My favorite punchline is a retroactive callback within the same couple of pages. It's sort of like one of those joke set ups where someone is going to go talk to someone that makes them nervous. The other characters all suggest different things they could say, but then the character rejects their ideas and supplies a much wittier or smarter comment. Then, when they approach the character, nerves take over, and they spit out something stupid that had been suggested previously. Only, this time, you hear the stupid comment first ("Your hair looks nice,") before getting the call-back to the reason it is especially funny. Also: Any chance to reference Ghostbusters makes the section better. Table of Contents here.
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“It isn’t the worst way this could have ended,” Kenny said as we looked on the stage, wincing as Lucy’s squeaky yell was slowly drowned out by the band. Kenny was rubbing his puppet arm, claiming it was sore after being so terribly violated and exposed.
“She’s being vomited on.”
“Yes, but I managed to get away before the delicate kayfabe of the puppet show was ruined.”
“First, I don’t know what that means — and I don’t want to,” I said when it looked like Kenny was going to start talking. “Second, it may not be the worst, but it is still pretty bad.”
Kenny shrugged, and seeing that he wasn’t going to do anything I made my way back up to the stage, hopping up past the emcee. I knelt down next to Lucy and took my jacket off and undid my tie. “Go change, take my shirt,” I said as I was unbuttoning it.
“I’m covered in it.”
“Well, your hair looks nice,” I said.
I handed her my shirt, and then helped her down from the stage. Kenny took her other arm as we sat her at a nearby table, which cleared quite quickly you can imagine. I handed her some napkins. I had a little cousin once who got sick at an amusement park. I tried to remember what I did, and reached the conclusion it was: “dump him off on mom.”
“Kenny, can you go get Christine or Susan or someone?” I said. “Lucy, let’s get you cleaned up.”
“It is all my fault.” She said. “Well, not all of it. The drinking is completely on him. But I shouldn’t have listened to Christine. Wait, no. That was all on me.”
Listening to her ramble to herself was a good sign. The band moved from one song to another. After dabbing off all the places I could dab off without getting slapped, I just sat down next to her and looked over the crowd. She continued to debate with herself what exactly she was at fault for, and while I wanted to say something, I didn’t really have anything to say. So, instead, I just listened.
Well, pretended to listen. But, you know, I think people should get points for that. Especially when dealing with women. Women just like to yap on and on, like everyone cares about every thought that goes through their head. I don’t just mean men listening to women. Women listening to women too. Why do you think phone calls between women can take hours?
After the first one speaks, the second one is out to even the score. With men, it is just, “That’s great/too bad/a story I hadn’t heard. My day’s good. Well, have a good night.” Talking is objective oriented; you are trying to convey some feeling, thought or emotion. The eighth iteration of “This is disgusting” doesn’t really add to my understanding. This might make me sound callous, but really, I’m not going to become more empathetic because she really, really expresses her dissatisfaction with her current plight.
“Sam? Are you even listening to me?”
The key, when this question is posed to you, is to answer with complete confidence. Today, I decided instead to try using complete honesty: “Not really Lucy, there was something on my mind.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Is it important?”
“Not really, no. It just sort of popped in there,” I said. “Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.”
She looked at me, confused, and still slightly covered in vomit. I had expected anger instead of resignation, but this new honesty thing was really going well for me. “Well, I’d like it if you’d listen to me.”
“Right, what were you saying?” I said.
The band music cut off. Jon had been hauled off by security, and the emcee had regained control of the evening. “I was just saying that this has been quite possibly the worst night of my life. I ruined everything.”
“You tried to fix it, that’s all that matters,” I said. Kenny came back with Christine in tow. Christine just smiled, while she took Lucy’s things and draped my jacket and shirt over her arm.
“I mess everything up,” Lucy said. “Nothing I do ever ends the way I want it to end.”
“That’s not true,” I said. I tried to think of a quick example, but then I settled on not providing one. After all, this is one of those things that you just sort of say to paper over a situation. Like ‘Your hair looks nice.’
“Come on Lucy,” she said. “Let’s go ahead and take you to clean up and celebrate your first foray into revenge!”
“I never want revenge ever again,” Lucy said. “It never ends the way I want.”
“The next dance,” The emcee called over the speakers, “is by special request.”
Lucy’s ears seemed to perk her entire face up. She pulled to a stop and pointed Christine towards the emcee.
“This dance was requested by a special friend of Christine and Peter, to celebrate their budding romance.”
“Did you do this?” Christine asked Lucy, dumping Lucy’s things into my lap. “I didn’t even see him here, I got too distracted. You’re the best Lucy; I’d hug you, but, vomit.”
“Go have fun. I can take care of myself,” Lucy said shooing Christine away.
“Kenny, walk Lucy out. I, uh, need to do something. A thing, that’s kind of important,” I said as I dashed toward the stage.