Errors of Comedy 11

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'Errors of Comedy' Graphic by Lentilla

Errors of Comedy - Chapter 11

Billy Hilarious stepped out of his office into a mob of Northern Radio reporters.
'Mr Hilarious, do you have anything to say to the people of the Northern Quarter as you begin your first match as chairman of Sprawling Metropolis United?'
'I am going to make a speech before the kick-off,' replied Billy. 'Everything I have to say will be in that speech. Now, if you'll excuse me, gentlemen.'

The reporters parted and Billy walked down to the dressing room. He pushed open the door. As one, the players jumped to their feet.
'Afternoon, Mr Hilarious,' they chorused.
'Afternoon, lads,' replied Billy. 'Are we going to win today?'
'Yes, sir.'
'Good.' He shook hands with the manager.
'Those new players are getting on very well, Mr Hilarious.'
'I'm glad to hear it. Carry on.'

He left the dressing room and walked out onto the pitch. There was an enormous roar as he was recognised by the home supporters. He stood there for a full five minutes, soaking up the atmosphere and the adulation of the crowd. Finally he raised his hands. The crowd settled and Billy opened his mouth to speak. At this prearranged signal someone threw a football to him.

'I tell you what, Gentlemen, my wife's like a football; I kick her, score with her occasionally and pass her round the football team!'

The crowd roared with laughter. Billy gave a mental nod of deference to one of his university lecturers; 'Always warm up the audience'.

'Citizens of the Northern Quarter, our time has come. For too long we have lived in the shadow of the rest of Sprawling Metropolis. For too long we have been exploited, cheated, used, abused, stitched up and put down by the people of the South. It's time we said, "No more". We are not mindless drones, put in this city to do the dirty work those in the South are too scared or too incompetent to do. We are human beings. Not like those in the South, but better. Better physically, better mentally and better morally.
The question now is, "What are we going to do about it?" I have a suggestion. Fellow Northerners, I suggest that we move South. Let us show them what community spirit can achieve. Individually we can do nothing. Together we can bring the South to its knees. It can be done. We can do it. We will do it. People of the North, I call upon you to unite against the oppressors and march with me to freedom.'

The crowd erupted. A smile crawled onto Billy's face. As long as his team won the match, the North was his. He walked over to the referee and shook hands. This was the signal for the players to come bounding out of the tunnel. The opposition staggered out of their dressing room and onto the playing field. Billy looked at them in mock concern. That bitter did get around. Whoever was responsible should be reprimanded severely.

'You naughty boy,' he said to himself and climbed the stairs to the directors' box from where he could watch the match in comfort. Or not watch the match as the case may be. There were far more interesting things to occupy his attention. In comfort.

* * *

Horace and Doris Lundy sat in the front row in the 'Theatre of the Irradiant Lantern'. On the stage two intense young men dressed all in white stared out towards the audience. They didn't move. They didn't blink. Such was their mental discipline that they eschewed all pleasures of the flesh. Like breathing. Well, much breathing, anyway. They remained stock still for several minutes, impressing half of the audience and boring the other half. Doris Lundy's other half was decidedly of the impressed school. He sat, staring back at the two men, daring them to blink. They didn't. His eyes began to water.

The men on stage weren't the only ones not blinking. Doris hadn't blinked now for several minutes. Her chin rested on her chest, which rose and fell gently and rhythmically. She was dreaming of a beach. An opera house. A Greek temple. A Roman amphitheatre. Anything. Just not Sprawling Metropolis. Sprawling Metropolis threw itself wholeheartedly into her dream in the form of a loud scream from one of the men on the stage. She sat upright, screamed and grabbed Horace's leg. He screamed. The woman behind him screamed. Her husband screamed. Their children began screaming. Doris sat with her head in her hands. Forget the opera house. Right now she just wanted to be in her own house.

When order was restored to the theatre, the two men resumed their positions staring at, and through, the audience. Doris looked around in despair. How long was this going to go on? Without warning, one of the men grabbed his partner and threw him through the air. The man landed on his back, springing almost immediately into a fighting posture. Advancing back across the stage he launched himself into a spinning kick aimed firmly at the chest. The kick was blocked and the first man somersaulted over his head, landing in a crouch. He spun around, sweeping the other's legs away from him, leaving him crumpled on the floor. The crouched kick became a leap onto the downed man's chest and the attacker raised his hand to deliver the fatal blow. Without a word, both men sprang to their feet and returned to their original positions. A woman in a kimono walked onto the stage and bowed to the audience.

