Ralphís Dilemma
by William Michaelian

You know what? Iím tired of being funny. For years, all Iíve done is joke around and make people laugh. The result? No one takes me seriously. When I try to make an important point, all I get are smiles. Iím sick of smiles. People look stupid when they smile. I donít want to see their teeth and gums. Iím not a horse trader. I long for a wrinkled brow or a pursed lip. A frown would be ecstasy. But, no. Ha-ha, they say. Ha-ha-ha. Thatís a good one. Oh-ho-ho. Idiots. Dopes. From here on in, no jokes. No wry witticisms. A play on words? Forget it. Iím finished. Let someone else be the clown.

Heís right, you know. You canít blame the poor guy. All he wants is a little respect. Is that too much to ask? So give him a break. Lay off the laughter. Show him your gloomy side. Thereís plenty to be miserable about. Everywhere you turn, things are bad. The world is a sour mess. A rotten lemon. A boil on the universeís back-side.

No, I disagree. Itís his own fault. Heís the one whoís been funny for years. What are we supposed to do, turn our emotions on and off like a faucet? If he wants to be miserable, fine. But he should do it on his own time.

Excuse me? Thatís a rather selfish attitude. Have you considered putting yourself in his shoes? Itís easy for you to sit there, waiting for him to make you laugh. Making people laugh is hard work. If you donít believe me, try it sometime. One day of it will make an old man out of you. Look at all the dried-up comedians out there. The funnier they are, the more they look like a corpse.

Bah! Weíre not talking about a comedian, weíre talking about a guy we know. Ralph isnít a pro. He doesnít have to get up in front of an audience knowing heíll be fired if he bombs.

Jeez, that makes a lot of sense.

What. I suppose you know better?

Damn right, I do. Ralph is under a lot of pressure. If you werenít so spoiled and selfish, you would realize how unhappy he is. For instance, did you know he just lost his job? Or that his wife is sick? No, of course not. Youíve been too busy laughing at his jokes. Well, for your information, theyíre not jokes. Theyíre a cry for help.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. Are we talking about the same Ralph here? I know Ralph. He doesnít have a care in the world.

You can believe that if you want. But if you do, it will be at Ralphís expense. To me, itís obvious. Heís about to crack. I think he needs professional help.

Professional help? Really? You think itís that serious?

Yes, for once, I think it is. Ralph is struggling. He has problems. Problems that canít be solved by telling a joke.

What are we going to do? We canít force him to go to the doctor.

No, youíre right there.

Wait. Here he comes. Ralph? Howís it going, buddy?

Who the hell are you? And who are the rest of you? What are you doing here in my head? Whatís going on, anyway?

Donít worry, Ralph. Weíre here to help.

Youíre here to what?

Help. We want to help you, old pal. Itís the least we can do, after all youíve done for us.

Done for ó what the? ó I donít even know you, for crying out loud.

Sure, Ralph. Itís okay. You donít have to pretend anymore. We understand. We care. Right, boys? Donít we care about good old Ralph, here?

Hubbub hubbub, rrrrrrr, mumble mumble mumble.

There. See?

Whoa. Freaky. Iím telling you, just when you think youíve got a handle on things, something weird happens. Okay. All right. Every one of you? Out. I donít have time for this nonsense. Go have your convention somewhere else.

But, Ralph, we ó


And thatís it, doctor. Thatís all I can tell you. They come and go. If it lasts much longer, I think Iíll go bats.

Iíve got news for you, Ralph. Youíve already made the trip.

I have? Tell me, doc. How was it? Did I have any fun?

Yes and no, my friend. Yes and no.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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