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Deep Inder

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Member Since: Mar, 2009

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The Joker
By Deep Inder
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rated "G" by the Author.

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This story about the life of a writer was published in Forum, A Sultan Qaboos University.

By Deep Inder
John Turner had started writing as a hobby but the Pulitzer Prize for his very first book had changed all that. He had intended it as a novel full of laughter and adventure for children with a cat as the protagonist. It was hailed as a masterpiece by the critics who called it a satire on society. Some compared it to Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels while others felt it was a class in itself. John, perhaps angry for the first time in his life, remarked:
“The writer is a Creator and cannot be understood by anyone. The critics are usually unsuccessful poets and novelists who, like the people at the tower of Babel, can neither understand the writer nor one another.”
Some critics reacted mildly and, trying to find a reason, a motive for what he had said, came up with the theory that he was trying to provoke them to observe their reaction and get to their “inmost psyche” while others retaliated sharply. One of them, basing his reply on an old joke, said that the creative writer was more like a hen than a god, a hen who just laid eggs without knowing if they were good or bad. It was for the critics to comment on the eggs even though they could not lay them. The people, on reading the critics, took John’s books and comments even more seriously than before, much more seriously than he ever took them himself.
But that had been long ago. Almost five years had passed after the incident and he was now a multi-millionaire. He had written six books but no one had understood even one of them. He had written such simple comedies and, Oh, God! What had these people made out of them? He did not know whether he should laugh or cry. For a while, he was happy that he had earned a lot of money. He was happy that people noticed what he said even though they did not understand it. But slowly, when he got used to the money and the fame, he felt he needed a better deal. After all, what was the use of it all if no one understood him? Why should he live with a face he never had or liked? He had enough money to last a lifetime and at least two generations of comparative spendthrifts after him. He had never in his wildest dreams imagined he would earn even a million and now he had ten. But then, what was the use?
He wanted to be himself, be known as someone who made people laugh. Someone like P.G.Wodehouse or even Richmal Crompton whose ‘William’ series he had enjoyed as a teenager. He did not like the label of a satirist. He simply detested it. It was not in his character. He knew he had to do something about it but what was it he could do? He had tried calling a press conference two years back but what he had said was reported in such a manner he himself had not been able to recognize his words. It all seemed to be useless, simply useless. It was just like when he had been a kid. Even his parents had never understood him. And then, he got it! Often, when he had been sad and misunderstood as a child, he had copied a circus clown and made people roll in laughter. That had always relieved him. He thought he could try it again. Yes, he would try it again.
He would dress up as a clown and simply make people laugh. Make everyone laugh, and laugh himself. He would be mad with joy and people would simply love it. He knew people would love it. He would do it without any advertisement so those stupid critics would not be there to analyze and make a mess of it and put a purpose behind it. As if anything and everything in nature had a purpose other than enjoyment! But now, it did not matter. He would have the last laugh. ‘The Last Laugh’. Yes, that was a good name for his show. The more he thought about it the more he liked it.
John was pleasantly excited for the first time in over five years. He had decided to put his plan into action and got a pair of bright red trousers. He took some time making up his mind but eventually settled for a motley coat with red predominating. He got all the other things he had desired so long to wear, things like a long, red scarf, a red hat, a lot of colour for his face and powder. As he prepared for the show, he came to realize he had always wanted to become a clown in a circus and had just drifted into writing. He knew he would now make people laugh, something he could never do as a writer. He was glad he had decided. He was confident.
He wanted to act the clown, play his own real self. He’d earned enough, he didn’t want anyone to miss him for want of money. He decided to conduct his show on the roof of his friend’s four-story-building which made it an appropriate height for his purpose. It was high enough for people to see him but not so high that visibility would be affected. It was the ideal site as it faced the main road and the parapet was low and thick so he could use it to stand on and perform his clowning act. The police were sure to object to the traffic hazard caused by him but that would be part of the fun for he was still a child at heart. Besides, he was powerful enough to deal with the police and rich enough to pay the fine.
The great day arrived. He was up on the parapet with a mike hooked to his coat:
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, be prepared for the greatest show in town! I call it ‘The Last Laugh’ as there’s no critic who’ll laugh after I’ve laughed today.” He removed his hat in greeting and a few rubber frogs fell out and onto the road. People were already stopping. Though it was not rush hour, the road seemed crowded already.
“They told you I’m a satirist? Well, I’m here to prove them wrong.” He was already enjoying himself and, in less than ten minutes, he had them all under his spell. He clowned around, he told them jokes, he pulled faces and he danced in joy. Someone had informed the police and the fire brigade and they were already making plans to deal with the situation but he was past caring. He was enjoying the shouts of “MORE, MORE” and “ENCORE.” And then, it happened. In his enthusiasm he had forgotten he was about forty feet above the ground, he leaned a bit too far and fell down, headfirst.
His body lay covered in red, the blood mixing with the red of his clothes. The joy and the sorrow were one. All passion had leaked out and the corpse was still, silent, DEAD.
Most of the newspapers had the headlines, “Joker Commits Suicide.” They reported that perhaps the greatest satirist of the century, John Turner, had committed suicide dressed as and acting like a joker. They said he had tried to prove that the end of all fun and jokes is sadness and death. The critics had once again taken over and had mixed up the clown with the joker. They did not realize the clown was pure and simple, childishly rustic fun while the joker, like his counterpart in a pack of cards, had different roles. They had converted the clown into a joker for their editors and for the people... Perhaps they were right. The clown’s corpse, after all, was as still as the joker’s; and, as difficult to understand…

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