed up with her colleague.
Ariel: Okay? Tell the joke.
Waffles pulls out a coin and flips it dramatically.
She stares at him blankly.
Ariel: Do you know what a joke is?
The whistle of the bullet ricochets off the counter above her. Hunkered down behind the bar, Jaclyn peeks out from underneath her black cowboy hat over at her parter, a tall man with long scraggly hair. At one point, he could have been considered attractive but wear and tear and time turned his face grim.
‘You said there were no cops! she snarls over at him.
Multiple shots bounce off the counter and she blindly fires over the rim, bullets arcing harmlessly into the ceiling and wall of the tavern.
‘When?’ she returns.
'When I looked!’
She sits silently for a moment before silently mumbling, ‘I fuckin hate you,’ while frantically reloading her six shooters.
Behind Jaclyn, a man with a horseshoe shaped mound of greying hair topples forward, a large man made hole now taking up the better part of his face.
'They've got us surrounded Jacky!' another primal growl escapes her lips.
Wildly, the woman wearing clown face paint screams, standing upright, guns ready for action, fire pumping through her bellows but a spray of bullets releases the steam from her engine and she slumps down next to hole-in-the-face.
The last of the posse raises both hands in surrender and slowly stands only to be pushed off his feet by a shot that hits him square in the shoulder. He clutches the wound in disbelief and looks over at Jaclyn.
‘Idiot’, she says before blacking out.
Jacky comes to with a gasp. Two crumpled bills roll off her chest as she rolls on her side and scans her surroundings. She's been dropped off beside the dumpster at the local Pump n' Dump.
She pulls herself to a seat and collects the two bills. They only left two tens but hey, 20$ is 20$.
Not bad for one joke.
‘Hey clown!’ a voice shouts to her side and she turns her sore neck only to look up at a tall man with a ball cap and braids. He is wearing a Pump n Dump polo and has a cigarette in one hand.
‘You look terrible! What the hell happened to you?’
Jaclyn shrugs a shoulder, stuffing the two bills into her bra.
‘Jester, make me laugh!‘
The elderly man in the hat waves a hand absently and Jacklyn looks around herself. Unable to find the referenced jester, she turns back to the king who is at present staring at her. She points to herself and mouths 'Me?'.
‘Yes. Today, fool.’
She looks around once more briefly for verification it was indeed she he was talking about before she steps forward
‘Er...’ she mutters in thought.
‘Ah! I have thee, my liege. A stage manager is sitting offstage and a family enters. A mother, a father, a lad and a lass....’
'Off with her head!'
Modern Day.Nothing like a nice hotdog
A long pull from the forty ounce brings her back to life.
Jaclyn Pierrot sits on the edge of a gravestone, absently kicking one boot as she finishes the last bite of the gas station chili cheese dog with a belch. A half finished forty of Old English clutched in her hand becomes her crystal ball as she stares deeply into the liquid while another empty one seems to rattle around on its own at her feet.
‘Great job up here kid.
Jaclyn looks around herself. Nothing she can see...
She gasps gently.
'Hello?’ she offers.
Nothing moves and she shrugs her shoulder, turning back to the bottle. Probably just the wind, she thinks and takes another pull from the bottle.
Waffles: It's always the same with you.
The bottle drops from her grasp, ricocheting off the concrete grave only to bounce and dramatically fall to the ground below. Not much liquid is wasted but the rising foam means this already tepid beer is gonna go stale.
Waffles: It's me! Down here!
Jacky looks down at the grave. Edward Derringer. He died too young.
She suspiciously looks behind the stone. Then surveys the area around her.
Waffles: Dig me up! I'm stuck in this box!
Jacklyn returns to the grave and shrugs, picking the bottle up, and clears the rest of the bottle before shattering it on the stone. She begins to kneel and make use of the tiny makeshift glass shovel.
Waffles: No you fucking idiot. Use that shovel.
She looks around again and then back at the grave, clearly puzzled.
Waffles: Over by the shed!!!
She retrieves the real shovel and continue her dig.
Ariel: Why do you mess with her?
Waffles: Why not?
'Two fifty,’ declares the bus driver, eyes not leaving the road. Jacklyn fishes the money out of her bra and adjusts the load draped across her back. Depositing the money, she shuffles down the aisle to the empty seat at the back of the bus where she plops down and moves her package to her lap.
A woman in a bright red hat and matching blazer looks up, turns back to her paper and then back to the clown faced woman with a look of horror on her face.
Sitting in Jaclyn’s lap is a decaying body, propped up like a marionette. One eyes is missing from the head and the body is deep into the process of decay. The woman in the red hat stands, newspaper dropping to the aisle, and makes her way to the exit, a sign of a cross being drug across her chest frantically by her left hand as her right clutches a purse that is decorated with fake roses.
Jaclyn sighs deeply and turns to the corpse.
‘We've only got 20 dollars, Ed.’
Jaclyn stares blankly into the side of the corpse face, glaring for a moment at a maggot that slowly makes its way along the cheek.
‘Awful quiet now.’
She resigns to silence before noticing the paper the woman dropped with a headline reading Carnage Wrestling presents Act of Defiance. She shifts Ed on her lap and scoops the paper deftly into her free hand.
She splays the paper out in front of her for Ed to see as she eagerly reads the article, a smile spreading across her face.
‘Woohoo! I'm gonna be a wrestler!!’ she yells, pulling her hidden magnum from her waistband and firing a round into the air. A moment passes and she looks up. The entire bus has turned to look at her, the smoking pistol, and the dead body she's clinging to and are currently staring at her with jaw agape.
‘I'll get off here.’
The dust settles across the road where a small crowd gathers. Three men and a woman with clown makeup stand atop, though only two appear to be bound and strung.
‘Black Murphy. You and your men have been found guilty for multiple robberies throughout the west as well as a litany of horse thefts and robberies. Do you have any last words?’
Jaclyn shifts uncomfortably atop the gallows. Her partner stands to the side, hanging his head with tears pouring down his face. Jaclyn looks down for a moment and clears her throat.
‘Yes,’ she begins as a hush draws over the crowd. Her arms shift in the cuffs for a moment and she clears her throat.
'A vaudeville manager was sitting in his office...'
Moments later, the joke ends with a short drop and a sudden stop.
That joke always kills.