'Honourable masters require volunteer for next display of skill and discipline,' she said.

Horace raised his hand. Doris turned to look at him.
'What do you think you're doing?' she whispered.
'Volunteering,' replied Horace, standing up and allowing himself to be led onto the stage by the hostess. She positioned him between the two men and he stared into the audience, trying desperately to hold his stomach in. Doris giggled slightly. This might be fun.

'Honourable masters will instruct venerable volunteer in arts of Oriental combat,' the hostess informed the audience.

Horace bridled at the 'venerable' bit - he'd show them a thing or two. The honourable masters turned and bowed to Horace. Horace returned the bow to the first one and then turned to bow to the second. He didn't get that far. As he turned his back on the first martial artist, he found his legs being removed from under him. Seeing little option, he fell over. So it was going to be like that, was it? He began to climb gingerly to his feet. The second martial artist held out a hand. Horace took it and found himself being propelled through the air at considerable velocity before making the acquaintance of a large, soft mat. He closed his eyes. Dave Brady never had this trouble.

* * *

Sprawling Metropolis United won their match that afternoon. This came as no great surprise to anybody. It was no surprise to Billy Hilarious, given the state of the opposition. It was no surprise to the crowd; the great Billy Hilarious had graced the ground with his presence, therefore the team couldn't lose. It was no surprise to the general public of the Northern Quarter; the man on the radio had said that United would win, therefore they couldn't lose.

Now, Billy Hilarious sat behind his desk. Arranged around the desk were three chairs. Arranged in the chairs were three of the most influential people in the Northern Quarter; Arthur Mayhew, manager of Northern Radio, Ernest Ramsden, brewery owner, and Harold Simpson, impresario of the working men's clubs.

Billy glanced slowly from one to the other, making eye contact.
'Well, gentlemen,' he said, 'the time has come.'
'Has it?' asked Harold.

Ernest looked at his watch. Arthur ignored them.
'What are you planning to do, Mr Hilarious?' he asked, notebook at the ready.
'We're going to march on the central region. We'll gather the people together at the southern edge and each of us will lead one quarter of them into battle and on to glorious victory,' said Billy, melodramatically.
'Will we?' asked Harold.

Ernest held his watch to his ear and shook it. Arthur licked his pencil and wrote down 'glorious victory'. He underlined 'glorious' twice and looked up at Billy.
'Begging your pardon, Mr Hilarious, but how are we going to achieve "glorious victory"?'
'We're going to fight for it. Those Southerners won't be expecting us. They won't know how to fight. They've become too soft after all their years of living in air-conditioning, with their carpets and their wallpaper. It'll be easy to overpower them.'
'Will it?' asked Harold.

Arthur wrote down 'carpets' and put a circle around it. He underlined the circle and turned to Ernest, who was still shaking his watch.
'Ernest, what are you doing?'
'Well, according to my watch, the time hasn't come.'
'What time hasn't come?'
'The one that Mr Hilarious said had come.'
'You won't find that time on your watch,' said Billy. 'It's a time that transcends mechanical devices and measurement. A time that goes beyond ordinary men, like ourselves. A time that will live in the memories of the people of the Northern Quarter and in the memories of our descendants. A time that will be burned onto the consciousness of the people in the South. A time that will never be forgotten.'
'Won't it?' asked Harold.

Ernest just stared at Billy in awe.
'I'd better buy a new watch then,' he said.

* * *

'I'm terribly sorry, Mr Lundy, but we'll have to keep you in for a few nights,' said the doctor. 'I assure you that Sprawling Metropolis Central Hospital has the finest medical facilities available in the city and, though I say it myself, the finest doctors.'

Doris and Horace Lundy had arrived in the central region two days before their companions on the Sprawling Metropolis tour. They hadn't intended to, but then it was a series of unintentional events that had landed Horace in the Central Hospital. Horace hadn't intended to insult the two martial artists quite so badly. They hadn't intended to throw him quite so high in the air. He hadn't intended to miss the crash-mat. The doctor from the medi-copter hadn't meant to spray him with foam remover.

