Lost in thought, I accidentally sprinted up eight flights of stairs this morning instead of six, passing my floor in a daze. I was thinking about the mistake I’d made when I was but a lad of eleven. Singularly well-burdened of intellect, I was, even then, wont to losing myself in contemplative spells, to the detriment of chore, courtesy, and couth. So it was that I found myself dangling from the business end of my stepfather’s clenched fist, my slackened feet leaving circular furrows in the gray mounds of his father’s ashes. One might conclude that my mistake lay in tipping his precious urn in the first place, especially as I was using it for balance as I sought the box of porn magazines in my stepfather’s den closet. But in hindsight the far greater mistake was my reaction to the fury directed at me.
In spite of my precarious position, I suddenly felt the urge to laugh. I tried to stifle it as soon as I felt it coming on, but it was like the onset of a sneeze. My field of vision contracted as time slowed, until all I could see beyond my elder’s immense white knuckles were his bulging eyes and quivering jowls. He was so consumed with emotion that it summoned in me a kind of dark joy. More! I wanted to shout. I wanted to see him combust into a plasma cloud of rage, as I shrieked with joy from the excess of it.
I tried to hang onto reality, mindful of the myriad physical repercussions that would surely befall me if I allowed myself to be swept into the throes of laughter. It seemed I had ages to imagine the gristly aftermath, but however inappropriate, I couldn’t help but to surrender to mirth. I felt the right corner of my mouth curl upward ever so delicately, in spite of my every determination not to allow it to end like this.
Reality! My stepfather’s countenance was a marvel of form yielding to function. He was anger incarnate. In a way he had transformed into something other than human. No longer was he digesting stomach contents, or pushing out fresh ear hairs, or suffering macular degeneration. At that very moment in time every process served the singular function of shaking me over his paternal remains like a ragdoll.
And yet the image of it became a cartoon taunting my mind, a vision of myself whooping like a retarded child on the Octopus ride, “Wheee! Wheee!” The laugh overtook me in a spasm, and I snorted through my nose as I averted my face. It sounded a bit like a sneeze, in a way. An awful lot like a sneeze, except for the trace smile now dooming my right cheek. Maybe he didn’t see though. From his angle maybe mine was an expression of abject horror, a grimace of fear, or of self-loathing at least. But a moment later I was choking with laughter.