The Joke


Lenny Levine


“So, these two pirates happen to meet,” Bobby said, leaning forward so his two friends in the front seat could hear him.

“Do you have to?” said Phil, glancing back over his shoulder. “Do you really have to?”

Bobby ignored him. “And one says, ‘Zut alors, François, you have changed so much.’”

“That’s the shittiest French accent I ever heard.”

Mitch, who was driving, frowned. “What was the exit number?”

“Twenty seven,” Phil told him, “or twenty eight. I’m not sure.”

“Well, look at the goddamn directions.”

“I’m doing it, I’m doing it! You don’t have to climb up my ass.”

“‘Oh, but your right hand, François,’” said Bobby, “‘it ees not there. Now, you have a hook.’”

Phil squinted at the piece of paper. “Allison’s handwriting is like a first-grader on drugs. I think it says twenty eight, but it could be twenty six. Where’s the interior light in this car?”

“I don’t know,” said Mitch in annoyance. “I think it’s behind the visor.”

“‘Yes, my hand is gone,’ says the second pirate. ‘I lost eet in a duel with the finest swordsman in Europe. I kill heem, of course, but before I could do eet, he cut off my right hand. Now, I have only a hook.’

“Okay, I’m going with twenty six,” Phil decided. “I think that’s what she told me, anyway.”

“All I know is, there’d better be a lot of babes at this party,” Mitch said as he flicked on the windshield wipers. The snow flurries were thickening.

“There will be,” Phil promised.

“‘And your leg, François. Your left leg is now only a wooden stump.’”

Phil turned his body as far as his seat belt would allow and glared at him. “You know no one’s listening to you, don’t you?”

“This is a great joke.”

“Not if you’re telling it.”

“Here’s the exit. What do I do?” Mitch asked.

“Get off, and take…” Phil squinted at the piece of paper again. “I think it says Route 12 South, or it could be North.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“No, South, definitely South.

“So, the second pirate says, ‘Yes, that ees correct, mon ami, I lost my leg. We were in a fierce naval battle, and I was directing my men from ze quarterdeck. Suddenly, a cannonball came flying. It hit me just below ze left knee, and so, I lost my leg. Now I have only a wooden stump.’”

Mitch turned the windshield wipers up. “Man, where did all this shit come from, all of a sudden?”

“‘Oh, mon dieu, François, and your eye! You have nothing but a patch where your right eye used to be!’”

“Look, why don’t you save it for the party?” Phil suggested. “I’m sure the first girl who hears it will drop her panties right there on the spot.”

“How far do I go on Route 12?” Mitch peered through the windshield at the whitening road ahead.

“It says here six miles, although Allison seems to make her sixes look like eights. So it might be eight miles.”


“Just start looking in six miles for a sign that says Wentworth Road. If we don’t see it, then it’s eight.”

“I’ll be lucky if I can see anything.”

“‘Ah, oui, this patch on my eye. Well, I was…’”

Phil whipped around toward Bobby, practically choking himself with his shoulder harness. “Will you give it a fucking rest?”

“You never like my jokes. Why is that?”

“Because they suck.”

“No they don’t. You just don’t have a sense of humor.”

“Let him tell it, already,” Mitch put in. “I’m getting sick of listening to you two.”

“Fine,” Phil said and stared angrily ahead.

“‘Ah, oui, this patch on my eye,’” Bobby continued. “‘You see, I was in ze crow’s nest, looking to spot enemy ships. Unfortunately, a seagull flew overhead just at zat moment and took a crap. It landed in my eye, and so, quel dommage, my eye was destroyed. Now I must wear a patch.’”

“Man, this is a fucking blizzard here.” Mitch turned the wipers up to the max and leaned forward over the steering wheel.

“‘But, François, merely having a piece of bird crap hit you in the eye is nothing. It would not be enough to destroy it. Why do you have to wear a patch?’

“‘Well, you must understand,’ says the second pirate, ‘it was my first…”

“Holy shit!” Phil cried out.

Looming ahead of them in the snow, lying sideways across the road, was an overturned pickup truck.

Mitch hit the brakes, but it was too late. It only succeeded in throwing them into a skid. They careened off the road and, in helpless terror, plunged down an embankment. Then they slammed into a tree.

* * *

The scene at the emergency room was chaotic, with victims of the freak snowstorm arriving constantly. They were among the lucky ones, Phil with a broken elbow, Mitch suffering facial contusions, and Bobby the worst of the three, sustaining a compound fracture of the fibula.

He lay on a gurney, woozy from the painkillers, as the other two sat on either side. Nurses came and went, while monitors all around them beeped and flashed, displaying unintelligible numbers and graphs.

“‘But, François,” Bobby murmured, his head lolling on the pillow, “‘merely having a piece of bird crap hit you in the eye is nothing. It would not be enough to destroy it. Why do you have to wear a patch?’”

Phil looked across at Mitch and shook his head.


“‘Well, you must understand,’ says the second pirate…’” Bobby mumbled something, then lost consciousness.

Despite himself, Phil had to do it.

“What was that last thing?” he asked Mitch. “Did you hear it?”

“Yeah,” said Mitch. “He said, ‘Well, you must understand, mon ami. It was my first day wearing the hook.’”

Phil felt a sudden burst of pain in his elbow, making him grimace.

“You know?” he said, stifling a moan. “That’s actually funny.”