The upshot of this was that a battered, bruised, concussed and thoroughly wet Horace Lundy was whisked directly from the 'Theatre of the Irradiant Lantern' to the hospital. Doris, however, was left behind in the confusion. She had taken cover under her seat as the foam remover started flying and Horace was in no fit state to tell anybody about her. So, with admirable loyalty, she had made her way to the central region and finally located the bed where Horace lay, swathed in bandages. The doctor swept past her on his way out of the room. Doris grabbed him.
'Do you mind?' asked the doctor, indignantly.
'How is he?' asked Doris.
'If you are referring to the patient, I am afraid I cannot give you any information without your first identifying yourself.'
'I'm his wife.'
'And can you prove it?'
'What do you mean, "prove it"?'
'Do you have any identifying papers or other documentation that would verify your assertion that you are the patient's wife?'
'Can you prove that you're a doctor?' asked Doris, sick of the man's blathering.
'I beg your pardon?'
'No, I didn't think so,' said Doris, brushing the doctor out of the way and striding majestically into the room.
'You can't go in there...' began the doctor before finding the door slammed firmly in his face, '... whoever you are,' he finished, rather lamely.

Doris rushed to her husband's side and took his hand.
'How are you?' she asked anxiously.
'Fine,' said Horace. 'A bit sore in places, but fine.'
'How long have you got to stay in here?'
'A couple of hours...'
'That's a relief...'
'Then they're moving me to the main ward for a few nights.'
'A few nights?' exclaimed Doris. 'How many nights is "a few"?'
'Oh, you know, a few,' said Horace, distractedly.
'You don't seem too bothered about it,' said Doris, becoming suspicious.
'Of course not. They have hospital TV...'

Doris put her head in her hands.
'... and they show The Paradoxicals twice a day, every day, and the food's real good, well, maybe not real good, but not bad for a hospital and... hey! It's four o'clock already. Switch the TV on, honey.'

Doris shrugged. As her husband was incapacitated, she felt she couldn't refuse.
'OK,' said Dave Brady, 'here's the plan.'

Doris groaned. Why? Why not a programme about art, or cookery, or gardening, or the weather, or anything? Why The Paradoxicals? She knew all the episodes backwards. This was the one where they went to a tea party on board a ship. For some reason Doris had never been able to fathom, an English couple wanted to stop the party. The Paradoxicals sorted it all out in their usual inimitable style; Dave started a fight with the Englishman, Rich seduced his wife and Jane programmed the ship's computer to dump its cargo into Boston harbour. The three heroes then returned to their own time, just as a bit of a fight broke out between the English and the Americans. Hooray!

Doris turned to her husband, but he was gazing intently at the screen. The rest of the world had ceased to exist for Horace Lundy.
'I think I'll go and find somewhere to stay,' said Doris.
'Try the engine room,' said Dave Brady.

* * *

Derek Daniels sat on his bed staring, as he often did, at the wall. It stared back. He blinked and his gaze shifted to the wardrobe in the corner of the room. Hanging on the door was his new 'uniform' - an old shirt and tie of his father's. That wasn't the point. It was his new uniform for his new job. He was now a man with a place in the World. Derek Daniels, janitor at the Daily Thompson. It wasn't much of a place, but at least he'd get paid... and he'd be in the same building as Lisa. Perhaps he would be able to impress her. What with? His sweeping technique. His brilliant new method for unblocking drains? Janitoring didn't seem to offer many opportunities for impressing people. Come to think of it, there didn't seem to be many opportunities involved in the job at all. Unless you counted the opportunity to get dirty and smelly. Not exactly a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

His gaze continued to drift around the room and eventually fastened onto a small, black box. His cigarette holder. Witty Put-Down Man's cigarette holder. His new-found other half had made quite an impression at the party, particularly with Lisa. Perhaps that would provide a way into her affections. His mind wandered...

'Derek, wasn't Witty Put-Down Man wonderful the other night? I think I'm in love with him!' said Lisa.
'Lisa, I am Witty Put-Down Man,' said Derek heroically.
'Oh, Derek!' said Lisa and fell into his arms.

Or alternatively...

'Derek, wasn't Witty Put-Down Man wonderful the other night? I think I'm in love with him!' said Lisa.
'Lisa, I am Witty Put-Down Man,' said Derek heroically.
'Derek, don't be ridiculous,' said Lisa.

Derek considered the two alternatives. With deep regret he decided that the second was probably the more likely. Evidently his secret identity must remain a secret, at least for now. Maybe one day he would be able to prove to Lisa that he, Derek Daniels, was Witty Put-Down Man. For the time being he returned his attention to the wall.

The two ghosts stood and watched him, unobserved.
'He seems to be doing a lot of staring at that wall,' said the English ghost. 'You would have thought that a boy of his age could find something far more interesting to do.'
'Youth is wasted on the young,' said the Irish ghost.

Errors of Comedy Archive

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29.01.04 Front Page

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