Punny

Hilary Malamud
Punny Hilary Malamud lives in New York City. She loves dancing ballet, reading, and writing short stories. Her favorite books are Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice.

“George spent a while trying to come up with an excuse for why he needed help, but he didn’t need to, for although he always pretended he understood computers, Charlotte had always known he really didn’t.”

Nobody liked 30-year-old George Denton’s show. It was on at 10:00 at night, and it was called This Week in Jokes. It was supposed to be a hilarious show filled with funny anecdotes about the latest gossip, but George didn’t do a great job living up to those expectations. He really wasn’t funny. All he could write were terrible puns, and no one really appreciated them. It was a miracle he could make a living off his horrible show and still have enough money to pay his only crew member, Charlotte Lacourse.

All George wanted was to be a famous comedian, but it’s very, very hard to do that when you’re not funny. When he first started, George absolutely loved his job and thought he was on the path to fame and fortune. However, after years and years of disappointment, George’s love for his show began to fade away. He would’ve stopped as it was quite far from a success, but if he didn’t work on his show he would have no money at all.

“You know, George,” Charlotte said to him one day when she came in to work, “if you’re really unhappy with this show, perhaps you should consider looking for a different job.”

“A different job? There’s nothing else I’d be good at.”

Charlotte wished dearly to say that if that was the case, there was nothing he was good at, for he certainly wasn’t a good comedian. However, her respect for his feelings prevented her hurting them in such a way.

George ran his fingers through his dark brown hair thoughtfully. “I suppose there’s no harm in looking…” he said very slowly.

“No there certainly isn’t,” she replied. “It might also be a good idea to talk to someone who can help you figure out what kind of job would be best for you.”

George, happy with this suggestion, made an appointment with a life coach by the name of Dr. Walsh. He was very smart, and very Irish. His accent was, at times, absolutely impossible to understand.

George got to the office at 3:00 for his 4:30 appointment. Charlotte, who had recommended him, had told him that he might be taken early, but he had really misunderstood her. However, it just happened to be George’s lucky day, because he was the only one in the office and he saw Dr. Walsh at 3:15.

“Hello Dr. Walsh,” he said nervously, “I’m George Denton. I had an appointment for 4:30.”

“Yes, I see that,” said Dr. Walsh, staring down at a notebook.

“Pardon me?” George said hesitantly, for Dr. Walsh’s accent was just too much for him.

Dr. Walsh cleared his throat, seeming not to hear him. “Well George,” he said suddenly,
“What is it you need from me today?”

“Well

“Wait,” Dr. Walsh said, cutting him off, “your shoes look rather tight. Take them off please. I find it’s much easier to talk to patients if they’re as comfortable as possible.”

“Alright… ” George said hesitantly, wondering quite how weird Dr. Walsh was going to be. He removed his shoes and placed them on the table.

“No!” cried Dr. Walsh. “You cannot put shoes on the table! It’s the most important Irish superstition! Put those shoes back on and get out of here.” He pointed to the door.

George told Charlotte about his very unsuccessful meeting with Dr. Walsh, hoping she could recommend someone else to talk to, but she had no one. Dr. Walsh was the only person she ever went to see. George supposed she never put her shoes on the table or let her chair fall over when she stood up, which Dr. Walsh had nearly fainted at when it happened to George.

That night, George performed another one of his shows, though he was really not in the mood. He had hoped that Dr. Walsh would have been able to help him solve his job problem, but he had no idea how insane he would be.

“Hello, and welcome once more to… This Week in Jokes!” George said, turning his chair to face the running camera held by Charlotte. “This week, we have had some very interesting reports about animals. First of all, Karla the Koala has learned to sing! I bet that girl gives some Koality hugs!”

Charlotte laughed. She always did that so it sounded like there was an audience enjoying all his terrible jokes.

“In addition to our animal with the great Koalafications, the cow who wrote that book last summer has come up with a moo novel!”

Charlotte laughed again.

“Speaking of novels, Barry the beagle thinks that the dogs in the wonderful book from last week, All the Queen’s Corgis, had a pretty ruff life! This is an interesting theory as most would think that being the Queen’s pet would give you some serious advantages.”

Just like all the other shows they produced, this show was not successful at all. It didn’t really affect George, though, because by now he was so used to his failures that he would have had a greater reaction if it had actually worked out.

The day after this show, George was walking along fifth avenue when he spotted a sign. It read: DR. ANDREW JACKSON, LIFE COACH. George got excited and decided impulsively to walk inside.

“Hello,” he said confidently to the receptionist.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked irritably, staring at him over her square rimmed glasses.

“No, I’m afraid not.”

“Well, we can try to fit you in but I’m not sure we’ll be able to,” she sighed.

