The Humor and Life, in Particular Web site
author:  Margie Culbertson

December 2006/January 2007 Humor Writing Contest winner
Best Short Humor!

World Wide What?


Ed Parrot

Janet Higginbottom was having a banner week. On Tuesday she received the divorce papers, and while most women would have felt at least a twinge of regret, Janet felt only jubilation. Her husband, Winthrop, was a perpetual student working on his doctoral thesis in archaeology. She knew that he didn't care for the actual work involved in digging under a hot sun, but he had managed to carve out a niche for himself in the lab. Janet suspected the main appeal was the large amount of unsupervised free time, which allowed him to continue his lifelong quest to create the perfect bong.

In any case, Janet no longer had to support the jerk. The papers cited irreconcilable differences, but she knew the truth. After years of serial philandering, Winthrop had struck gold in the daughter of the founder of the largest waste disposal company in the country. She was devoted to the handsome teaching assistant, and determined to support his ambitions. Even in a drug–induced haze, he had been smart enough to describe his modest dissertation as a cross between the hunt for El Dorado and the opening of King Tut's tomb. A breathless and blonde twenty–one, she was determined to delve into the past, provided that she didn't break too many nails. With visions of a six–figure sugar mama, Winthrop had informed Janet that she was stifling his creative growth and he needed to move on. Janet had barely managed to contain her laughter. She was considering sending the young woman a thank you note once the divorce was final.

Janet worked in the marketing department of a euphemistically titled "fertility clinic." The facility was owned by two men from Boston, who seemed particularly interested in generating clients willing to pay in cash. She did have to give them credit for originality; the idea of a federal investigation into money–laundering at a medical facility was almost comical.Stripped to its essence, her job consisted of coming up with new ways to describe a sperm bank as a nurturing environment where couples could make their dreams come true. She did not bring her work home. This week, she had been offered a job as an editor for a small medical journal, and Janet was ready for the change. She was counting the hours until she would no longer have to face the words "comfort and pleasure" in a day's work.

Janet had one serious hobby, an online adventure game called ‘Dragon World". As with most such games, the majority of participants made attendees at a Star Trek convention look well–adjusted. But the game provided Janet with a private and exciting fantasy, and she had become the leader of an online "guild" of players. It was this role that led to an upcoming appearance on a live weekly show, "World Wide What?," which aired on the local FOX affiliate every Saturday. The episode featured a crossword puzzle buff, a Sudoko master, Janet, and two online poker players. One of the latter had been recruited from the local chapter of Gambler's Anonymous, and was flush with enthusiasm from five meetings a week. The other was a recent parolee, fresh out of a fifteen month stint at Club Fed. His incarceration had coincided with the discovery that the IRS does not consider gambling losses to be investment expenses.
As the camera operator counted down, Janet glanced around the set. Her heart was beating faster than normal, although she couldn't say whether that was because of television nerves or her encounter with Winthrop an hour earlier. The heiress to the solid waste fortune had dumped him, after observing him in an intimate tutoring session with another female student. Janet had rebuffed his pathetic pleas to take him back, but the incident had nonetheless left her frazzled.At the count of zero, the host, Rudy Vallumine, began by introducing the first panelist. "Let's start with Jeff Latrobe. You've got quite a history with online gambling."

Latrobe responded in a heavy Brooklyn accent. "Dat I do, Rudy. Don't believe what dey said about me – I'm da victim heah." The other gambler interrupted with the cheerful tone of the recently converted. "Now Jeff, step five is admitting you made mistakes."

Janet had watched the show before, and she knew that Vallumine's modus operandi involved selecting guests likely to create conflict. His primary role was to prevent felony assault, at least while the cameras were rolling. What she didn't know was that the continued airing of the show was not due to ratings, which rarely rose to the level of poor. Instead Rudy had resorted to the subtle use of candid photographs stored in a safe deposit box. The programming director had forgotten the timeless political advice to avoid being caught with a dead girl or a live boy.

Apparently, she thought, even Vallumine did not want fireworks in the first seconds of a broadcast, because he deftly steered the conversation in her direction. "Ms. Higginbottom, you work for the Scordino Fertility Clinic, but your hobby sounds a lot more intriguing. What is Dragon World?"Janet opened her mouth, but at that same instant she spotted her husband entering the studio. A sudden fear, borne of long experience, gripped her vocal cords as she pictured how he might seek revenge for her earlier rejection. This fear, however, was soon replaced with the more acute emotion of shock, as Jeff Latrobe stood up with his microphone in hand. He said, "Hey, da Scordino Clinic, I been there. I was donor of da month a while back. I remember you from doin' my – whatchacallem, creative visualizations – in dat place."

Janet could not speak, but she noted that Vallumine was equally stunned by the nature of this revelation. He offered the weakest of rejoinders. "Wow, small world."

Before the words were out of his mouth, a tremendous crashing sound exploded into the microphones. Janet's face was a pale mask, and her stomach was pole vaulting the Eiffel Tower. She watched as Winthrop left a trail of wreckage in a mad dash for the stage. In his normal self–medicated state, rude comments about Janet's profession would have elicited laughter. But he wasn't himself, his main supplier having been stopped two days earlier for doing twenty–three miles per hour in the left lane of the expressway. The ticket was exacerbated by a trunk full of Jamaica's finest, and Winthrop was operating with an uncontaminated bloodstream for the first time in recent memory. He lunged for Jeff Latrobe's throat, and screamed, "That's my wife you're talking about!"

His initial trajectory would have been the envy of an Olympic long jumper, and a tiny part of Janet's brain was impressed by the effort. However, the cord for camera three arrested his forward progress, and ended the soaring flight with the abrupt deceleration of a carrier landing. Instead of finishing with his hands in a triumphant grip around the gambler's neck, he wound up face first in the leather miniskirt of the crossword puzzle buff. Janet was afraid to look at him, afraid to look at the camera, afraid to look anywhere. She closed her eyes, and tried to conjure up her previous visions of the show, in which she stole the limelight from Vallumine with her wit and charm. After a few seconds, she gave up, and returned her focus to the nightmare that had actually transpired. She saw a frantic man behind the camera, motioning with his hand across his neck to cut off the live feed. It occurred to her that this man, whom she didn't even know, was making the first intelligent decision by anyone on the set since the show had started. Her final thought before the house lights came on was to wonder whether he was married.

©Ed Parrot

I design computer programs for a large national bank. I could say it's a laugh a minute, but I could also say that I resemble Brad Pitt and it would be, um, equally true. With an undergraduate degree in history/economics, and a graduate degree in physical education, I am uniquely qualified to do things completely unrelated to my fields of study. I am currently in the final pages of co–authoring a 100,000 word thriller novel with a longtime friend of mine.

I haven't written much else, other than two or three very short stories. I write business definition documents for work every day, and I have written a couple of one hundred word non–fiction items for Running Times magazine in the past. One of my hobbies is running, which I share with my wife, who has qualified for the last two Olympic Trials in the marathon. I also was on the U.S. National Race Walking Team in 2005. Mostly, I'm a boring guy. Even though I'm writing a novel about a conspiracy, I don't believe they are really happening. Unless, of course, . . . they are.

You can read more of my writing at my website:  Click HERE.

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©Margie Culbertson

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