A priest, a rabbi and a grizzly bear walk into a pub.
Bartender looks up and says, ÒWhat is this, a joke?!Ó
Bleakest night of the year. SunÕs been gone forever. Cold rainy Thursday in February. A club downtown. Surprisingly posh interior – deep rejuvenated wood, old chandelier, plush seating, and pool table you play for free.
Stand-up comedy night. Fifteen losers in the room, not counting me, and a server who wonders what went wrong with her last audition and what atrocities she committed in previous lives.
Comics, you see, the amateur ones, donÕt bathe. DonÕt ask why. Just a fact. Some, however, are quite funny. Imagine. This room full of stinking comedians, all strangers. Everybody wanting, needing everyone to fail. And desperate to have each other there.
A couple comes in off the street for a drink, looks around, leaves cheetah fast. Trust me, itÕs tragic.
The beefy guy in charge does not explain the sign-up sheet so I go last. At midnight. On a cold wet February Thursday night which you already know but I cannot overemphasize. Destined to be a bleak, esteem crushing experience. However.
What these poor bastards – my peers – donÕt realize is I now possess a secret, deadly weapon, having learned everyoneÕs name when we shot free pool. No one considered, no one suspects.
So when the same turd whoÕs heckled everyone mercilessly all night – thatÕs right, the only one NOT doing a set – starts in on me at the end of the evening IÕm able to say, ÒKyle ...Ó to which the room goes so quiet I actually feel a collective tremble, perhaps the reverberation of fifteen slamming sphincters.
We donÕt name names! hangs silently unsaid, along with We never thought to ask!
And I smile, savouring something I canÕt yet articulate – a jaguar knowing first kill an instant prior to snapping a spine.
ÒKyle ...Ó I repeat, mercilessly. ÒYour lashing out is normal, and perfectly understandable. But itÕs important we try to get along; now that IÕm going to be your new dad.Ó
The fact this Kyle and I are close in age adds a delicious layer to the predatorial parfait.
ThereÕs another pause, a momentary silence and then the comics let loose with hyena howls of delight. The unbridled bliss of a bully being served up and slaughtered. Here I am, this outlander, a comic interloper who waded into the game reserve not only dodging the hunter but outgunning him with his own blunderbuss. Yes, slide that counterweight on the justice scales to righteous! Now that, that made the cold and saturated February Thursday – now a Friday, worthwhile.
I finish my set – the only set – without a further heckle, retiring undefeated. The sour server, I believe, allowed herself a brief but genuine smile.
© Bill Arnott
Bio: Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Dromomania and Gone Viking. Sales generate donations to numerous charities. His poetry, articles and reviews are published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. BillÕs series Left Coast Poetry Beat is published by the League of Canadian Poets and the Federation of BC Writers.