Those who subscibe to read my own writing I’ll have to ask you to be patient. It’s not that I’ve been terribly satiated with humanity lately, it’s that occasionally I get so bogged down in my ability to write and fully comprehend an idea that I end up doing hours and hours of research and reading to only learn that I’ve got only the slightest notion of what I’m talking about.. it’s not that my conclusions are incorrect, but learning the details and causes that lead to those conclusions send me into territory I’m sometimes not prepared to tread.
I’m hardly educated (little more than some community college classes and then self taught on all the subjects that really interest me), so when I bump into something like hard science I tend to struggle.
A friend in town pleaded with me to read “Meno” by Plato. I hadn’t. She said that it was very, very important and that it talked about virtue. I said that I currently had a few dozen books “in line” to read and that because people know I read they’re ALWAYS recommending books that I “must” read. I didn’t want to be rude, just honest that it probably wasn’t going to happen soon.
I said “The problem with Plato is that he had absolutely no understanding of evolutionary biology and the severe impact of genes on the bahavoir of man. Since he didn’t have this knowledge, what he wrote is probably just wishful thinking for the most part.
But she’s a gal that believes that environment causes almost all behavoiral patterns, and she’s unfortunatly wrong.
A few months ago another gal here on myspace said “read Master and Margarita”.. similar scenario, but I said “I’ll get it as soon as I can. That turned out to be two days ago. I’ve read the introduction but I still have 200 pages left to read in “The Other Hollywood” and I really should get back to “The Candy Men” and “The Natural History of Rape” (can you believe that it got a little boring?!) and dot dot dot
That’s my story.
I scanned this in a few months ago, it hasn’t been thouroughly edited so there may be a quirk or two during the OCR that I missed.
A Practical Joke
by Guy de Maupassant
THE jokes that are played nowadays are somewhat dismal. They are not like the inoffensive, laughable jokes of our forefathers; still, there is nothing more amusing than to play a good joke on some one; to force them to laugh at their own foolishness and if they get angry, to punish them by playing a new joke on them.
I have played many a joke in my lifetime and I have had some played on me; some very good ones, too. I have played some very laughable ones and some terrible ones. One of my victims died of the consequences; but it was no loss to anyone. I will tell about it some day, but it will not be an easy task, as the joke was not at all a nice one. It happened in the suburbs of Paris and those who witnessed it are laughing yet at the recollection of it; though the victim died of it. May he rest in peace!
I will narrate two to-day. One in which I was the victim and another in which I was the instigator. I will begin with the former, as I do not find it so amusing, being the victim myself.
I had been invited by some friends in Picardie to come and spend a few weeks. They were fond of a joke like myself (I would not have known them had they been otherwise).
They gave me a rousing reception on my arrival. They fired guns, they kissed me, and made such a fuss over me that I became suspicious.
“Be careful, old fox,” I said to myself, “there is something up.”
During dinner they all laughed immoderately. I thought to myself, they are certainly projecting some good joke
and intend to play it on me, for they laugh at nothing apparently. I was on my guard all evening and looked at everybody suspiciously, even at the servants.
When bedtime came, everybody escorted me to my room and bid me good night. I wondered why, and after shutting my door, I stood in the middle of the room with the candle in my hand. I could hear them outside in the hall, whisper and laugh; they were watching me no doubt. I looked at the walls, inspected the furniture, the ceiling, the floor, but I found nothing suspicious. I heard footsteps close to my door; surely they were looking through the keyhole. Then it struck me that perhaps my light would go out suddenly and I would be left in the dark, s o I lighted all the candles and looked around once more; but I discovered nothing. After having inspected the windows and the shutters, I closed the latter with care, then I drew the curtains and placed a chair against them. If some one should try to come in that way, I would be sure to hear them, I thought. Then I sat down cautiously. I thought the chair would give way beneath me, but it was solid enough. I did not dare to go to bed, but as it was getting late I realized that I was ridiculous. If they were watching me, as I supposed they were, they certainly must laugh heartily at my uneasiness, so I resolved to go to bed. Having made up my mind, I approached the alcove. The bed looked particularly suspicious to me and I drew the heavy curtains back, pulled on them, but they held fast. Perhaps a bucket of water is hidden on
the top all ready to fall on me, or else the bed may fall apart as soon as I lie on it. I thought. I racked my brain to try and remember all the different jokes I bad played on others, so as to guess what might be in store for me; I was not going to be caught, not I!
