Proverb: One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegm, gnome, maxim, paroemia, and sententia.
“A happy heart is better than a full purse.” This was my motto when I was a mugger. If we had the time, and managed to strike up a conversation, I’d have a couple hits of weed with my victim. We’d be laughing our assess off, and then I’d demand they empty their pockets in my gym bag while I held them at gunpoint. Or, I would tell a joke to soften them up with a happy heart. My favorites were Henny Youngman one-liners—quick, creative and damn funny. Check this: “My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn’t need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle.” We’re standing there laughing and I pull my .45. I say, “Hand it all over. Put it in my gym bag. After you do, like Henny said, ‘I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need, if I die by four o’clock.’ ha ha.”
At some point I started making up my own jokes. I got pretty good at it and started to get a reputation performing in small New York comedy venues. My stage name was Honey Oldman—a tribute to Henny Youngman who was my inspiration. I had to start wearing a balaclava when I robbed people. I didn’t want my face to give me away when I was on stage. Then a guy came up to me after a show. He told me he recognized me from when I had robbed him 2 months ago. “You did ‘I take my wife everywhere, but she keeps finding her way back.’ I was laughing so hard when you pulled your gun. You even took my wedding ring! Now, you need a manager and here I am. I get 30% and a new BMW. If you don’t like it, I will turn you in.”
We had wandered down the alley by the theatre. It was dark. Deserted. Isolated. We were both laughing when I shot him in the heart with my .45. “Problem solved” I though as I walked slowly back to the street. I thought a burden had been lifted, but it hadn’t. After I killed him, I was only able to make jokes about killing people, or injuring them badly, or just dying: “I won because I beat him,” “She was drowning in tears, so they called it attempted suicide,” “My wife said our marriage made her feel dead, so I killed her out respect for her feelings.” I would tell these jokes and the audience would boo and throw things at me. I was finished as a comedian, and I did not want to go back to being the Joking Mugger.
One night there was a knock at my apartment door. It was Detective Marshall and he wanted me to have look at a picture of a man who was seen talking with me outside the theatre the night he was found murdered—shot through the heart—in the alley by the theatre. I looked at the picture and nearly wet my pants—it was him, my extortionist. I told the detective that I vaguely remembered briefly talking to him about the show.
I needed to get away. The first thing I did was get a job driving one of those minicars in parades, for the Shriners. Disguised in a costume and stuffed in the car, nobody would ever recognize me. Plus, it was fun. Then, as I was taking a turn at a Parade in Reno, Nevada, I looked out the passenger side window and saw a man with a big red stain on his shirt slow clapping and laughing. It was the extortionist! Still clapping, and laughing, he started walking slowly toward me—I had stalled in the middle of the street. After what seemed like 100 tries, I got my car started and sped off. I was no fan of the supernatural—I was terrified. I had to find a better way to hide.
I decided to become a Trappist monk and lead a life of contemplation, work, and humility in an Abbey somewhere with my fellow monks. I scored high on the admission exam, freely admitting that I didn’t know hardly any of the answers. I had read on the internet that humility is a paramount Trappist virtue, so admitting ignorance was a good thing.
I got in! After a year, I got a well-made burlap robe, a rope to keep it shut, underpants, t-shirts, sandals, and a Bible. I was glad I studied French in high school. I was assigned a vocation: cheese-making. After three years, my conscience started to settle. Then HE showed up: the man I had murdered, red stain, slow clap, silently laughing. He followed me everywhere. However, nobody but me could see him.
He’s been doing the following-me-thing for 20 years now. He does not scare me any more. He’s like a tumor affecting my conscience I have to drag around behind me. Nobody knows about him. Even if they did, they would think I am crazy just for making up such a thing. Thank God he doesn’t touch me, or try to sleep with me, or smell. Maybe some day he will vaporize. I am pretty sure it won’t happen until I make a full confession to the police.
So, I’ve started making short ghost jokes as a way of coping. Like, “What room does a ghost not need in a house? A living room.” Or, “Hey, your nose is full of boo-gers.” That’s the best I can do.
Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)
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