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You know how to laugh, don’t you?

“He’s a bastard,” L. says–like a good friend should.

J. nods and puts an arm around me. “You can do better. Who needs a guy who won’t kiss her?” She shakes her head.

I cry. Hiccup. Gulp. I wipe my tears with my fingers and smear my mascara.

Less than an hour has passed since my tactophobe boyfriend has ripped my ego out. J. sits at one end of the sofa, I sit on the other, and L. sits between us. I try to steady my breathing.

L. smiles. “Look! A ponytail!” When she looks at J. the ponytail is in my face, but she whips it around for J. to see. She’s been thrilled all day that her hair has finally grown long enough to put in a ponytail. “See!”

JT comes after L. and I hold her back.  And yes, back in 1989.

JT comes after L. and I hold her back. And yes, back in 1989.

“L.,” J. whispers. “Marta is crying.”

“Yeah. But I’ve met my hair goal.”

I laugh. We all laugh. I don’t cry over him anymore.

L. used to call me in July to ask if I’d decided what to wear the first day of classes. “That’s at the end of August,” I’d say.

“I know. Haven’t you decided yet?”

At the end of the spring term in 1989, L. thought it would be a great joke to tell a rumor mongering friend that I was getting breast implants that summer. I couldn’t understand the looks I got when I returned to campus in the fall. What are they looking at? I’d wonder, thinking I’d spilled something on my shirt.

The day my mother died and we were at the airport (back in those days when friends could comfort you at the airport without a boarding pass), L. bought me a Snickers and a USA Today. “Read the business section,” she said. “You might meet a man on the plane.”

Plenty of stories are dark. Tense. Creepy. Don’t we want that comic relief? In movies that seems to be a requirement. Must have gay friend or hobbits to crack the jokes–and often the hero is bland beside them. In my fiction I have the smart mouthed friend. She says the things my heroine would not say. Sometimes I worry the sidekick is more interesting, but I need her there or the story would be relentless.

So today here is L. to prove that I do laugh. Reading back over a few posts I was beginning to forget.

6 thoughts on “You know how to laugh, don’t you?

  1. This is one reason I love the books of Carl Hiaasen: he takes on big, dark subjects (global warming, ticky-tacky development, cosmetic surgery) in stories which he tells with broad laughter. Kind of killing two birds with one stone.

    They’re not for everyone, I guess; the laughter also tends to have an, uh, edge. In one of his books (I forget which one), there’s a charming thug (I forget his name) (hmm, I’m sensing a theme here…) who was in some sort of accident years ago and lost a hand. He could have opted for a plain-old prosthetic hand, or what a less inventive writer might have come up with to make him “scary” — a stainless-steel but otherwise old-fashioned pirate’s hook, say. But in Hiaasen’s books, the villains to whom he gives the most attention have been granted special privileges of… interestingness. He gives the handless thug a modified weedwhacker. Which makes for — among other hilarious moments — the scene in which he’s working as a bouncer in a crowded club and has to clear the floor.

    I do look forward to reading about your smartmouth sidekick. Especially because I sense how serious your work really might be.

  2. JES,
    I’ve not yet found the nerve to read Hiaasen. I will look for the weedwhacker.

    I don’t know if my work is serious or not. I’m always putting in things that are bound to make some people dismiss the entire piece. People like my mother-in-law who refuse to read a book that isn’t completely realistic. Well, that isn’t even accurate. She won’t read anything gritty. She like real and uplifting, preferably from a Christian bookstore.

    But I digress. Two people have described my work as David Lynch-esque (think Twin Peaks, not Blue Velvet). Is that serious?

    I just have no perspective on my own work.

  3. I like the balance between the serious and the sidekick…it’s like life. Sometimes things go askew but for the most part there is a balance of good and bad, light and dark, serious and funny…it works. And, like a marriage, someone is always going to be funnier or more serious at any given time. You’ve got it…keep writing!

  4. I’ve never thought you were without humor, rather that you knew Life wasn’t a big Jolly Fest, so the levity that does come to you comes sincerely, dryly, and sometimes wryly.

    The Twin Peaks analogy makes perfect sense to me.

  5. L sounds like a hoot.

    You are right about the humor in the books, and I think it’s okay for the sidekick to steal the show a little bit. I see that a lot in movies and books. I think if the hero is sympathetic enough, the reader will always turn back to him, loving him the most. The reader will be mentally pushing that sidekick up to him, wanting him to have someone to hold onto and someone who will make everything okay.

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