Suddenly, an idea struck me which I thought capital. I gently pulled the mattress off the bed and it came toward me, along with the sheets and blankets. I dragged them in the middle of the room, near the door, and made my bed up again the best way I could, put out all the lights, and felt my way into bed. I laid awake at least another hour, starting at every little sound, but everything seemed quiet, so I at last went to sleep.
I must have slept profoundly for some time, when suddenly I woke up with a start. Something heavy had fallen on me and at the same time, a hot liquid streamed all over my neck and chest, which made me scream with pain. A terrible noise filled my ears; as if a whole sideboard full of dishes had fallen in them. I was suffocating under the weight, so I reached out my hand to feel the object and I felt a face, a nose, and whiskers. I gave that face a terrible blow with my fist; but instantaneously, I received a shower of blows which drove me out of bed in a hurry and out into the hall.
To my amazement, I found it was broad daylight and everybody coming up the stairs to find out the cause of the noise. What we found was the valet, sprawled out on the bed, struggling among the broken dishes and tray. He had brought me some breakfast and having encountered my improvised couch, had very unwillingly dropped the breakfast as well as himself on my face!
The precautions I had taken to close the shutters and curtains and to sleep in the middle of the room had been my undoing. The very thing I had so carefully avoided had happened.
They certainly had a good laugh on me that day!
The other joke I speak of dates back to my boyhood days. I was spending my vacation at home as usual, in the old castle in Picardie.
I had just finished my second term at college and had been particularly interested in chemistry and especially in a compound called phosphure de calcium which, when thrown in water, would catch fire, explode, followed by fumes of an offensive odor. I had brought a few handfuls of this compound with me, so as to have fun with it during my vacation.
An old lady named Mme. Dufour often visited us. She was a cranky, vindictive, horrid old thing. I do not know why, but somehow she hated me. She misconstrued everything I did or said and she never missed a chance to tattle about me, the old hag! She wore a wig of beautiful brown hair, although she was more than sixty, and the most ridiculous little caps adorned with pink ribbons. She was well thought of because she was rich, but I hated her to the bottom of my heart, and I resolved to revenge myself by playing a joke on her.
A cousin of mine, who was of the same age as I, was visiting us and I communicated my plan to him; but my audacity frightened him.
One night, when everybody was downstairs, I sneaked into Mme. Dufour’s room, secured a receptacle into which I deposited a handful of the calcium phosphate, having assured myself beforehand that it was perfectly dry, and ran to the garret to await developments.
Pretty soon I heard everybody coming upstairs to bed. I waited until everything was still, then I came downstairs barefooted, holding my breath, until I came to Mme. Dufour’s door and looked at my enemy through the keyhole.
She was putting her things away, and having taken her dress off, she donned a white wrapper. She then filled a glass with water and putting her whole hand in her mouth as if she were trying to tear her tongue out, she pulled out something pink and -white which she deposited in the glass. I was horribly frightened, but soon found it was only her false teeth she had taken out. She then took off her wig and I perceived a few straggling white hairs on the top of her head. They looked so comical that I almost burst out laughing. She kneeled down to say her prayers, got up and approached my instrument of vengeance. I waited awhile, my heart beating with expectation.
Suddenly, I heard a slight sound; then a series of explosions. I looked at Mme. Dufour; her face was a study.
She opened her eyes wide, then shut them, then opened them again a looked. The white substance w crackling, exploding at the same time, while a thick, white smoke curled up mysteriously toward the ceiling.
Perhaps the poor woman thought it was some satanic fireworks, or perhaps that she had been suddenly afflicted with some horrible disease; at all events, she stood there speechless with fright, her gaze riveted on the supernatural phenomenon. Suddenly, she screamed and fell swooning to the floor. I ran to my room, jumped into bed, and closed my eyes trying to convince myself that I had not left my room and had seen nothing.
“She is dead,” I said to myself ; “I have killed her,” and I listened anxiously to the sound of footsteps. I heard voices and laughter and the next thing I knew my father was soundly boxing my ears.
Mme. Dufour was very pale when she came down the next day and she drank glass after glass of water. Perhaps she was trying to extinguish the fire which she imagined was in her, although the doctor had assured her that there was no danger. Since then, when anyone speaks of disease in front of her, she sighs and says:
“Oh, if you only knew! There are such strange diseases.”