The Punch Line - The Betty Chronicles
Betty Danger flipped the switch on the intercom and told Craven Danger a joke.
Craven Danger took a long sip of his coffee, and put the fly swatter down.
“So?” said Craven. “Where’s the punch line?”
“I gotta tell ya,” Mr. Danger. “You and jokes is the worst of enemies. Ya just don’t get along.”
“How do you mean?” said Craven.
“Oh, brother,” said Betty. “This is gonna be a long day. I’ll tell it to ya one more time. Everybody in the movie theater, includin’ the ushers, was bustin’ a gut over this joke.”
“We still talking about Ninotchka?” said Craven.
“Yeah,” said Betty. “It came out a few years ago, but I never forgot it. Melvyn Douglas is tryin’ to make Greta Garbo laugh, but she ain’t havin’ none of it. So he tell her this joke that’s sure to have her fallin’ out of her chair. And the joke goes like this. A man walks into a restaurant and asks the waiter for a cup of coffee without cream. The waiter comes back five minutes later and says, ‘Sorry, sir. We’re all out a cream. Do you want it without milk?’ I tell ya Mr. Danger. Anytime I get the gloomies, I think a that joke and laugh like I just heard it for the first time.”
“What joke?” said Craven. “I still ain’t heard nothing funny?”
“Your a tough egg ta crack, Mr. Danger,” said Betty. “I know Garbo said she didn’t think it was funny, but she done that on purpose, just ta get Melvyn Douglas’s goat. Ya just plain don’t get it.”
“I get what you’re sayin’, Betty.” said Craven. “The guy wants his coffee with no cream. Then this wiseguy waiter comes back and tells him he’s all out of cream. Will he take it without milk. When we all know the guy didn’t want nothing in his coffee in the first place. Me? I would have spit in the waiter’s eye and left the restaurant.”
“Ah, you’re all talk,” said Betty. “You wouldn’t know a joke if it climbed up ya back and beat ya over the head with the punch line. You got no sense a humor.”
“What are you talking, Betty?” said Craven. “I know plenty of funny jokes that make me laugh.”
“All right, mister funny man,” said Betty. “Tell me one.”
“All right,” said Craven. “I’ll tell you one. There was this guy, see. And he’s having a bowl of soup at the diner. And he says to the waiter, ‘What’s this fly doing in my soup?’ And the waiter says, ‘The backstroke.’ Hoo, boy! Get it? The fly is swimming in the soup, is what he’s doing.”
“That’s disgusting,” said Betty. “And a violation of the New York City health code, I’m sure. When I was a little girl I was at a Woolworth’s having a cherry Coke and I sucked up a dead fly through my straw. And I gotta tell ya, Mr. Danger, there was nothing funny about it. I almost choked to death. Why would ya wanna go tellin’ me a horrible story like that?”
“It wasn’t a story," said Craven. “It was a joke."
“Well, it wasnt’t funny," said Betty. “You said you were gonna tell me a funny joke."
Craven Danger switched off the intercom and went back to his coffee, and swatting the flies in his office.
“Ah, geez,” said Craven. “Now I got a fly in my coffee.”