“The One-Two Punchline” | Novella | Written by McConnaughay | 6 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“The One-Two Punchline” | Novella | Written by McConnaughay | 6

2.

It was his own stupidity that upset him. Why had he allowed himself to thin, even for a second, that David Nix might say his name on stage? He said he had signed a comedian, which meant, surely he would have contacted him in some way beforehand.

It was the excitement in the air, the way the oxygen depleted from his head, that made him susceptible to his own delusions of grandeur.

Jimmy felt so tired and downtrodden, so worn and defeated. Elvira slept in the bedroom.

He called out from work and was now busily scribbling down ideas and one liners in his notebook. All of them were terrible. They were fucking terrible, as a matter of fact. Trash. All of them. Fucking trash.

He rubbed away the knots forming on the back of his neck and sighed. All he had ever wanted was to be an entertainer. His life had been built around achieving that singular objective. Performing offered him an escape of life – the healthiest, least messy form of suicide there was – at least, temporarily. He had failed as a person in all other fields in the mean time. What did he have to show for it when all was said and settled.

He slid beneath the blanket covers beside Elvira, the light from his cellphone shined off his face like a little boy telling ghost stories at a campfire. As he wound down, his head rested against the pillow and he shut his eyes from a day that he could not wait to forget.

* * *

Jimmy!”

Jimmy could hear the voice calling from afar, but he could not yet fathom the meaning of it.

Jimmy!” The voice yelled again, and, this time, Jimmy opened his eyes, seeing Elvira staring back at him with a look of panic painted on her face.

Elvira did not have to say a word to him, and yet, for some reason, Jimmy felt confident he knew what had happened. His eyes went over to his dresser drawer, another day, another night of forgetting to take his medicine.

I’m sorry, it’s …, sometime I mutter in my sleep,” Jimmy answered dreamily, sitting up from the bed. “It is a side effect for when I don’t take my medicine before bed.”

It was very weird,” Her eyes made it seem like she remained spooked by it.

Jimmy shrugged his shoulders, “You knew what you were getting into.”

Oh, it’s fine, don’t worry, it’s just,” She stopped for a moment.

What is it?”

She shook her head and laughed at herself, “It just sounded like you were both snoring and mumbling at the same time, … isn’t that crazy?”

3.

And, that kid has only been a comedian for, what, like a week?” Darren asked, offering what sounded like he was sincerely offended on Jimmy’s behalf.

That goes over, … there,” Jimmy said, pointing his finger at a specific brand of vacuum cleaners that Darren had not yet been able to find. “It has not been a week, but, yeah, he has only been performing, from what I can tell, a couple of months, at best.”

Is he, like, really good or something?” Darren said, stuffing a vacuum cleaner box somewhere that only barely fit with the way the shelves had been arranged.

I would not say he is the best, but he is not horrible or anything, about on par with a lot of comedians with his level of experience, certainly not among the best at The Laugh Track or any of the other nightclubs in Marybeth.”

Because that would be you,” Darren affirmed, offering a smirk.

As far as Jimmy could tell, he had meant it as a genuine, although playful compliment. Jimmy smiled on impulse, but it had initially hit him in a different way. As though it suggested his own arrogance for thinking he was deserving of such recognition.

As they finished their pallet of housewares freight, Jimmy took the reins on the empty skid, lifting it with his pallet jack and progressing toward the front of the store. As he backed up and maneuvered his way through the aisle to keep from knocking anything over, he turned back around again and saw Dalton Collier looking back at him, alongside a group of people Jimmy did not recognize.

Jimmy,” Dalton said firmly.

There would be no escaping him, it seemed.

Hey, buddy, how’s it going?” Jimmy said back, offering a grin that was so phony it might as well have been painted on.

Things have been really great, Jimmy. Meeting David Nix has been a real dream come true, and, in a couple days, I will be joining a tour bus that will be traveling across Maharris.”

Dalton’s enthusiasm seemed subdued in some way, like he was toning it down to keep from sounding like a braggart.

Yeah, that’s, uh,” Jimmy rubbed the back of his neck, feeling around like he thought he would find the rest of his sentence back there. “That’s great, really.”

I stopped by to thank you for all the help you have given me and all the support, it meant more to me than you could ever know. I also wanted to see if you wanted to grab a bite to eat with me before I leave. There’s, uh, restaurant called Buddy’s Diner I really like. It isn’t exactly Ollie’s Abil or that type of fancy food, but it is a nice stop for a bite.”

Jimmy stayed quiet for a couple of seconds, traversing his own emotions in favor of rational thinking. Here he was, a friend to Dalton, who was not acting like one, because his own sour grapes. Jimmy’s face loosened from a taut frown to a weak smile, “That sounds great, Dalton. Just tell me when.”

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