Errors of Comedy - Chapter 7
David Daniels lay in bed, asleep. His wife crept quietly around the room, getting ready to go to work. Deborah didn't like to wake her husband, as it was the only time he could dream without being rudely interrupted by real life. She pulled on her trousers and tiptoed over to the cot where Derek lay. Derek was also asleep, but that wouldn't last for long. Deborah smiled down at her son for a while, before remembering that she was on her way out. She kissed his forehead and tiptoed out of the room.
David and Derek slept on. David never dreamed when he was asleep, or if he did, he could never remember what he had dreamt about when he woke up. He had often wondered if people were allowed a limited number of dreams. If that was the case then he probably used all his up during the day. Derek, on the other hand, dreamed vivid dreams. Being only a baby, he didn't often understand his dreams, but they were there and they kept him entertained whilst he was asleep.
The dream he was having that particular morning was especially bizarre. He was sitting in a garden. This was, in itself, fairly strange. Living in the concrete and plastic monstrosity that is Sprawling Metropolis, Derek had never seen a garden. Not a real one, anyway. The houses on Estate 253 had 'gardens' but they were merely small patches of grass with a handful of rather ill-looking flowers.
The garden in Derek's dream was a much larger affair, with enormous flower beds and trees dotted all over. There was a pond in one corner of the garden, with an ornate fountain spraying water into the air in time to the delicate chamber music being provided by a group of elegantly dressed musicians. In the centre of the garden was a large seat, suspended from a frame. Two young women were sitting in the seat, swinging to and fro and discussing nothing in particular. A small metal table stood by the seat. On it, a tray bearing two tall glasses of champagne. Derek had certainly never encountered champagne before. The only things Derek did recognise in the dream were the two oddly dressed and somewhat translucent men that were strolling casually through the garden, each carrying a glass of sherry.
'What are we doing in Derek's dream?' asked the Irish ghost.
'It's a prophecy in the guise of metaphor,' replied the English ghost. 'Now, do it properly.'
The Irish ghost sighed.
'Of course, my mother was a cauliflower,' he said.
'My room has an aubergine for a light bulb,' responded the English ghost.
'When the margarine rises in the West then... is this strictly necessary?' asked the Irish ghost, wearily.
'Yes,' snapped the English ghost. 'Now, you were saying something about margarine...'
'When the margarine rises in the West then trouble will come from the North,' finished the Irish ghost, sulkily.
'There you are,' said the English ghost, 'trouble from the North. I told you it was prophetic.'
'Well, what about the margarine?'
'And the aubergine?'
'And the cauliflower?'
'As I have informed you on more than one occasion, it is prophetic.'
'It's pathetic,' said the Irish ghost.
'That comment wasn't worthy of you,' said the English ghost.
The ghosts need not have bothered with their argument. Derek slept on, completely oblivious to the vital information that they were trying to communicate to him, mainly because he didn't understand any of it. He had tried gamely, but had given up completely when they reached the word 'aubergine'. Aubergines were not an everyday feature of Derek's life. The language barrier was not helped by the fact that he had managed to obtain one of the glasses of champagne from the table and was busy rolling around on the grass, giggling. Back in the real world, Derek stirred slightly in his cot and gave a small chuckle. The bubbles were tickling his nose.
David Daniels also slept on, until the radio sprang into life and began advertising things at him. It usually did. Considering that eighty per cent of the output of 'Radio Sprawling' was made up of commercial breaks, sponsors' messages and blatant product placement, this wasn't altogether surprising. David turned over. He usually did. If the radio came on it meant that he still had fifteen minutes of sleep left. The alarm clock would go off when it was time to get out of bed. True to form, the alarm clock went off just as David was drifting back to sleep. It usually did. In order to make sure that he got up in the morning, David always placed the alarm clock on the other side of the room. He fell out of bed and crawled over to where he had left it. Forcing his eyes open, he waved an arm in the general direction of the alarm switch. The alarm continued to ring. It usually did. David stood up, now almost wide awake. He picked up the alarm clock and typed in the password that would stop it from ringing. David knew he wasn't very good at getting up and took as many precautions as possible. The alarm stopped and David made his way back to the bed to listen to the news.
