The Jokester

The Jokester

Bill came down in a wheelchair today. He has gray hair with a display of stubble growth on his chin and cheeks. He face is sunken and his smile reveals four yellowed incisors standing up like a gate guarding his palate. He parked  his chair by the donated  book section.

“I found a book,” he yelled out with a smile as he showed me the cover and asked if I ever heard of or read Stephen King. I nodded and said told him I read many of his novels. 

“My father had a cabin in northern Main four doors down from him. King bought the cabin from me eight years ago after my father passed away. We used to spend our summers there.”

Now he had my full attention, mostly because I had read about King’s cabin in Bangor, Maine. 

“What brings you to the hospital,” I asked him. 

“I have terminal lung cancer,” he said with a smile as if it was a joke.

 I asked him what the next step was. 

“I’m going to live out the rest of my life doing whatever I want to do.”

He then asked me if I had heard about the death of Willie Nelson earlier in the day.

“What did you say?” I asked him in disbelief as I paged through the day’s newspaper trying to find the details about the Nelson death. 

“I don’t see anything in the newspaper,” I told him. “What time did this occur?”

I think early in the morning,” he replied, still smiling. “But hear me out,” he said. And then he proceeded with a punch line which I don’t recall except that it had to do with being “On the Road Again.”

 “That isn’t funny,” I told him. “Never tell a joke about someone dying.”  

It was as if he didn’t hear me, as if he was oblivious to what I had just said.

“What do you call a rabbit under anesthesia?”

I shook my head. 

 “An ether bunny.” And he laughted at his own joke.  

 “What do you call a bald-headed rabbit?”

 I just shrugged my shoulders.  

 “Hare today and gone tomorrow.”

 “What do you feed a gay horse for breakfast in the morning?”


 “Where  does the Lone Ranger take his garbage?”

“Where?” I asked as if the question wasn’t related to a punchline. 

To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump.”

That one brought me a smile and some laughter. 

“What do you get when you cross a blond with a gorilla?

“Oh, no. Not the blond jokes.” And yes, I’m a blond. 

“You wind up with a retarded gorilla.”

 “What do you call six blonds in a circle?

“A dope ring.”

“That’s enough of the blond jokes,” I told him as I grinned. 

 “You’ve heard of Tony Orlando . . .

He died from a heart attack three days ago.

He woke up at the crack of dawn.”

Oh no, I thought. Another joke about someone dying. This time I didn’t point it out to him. I thought about his coping mechanism and suddenly I understood what he was doing. I looked at him as he pondered his next joke. He grinned and stroked the two day stubble on his chin before he began to speak again. 

“What do you call . . . . .

About TRatner

Terry Ratner is a freelance writer, registered nurse, and writing instructor in Phoenix, Arizona. In June of 2004, she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Writing has always served a purpose in her life, but it wasn't until her son died in a motorcycle accident in March, 1999, that she began to publish her works. What's unique about Terry is the way she balances the life of a nurse with the life of a writer. "Nursing allows me to give back to the community and then write about those experiences." Ratner teaches creative writing in a variety of settings from community colleges to a school for homeless children (Thomas J. Pappas) to wellness communities throughout the Valley of the Sun. In 2004, Terry launched an Arts and Healing program for children undergoing dialysis at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. She has published numerous personal essays, cover stories, interviews, and book reviews for a variety of national and regional publications. Her manuscript, a work in progress, features a series of twelve essays, ten of which are introduced with black and white photos, dealing with issues of family and identity.
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