“Oh, yes, it does look rather busy in here,” George said under his breath, looking around at the empty waiting room.
“What did you say?” the receptionist demanded.

“Nothing,” he mumbled in reply.

“You’re in luck,” the lady said, though she didn’t sound at all enthusiastic, “Dr. Jackson can just squeeze you in today. You’ll have to wait twenty minutes, though.”

“Alright,” George said happily. He had nowhere else to go.

After twenty-two minutes, the receptionist told him to walk down the hall and enter the first room on his right.

“Thank you,” George said. He discovered that there was absolutely no reason he had had to wait, for before he went in, no one came out, and there was no one exiting the room as he entered it.

George took a seat on the fluffy couch placed across from the armchair where the rather short Dr. Jackson was seated. There was no desk in between them.

“Hello,” Dr. Jackson said. “What’s your name?”
“George Denton. I don’t have an appointment but the lady at reception told me I could come.”

“Alright, George, what exactly do you need to talk about?”

“I’d like to talk about my job situation. I’m not happy where I am, but I don’t think there’s anywhere else I’d do well.”

Dr. Jackson sighed. “I get that a lot. People need to make better decisions about jobs.”

“Yes, well, I’m certainly not happy with mine,” George replied, trying to get back on topic.

“May I ask what about your current occupation it is that you are so unhappy with?”
“I run a show called This Week in Jokes. I’m the only member of the cast, and I’ve only got one crew member. I’ve been putting it on for five years now, but it’s a very unsuccessful show.”

“How on earth has it stayed in business this long?” Dr. Jackson asked, and rather insensitively, George thought.

“We’ve only got one investor, but he’s so wealthy it doesn’t really matter to him where his money goes. He agreed to pay for our show years ago when we told him we’d pay him a lot if he did. That was back when we thought our show would be a great success. Obviously, we didn’t make enough to keep our promise, so gradually we had to stop paying him, but he never really noticed and he keeps giving us his money.”

“Hmm… I’m sure you’re very grateful to him.”

“Yes, we are,” George said eagerly.

“But anyway,” Dr. Jackson said, “We need to talk about your unhappiness with your show. Why don’t you like your job?”

“I’ve always wanted to be wealthy and famous. I used to have fabulous dreams that everywhere I went people would stop me and ask for my autograph. I thought I’d be an outstanding comedian. But no one appreciates my jokes, so I’ve been beginning to think that maybe I’m not that great after all.”

“Well,” Dr. Jackson replied thoughtfully, “If that’s the case it would be a good idea for you to look around at other jobs. What do you think you’d be happy doing?”

“Anything where my talents are really appreciated.”

“Hmm… I’ll have to think about that one. How about I look around and let you know when I find things I think would be good for you?”

“That sounds wonderful! Thank you!” George said enthusiastically, and he left feeling quite happy he had seen that sign. Dr. Jackson was certainly better than crazy Dr. Walsh.

George had to wait a couple days before he heard from Dr. Jackson, but eventually he received a letter in the mail with his return address on it. Inside, he found four different packets filled with information about four different jobs.

The first one was, interestingly enough, a position at Starbucks. Dr. Jackson’s note said that this job might be good because the baristas were always spelling people’s names wrong and he could use his sense of humor to come up with funny name spellings. Somehow, George didn’t think that was quite the job for him.

The second job was a job at Apple in which he had to fix autocorrect issues. Dr. Jackson suggested that he could make autocorrect phrases into funny autocorrected phrases. Although working at Apple might be kind of cool, George thought he’d likely get fired if he irritated people with autocorrect when he was supposed to be making it work better.

The third job was a job working at Buzzfeed, for they were always making funny jokes. Though George did appreciate their funny articles, he didn’t think he’d do well working at a computer all day when he hardly understood how they worked. The only person who would have offered to teach him was Charlotte, but he hadn’t wanted her to think he was dumb for not knowing, so he just told her he was great with technology. He resolved not to tell her he had received this offer.

The fourth and final job was a position as coordinator of kids’ birthday parties at a gymnastics venue. Though this job didn’t seem like it would really require a sense of humor, Dr. Jackson said that when working with children, you always needed to be funny. However, not only did George find most children rather irritating, he had very bad organization skills and didn’t think he’d do well coordinating anything.

No matter what job he chose, even if it wasn’t one of these four, which it probably wouldn’t, he needed to put together a resume. He started this immediately, with help from Charlotte, for it needed to be done on a computer. George spent a while trying to come up with an excuse for why he needed help, but he didn’t need to, for although he always pretended he understood computers, Charlotte had always known he really didn’t.

“Okay,” Charlotte said. “So what was your first ever job?”

