Comic Vs. Audience is proud to present, once again, a scintillating bi-weekly column, Literary Adventure, written by bookish gadabout Doogie Horner. One of his past Literary Adventures is included in The McSweeney's Joke Book of Book Jokes, which hits all kinds of shelves today.
IN LAST WEEK’S LITERARY ADVENTURE: Doogie built a time machine that was an exact replica of the titular contraption in H.G. Wells’s science fiction classic, The Time Machine. His intention was to travel to London, 1894, and discover what inspired Wells to write the famous story. However, our well-read adventurer made a crucial miscalculation: though his machine traveled in time, it didn’t travel in space. Duh. Doogie was transported to a farm on the outskirts of 1894 Philadelphia, where he met a very short, rude farmer who explained that London was on the other side of the Atlantic.
The Time Machine
In a word, that’s what it’s like to confuse the concepts of time and space. You can’t sit down on the curb in front of the 7-11 for an hour, and when you get up, expect to be outside the Wendy’s down the street. You gotta’ take the bus. However—as proven by Einstein’s groundbreaking time and space experiments—you can pass out drunk on the curb for an hour, and wake up in jail. At the bar in Munich, a drunken Einstein would often harangue patrons with claims that he could bend the space-time continuum if only they bought him one more peach schnapps.
I thought time travel would be exciting and dangerous, but so far it was nauseating and inconvenient. I thanked the tiny apple-faced farmer (see The Time Machine, Part 1 for explanation) for his insulting but sage advice, and turned to trudge back to my time machine. But as soon as my back was turned, the little bastard threw a rock at me. It hit me in the spine. Hard. Behind me the farmer laughed and laughed and then played the worst rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D I’ve ever heard plucked on the Jew’s harp.
I turned to face him, searing zinger on the tip of my tongue, when another rock hit me in the forehead. His tiny arms were deceptively strong. I fired my retort as I retreated across the fields, pursued by stones. “You’re short! And you got an apple face! And you’re a poor player of the Jew’s harp!”
Though I was well out of his range after a few feet, his cackling laugh pursued me even as I climbed into my machine and spun back through time. The jangly, atonal boings of CampTown Ladies swirled with me, accompanied by the farmer’s high-pitched whoops.
Was I going to run away from a wrinkly Cabbage Patch Kid? Hell no.
My plan for revenge was flawless, and elegant in its simplicity: I would go back in time one day, approach the farmer again, and through casual conversation discover his name. Then I would return to the present, find his birth certificate in the Philadelphia hall of records, and discover where and when he was born. Then I would go back to that date and murder him as a child.
I went back in time exactly one day.
– – –
“Hi there!” I smiled widely as I approached the farmer. He was still on his porch swing, still plucking the harp, still three feet tall. He eyed me shrewdly, as he had the day before (the day after, whatever).
“Howdy,” he said.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
He gazed across the fields. “I think I’d remember seeing a fag tall as you afore.”
I laughed. “Well, my name is P.T. Barnum. What’s your name? I’d like to hire you to perform in my Greatest Show on Earth.”
“Uh, well, you know.” The man was three feet tall.
“No, I don’t know. You tell me.”
“Well . . . you’re kind of short.”
His hand was a blur of motion, and before I could move he hurled a rock which almost took my eye out. He followed relentlessly with a volley of stones, many of the shots well-placed: my neck, my knee, the soft flesh of my temple. Moments later I was fleeing across the fields again.
I climbed into the time machine.
– – –
“Hell son, you all banged up!”
I hobbled toward the porch using a stick for support. The bruises on my face were swelling. “Yes, yes I am.”
“Well, that’ll teach you to be a swish.”
He spit in the dirt. “A cocksucker.”
“I didn’t get beat up because I was gay!”
“But you admit that y’are.”
“No! I don’t! Look, what’s your name?”
“Are you flirting with me? Sorry to say I ain’t interested. But, I do have a friend who’d love to make your acquaintance.” His sparkling, coal black eyes locked on me. Slowly, deliberately, he dipped his hand into the bucket of rocks under the swing.
Like a slag of iron hardened in the blacksmith’s forge, my white hot rage burned all the fear from me. I no longer cared. I rushed the farmer, swinging my crutch.
My assault caught the elf unaware, and his first rock sailed long, hitting a groundhog and breaking its leg. (Its twelve children would later starve to death. So it goes.) I covered the rutted ground between he and I quickly, and then I was clumping up the steps of the porch and nearly upon him. My mouth salivated in anticipation. The tiny, wrinkled sockets where the farmer’s eyes hid widened as he gazed on the monster I had become.
“Fran!” he screamed in terror.
The screen door burst open and a giant woman filled the frame. She stooped to fit through the door and came onto the porch swinging a bathtub. Yes, an entire bathtub. AND it was full of water. And a baby was inside it. The baby had a black powder musket in its hands, and aimed it right at my head as the she-monster roared like a bear. The musket misfired (luckily the powder was wet), but the swinging bathtub hit me in the pelvis. I could feel the right side of my hip shatter, and I fell to the ground.
“ROOOAAR!” Her deafening bellow seared the psoriasis off my elbows--the lone silver lining in this dark cloud of an adventure. I crawled down the porch steps on my hands and knees. She dropped the bathtub. It crashed through the floorboards, and the porch collapsed in a pile a splinters. The farmer yelled. The baby screamed. Fran bellowed like a bear.
I escaped in the chaos.
I crawled to my machine, face dragging through the black soil. I passed the crippled groundhog and her litter of pink, helpless babies. Her pleading eyes reached out to me.
I crawled past.
TO BE CONTINUED
Doogie will be hosting WALKING FISH COMEDY at the Walking Fish Theatre (2509 Frankford Ave.) April 13th, 8PM, $10 and his new comedy show THE MINISTRY OF SECRET JOKES at Fergie's Pub (1214 Sansom St.) on April 30th, 9PM-midnight, $0