28 January 2011

"Everything but the Laugh"

By Curtis C. Chen

"I don't think I heard you right," Maddy said, grabbing one of Josa's tentacles. "He's going to what?"

The sinuous alien blinked his left eyes in a slow ripple. "Please, miss. I heard not clear. Sound like soo-iss-aye."

"Are you sure that's what he said?"

Josa wriggled out of her grip. "Please, miss. Much work to do. Big show tonight."

The alien slithered away down the hall. Maddy turned, went to Conrad's dressing room, and opened the door without knocking, interrupting his juggling.

"Fuck a duck!" he shouted.

Maddy couldn't resist saying, "I thought those were geese."

"Didn't your mother teach you to knock?" Conrad picked up the goslings and ushered them back into their cage. "What if I had been, I don't know, naked in here or something?"

"First of all, eww," Maddy said. "Second, Josa says you're going to commit suicide?"

Conrad shook his head and sat down. "Goddamn blabbermouth."

Maddy closed the door. "Please tell me this is one of your stupid pranks."

He looked up at her, and the dull, defeated look in his eyes told her it wasn't a prank.

"You can't do that," Maddy said. "I'll notify my mother. She'll inform the diplomatic corps, and they'll suspend your travel privileges."

"That'll take weeks. And a reprimand from the DC carries much less weight when you're dead." Conrad frowned. "Isn't that odd? The word 'mother' starts with M, but 'female' starts with F. And 'father' starts with F, but 'male' starts with M. Doesn't that seem backwards to you?"

"Don't change the subject," Maddy said. "I'll stop you. I'll watch you like a hawk."

"Will you, now? You gonna follow me into the bathroom, sit by my bed while I sleep?"

"You're going to kill yourself on stage," Maddy said. "You're going to do it to get a laugh. That's the only reason you do anything. The Barish think death is hilarious—"

"Did you ever wonder," Conrad said, "how your mother persuaded me to bring you along on this tour?"

"She's a politician. She has leverage."

"I'm your father."

Maddy sighed. "Really? You're trying this? Really?"

Conrad chuckled. "Yeah, I figured that one would bomb."

"This is what I'm talking about!" Maddy said. "You're a scientist. Experimentation, trial and error, observation. You've interacted with more sentient species than any human alive, been allowed into places that are forbidden to outsiders. If you die before I finish documenting all your knowledge—"

"I don't have any knowledge," Conrad said. "Don't you get it? I'm the court jester. They let me in because I have no power. I'm nothing."

Maddy knelt down and took his hand in both of hers. "If you kill yourself, I will tell everyone that you are my father, that you knew it and didn't tell me, and that you've been fucking me for the last six months. Your legacy will not be the greatest entertainer in the galaxy, but a disgusting, incestuous pedophile."

Conrad smiled. "You're a quick study."

"Please don't kill yourself. Let me do it after the tour's done."

"That's funny."


Photo: Dutch comedian Mike Boddé, October, 2009