'... and the next news is at nine o' clock.'
It usually was.
David arrived at the offices of the Daily Thompson on time, as always. The crowd was surging out of the monorail station and David allowed himself to be swept along. He wasn't in that crowd. He was standing outside an office, dressed in a dinner jacket and black bow-tie. The secretary gazed up at him adoringly.
'"E" says you're to go straight in,' she said.
David opened the door and walked into a plush office. The editor was sitting behind a large desk.
'Morning, Daniels,' he said, in a clipped, English accent.
'Morning, E,' said David. 'Have a good night's sleep?'
'There's no time for pleasantries, Daniels, there's a killer on the loose and we need you to go after him.'
He handed David a plain, brown folder marked 'Top Secret'.
'Everything we know is in that folder. Good luck.'
David turned and walked through the office door. Back in the real world, he had just stepped into the elevator.
'Which floor?' asked the attendant.
'I'm afraid that information is classified,' said David. The attendant looked at him.
'Oh, it's you Mr Daniels. Accounts department it is then.'
David was often like this in the morning. The attendant could distinctly remember his first day on the job, when David had asked for two tickets to Hawaii. David had used the stairs for several months after that incident until he finally brought himself to apologise to the attendant and assure him that it wouldn't happen again. It was two days later that David walked into the elevator and demanded to be taken to the attendant's leader. The attendant often felt guilty for not snapping David out of it, but it just caused embarrassment all round. He still wondered how the accounts department reacted to being greeted with 'The people of Earth bid you welcome'. Unfortunately, the elevator doors had closed before he heard the response. Perhaps the people in accounts were used to Mr Daniels as well.
The people in accounts were indeed used to David's somewhat erratic behaviour. A regular sweepstake was held every evening to guess with what persona David would enter the office the next day. That morning, David entered the office with a Walther PPK in his shoulder holster and orders to find a killer at all costs. When the elevator doors opened, he leapt into the room.
'OK. Nobody move,' he shouted, 'I...'
The clock struck nine. Reality struck David. As a result of what he liked to call his 'distracted nature', David's brain had become finely honed, enabling him to dig himself out of any holes he got himself into. He continued his sentence virtually without pausing.
'... thought I could see a rat eating the... coffee in the... machine... but there wasn't.
By this time, David had made his way to his chair and he was able to hide behind his computer screen until coffee time, by which time he felt able to face his colleagues. He didn't normally enjoy this, but today was different. Today he had won the sweepstake.
Derek was having an equally interesting morning. For some reason, he had woken up with a throbbing headache. He didn't think it would do much good, but he cried for a while anyway. Deborah heard him crying and changed his nappy. Derek had tried to explain that she was tending to the wrong end of his body, but she didn't take any notice so he gave up and lay very still until the headache passed.
When he felt well enough to move slightly, he turned his head to look out of the window. A group of people walked past. On closer inspection, one of them turned out to be that Lisa girl who had visited him the other day. He waved to her. She ignored him. He waved again and gurgled a bit. Deborah picked him up and fed him. This was beginning to get a bit annoying. When he had a headache, she changed his nappy. When he wanted to talk to Lisa, she fed him. What did you have to do to get people to listen to you?
He peered over his mother's shoulder. There were those two funny men again. He was about to say something to them when his mother started patting him on the back. He wished she wouldn't do that, it only made him burp and that could be so embarrassing, especially when he was trying to talk to someone. He burped and tried to look apologetic. Strangely, his mother didn't seem to find it embarrassing at all. In fact she seemed quite pleased by it. He sometimes wondered if he had been given the correct parents. Perhaps they had been found somewhere and, having nowhere else to go, had come to live with him. Derek wondered if he could take them back and exchange them for some more. Like those two men. They seemed quite interesting. So interesting that Derek fell asleep watching them. He gurgled happily to himself, wondering if he could find some more of that fizzy stuff that he was drinking in the garden.
The two ghosts stood and listened to Derek gurgling away.
'I wonder if he's talking about us,' said the English ghost.
'There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,' said the Irish ghost.