Humor in Storytelling
By Mark Aberdeen
Slightly over two years ago on a January 4th morning I received a call from a police officer and he told me my father had died overnight of natural causes. He was 67. I didn’t know what to do. I was distraught and emotions flooded over me in horrendous waves. They asked if could come down to the morgue and identify him. I had some decisions to make since I was listed as his emergency contact. On the trip to the other side of Atlanta, I had to go through everything again and again as I told my sister and two brothers. Then my father’s two sisters. I cut off a woman in an SUV a Chick-Fil-A in the drive thru. It was inadvertent. I was focused on the need for coffee and something to eat and I didn’t care if I hurt someone’s feelings as I did it.
She let me know in a very animated hissy-fit what she thought about me and my lack of consideration. In the middle of her stressed out rage, I started laughing. I laughed like a maniac. It was the single funniest thing I ever saw. It made her madder and I laughed harder and by the time I pulled to my stolen place in line my laughter and tears were interchangeable. I bought the woman’s breakfast as an apology and I hoped she would come to forgive my transgression in time. Each time I thought about her waving her arms and screaming at me, calling me names, while talking on cell phone and a car full of kids over something so silly, it just made me laugh all over again. I mean I made this woman’s happiness end because she could choose which lane to pull up to in the drive-thru and I made that choice for her. I promise I’m not a sociopath and I don’t revel in the pain of others, but the situation was very funny to me and especially at that moment and my guess is only that moment. It was one of the darkest moments in my life and I needed something to make me laugh. I’m not proud, but it was a very human moment for me.
I thought about it one day and I looked back on my life’s more tragic moments and I saw that humor was the thing that allowed me to cope with those situations. It’s a coping mechanism and an important one. Later at my Dad’s memorial service there were more laughs than tears. It’s something I realized when I wrote, when my characters were in their most dire circumstances, they had the same ability to cope with humor. Seems obvious to me now, but when my unit was activated for Desert Storm, that’s how we dealt with being scared. When I was in a head-on collision, we laughed about how my head cracked the windshield but I came through just fine. Hurricanes and floods racked our homes over the years in southeastern Connecticut while growing up, it was humor that came through the tragedy. Humans find humor. To find the humor in something dark is very relatable and a crucial storytelling tool.
Knight and Dex
Snow settled over New London and covered the alley with a chilly blanket, which normally gave me a moment’s pause to reflect. I might have thought about tranquility, but there was nothing tranquil in the roundhouse kick I took to the face. Steam rose from crimson splatter as my blood hit the freshly fallen snow.
Minx’s claws flashed. I jumped back and narrowly avoided being torn open at the belly.
It was difficult to wax poetic while someone was doing their best to kill me.
Welcome to my life.
I swung my left fist. My intention wasn’t to connect with Minx’s jaw but to buy a precious second. The parry worked well enough and gave me the moment I needed to draw the pulse pistol from under my coat. I bellowed a triumphant, “Ha!”
My moment of glory was short-lived. Another kick connected with my right hand. The blow jarred the weapon loose and it sailed into a snow bank. Powdery snow swallowed it whole. The thing about being unarmed, it felt a bit like being naked in a crowd. No way to cover my ass.
I gripped my stinging hand. “Shit.”
A powerful arm, furry and itchy and stiff as a crowbar, hooked me around the neck. Minx had gotten behind me, and the momentum of her attack tore my feet from the ground. I cartwheeled, forcing her to detach and spring back, but I landed face-down in a heap. The snow with all its apparent fluffiness did nothing to cushion my fall. The impact rattled my bones and lights danced across my vision, swirling in loopy rings.
All I needed was another concussion.
Strong hands grabbed me by the collar and belt. My stomach lurched as I was torn from the relative comfort of the ground and flipped onto my back like a flapjack. Minx pounced on top of me and pinned my arms to my sides with her powerful thighs. Normally, I approved of such positions, but she wasn’t Pink Panther and this wasn’t foreplay. I feared she would crunch me like a walnut in a nutcracker. I gasped for precious air.
To any observer it would appear as if I were unprepared for this fight. That observer would have been correct. I’d seen her running down the sidewalk and duck into this alley. She was up to something and I’d interrupted her. Evidence suggested it was something she didn’t want the cops to know about. While my intent was to have a friendly chat with her, she’d decided to take our exchange in a different direction.
Minx had a reputation in underworld circles as an effective messenger. Our not-so-cozy encounter fell within the realm of her typical delivery method. While I didn’t feel like she took sadistic glee in her work, I thought she took pride in a job well done. I, on the other hand, found the work environment hostile, and already I was drawing up a complaint to her HR department.
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Knight and Dex (The Dex Territory Series Book 2) here:
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