Thomas was side-splitting with laughter. A convulsive one, for uncontrollable and nasal, that filled with tears his eyes, and pangs his stomach. Was such church suppressed laughter that sometimes, in his childhood, used to come to him spontaneously in the middle of the sermon, then spreading to all who were around and force them, even without knowing the reason for it –him included-, to hurriedly leave the Mass, fearing the wrath of God, but unable to stop laughing, and under the burning gaze of Rev Peter.
He couldn’t stop, but at the same time he didn’t want to wake up Rose -again-, who was snoring peacefully in the adjacent bedroom. He was covering his mouth with both hands, but still firing strong puffs out his large nostrils, accompanied by some occasional uncontrollable laughs that well could make his false teeth flew out, if he had been wearing the denture at that moment. Neither could stop, not even occurred to him to do so. And, unlike what used to happen in Rev Peter’s church, this time he had a reason: the joke he just heard in the African-American comedy which was playing on the tube in front of him.
He regained control after a while. Briefly. Until he remembered again the damn joke and a new attack made him jump off the armchair and hurry to the bathroom where he locked himself between joyful laughs.
Once almost recovered his composure, he opened the bathroom door to find himself face to face with Rose, her arms akimbo and staring at him as if he were a lunatic.
–Crazy old banana –she said. And that caused Thomas to start laughing again, even harder, and this time with open and loud laughs.
Rose entered the bathroom shaking her head. It was past 5 am and she had to start working in less than an hour. Thomas, who was again lying in his worn armchair with a smile from ear to ear, thought to tell the joke to Rose, but changed his mind after recalling the elbow that had hit him in the stomach, three hours earlier, when he tried to wake her by leaning by her from behind, like glue, and holding one of her breast with his hand. –Old bag! –he thought, caring the affected area. But that bad memory didn’t change his good humor.
The noises of water and jars that Rose was making in the bathroom ended after a few minutes and then the ones of the pots and the kettle, which came from the kitchen. Thomas then heard her toward the door of the modest and tiny apartment. And finally, as always, he also had to listen to the daily reminder: –Take the trash away!
–Outdated pervert! –added Rose as farewell, before closing the door behind her.
After that much laughing, Thomas felt quite exhausted and, on the other hand, he had nothing to do at those early hours in the morning. He was retired for seven years now and his only activity, other than the garbage, was to meet Paul in the park, much later in the day, and discuss with him the Major Leagues and the small anecdotes of life. He went back to the bedroom, happy to have the whole bed to himself, and within minutes he fell asleep like an angel. With a big smile on his face.
About eleven o’clock that morning, Thomas was already looking for his baseball cap to leave for his daily meeting at Johnson Park, a few blocks away from the dilapidated building where he had lived with Rose for the past thirty-five years. That was the part of the day he liked most and he was eager to tell Paul the funny joke he had heard earlier that morning. Both had worked in the same plant for several decades, although Paul had recently retired and never was married –a fact that Thomas considered a wise decision. Certainly both were two festive souls and they appreciate each other.
Once the old black cap was covering its duties, by concealing his tangle of gray hair, a little sloppy, a little long and impossible to comb, he left the apartment and locked the door. Arriving at the steps he annoyed recalled the bloody garbage bag. –African Witch! –he muttered, before going back and picking it up. Once on the street, in front the dustbin, he realized that he had also left behind his dentures, but he didn’t plan to go back up the fourth floor or to eat anything. Moreover, Paul should be already in the park and, as that morning was developing, he didn’t want to also forget the joke. So he thrust his hands into the pockets of his sweatshirt and went to meet his friend.
As expected, Paul was sitting on a park bench where they used to meet and was feeding some pigeons with bread crumbs.
–Hey Paul. What’s going on in the neighborhood?
–Hi bro –said Paul. –It is what it is. And what about you, why are you so smiley this morning? Let me guess. Rose went mad out of passion and didn’t allow you to sleep the whole night.
–Well, not exactly –Thomas disagreed. –Crazy, yes, but not out of passion. Rather it’s another thing.
–Ha ha ha! Yes, I believe you –laughed Paul. –OK, tell me. I’m dying to know what makes you so happy.
–It’s a joke I heard this morning in a rerun of Sammy M –Thomas said, sitting in the bench. –It goes about a great white businessman from the Big Apple who is on vacation in Africa. As he was bored in the hotel, he decided to go for a walk on the beach. A beach of those the bros down there have, with white sand and coconut palms leaning over the sea. Well, he shortly spotted a bro lying on the sand, drinking water from a coconut and accompanied by two sistas, of the kind that are banned here long ago. All three were in their underwear, in the shade of a palm tree and the girls can’t stop snogging and petting him, one on each side. Passing by them, the sistas smiled and one winked to the white, while the brother remained impassive, sucking the coconut. The white moved on, confused by the provocative girls and, above all, to see that poor black bro plunged into an indolent and aimless life. After a while the businessman went back on his steps and this time was greeted by the smiling sisters and the brother, so he decided to approach them and offer his expert advice to that nice, but poor African. When he got close to them he said, addressing the brother: –Do you see those coconuts up there. Have no owner, so you might take a few and bring them to market to sell, and make a little money. Soon you’d have enough to buy a bicycle with a cart and so to be able to transport much more to the market and generate more profit. Quickly you would make enough money to buy a van and greatly expand your business. After, one truck and soon, a fleet. The next step would be to start exporting coconuts and build a business conglomerate. And, a few years from now, you would be in position to have a fucking good life –he concluded.
The brother smiling, calmly deposited the coconut on the sand and rested each arm on the shoulders of the sculptural and horny sistas, and then said: –And what the fuck you think I’m doing right now?
An African-American joke – Dugutigui
PS: Someone in another part of this blog, asked if I knew the story behind the photo of the two blacks laughing ( https://damantigui.wordpress.com/contac ). And the truth is I don’t. However the picture is very special to me, so I thought it deserved a full story.
For a while I was collecting pictures of people laughing, not the typical ones of commercials, with fake smiles, but the genuine smile of normal people. I didn’t include in my collection smiling children, because they are always genuine and hence these photos are not special –at least for me. If you search the Internet, you will not find many grown-ups with a healthy and open smiling. Mostly you will find a touch of falsehood, a cynical grin, an “I don’t know” that is not fitting. Our world is like that and, moreover, the very presence of a camera predisposes us to pose, which spoils the charm and freshness of the genuine gestures of people- Among this collection –of no more than 10 photos– the best by far is the photo above, and that is why it is very special to me. Whenever I look at it I feel better and if I observe it carefully, apart from finishing laughing, I always wondered –as that “someone” did–, what kind of experiences might be behind those two, so that they are laughing in that natural way.
In the “Diula” language in Mali, the term « dugutigui » (chief of the village), literally translated, means: «owner of the village»; «dugu» means village and «tigui», owner. Probably the term is the result of the contraction of «dugu kuntigui» (literally: chief of the village).