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Standup

This morning Jerry smelled
heavily
of aftershave and
toothpaste when he came down. His
hair which usually
flies all over was
neatly combed with dabs of hair
gel in it.
Mimi? (I don’t know the reason but he
calls me Mimi even though
my name’s Janette.) Mimi, do I have an accent
when I talk?
What kind of accent, Jerry?
The accent of a
hick.
No, not too much.
I don’t sound inbred, like some slackjawed, backwoods
type?
No, who told you that?
My
mom did.
Jerry’s mom was right but I kept mum on that. Instead,
I said his accent first
was cute and second was what made him so effective
telling comic tales in
bars at night.
That may as well as not be true, he said, right here in
our home state, but you know well as I
they’ll laugh at me
in Hollywood.
Christ, Jerry, you’re a standup guy, it’s
comedy, laughing is
the point.
A light went on above
his head: You’re right!
So what I’ll do, he said, I’ll lose my accent.
How?
A voice coach which there must be millions
of in Hollywood.
Or better, I’ll have two
accents, one,
my country one and two my Hollywood
one.
I’ll switch between them (here he tried it out):
“City
guy says to
the farmer, nice
farm
you got.
Farmer
says to the city
guy … " See, Mimi? Just
like that.
I get it, Jerry, each
guy has an accent to himself and
that helps all the folks there in the club tell
them apart.
Right, said Jerry, what ya think? No, don’t answer
that because I got another problem which ‘til now I’ve been too shy to
speak about.
What’s that?
I don’t have AIDS.
Okay.
Don’t worry I have AIDS because I don’t. My
problem … (hemming, hawing) …
Come on, Jerry, spit it out.
My problem’s not a problem when I’m
in the bars at night but when I’m on a stage in some old hot old bright old
spotlight I get stage fright.
I just nodded.
Well, Mimi? Well?
Well what?
Say something.
You get stage fright, yes,
so what?
So no way I can
even think of doing standup in a club now
it turns out.
(Jesus Jerry!) Listen, all you do is
take a drink
before the show or
smoke a joint.
That’s a coward’s way, he said,
I will not take the coward’s way. This is
war, I won’t
retreat.
I admire you, Jerry.
No, you don’t. But I will beat
my stage fright even if you, I should say ye
of little faith believe that I cannot.
How will you do that?
I’ll pay a
psychiatrist, which there must be millions
of in Hollywood.
Good boy, I’m with you, Jerry.
No, you’re not. You’ve always said you’d never set your foot
in Hollywood.
I changed my mind.
You’ll go?
I will go, yes.
That means you won’t.
This conversation here I’m quoting happened
hours ago before the sun
came up. Right now it’s
later in the day, the sun
has set and Jerry’s
in his walk-in
closet sitting
on the floor his knees drawn up
and wearing just his underpants. He’s
trembling like an autumn leaf, he says his stage
fright just came back, the worst
attack he’s ever had in his
whole life. I tell him
be a coward, take a drink, for heaven’s
sake, or have a little smoke. Tomorrow we’ll go find
a shrink.
I can’t afford a shrink.
The hell you can’t, you bought your
crack for all those years but now you can’t afford
a shrink? You want to tell me how the hell
does that compute?
He whimpers, doesn’t
speak. I take another
tack: Don’t picture
strangers in the audience at the club, instead imagine
me,
just me alone out in the dark.
But you won’t come, he said.
Who said I won’t? I’ll be there every night.
You’d better ‘cause you know that otherwise I’ll never
have the
guts to get
onstage and do my jokes unless I start all over
shooting up.
So Jerry, let me get this
straight, you’re saying I’m your
drug.
No, you’re my drug
substitute.
I’m methadone.
Sure, why not?
That means I’m interim and you’ll
cut me off when you get straight.
No, for God’s sake, Mimi, stop, you’re messing with my
head, pretending you’re a
chemical
when you’re not.
But Jerry, you agreed with my methadone analogy.
Analogy. Damn you, Mimi. (Now he spits.) You think you’re so damn
smart. What the
hell is an analogy? Is this a
spelling bee or something? Is this
Jeopardy? Are you
Dr. Phil? Ragweed gives you an analogy, I know
that. Benedryl gets
rid of it. You ought to be a
librarian you like
words so much. You got the
library look, skin and
bones and flat as a
blueberry pancake with only
two blueberries in it.
This insult would’ve been funny in one of Jerry’s stories but applied to
me it hurts and now
I’ve got a mind to kill myself which shows the gaping chasm
between comedy
and life.

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Comments

  • moyo
    moyoalmost 3 years ago

    gosh. did you write this? it’s brilliant.

  • Peter Maeck
    Peter Maeckalmost 3 years ago

    This poem began as a section of dialogue in a novel I am writing. I extracted it from the novel and shaped and trimmed and cadenced it into a poem. So glad you read it and liked it, Moyo. By the way, I envy you living where you live in Switzerland, an area I have visited multiple times for all-too-brief brief periods of hiking and skiing and marveling at the landscapes.

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