The house was all wrong for them. It never laughed at any of their jokes. This Victorian house with its severe, right angle bays, conical turrets, and choppy multi-room layout sat on three acres of hollow land.
Phil, the rodeo clown, and Donna, his bull-riding wife, built their relationship on laughter. The first time they met, he almost killed her. Entering the ring, he’d tripped over his new pair of rounded yellow shoes. She laughed and fell off El Raton, the biggest bull on the PBR circuit. El Raton gored her ample buttock, missing vital organs by millimeters.
At the hospital, he brought her the traditional plastic bouquet of red and yellow flowers. With her face down, rump in the air, and only a doughnut-sized cutout for her face, she spent her days counting beige tiles. Phil slid underneath the table and tickled her nose with the plastic tulips. No one noticed him and they spent the entire night talking and laughing.
Six months later he proposed while riding the mechanical bull at the Lucky Duck. Once married, they moved into the prudish Victorian.
“What do you call a fish with no eye?” Phil asked the house.
“Give up? A Fish.”
Nothing. Not a creak or a moan.
“Why aren’t you laughing? That’s hysterical.” Phil snickered.
Donna chimed in, “Two peanuts walk into a bar. One was a salted.”
The pair sat speechless. Why had they purchased this house? It refused to laugh at the whoopie cushion or the rubber chicken. Hadn’t the realtor promised it was the perfect house?
“We have to sell,” they said in unison. They put the house on the market. A banker wearing a wide-cheeked smile and a shirt that read, banker’s do it with interest, stopped by. Before the wellhumored man made it to the door Phil ushered him back to his car.
“Trust me, this house isn’t right for you.”
Phil waved off another man, his boyfriend, and their fleet of bichons. “You won’t be happy here.”
Phil and Donna rotated driveway duty, sending ill-fitting couples away. After seven days, a man drove up in a red corvette. “It’s not…” Donna said.
“I want to turn your house into a funeral parlor,” he said.
“You’re perfect,” Donna said.
“Uh–I mean The house is perfect for you.”
Phil jogged out of the house wearing nothing but his boxers and a t-shirt. “Please come in. Take a look around. Stay for lunch if you like.”
Phil and Donna moved out of the Victorian and into a spacious, yet cozy, A-frame. It promised laughter.
“Shit.” Donna dropped the box of dishes as she tripped over the door jamb.
“Hee hee hee.” The house laughed.
“We’re home,” Phil said.
They stayed up for three days, sharing jokes, playing the harmonica and roasting marshmallows.
The A-frame laughed when Donna poured milk in the coffee maker. The house was downright giddy when Phil forgot to pay the electrical bill. There was laughter from the screeching of the birds to the darkness of the moonless nights. Day after day. Warding off virulent bulls and entertaining adoring crowds, Phil and Donna yearned for a break from the laughter.
Kimberly Medlin is getting her MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and lives in Virginia Beach.