I finally saw someone other than the Runner Twins and Big Security Guard yesterday. It was Manila Man. And it was not a pleasant experience. I was sitting on the cot, feeling particularly frustrated by my situation, when a man in a suit sauntered up to the cage. I stood and spread my arms:
“Hey! Manila Man!” I erupted in faux excitement. “What’s up you shit eater?!” In hindsight, I can see how this got things off on the wrong foot. I really shouldn’t call the guy “Manila Man” to his face, I’m sure he has a name.
The suited man looked stunned, his lips parted as though he had been about to speak before my enthusiastic greeting robbed him of his big gloating entrance. He stared at me through the bars instead. Just as I was preparing my next witticism (I think I was gonna say “How’s your mom?”) he jerked open the cell door. Thin Manila Folder Man’s hands went to his jacket as he rushed in. His face, eyes staring up at me from behind a furrowed brow, had darkened. I thought I saw a pistol appear in one hand but the other hand was already behind my neck and gripping tightly, shoving me out of the cage door and into the hallway. My initial thought, He didn’t put a bag over my head!, faded quickly once the gun muzzle pressed under my chin.
I was in the Blogging Chamber quicker than I could realize what was going on. Manila’s grip on my neck mashed me into this seat, facing this abacus, and then a gun was against the back of my head. It rested there casually, without force, and somehow that lack of physical pressure drove home the ease with which a tunnel could be carved through my skull. I didn’t move. On the screen Microsoft Windows logos flew toward us in a dazzling six-color array.
“You haven’t been doing your job, John,” he mocked. “I told you to write something funny for us.”
“No you didn’t.”
The gun slid an inch higher against the back of my head. “Do not toy with me, blogger.”
“No, really, you didn’t. You said something like ‘You work for us now or you’re through,’ and then you stormed out of the room. I have no idea what this is about! I mean, if this is–”
“Enough. Of your games.”
Everyone thinks they know what a gun being cocked sounds like. Most of us think it sounds like the hollywood sound effect: a cool, crunchy, metal-on-metal collection of slides and clicks. Some have heard the sound in person, cocked a gun themselves, and they know it as a much less impressive, more practical sound: a hammer clicking into place or a new cartridge entering the chamber. Yet even those familiar with the gun rarely take time to inspect the sound it makes. But when you’re sitting in silence, and you hear the sound of a gun cocking behind your head, you discover that you’ve never actually heard that sound before in your life. It is the sound of time–an infinity of it you had unwittingly expected your future to be filled by–vanishing into a vacuum. The sound of rocks and pebbles tumbling down a cliff whose edge you’re stretching over. That sound when you shut up upon realizing a silence is spreading over the entire room because something amazing, or terrible, has happened.
Manila Man cocked that gun behind my head. “Write something funny.”
I wiggled the mouse and WordPress appeared, already running. That sound of the gun cocking behind me? It sounded like being seconds away from death. That is the sound of shit getting real. And shit getting real…
Is the antithesis.
I was utterly stumped. Seriously, what do you say or do with that? A gun was propping up the back of my head and I had moments to come up with something that made the murderous freak behind me laugh. Here is, unedited, what I typed:
Ummm is it ok to talk to you while i do this or do i have to type? OK typing with a gun to my head what is funny? What is funny?
Dude, what is funny? OK, falling back on the rules of comedy.
Rule #1 – everything is funnier with monkeys. Monkey eating breakfast cereal. Monkey on Wall Street. Monkey Jesus and twelve other monkeys walking around in the desert preaching to monkeys.
OK that’s not translating well. I mean, I laughed at the monkey gospel a little but the gunman didn’t
Rule #2 – the worst joke is funny if repeated long enough. Shit thats not going to work I don’t have the time to tell the same bad joke for three months
Rule #3 – all jokes follow the same funniness graph when repeated over time:
At this point I knew I was going to die. I literally could not be funny to save my own life. My next step, assuming he continued to spare my life, was about to be a raw brain dump of all the things that had occurred to me in the last week of being locked up–a list that would have begun “Girls are really good at not talking about it when they’re on their periods.” But I realized Manila Man had lowered his gun. He was leaning over my shoulder, staring at the screen in astonishment.
I think he muttered “my god” under his breath, then he reached over me and began frantically pressing the “Prnt Scrn” button. A few bewildered seconds later and I figured out he was trying to get a printout of the page. I hit Ctrl+P and the printer in the back corner began its work. Manila waited at the printer eagerly, yanked the paper off the tray when it was finished, and gazed at it wide-eyed. He was still reading it, talking to himself, when he strode from the room.
“You could just look at it on the website, man,” I called after him. Why not be green, right? But he was already gone again. I peered outside and Big Security Guard Guy was standing there, so I came back in and now I’m done typing.