|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Daly and Jens
Julia went to a party at a friend's house, where she met a man called Paul. She said to him, "Aren't you the man who does the comic strip in the paper?"
"Yeah. 'Does' doesn't really sum up what I do."
"I can imagine."
"Something like 'murder' would be more appropriate. I murder the comic strip in the paper."
"I really like it."
"I don't. I used to think it was the greatest thing ever, but that's a long time ago now."
"I thought the one where he fell off the tractor was hilarious."
"When I started out I'd just say to myself, 'What'll I do this week? What about Daly falling off a tractor?' It was as simple as that. But now it's like hitting my head off a wall."
A woman came over to him and said, "Cynthia was telling me that you do 'Daly and Jens'."
"I love it. I always read it."
"If 'read' is the right word."
"I 'murder' it. That's the word I'd use."
"Yeah. I just think it's so funny." After a few seconds of silence she said, "Do you know any good jokes?"
"What's the difference between Sean Boylan and Anne Boleyn?"
"I don't know."
"They both managed the Meath senior football team."
"Anne Boleyn didn't."
"Well then Sean Boylan was one of Henry the Eighth's wives."
"That's not true for about... a million different reasons."
"And you said what's the difference, not what they have in common."
"And now you have a million different differences, so what are you complaining about?"
She walked away. Paul said to Julia, "People expect me to be a bloody comedian."
"Someone told me that joke once. I can't remember how it goes."
"I thought it was funny anyway."
"I think you have to be from Meath to get it."
He told her he'd been doing 'Daly and Jens' for seven years. Daly was Irish and Jens was his German sidekick. Jens only ever said 'ja' or 'nein'. When they started out, they stole biscuits every week. Jens always said 'ja' when Daly asked him if he wanted to steal biscuits. Paul was often accused of being anti-German because he portrayed Jens as someone who wanted to steal biscuits. He went out with a German woman for a few months, and she said to him, "Wouldn't it be nice if Jens didn't want to steal the biscuits?"
So he got Jens to say 'nein' the next time Daly asked if he wanted to steal biscuits. After a period of silence (shown with a scene where they looked at a dog), Daly said, "Do you want to buy some biscuits?"
"Ja," Jens said.
Buying biscuits wasn't as exciting as stealing them, but people loved it. Every week he came up with a different story about them buying biscuits. People no longer accused him of being anti-German, and his relationship with the German woman ended shortly afterwards. She said it was exciting at first, but it started to feel like going to the shop to buy biscuits, and the biscuits they bought were plain. He began to realise that he only went out with her because of a subconscious need to show he wasn't anti-German.
He became disillusioned with the comic strip. It was difficult to find new ways for the characters to buy biscuits, and he got hundreds of complaints when Daly and Jens went back to stealing biscuits.
A few weeks after the party, Julia was walking over a foot bridge in the city when she saw Paul walking towards her. He seemed to be lost in a world of his own. He would have walked past her if she hadn't said hello. She asked him how the comic strip was going, and he said it was worse than ever. It felt like torture to produce each one, and yet people still liked it.
She told him he shouldn't keep doing it if it makes him unhappy. "You've got to do what you want to do," she said. "If you like it, it doesn't mean everyone is going to like it, but some people will."
This idea struck a chord with him. He seemed happy when she left him. She remembered his broad smile a few days later when she saw the comic strip. Daly and Jens got into a fight, and it ended with them pointing guns at each other. In her mind she saw the smile of a madman holding a gun.
She went to see him. He said he wanted to kill off one of them, but he didn't know which one. He said, "If Daly shot Jens, would that be anti-Irish or anti-German? I could also kill both of them."
"You don't need to kill them at all. You just need to look at the characters from a fresh angle, and it'll be like a completely new start. And I think I know just the way to do it. I want you to meet two friends of mine. They could provide you with new versions of Daly and Jens. They're always known as Rick and O'Malley, but for a while we used to call them Daly and Jens because they accidentally set a piano on fire, just like once Daly did. It wasn't quite as funny as in the comic strip. The woman who owned the piano started crying."
She phoned Rick and he said they were fishing at the river. Julia and Paul went there. She said to them, "I didn't know ye fished."
"We don't," Rick said. "We 'borrowed' the rod from O'Malley's uncle. He recently returned from France with a car full of wine, so you could borrow the shirt from his back and he wouldn't notice."
She said to O'Malley, "Do you remember the time you asked a woman for a shovel in exchange for a pair of jeans, and she said she'd have to see the jeans first, so you took them off to let her have a closer look."
"I could show ye the scar from where she hit me with the shovel, but I'd have to take my trousers off."
Paul spent the evening listening to Rick and O'Malley's stories, and on the following morning he woke up with a different version of Daly and Jens in his mind.
Daly and Jens both survived. Jens put the gun down and said, "Do you want to buy some biscuits?"
Daly said, "Ja. I mean, yes. I do want to buy some biscuits." For Paul, it felt as fresh and easy as when he first started the comic strip.
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|very slight stories||
They Met a Bear
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