Dear Doctor Drummond,
If you ever met anyone who would stay up late to watch a Jerry Lewis picture on Turner Classic Movies, you have either met Jerry Lewis or my wife. If the person wore a hybrid wig of porcupine quills and crabgrass, it was my wife.
Jerry is her new idol and she is constantly mugging at me asking if she looks like the original Nutty Professor. She does — and always has — but what really brands an ugly scar in my mind is when she sings songs from his pictures. This morning she was singing “I Lost My Heart at a Drive-in Movie,” and that is what prompted me to write this letter.
It has not always been like this, and I believe I can recall what accidents preceded her peculiar sense of humor; but I know only you can set me on a course for sanity.
It started several weeks ago, on a very unusual evening. My wife and I were engaged in a pillow fight (not unusual) that was to determine who would get the bed and who would sleep in the corner on the bearskin rug (jokingly referred to as “the bare-skin rug” ever since my wife accidentally doused it with hair-remover instead of carpet cleaner). The one who remained conscious would get first choice.
I was feeling soft-hearted that night and had decided to make it easy on the old lady, for the fighting often lasted into the night, exhausting her completely. So I had slipped a couple dozen quarters into my pillowcase, to hasten the outcome. She obviously felt good-natured too; for while I was gathering up quarters from the bottom of my drawer, I saw her from the corner of my eye, adding silver dollars and a small rock collection to what now looked more like a sack of potatoes than a pillow.
My wife is quick on her feet and strong in her arms. She used to be an athletic coach at a nearby college, and had even won a trophy in the Women’s Shot Put competition at the State Fair. It always rested on the shelf just above her bed. Funny, though – where was the trophy now? “Oh well,” I thought, “she has just stuffed it away somewhere.”
As you may have guessed, with this lack of concentration on my part she landed the first blow, and what no doubt would have been the last if I had not been wearing my souvenir World War I doughboy helmet. The helmet was now badly dented on one side, with the rim wedged into the plasterboard and streams of cracks running from ceiling to floor.
After the feathers had settled to the floor I opened my eyes only to find I was not in heaven and had perhaps been cast into the extremes. My wife stood gawking over me, scratching her head. Silver dollars were scattered along the floor, while near my feet lay the missing trophy.
The pillow was my wife’s prize possession because she had won it at a carnival by guessing the number of feathers it held. The point of this recollection is that upon restuffing the pillow we found that a feather was missing. It was one of the smaller ones, but a feather nonetheless. My theory is that this feather found lodging in my wife’s left inner ear. She often giggles while scratching the left side of her head. This is fairly conclusive evidence as to how she acquired her unusual and provoking sense of humor.
However, there is another, equally justifiable theory. A few days after the pillow incident my wife was in the basement doing the laundry. She is almost always doing the laundry nowadays. She says that washing has become easier and almost fun, ever since she found a new liquid detergent. It’s called Seagram’s Seven Crown, but I do not necessarily recommend it. My clothes come out as dirty – or dirtier – and smell more like compost than fabric softener. But I did not write to give my testimonial on behalf of any detergents, and mention the laundry only because that was what my wife was about to do when she had her accident.
You see, burglars have been breaking into our basement and sneaking upstairs to use our washroom and an electric toothbrush left behind by some previous tenant of the house.
I wired a simple explosive charge to the toothbrush, then for the stairway I designed an ingenious burglar alarm and had the neighbor boy install it. It consists of marbles spread in an even layer over every third step. I’ll admit it’s devilishly simple, and that it wouldn’t take a mathematical burglar to walk two, hop one; but from the thuds and wailing screams that echo upstairs at night, I surmise we are dealing with the dying breed of Homo Invertus, a race of men who walk on their heads — or do they think with their feet? Anyway, they are a dying breed, and for obvious reasons. Still, I was awakened one night by an explosion that more than likely came from our washroom. Oh, well. If I ever see a smart burglar with no teeth, I’ll have him put away on the double.
My wife is the one person whose tumble down the stairs leaves me with remorse. To a superstitious man her fall would indicate that she is actually a burglar. But I find it sufficient to say she belongs to a dying breed which I need not name.
Just how she fell I’m not certain, but I remember seeing her disappear around the corner to the stairs with a load of laundry in her arms and a small bottle of detergent in her teeth. She now giggles while scratching both sides of her head, and has taken to freestyle diving down the stairs. She says it smooths down the hard lumps that grow under her wig. I often kid her about it, saying “I’m more concerned with the soft spots,” and insisting that I could remove them with an ice cream scoop.
But don’t let me kid you, Doc — it’s true.
