Tell A Tale in 500 Words
No Joke By Helen Price
Les Dawson loomed large on the flat-screen.
‘Did you hear the one about the mother-in-law…?’
‘That’s so outdated!’ said Emma. ‘Sexist, actually. I know it’s a 70’s re-run but they ought to ban it, honestly, Mum.’
‘Emma! You’ve talked over him. I’ve missed the joke now!’
Emma shrugged and shuffled towards the worktop. She drove a carrot deep into a pot of hummus, stuffing a big blob into her mouth.
‘You haven’t missed much,’ said Ethan, apparently sensing what his girlfriend wanted to add but couldn’t with a full mouth and looking from one to the other. It seemed to propel him into his stride and he sat upright. ‘Emma’s right, you know, Kirsty. That stuff’s toxic. Constantly belittling women. Why did they even think they could do that!’
Emma nodded, a second loaded carrot maintaining her muteness.
‘Incredible how they got away with it. I suppose you could in the 70’s—racism and sexism—under cover of ‘‘gags.’’’
‘Vile,’ mumbled Emma.
‘Times were different, I guess, Em,’ Ethan softened his tone, yet her exclusion from the comment made Kirsty feel patronised. She half-expected him to add, they didn’t know any better, those primitive people of your mother’s age. But he said nothing more; instead he began stabbing at his iphone, instantly engrossed, the conversation forgotten whilst Emma pursued her unrelenting attack on the hummus.
Kirsty glanced at the TV and switched the channel, ashamed now she’d had it on in the first place. They were right, weren’t they? It was old-fashioned. Not funny anymore. Yet she’d always liked Les Dawson. He’d made her laugh. Was that wrong? Perhaps it was. She stared at the news channel, not taking it in. The sound of car wheels screeching made her look up and through the window she glimpsed Ethan’s car as it sped away.
She was alone. Her eye caught the hummus pot she’d bought in town earlier, meant for later, empty now, carrot peelings curling at its side. Ethan’s damp towel lay at her feet. She picked it up, feeling cross with Les Dawson for upsetting her day.
‘You have got to be joking, Mum!’
Emma was red-faced. With indignation, Kirsty thought, before deciding rage was nearer the mark.
‘No, I’m not,’ she replied, calmly.
‘What the hell do you mean, upsetting your daughter like this?’ demanded the manly Ethan.
‘Well, Ethan, you see my generation would, in fact, think me very reasonable. You’re both twenty-eight and I’m giving you one month’s notice, having lived here rent-free for four years. You wouldn’t want to be considered ageist now, would you, Ethan, in trying to prevent me letting my own house so I can go travelling?’
They stared, speechless.
‘So, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and email the estate agent.’
She headed towards the kitchen door, turning round before leaving.
‘I heard a great Les Dawson joke the other day! ‘’What’s the difference between outlaws and in-laws?’
Emma and Ethan’s stares turned to glares.
‘Outlaws are wanted.’
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