Errors of Comedy - Chapter 1
The Fourth of July seemed like an appropriate day for the birth of an All-American hero. The expectant father, David Daniels, was not an All-American hero. He was an accountant. He spent his weekdays in the accounts department of Sprawling Metropolis's most prestigious newspaper. The Daily Thompson had been named after its founder, the much-revered Samuel Thompson, whom David's grandfather had worked for when the newspaper had been in its infancy. After a lifetime dedicated to ensuring the financial stability of the newspaper, and covering up the indiscretions of the proprietor, his grandfather had finally passed the post of accountant on to his eldest son, David's father. He had served the newspaper faithfully for fifty years until he too had retired, leaving David to fill his shoes.
Now, it wasn't that David didn't like being an accountant, it was just his misfortune to dream. He wanted to be famous. He wanted people to know who he was. However, despite the massive circulation of the Daily Thompson and the high esteem in which it was held, the accounts department remained anonymous. Not since Samuel Thompson had embezzled several million dollars had the accounts department received any publicity at all. Not even when they won the Sprawling Metropolis Corporate Open Golf Championship. There had been an unfortunate incident involving Mayor Burdon, three caddies and a mashie-niblick but, naturally, the editor had been rather keen to suppress the story. This had deprived David of his moment of fame, not to mention denying the citizens of Sprawling Metropolis an interesting and original perspective on their much-loved Mayor.
No, David seemed destined to spend his life, as his father and grandfather had done, in the accounts department of the Daily Thompson. He hoped his son wouldn't become an accountant. He felt sure that his son would be the one to break the chain. He stood there, gazing at the ceiling. What would his son grow up to be? Maybe a sporting hero; a football or a baseball player. Or a politician. Maybe even the President of the United States of America. Imagine that, his son, The President. The world was crying out for strong political leadership. A reformer, that was what was needed, and his son would be the one to carry out those reforms. David's mind drifted to the future inauguration ceremony. His son was standing there, with his hand on his heart.
'My fellow Americans,' he began, 'words cannot express the pride I feel as I stand here today, watching you listening to me talking to you. You, the people of this fair land, this proud land, this great nation, have voted me into office and I am going to do my utmost, and I mean that most sincerely, my utmost to bring you the changes that you want to see. It is time that this once great country stood up to be counted and said, 'We are proud to be American. We are proud of our heritage. We are proud of our future.'' The audience rose as one to their feet and erupted into an enormous cheer, complete with waving of flags and stamping of feet.
David stood there, gazing into the future, tears rolling down his cheeks. His son was the President of The United States. He wondered if his wife knew.
'Deborah!' he shouted. 'Where are you?' A nurse took him gently by the arm.
'Mr Daniels,' she said.
'Quiet woman!' shouted David. 'I have important news for my wife.'
'Your wife is under anaesthetic, Mr Daniels. She's about to have a baby.' David quickly wiped the tears from his face and tried to look like an expectant father. He put on a mask and stepped into the operating theatre.
The doctors had predicted that the birth would be trouble-free. Since the abolishment of the so-called 'natural' childbirth and the introduction of the compulsory Caesarean, births were always trouble-free. David's outburst was only a minor inconvenience. Fathers-to-be often did strange things at births. Fainted, usually, but shouting, screaming or laughing hysterically were also quite common. Attacking the surgeon with a scalpel was still relatively rare, although recently released figures did show a significant rise. The presence of the armed guard at the surgeon's shoulder was merely a precaution. The presence of the two ghosts at the armed guard's shoulder went unnoticed.
The operation itself began smoothly enough. The first incision was made and David promptly fainted, earning the anaesthetist five hundred dollars. The surgeon, who had gone for 'laughing hysterically' at eight-to-one, picked up a pair of forceps and launched them at the anaesthetist with a deft flick of the wrist. The anaesthetist ducked but, before the forceps reached him, a ghostly hand reached out and deflected them very slightly. The forceps flew towards the television set, which had been installed for the benefit of those spectators who hadn't fainted or attacked the surgeon with a scalpel.
