This week we only have two stories, Last Joke by returning contributor Alex Carrigan and my own. This week’s prompt was a little difficult and I admit that I almost did not meet it myself. In the end, I just took the first joke that popped up when I googled “jokes” and forced myself to write the damn story. After all, that is the whole point of this project: to get the job done no matter the circumstances.
Next week’s prompt is going to be a bit different so tune in for that (most likely Sunday evening, my time). In the meantime, enjoy the stories (and the full moon this weekend).
Reader warning: these stories contain graphic language which may offend.
Irene burst out laughing. She and Noah continued to laugh until the very end.
The girl was sitting by the curb outside of the library, her backpack beside her. The clock over the courthouse had struck six with a clang fifteen minutes earlier. She looked at the drawing of a kangaroo on the palm of her hand. The tail and ears were smudged. She spread out her fingers, determined to keep her fist open. Hearing a car approach, she looked up, hoping it was her daddy. It was not. She picked up her backpack and walked back to the library, thinking she would tell a librarian. Even though the lights were off, she pulled on the glass door. It did not move. She did not see them leave so she knocked on the door. Nothing stirred. The girl sighed and walked around to the back parking lot. It was empty. With the library and courthouse closed, nobody had any business in the small downtown.
She sat back down on the curb and began to cry. When she heard another car engine racing her way, she wiped her face quickly, forgetting the kangaroo. The girl stood up,
“Where is daddy?”, she asked as soon as her mom parked. Her mom got out of the car and went up to the girl.
“I’m sorry, honey, I know this is one of daddy’s days. But he had to work late. Like usual. He got so busy with a meeting that he forgot what time it was.”
The girl nodded.
“Oh, Gracey! What is all over your face? And your hands?” Her mom pulled out a pack of wet tissues from her bulky handbag and began wiping the purple streaks off of her face. When she tried to do the same to Grace’s hands, the girl yanked them away.
“No mom, you’ll ruin it!”
“Why did you have a kangaroo on your hand?”
“So I would remember.”
“Remember the joke. If the kangaroo is not there, I’ll forget.”
“If you like, baby, you can tell me the joke now and I will remember it for you.”
“Like how you remember things for daddy?”
“Yeah, like that.”
“Okay.” Grace looked at her hand where the kangaroo had been. “Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State building?”
Her mom tilted her head slightly, sincerely trying to figure it out. Finally, she said, “I don’t know. Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State building?”
Grace began laughing before she managed to share the punchline. “Of course it can! The Empire State building can’t jump.” They both laughed and got into the car.
“Mom? What is the Empire State Building?”
“Oh, it’s just a tall building in New York.” Grace nodded and leaned against the side of her child seat, exhausted. When her mom carried her into the house, she did not wake, lost in a dream of New York, the buildings replaced by giant kangaroos.