We were watching a football game. We were not drugging or drinking. We were quite sober in outlook and demeanor. What happened next, well you decide what it means.
Out of nowhere and apropos of nothing this ensued:
He: "I recall the saddest thing I ever saw."
Me: As I tried mentally to associate that statement to Larry Fitzgerald running a crossing pattern near the 35 yard line. I failed to see the connection, so I did what I always do, and always later regret. I responded, "What was that?"
He: Showing no signs that he was the least aware of my mental gymnastics, he gravely continued, "it was on the old Ted Mack Amateur Hour. You remember it of course?"
Me: The statement, more fairly a question, obviously was meant to elicit a response from me. Being of a certain age, (aren't they all? ages that is, certain), I was well aware of Mr. Mack and his talent show. One could of course quibble with the word talent here, since apparently neither Mr. Mack nor his sponsoring network were the least interested in paying for real talent. Thus, the unsuspecting public, in those early years of TV, had little choice but to view what Mr. Mack and his no doubt able group of "talent finders" passed off to us as amazing feats of entertainment pleasure.
At this point, I figured I was being taken down the shaded lane of "gotcha" but like the lamb going to slaughter, I was unable to resist the lure of shiny things. Before you ask, I have no idea what shiny object the lamb was unable to resist, but it was the first metaphor that popped into my head, and damned if I care if it fits.
I answered his question with "yes," though I am quite sure, he saw the fear in my eyes.
He: "Well, it was a one-legged tap dancer. But he had no peg leg. (As you know, there have been rather well-known examples of peg-legged dancers of all assortments. If you didn't know that, well, I can but decry the failures of YOUR parents in not teaching you such important things.) No, he, stood there on crutches, and wiggled his shoe, causing a tapping sound upon the floor."
Me: "That is sad," I agreed.
Yet, I saw, as I said those agreeing words, that a twinkle could be seen in his eyes, and his lips definitely curved upward just a tad, and for all the world looked remarkably like a smile. If I were to be nuanced about it, I could easily add, smirk, sly grin, or something similar. Actually cross all that out and just say mirthful, a word not sufficiently used in the modern era.
"You seem to find it amusing?" I queried, now thoroughly puzzled.
He: "Well, yessssss," he offered tentatively. I was sure that there was a "don't you?" in that long intonation of yes.
Me: "So you recognize that the correct emotion would be sadness at the man's plight and that he is reduced to begging for charity by tapping his foot, but your actual response is amusement? In other words, KNOW the right response but choose not to conform yourself to it? Would that be it?"
He: "Yes, yes, of course that is right. I do KNOW it was a sad display." And then with some slight bit of forethought, he added, "I'm not a monster after all!"
Me: I sat up straight and stared. He was now openly chortling.
Now if you have never had occasion to see someone chortle. I highly recommend it. It's that sort of guffaw (oh shades of Mittens Romney), that turns the face bright pink, the eyes bug a bit, the lips quiver, and the diaphragm locks up, causing a near choking, that brings a slight sheen of tears to the eyes, as the lungs recover their monotonous in and out, and the throat unconstricts just in time to avoid a serious spewing forth of spittle. Do always look for the opportunity to enjoy a good chortle.
Once again, of course I had been had.
There is no telling how long this particular gem of a joke had been lurking in the recesses of his very strange and one-of-a-kind brain. It's best not to ask, nor even think of such questions. It has been shown quite clearly and awfully that having more than one loose nut in the house, spoils the entire family.
Here's to you from the smoky limpid pools of my private cave of reality.