The television was, as usual, showing an old film, although the only person paying any attention to it was one of the ghosts, who seemed to be studying it very intently. He was about to comment on it to his companion when the forceps hit the television screen, causing it to explode. A bolt of lightening shot out of the television, through both of the ghosts and into the abdomen of Deborah Daniels. Her eyes flicked open for a brief moment before she opened her mouth and screamed 'A handbag!' before lapsing again into deep anaesthesia. Once the surgeon recovered from the shock of the incident and the anaesthetist was retrieved from under the operating table, they were able to assess the damage. Miraculously, nothing serious had occurred. Both mother and baby were alive and well. Also in a good mood was the theatre nurse, who had placed ten dollars on 'television exploding' at a thousand-to-one.
Two hours later, Deborah sat in bed, cradling her son. David stood at her side, gazing fondly at the future President of the United States. Or maybe a football player. He could see his son now, at the Superbowl. The Sprawling Metropolis Magpies had just reached their fifth successive Superbowl final and his son was the Quarterback. He was standing there, in front of the cameras, his picture being beamed all over the world.
'My fellow Magpies,' he began, 'words cannot express the pride I feel on standing here today, watching you listening to me talking to you. You, the supporters of this fair club, this proud club, this great team, have watched us reach the final and we are going to do our utmost, and I mean that most sincerely, our utmost to bring you the trophy that you want to see. It is time that this once great team stood up to be counted and said, 'We are proud to be Magpies. We are proud of our past record. We are proud of our future.'' The spectators rose as one to their feet and erupted into an enormous cheer, complete with waving of flags and stamping of feet.
David stood there, gazing into the future, tears rolling down his cheeks. His son was the captain of the Sprawling Metropolis Magpies. He wondered if his wife knew.
'Deborah!' he shouted. The future President of the United States/Captain of the Sprawling Metropolis Magpies began to cry loudly.
'David!' said Deborah, 'Look what you've done.' David turned towards the window in shame. He might have caused the child irreversible psychological damage. He would never forgive himself if the Sprawling Metropolis Magpies didn't win the Superbowl. On the other hand, maybe the experience would help his son to become stronger. Maybe he could use the experience to his advantage. Perhaps he'd write a best-selling book about it, which would help millions of people overcome similar problems. He could see his son now at the launch of the book. He was addressing an audience of renowned psychologists and psychoanalysts.
''My fellow psychologists...'' Just then, the surgeon entered the room.
'Well, Mrs Daniels, we've examined the test results from you and your baby and I'm very happy to say that you have both come out of this experience unscathed. I'd like to offer my apologies on what could have been a potentially actionable incident.'
'That's all right, doctor,' said Deborah, after comforting her son, 'All's well that ends well.'
'I'm glad you're taking such a calm and responsible attitude,' said the surgeon, making a mental note to stand down the lawyers.
''...we are proud of our future.'' The audience rose as one to their feet and erupted into an enormous cheer, complete with waving of flags and stamping of feet.
David stood there, gazing into the future, tears rolling down his cheeks. His son was the author of a best-selling self-help book. He wondered if his wife knew.
'Deborah!' he shouted. The future President of the United States/Captain of the Sprawling Metropolis Magpies/Best-Selling Author began to cry loudly.
'Mr Daniels, I really think you should be quieter. Your son is trying to sleep,' said the surgeon.
'Sorry, doctor,' said David. Deborah hugged her son to her chest until he stopped crying and fell asleep.
'What are you going to call him?' asked the surgeon. Deborah looked at her husband, looked at her son and then looked up at the surgeon.
'Derek,' she said.
In the corner of the room stood two ghosts, one English, one Irish.
'So what do you think of the lad, then?' asked the Irish ghost.
'I'm mad about the boy,' replied the English ghost.