Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Misfunderstandings Continue

My favorite part of comic misunderstandings is right when both parties have committed to the misunderstanding. In this piece, Peter cements his misunderstanding of Kenny and Sam, and Kenny locks in on thinking Peter is a negligent pothead. What this moment does is it sets us, the audience, into the role of watching the comic tragedy start to shift into focus. "Oh," we say. "Something is going to go wrong because he thinks this thing that is wrong."

The fundamental misunderstanding between two parties is the basis for lots of comedy. Why is Fawlty Towers funny? Because Basil thinks the wrong guests are hotel inspectors. Watching a character who thinks they are right do things while being so hideously wrong amuses us because the character has reached their incorrect conclusion often due to some fault of their own. In this case, it is less a character flaw in Kenny and Peter that lead to this misunderstanding, and more just different parcels of information. Either way, today's fiction is below the fold, and the table of contents is here.

* * *

“I don’t ask for a lot Kenny,” I said mid-compression. “But, right now, I am asking with all my will: Shut up.”

I’m not sure where things went from manageable to terrible. I think it was about the point that Kenny started screaming: “This wouldn’t have happened if his dad wasn’t a pothead.”

Kenny did have a point there. We had specifically asked about allergies. No one wrote down: “May die if near junk food, any sort.” So, naturally, when he started wheezing we just thought it was asthma or puberty or something. It wasn’t until he fell over that Kenny thought we should elevate the situation to “We should do something.”

So, here I was, pumping some kid’s chest and trying to remember how CPR worked. The only thing I really knew about CPR was that if you did it right, you could sneak a kiss from a hot lifeguard. Kenny had told me to try it once. And by told me, I mean he pushed me off the diving board. The lifeguard who rescued me was named Kyle. Kenny never forgave himself.

Kenny made himself useful at the phone; some of the moms were running interference keeping their kids away. I could hear what Kenny was going to say after this: “If that kid lives, you’re a hero. You could have your pick of any of the moms that saw you save the day.” Kenny said he had a talent for spotting opportunity.

I was relieved when people who knew what they were doing stormed the building and pulled me aside. The rest of the night was a blur. The insurance forms; Kenny’s dad answering questions all night long. I don’t even know what time it was when the dad came slinking back in to the alley. Kenny was in a forgive-and-forget mood.

“How’s the kid,” He asked.

“I don’t know how to thank you two enough,” He said. “He’s never had a reaction like that to anything before.”

“Glad that we could help,” I said. I kind of left it hanging in the air, hoping he’d thank us again and leave.

“I’d like to try and thank you,” He said reaching into his pocket. “Look, I work at a bank. I had one of my assistants pull some strings and see what you folks are paying for this place. I can get you a much better rate, and even a loan to expand if you want.”

I took his Wells Fargo business card and tucked it into my pocket. “That’s very kind of you.”

“One more thing,” He said. “If you feel comfortable being out together, there’s a charity event my bank is cosponsoring. Come as my guests, I’ll introduce you to the bigwigs.”

“I’m not that ashamed of Kenny,” I said, taking the tickets. Bigwigs meant networking, which meant job opportunities. He threw his arms around my neck and started to cry. Kenny came over to help him sit down and hand him a napkin to blow his nose.

“Thank you,” Peter said. He pushed himself to his feet, wiped his nose, and patted us on the shoulders. “I can’t ever thank you enough.”

Kenny started to walk him to the door. “There’s one thing you can do, at least until your kid grows up: Go straight. It ain’t doing him any good to have a dad with your problems.”

Peter screwed his eyes up. “I am straight.”

“There are support groups,” Kenny said. “For your kid’s sake.”

Peter was on the other side of the door as Kenny was closing. He gave us a half-hearted wave as he walked away, looking more confused than sad. I couldn’t really blame him, I guess. I’d find it pretty hard to face life if I screwed up so bad that Kenny was telling me to make better life choices and give up pot.

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