Friday, September 3, 2010

#fridayflash: My True Profession

“Be seated,” said the judge, seating himself at the bench. We all sat down. “Mr. Golden, you are accused of being smart but hopelessly pessimistic. In fact, the State has accused you of having no sense of humor at all. How do you plead?”

My attorney nudged me and we both stood back up. “Uh, your Honor, I ... I don’t know what to say. I have a sense of humor. I do. And I’m not a pessimist. So there must be some mistake. I suppose.”

“You suppose? A simple answer please. None of this hedging. Are you guilty of the charges as read, or not?”

“Uh, no. Not guilty, your Honor.”

“So noted. Prosecution may proceed.”

The prosecutor talked for a long time about my personality, how I am disliked by some and ignored by most, about my published works, both fiction and non-fiction. About how the critics, when they bothered to mention my work at all, uniformly complained, not about what I had to say, but about how I chose to say it. “Your Honor, considering that the accused is a writer of some note, even though he’s disliked by most of the critics, and considering that his work directly influences the attitudes and general happiness and welfare of the public, we intend to demonstrate through the evidence that his attitude, and specifically his unwillingness to lighten the tone of his work and to entertain the public, has a deleterious effect on the public welfare. We ask that a judgement be placed against him and that he be duly restricted from further harming the public by publishing his work.”

My lawyer, a young, inexperienced public defender, then rose. “Your Honor, defense pleads nolo contendere. While my client does not admit guilt, I have been unable to discover evidence to counter the prosecution’s arguments.”

I stared at him in disbelief. I thought he liked me at least. Well, not liked, exactly, but would do his best to defend me. I stood up. “I object!”

“Sit down and shut up, Mr. Golden. Attorneys, approach the bench,” said the judge.

So it happened that day that I was fined a hundred bucks for lacking a sense of humor. And then another two hundred when I objected and tried to prove my innocence by telling a joke so bad that the judge declared me in contempt.

In this way did I become, over time, a reasonably competent digger of sewer drain ditches. When my fellow diggers ribbed me and tried to engage me in humorous banter, I politely refused to participate, out of fear of making my situation even worse. Until the day the foreman fired me and had me arrested. The charge: lack of comradeship with my fellow workers, and no sense of humor.

Unemployed, with no useful skills and a demonstrated talent for offending people, I finally found my true profession, at which I am finally successful. I took up the only profession around where no sense of humor is required: literary critic.


  1. What's your beef with literary critics, Mike? Considering how many are losing their jobs these days with newspapers waning, and the lack of any organization rising to supplement their ability to promote any literature (even if they swat down the rest), I think they've been getting an unfair wrap. Not that there aren't prominent ones who couldn't use a kick in the pants.

    Typo: 4th-to-last paragraph "Attorney’s" for "Attourneys"

  2. Heh, I think you mean "attorneys." Unless that's an English spelling I'm not familiar with. Neat story, and I submit to the court that the ending indicates a sense of humor in the writer if not the speaker.

  3. hahaha I was definitely expecting him to end up a lawyer :) Quite enjoyed this.

  4. John, good points, and thanks for catching that error. My spell-checker didn't.

    Truth is I don't really have it in for critics. It's just an old attitude I found myself with after two years as an English major. One of my profs considered himself a critic. I considered him one of the most useless and pitiful humans I'd ever met. I ran away from that major just before graduating and never looked back.

    I should say one of my very favorite writers of all time is a literary critic: James Wood.

    And Valerie and Lauren: Thanks much for the read!

  5. And I confess to changing the last sentence from the original.

  6. Loved it, Mike! Witty, intelligent and wry. Obviously you won't be found guilty of a lack of sense of humour!

  7. Wow, thanks Cathy! I confess I feel like this guy sometimes when writing, thus the story.

  8. Posh! You own a sense of humor (though maybe you need to take it out more often, let it see the sunshine, er... ahem) and very clever, Mike.

    Of course, I asked if you did a friday flash and you didn't/hadn't when I asked. Sorry it took me so long to check it out.

    I read the one above--is it an early one for next friday or an additional late one for this labor day weekend?

  9. Peg: sometimes these stories just suddenly write themselves with little notice. That's what happened with this one and "Lady" that followed. I hope/expect to pop out at least one more by this Friday, see.

  10. Well-written 'tongue in cheek' humour.

    You just can't win, can you?

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this story.