Drawing by Judith Wolfe

MARK PIRIE

The Joke



    I stood at the door watching as Adrian stood over his sleeping body yelling, 'Turn it on, NOW!'
    I obeyed and soon the loud scream of the skilsaw flooded the bedroom. The occupant, Chris, suddenly awakened, and, startled by the noise, rolled from his bed in terror as Adrian stood over him, toting his skilsaw and laughing his head-off.
    'You red-haired bastard!' Chris yelled up at him.
    I stood at the door in hysterics as Adrian switched the saw off and calmed Chris down.

    Chris was our guest. He'd just flown out from England to holiday in New Zealand and had recently come up to Wellington from the South Island, where among other things he did a spot of bungy-jumping at Queenstown. This was his first morning in Wellington and definitely one he'll remember thanks to Adrian and I giving him a rude awakening.
    'You Kiwis sure are a screw loose!' Chris exclaimed. 'You've had your little fun but I'm warning you, I'll get you back by the time the weekend's over, just you wait!' He said fiercely.
    'Take it easy, man' I said. 'It's a joke.'
    'Yeah, and it was bloody funny, ya should've seen yer face.' Adrian said and began laughing again.
    'I'll remember this guys, wait till I get back to England and tell the boys what happened to me in New Zealand. They won't believe me. Piss off and let me sleep the night off. Enough's enough.'
    Chris climbed back into bed and resumed his sleeping position. Adrian and I left the room and went back to our bedrooms.
    'Do ya reckon he'll get us back, he sounded pretty confident?'
    'Nah, not a chance, but just in case, I'll sleep in your room on the floor, you've got keys and there's no way he'll get in,'
    'Good thinking ... bring your mattress in, mate.'

    A few minutes later, Adrian appears in the doorway hauling his mattress in and then returns again dragging his sleeping bag. I climb into bed opposite his mmattress and we both go to sleep, tired out from the previous night's drinking and escapades. It had been a good night all right. We'd been out to a few nightclubs in Courtenay Place and showed Chris around Wellington. It ended up rather dangerously, however, when Chris and Dave (quite drunk. by this stage) climbed out the window of the bar we were at and then jumped onto the roof of the next building. Chris and Dave started crawling along the roofs and leaping from building to building, soon Chris dared Dave to piss onto the people below at Cuba Mall, not realising a policeman was close-by. Dave rolled his pants down and pulled his cock out letting rip on the passers by, laughing inanely and not caring what happened next. Unfortunately Dave's steady stream landed near a Police officer and a chase between the Policeman and Dave and Chris soon ensued. Dave and Chris though weren't dumb, realising the Policeman didn't get a good view of them, they climbed back towards the other side of the building and slid down the piping onto the street, mingling with the crowd outside our bar. The Policeman soon came running round the corner of the building, checking the roof, and asking people if they had seen two blokes jump from a building recently, but by that stage Dave and Chris were long gone, back inside the bar, downing a pint of Guinness. The Policeman stood there scanning the area but soon gave up and walked off.

    We didn't know this till later. We were in the taxi and I asked Dave and Chris what had happened to them after they climbed out the window of the bar. 'Where did you go?' I asked. 'Were ya having a smoke on the roof or something.'
    'Nah mate, we went for a piss and sprayed a cop.'
    'No shit, you pissed on to a cop!?'
    'Yeah, we're bloody lucky we weren't caught.' Said Dave. 'Imagine appearing in court on those charges.'
    'Can ya get done for pissing on a cop.'
    'Maybe, it's possible. It's not really assault though is it.'
    'Not really.'
    Everyone sat laughing in the back of the taxi as it pulled up outside our flat. We all clambered out of the car. I paid the driver and we walked inside, noticing the girls were home too, they must've come home early. I remember hearing some voices from Karen's room, then nothing, as the lights went out. We climbed the stairwell of the house and went to our respective rooms. Adrian and Dave tossing Chris a sleeping bag in the spare room.
    'Good to see you again, Dave, my old mate, it's been a long time.'
    'Yeah, it's been a long time all right. Now get some sleep.' He said, as Chris staggered in to the room and crashed on the mattress.
    'Well, I'll see you blokes later, then, look after him, I'll be back later, we'll go out for a drive somewhere, take him round Wellington.'
    'Sure thing,' we replied, grinning as Dave left the house and headed home.

    That was last night, a good night all right, and now were fast asleep in our room with the door locked in case Chris tried anything.