“I worked at a CVS,” he replied, slightly sheepishly.

Charlotte repressed a laugh. “Alright,” she said, typing that in. “And you started this show right after that, right?”

“Yep. And I’ve been working on it ever since.”

Once George and Charlotte finished putting together his resume, they needed to plan their next show. George looked at the latest news and discovered that a wonderful new shop called Georgia’s Chocolates had opened. George started thinking about some good chocolate puns.

“I know!” he said out loud, and Charlotte turned to look at him. “What?” she asked.

“I wonder if Georgia owns a pet chocolate moose!” George said excitedly.

Charlotte gave a small laugh.

“What, not good enough?” George asked indignantly.

“Oh, no, it’s perfectly good!” Charlotte said quickly. George seemed satisfied and they continued working in silence. It didn’t last long, though.

“Hey Charlotte?” George said after five minutes.

“Yes?” she said, preparing herself for another pun.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Oh! Of course!” she said, taken aback.

“Why did you go to Dr. Walsh in the first place?” George asked.

“He seemed like a good life coach,” Charlotte replied, thinking the answer was really quite simple.

“Well, yes,” George said impatiently, “I didn’t think you would have gone to someone who was supposed to be bad. But why did you need a life coach in the first place?”

“Oh… same as you. Career stuff.”

“When did you stop seeing him?” George asked, thinking that Charlotte didn’t need any job help now that she worked for him.

“I still go,” she said, trying to stay calm.

“But… why? Aren’t you happy with your job?”

“I wasn’t pleased. It’s hard to work on a show that has no success, who’s only investor doesn’t even know they’re paying for it. Dr. Walsh helped me to better appreciate my job.

“But you appreciate it now, right?”

“Oh… yeah, of course,” Charlotte replied uncertainly.

Though Charlotte’s answer would have been satisfactory, there was something in her voice that made George suspicious.

***

The next day, Charlotte was late to work. She was supposed to come in at 9:30, but it was now 11:00, and George was constantly checking his watch. He decided to call her, even though he knew she hated it when she got phone calls that weren’t emergencies.

He dialed her number and held the phone up to his ear. He heard it ringing on the other side, but no Charlotte answered it. He waited and waited until he heard Charlotte’s voice. He started speaking, but then realized that it was only, “You’ve reached Charlotte Lacourse. I’m not here right now, but leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!” Frustrated, George waited for the beep and left a message asking her where she was.

Charlotte didn’t call George back, or show up to work that day. He was starting to worry that something bad had happened to her.

That night, George was going to call ‘Missing Persons’ to see if Charlotte had gone missing, but because he was very forgetful, he didn’t. However, he hoped that Charlotte had just been sick yesterday and had forgotten to call him, so he went into work thinking she would be there. She wasn’t. She wasn’t there at 10:00, 11:00 or noon. She never showed up and, again, wouldn’t answer her phone. George was starting to get very worried. He was so preoccupied that when he went home, he walked right past the doorman, not realizing he had mail for him.

“Excuse me, sir,” the doorman said, “I’ve got your mail for you.”

“Oh! Thank you,” he said, taking the mail. He got upstairs and dropped the letters on the coffee table. He wasn’t even going to open them, but he noticed that the letter on top was  in very familiar handwriting, and upon picking it up, he realized that the return address was Charlotte’s. George got nervous, for Charlotte never wrote letters, never. Breathing quickly, George ripped open the envelope (which took a while, for he was about as good at opening letters as he was at following Irish superstitions) and pulled out the paper. He began to read, having absolutely no clue what he would find there.

Dear George,

I thought this would be easier to write in a letter than to tell you, as I fear it will surprise and worry you greatly. I’d like to elaborate on what I said about why I saw Dr. Walsh and my satisfaction with my job. To be honest, I never liked my job. Like you, I wanted to be famous and it frustrated me that your puns never got us anywhere. I majored in comedy at college, and I was really good. I knew that if I had my own show, it would be successful and my jokes would be hilarious. I didn’t like your show. I thought that if I helped you out by recommending some good life coaches, you would see that you needed a different job, and once you were gone, I would be able to take over your show and make it my own. I know this will come as a blow, but I never wanted you to succeed. I always told you your puns were good because if you knew they weren’t, I worried you’d ask me for help and then they would be good jokes and your show, particularly you, would become successful. That was the exact opposite of what I wanted, because then you would stick with the show and I would not be able to take it over. After our conversation the other day, when you asked me about why I needed a life coach, I realized that you were too close to discovering the truth and I had to leave. I was terrified you’d find out, but now that I’ve left and won’t be coming back, I feel like it’s safe to tell you, and you deserve to know because of how trusting of me you’ve been. When I first left two days ago, I had the design of coming back once you had left the show, which I knew would happen now that your only crew member was gone and you’ve told me you’re not happy.  However, upon leaving and moving to Portland, where I am now, I got a job assisting one of the best comedians of all time, Jackson Hatson. This job is a clear path to fame, whereas reviving an unsuccessful show would be very hard and less likely to turn out well.