P.S. — If you happen upon a smart burglar with no teeth, call me and hold him until I get there.
Dear Mr. Jenkins,
In reading your letter, it becomes obvious that neither you nor your wife have any sense of humor whatsoever. Your wife is under extreme stress because of it.
You live common lives and have the common hopes and fears of most Americans. Your lives are too predictable and leave no room for absurd or frivolous activities. For this reason, your wife has turned to outside influences to relieve tension. Discovering Jerry Lewis was like finding a needle in a haystack and sitting on it. It makes no sense to find the needle unless you intend to avoid it.
My suggestion is that you look into yourselves for comic relief. Find something funny in your everyday environment. I can think of something right off: your wife’s hybrid wig of porcupine quills and crabgrass. My wife has one of porcupine quills and another of crabgrass, but who would ever think of combining the two? Isn’t that a riot!?!
P.S.– I’d appreciate your sending me a few bottles of that detergent for experimental purposes.
Dear Doctor Drummond,
I am writing you from the Morgue County Prison. It seems either the world or I have gone mad and I trust solely in your opinion.
Last month my wife and I decided to rent out the second floor of our house. An unpleasant couple answered our online ad. The man looked harmless enough and as fragile as an eggshell, but his wife was enormous and appeared deadly powerful. The man wore a large shapeless overcoat and the woman wore a wig that would take a taxidermist’s skill and a poet’s pen to describe. Despite my presentiments, I took a gamble and a thousand dollars for the first month’s rent. To ask more would have been unjust, for there was no washing machine and we would have to share the upstairs bathroom. Well, I have read every Believe It or Not book and am now certain I could write a few of my own.
The couple that moved in seemed to possess the notion that they had bought the house, and were entirely unaware of their landlords downstairs. They would have fights that lasted late into the night. They threw rocks and money around and God knows what else. We couldn’t even get to the washroom upstairs. They put marbles on the stairway and I fell, hurting myself badly several times, but no one came to my aid. In fact, when I did make it to the washroom my toothbrush exploded in my face like a trick cigar.
We never saw the husband after the first night, but every day his wife would fall downstairs with laundry in one arm and a bottle of whiskey clenched in her teeth. For reasons best known to her, she would run the wash through our trash compactor several times and then stumble back upstairs or go to sleep in the oven with the heat on low. We put up with this for a whole month until their rent was due again. I summoned my courage and crawled out the window and around to the front door. I was determined to tell them they could not stay another day.
It was the husband that answered my reluctant knock. He looked startled at first, but then his expression grew calm and his lips curled into a wry smile. “Oh honey,” he said, “look who’s here.” His wife came in from the kitchen and she too was unaccountably startled. She looked to her husband and they nodded in understanding. This unnerved me somewhat and I probably showed it. I was about to explain my reasons for coming but the husband cut me off. “Like to use our washroom?” he asked. “No, thank you, I’ve come to –” I didn’t have time to finish my sentence. His wife had snuck up behind me and her thick-boned arm closed on my neck like a nutcracker. “It’s him, all right. Look, he has no teeth!” she hissed. “Hit him with the detergent bottle!” yelled the husband. I smelled whiskey, and then a spark of fire ran through my head and darkness closed in.
I woke up under bright lights with a package of smelling salts broken and stuffed halfway up my nose. It was Morgue County Police asking an endless stream of questions about breaking and entering the house of a local citizen. I answered no to all the questions I could understand. Then one of them waved the remains of a toothbrush in my face and asked, “Have you ever seen this before?” “Of course,” I said. “Thanks, that’s all we wanted to know. Take him away, boys.”
Please advise me on my next move. I’ve been sitting rigid for three or four days in fear that if I move they’ll think I’m either trying to escape or to kill the guard.
Dear Mr. Binkly,
I have read your letter quite thoroughly. Please forgive me if I say that I laughed the whole way through. I have compared your letter with the one written by Mr. Jenkins and come up with the obvious conclusion that you, too, are suffering from the lack of a sense of humor. How can you be so wretched and woebegone when you have living with you this first class pair of prize jokers? They have been teasing you all along, trying to pull a smile out of that tightly-drawn mouth of yours. You are as tough as a turtle shell not to have been laughing the whole time. It is my advice that if you have not foolishly wasted your one allotted call on a lawyer, you should ring up those clowns and invite them over for a party. They will surely bail you out and your troubles will be over.
Yours (or someone’s),
P.S. — The next time you smell whiskey, try to give me a better idea of the precise location. Otherwise I cannot begin to help you, and you are probably doomed. Best of luck to you.