    *****

    It must've been mid afternoon before we woke again. The phone rang, and it woke me up. I answered half-awake.
    'Hi, is that Gary?' A voice said.
    'Yeah ... who ... is this?' I said in a dry, crackly voice.
    'Your fairy godmother, mate.'
    'Shit! Already, that's in the next dream.'
    'No, you asshole, wake up . . there's been an accident ... can't you recognize my voice.' 'Oh ... Chris ... mate, how's the head . . . hey, sorry about the saw incident.'
    'Yeah, I bet you are ... I tried to get you guys back with a bucket of water over the head each ... the girls were going to help but you bastards locked the door ... but anyway, there's been an accident ... Dave, Rachael, Kirsten and I were in an accident.'
    'An accident? What kind of accident?'
    'A car accident, Rachel was driving and we're all down at the hospital.'
    'A car accident! Whereabouts?' I asked, slightly worried.
    'Out at Lyall Bay, we couldn't wait for you guys to get up, so Dave came and took me and the girls for a tour round Wellington. We ended up at Lyall Bay watching the surfers, not very big surf today, but it was good to just get out and have a look around. Well ... we was coming to the intersection before Lyall Bay and Rachel wasn't watching the road properly... she was talking to us in the back and this woman in a Citroen tried to cut in front of us... Rachel slammed on the brakes but ended up skidding which propelled us in to the back of the Citroen. No one was seriously hurt but Rachel received some head injuries, skin abrasions and a broken arm, and Matt and Kirsten took a knock to. I'm ok though, but they were wondering if you'd come down to collect us from the Hospital. The car's a write-off and has been towed away. Do you think you could do that?' -
    'Yeah, sure I'll throw some clothes on and be right down there. Adrian's still asleep.'
    'OK, I'll expect you in about twenty minutes, then.'
    Sure thing, mate.' I put up the receiver back down, and throw a book at Adrian. It hits him on the side of the head and he wakes startled.
    'What the ... Chris ! ... is that Chris ... how did the bastard get in here?'
    'No, dummy, it's me, Gary, wakey wakey time to rise.'
    'Oh, Gary . . what's up?'
    'There's been a car accident, mate. I just had a call from Chris. They're all down at the hospital. They need us to go and pick them up.'
    'A car accident? What happened?'
    'They were in Rachel's car apparently and collided with a Citroen near Lyall Bay.'
    'No shit.'
    'Let's get going ... have a shower and throw some clothes on.' 'Sure . .'
    I start dressing while Adrian rubs his eyes.
    'Say, you don't think this is a hoax call, do you?' He says to me.
    'What do you mean?'
    'Well, remember what Chris said, he was going to get us back by the end of the weekend.'
    'Yeah, I remember.'
    'Well, maybe this is it, it could be a big joke to get us down to the Hospital for no reason.'
    'I hadn't thought of that. It's possible. He was certainly dead keen on getting us back.'
    'But he wouldn't stoop to this level, would he?' I sat on the bed as Adrian got up and walked to the bathroom.
    'I know, I'll give Dave's parents a ring, see if they've heard anything ... If they haven't it could be a hoax.'
    'OK, I'll have a shower while you do that.' He calls from the bathroom.
    I pick up the receiver and dial Dave's house. His parents are home and his mother answers the phone.
    'Hello, Hervey residence.'
    'Oh ... Hi, Mrs Hervey it's Gary, Gary Downs... I'm just calling about Dave.'
    'What's happened, is he all right?'
    'Yeah, he's OK, but he's been in a car accident.'
    'A car accident. Where? When? Who? How?' She asks sternly, 'What have you boys been up to now.'
    'It's nothing to do with me, Mrs Hervey, I wasn't involved.'
    'Oh ... well, what has happened then.' She says inquisitively.
    'Well, I was ringing you to find out ... Have you heard anything?'
    'No. This is the first I've heard of it. What's going on?' Mrs Hervey begins to sound anxious.
    'That's interesting. Very Interesting. You see, we reckon it might all be a hoax.' 'A hoax. Who would make up such a thing.' She gasps.
    'Well, there's this bloke Chris you see.'
    'Chris... who's he?'
    'One of Dave's mates from England. He's in the country on holiday. He's staying at our flat.'
    'Go on.'
    'Well. Adrian and I played a joke on him by waking him up this morning with an electric skilsaw.'
    'A skilsaw? What the devil did you do that for?' She enquires angrily.
    'It was a joke, we were just trying to scare the guy?'
    'A joke. You boys need your heads read!! People can get hurt if you play around with electric power saws. Didn't your father teach you about safety.'
    'OK. OK, Mrs Hervey, no harm was done, but we think Chris may have made up the car accident in order to get us back for the joke, you see.'
    'You really think so, it's not a laughing matter, an accident.'
    'Well, that's what we think too, but it's quite possible.'
    'I don't know, I find it hard to believe they'd make up something like this. I know I'll give the Hospital a ring and see if they've had anyone admitted for a car crash.'
    'Good thinking, ring me back if you hear anything.'
    'Sure will.' She hangs up and I finish getting my clothes on. Adrian is still in the shower. I hear him singing a Pogues track, trying to be Shane MacGowan, but as usual his voice sounds terrible, I go over to the stereo and find the The Pogues CD. I put it on and turn up the volume, so that MacGowan's voice drowns out the singing from the bathroom. That's better, I think to myself. God, he probably doesn't realise how terrible he sounds. No one can beat the real thing, MacGowan's a legend all right.