Now that you have found out about my selfish character, I know we will surely never see each other again, so I wish you all the best in whatever you pursue and I hope that you have a happy and healthy life.

Charlotte Lacourse

George was speechless, not that he had anyone to speak to. He couldn’t believe this. Charlotte, who had always been so kind, Charlotte, who had always seemed so supportive, Charlotte, had betrayed his trust. It was absolutely unbelievable. It was even more painful to know that Charlotte was right, he would leave his show without a crew member. He’d been planning on it for a while anyway. George was going to miss his show. He remembered the day he had decided to start it…

***

George went home and collapsed onto the couch after a long day of working at the local CVS. He reached out his arm and grabbed the television remote lying on the coffee table. He turned on the tv and selected a channel at random.

“This looks pretty good,” he mumbled to himself.

The show on the channel of George’s choice was a fake news show put on by Michael McMarty. It was very funny.

“That looks fun to do,” George thought to himself. He started daydreaming about being someone like Michael McMarty. Wouldn’t it be great to be a famous comedian? George loved jokes, and though he had never tried, he thought he would probably be good at making them up. George loved the laughter of the audience watching Michael McMarty. He loved everything about the comedian’s life. That was the day he resolved to be a famous comedian and start his own show.

***

George sighed. Back then, he had thought that being a comedian was the best thing he could possibly do, that it would be so much fun and that he would be famous and successful. Clearly, comedy wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

George decided to go out for a walk. He thought it might be a better opportunity for reflection than sitting inside all day.

When he was out walking, he spotted a small, cracked bottle of blue nail polish lying on the street corner. Figuring he would be a good citizen, he picked it up and was about to throw it out when he noticed the name on the bottom. ‘Don’t Be Blue,’ it read. George chuckled to himself. He wondered who wrote those punny names… and then, it hit him. He needed a job coming up with nail polish names.

That night, he wrote an email to the head of Essie, one of the most prestigious nail

polish companies in the country, if not the world. George was shocked to receive an answer just an hour later. Upon reading it, he saw that Essie would let him apply for the job! Very excited, he pulled out the resume he had constructed with Charlotte. He winced. It pained him to think of her.

The next day, after sending in his application, George received another email. He was wanted for a job interview with Essie! He was ecstatic.

George’s interview went very well, although not all of it was comfortable. There were lots of questions about This Week in Jokes, for he had been working on it for a very long time. Every recollection was painful, for there had never been a day, until she left, that Charlotte had not been with him at work. He scowled, remembering that she had surely only done that to continue working her devilish scheme.

The people at Essie seemed very pleased with George. The puns that the viewers of ‘This Week in Jokes’ had hated so much were exactly what these people loved. He got the job, and it was absolutely perfect. George mourned Charlotte as if she had died, for the Charlotte he had known certainly had. Though he learned to move on and really loved his new job, the loss of his partner and supporter stayed in the back of his mind forever and always made him sad when he thought of it.

Epilogue

One Saturday night, George went home to watch television. He was going to switch to the channel of his choice, but before he did he noticed a headline that interested him: Famous Comedian’s Assistant Fired. He clicked on the channel, wondering who it was. A reporter was speaking.

“ — assistant to Jackson Hatson has been fired. Let’s hear from her about what went wrong.” George’s eyes widened. Though he wished to turn it off, because he hated thinking about Charlotte, there was something about the segment that drew his eyes like magnets. Charlotte appeared on the screen.

“So, Ms. Lacourse,” the reporter said, “why do you think Mr. Hatson has brought this sudden end to your time with his show?’

“Oh, I really don’t know what went wrong,” Charlotte replied distractedly, “I was going to be famous, everyone loved me, but my jokes began turning dull and Mr. Hatson thought I was hurting his career instead of benefiting both of ours.”

George felt a sort of grim satisfaction. Finally, Charlotte could experience the huge disappointment he had had to go through.

“Well, Ms. Lacourse,” the reporter said, “On the bright side of things, I love that nail polish you’re wearing. What’s it called?”
“Oh, it’s called Li-Lac-ing Color,” Charlotte said, looking at the very light shade of purple on her nails.

George laughed out loud. He remembered inventing that specific color. Charlotte had now gone through what he had to when he discovered how unsuccessful he was, and she was wearing one of his nail polish colors. George was satisfied.

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