    *****

    It's about an hour later later and the phone rings. I pick it up and by this stage Adrian and I are both dressed and ready to leave the house.
    'Hello, boys.'
    'Oh. . . Hi, Mrs Hervey. Have you heard anything more about the accident?'
    'Yes, I have, I spoke to one of the receptionists at the Hospital and she has checked for me whether there'd been a car crash with a Rachel Hymans. Well, it's very interesting, because there has been a car crash all right and it's certainly no hoax. In fact I've seen the poor girl myself, I'm down here at the hospital, I drove right down after I heard. Poor Rachel's all bandaged up and has her arm in a cast. It's all been most distressing. Dave's all right, thank god. I'm here actually with that nice young man Chris Tansley, from England, you said, what a nice man he is, a real charmer. I spoke to him about you boys thinking it was all a hoax and that he was playing a joke on you because of the electric saw incident. Why, the poor boy was stunned!' She says.
    'Stunned ... that's interesting.' I add and let Adrian in on the conversation by handing him the cordless phone.
    'Stunned, that's right. The poor chap was quite hurt that you thought such a thing. And that he would purposely make it all up. No, Chris has in fact been most helpful in getting everyone safely to the hospital after the accident and even helped the occupant of the Citroen from the car. Why the Police were most glad of his help at the accident site. While everyone else seemed in shock and disarray after the crash, Chris was a pillar of strength and stability. Everyone can not speak more highly of the lad.'
    'Jesus,' Adrian groans.
    'I'm really sorry, Mrs Hervey. We honestly thought it was all a joke, you know.'
    'Yeah, we're really sorry, Mrs Hervey.'
    'Well, so you should be. Now can you come and collect Rachael, Kirsten and Chris. I'll take Dave home myself. They're waiting for you now.' She continues.
    'Sure thing, hey, we're really sorry to stuff you round like this Mrs Hervey. It must've caused you some anxiety.'
    'Yes, well, we'll say no more about this little incident. Just think more carefully next time.
    Why on earth would you believe that such a nice young man as Chris would make it up.'
    'She doesn't know Chris very well, does she?' Adrian mumbles to me.
    'What was that?' She asks.
    'Oh nothing,' I say.
    'Well all right then. See you soon.' She hangs up.
    Adrian throws me the car keys from my jacket and we run out of the house. We clamber into the old Morris Minor feeling guilty about leaving everyone in the lurch like that and I just drive as fast as I can.

    *****

    When we get to the hospital, I go to the receptionist and ask after Rachael.
    'What was her name again?' The lady asks.
    'Hymans, Rachael Hymans.'
    'Oh yes . . car crash early this afternoon. Everyone survived but the poor girl has her arm broken and several stitches. Only. . .'
    'Yes, that's right, they left a while ago with an older woman.'
    'An older woman.'
    'Yes, did you know? She was a middle-aged woman, I thought she was one of the patient's parents.'
    'Left?' Adrian exclaims.
    'When? I ask.
    'Oh about I5 minutes ago. She borrowed my phone and then they all left, I presume she was ringing someone about the crash.'
    'Yes, she was ringing us. She told us to come down and collect everyone.'
    'Really, what a strange thing to do.' The lady said.
    'You're telling me!' I said.
    'Gosh, the way they're behaving, anyone would think it was a 'Joke!
    A joke that's right.' Adrian says, then turns grinning at me. 'It's a joke. They got us down here for nothing!'
    'I never thought ... I don't believe it. Mrs Hervey was in on it the whole time.'
    'Oh Christ, looks like Chris got us back after all.
    'He sure did.' I add as we walk out of the hospital and look in dismay as across the road a truck tows the Morris Minor away.


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