Bail! Bail! Bail!

(scene opens in early morning dinning room, several bouquets of multi colored roses on the table)

Me: (reading email, drinking coffee)

Beta: (sees card, picks it up to read it, item drops out) Mom? What’s this?

Me: Your father gave that to me. We’ve been married twenty years today. That’s my golden watch.

Beta: (with relief) Oh good. I was hoping dad got this for you and wasn’t some toy of Delta’s laying around. You know that there’s no way he bought this by itself, right? That this was probably some Paw Patrol set and there’s a bunch of other Paw Patrol stuff just laying around the house somewhere.

Me: Going the extra mile for the joke is why I like your dad so much.

Beta: It kinda makes sense he’d give you a gold watch. I mean, you’re kinda retired. You don’t work.

Me: (mildly) I don’t work?

Beta: (recovering) You don’t work for money. Dad works for money and you kinda hang out here with him.

Me: (obviously laying a trap) Oh. I just hang out here and let dad do all the work.

Beta: (sweating) No! That’s not –

(footsteps off screen announces the arrival of Husband)

Husband: (blinking in the bright light of the dinning room) What are you doing up so early?

Me: (gets up, kisses husband) I was going to sneak out and get you a card, but I forgot that pandemic means nothing opens before 6 am any more. Beta loves the gold watch you got me. Said it made sense since I don’t work.

Husband: (gives Beta “you done messed up” look)

Beta: (dramatically flails arms)

Me: (sitting, picks up coffee) Also told me that you work, and I just kinda hang out.

Husband: (dramatically alarmed, looks at Beta) Run.

(Husband flees off stage, not pursued by a bear)

Beta: (mean mugs Carrot) That’s not what I meant! I know you work hard!

Me: Extra mile for the joke, honey. Have a good day at school.

Anticipa…

(scene opens in cluttered kitchen, conversation in progress)

Me: I’m really sorry they’re moving. I wanted to hang out with him more and make fun of each other.

Beta: (attempting to be witty) You’re bald! (crickets) And I’m out! (turns to leave)

Husband: Beta, come here.

Beta: (nervously edges toward the door room) No!

Husband: I said come here. (crosses room)

Beta: (whimpers)

(Husband embraces Beta gently, pats him on the back)

Husband: Sorry I missed your concert tonight. I heard you did a great job.

Beta: (confused, whimpers again) What just happened?

Husband: (lets him go, picks up tea mug, smiles)

Me: Good night, Beta.

Beta: (edges out of the room, slightly panicky) I don’t know what’s going on.

Me: (sotto voce) There is nothing he can do to you that is worse than your own imagination.

Husband: (smug humming)

Please hold, your call is important to us.

(scene opens in cluttered dining room Beta sitting next to Carrot at the table)

Me: The reason you’re failing is that you’re not turning in your work. That’s it. You’re passing all your tests. Just turn in the goddamn work.

(Husband approaches the table)

Husband: (in calm receptionist voice) Thank you for calling Parent Phone. Press 1 if you want to be yelled at by Dad. Press 2 if you want to be yelled at by mom. Press 3 if you want a vague sense of parental disappointment.

(pause)

Beta: What does four….

Husband: (yelling) I TOLD YOU IF YOU WANTED TO BE YELLED AT BY DAD YOU PRESS 1! DO YOU EVEN LISTEN?

Carrot: (puts head down and laughs)

Beta: What’s wrong with you?

Carrot: (crying) I’m blogging that and you can’t stop me.

Joke Grenade

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room)

Beta: Mom, I’m a failure.

Me: (caught typing, pauses) What?

Beta: I’m a failure. Remember the whole step-joke?

Me: Yeah?

Beta: I just figured out why it’s called a step-ladder. It’s a ladder. With steps.

Me: (covers face with hands) Oh god. Oh god, you’re kidding me.

Beta: Yeah. Sorry. Are you disappointed in me?

Me: (laughs in unbelievable are you serious) Maybe a little.

Poker Face

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Beta: (describing the gear needed for Welding class)

Me: (looks up from computer at Husband) So…now we’re buying him boots?

Husband: Something like Timberlands. Heavy duty work boots.

Me: (turns to Beta) Are you going to wear them all day?

Beta: No, they’ll stay in my locker.

Me: Finally using your locker? Glad someone knows what a locker is.

Beta: I have a locker in my welding classroom. I don’t use my real locker.

Husband: Only use your step-locker?

Me: (absentmindedly) What are you doing, step-locker?

Husband: (whips around to stare at Carrot)

Beta: (points at Carrot, yelling) NO!

Husband: (whips around to stare at Beta)

Me: Ha-ha. Outted you.

Beta: (flames bright red)

Husband: You’d better go to bed.

(Beta flees, stage left)

Husband: (to Carrot now laughing helplessly) I think this makes you the bad parent.

Carrot: (wipes tears) I’m okay with that.

Well, you asked.

(scene opens in mini-van)

Beta: I think Dad jokes aren’t funny. I bet mom jokes are funny. Mom, tell us a joke.

Me: (wearily) I’m well rested.

Husband: (uproariously laughter behind the wheel)

Me: (takes cue) My children are well behaved.

Husband: (increased laughing) Oh my god! That’s hilarious! I’m laughing so hard I’m crying!

Me: I never have to yell at them to do homework.

Husband: (booming fake stage laughter) It’s too much! Stop! I’m going to have to pull over if you keep going!

Me: My house is clean.

Husband: (pulls over to side of the road, puts head down on steering wheel, hysterical fake laughter)

(cut scene to four kids and a dog staring flatly at the front seat)

Beta: I’m sorry I said anything.

Husband: (to Carrot) Dear, that was wonderful. You should do stand-up.

Funny Because True

(scene opens in rainy dining room)

Beta: (shuffles up groggy) Did you get your other cards?

Me: (sips coffee) Yes.

Beta: (hands over pink envelope) I went to the store, looked at cards for ten seconds and decided this was the one.

Me: Oh boy.

Husband: (from kitchen) Thanks for getting me in trouble, Beta!

Me: He’s not wrong!

Here’s the wind up…

(scene opens in dim kitchen)

Gamma: Look at that chonky squirrel! I want a squirrel as a pet!

Husband: (looks out window) Eh, you can’t really have a squirrel for a pet. They’re not domesticated animals.

Gamma: Can I domesticate it?

Husband: You could tame one, but that’s different than domesticating.

Me: (looks up from making coffee) I don’t know how many generations it takes to domesticate something. Gamma, what you really want is to make some Crow Friends.

Gamma: How do you do that?

Me: Well, you need to feed them, but there are so many squirrels here, you’d need to call them to the yard first and then feed them.

Gamma: (skeptical) How do we do that?

Me: You can get a Crow Call on the internet.

Gamma: (skepticism deepens) A Crow Call?

Husband: Yeah! A Crow Call. Watch. (cups hands, leans towards window) HEY CROW! COME HERE CROW!

Gamma: (stares)

Me: (closes eyes) Seriously.

Husband: (laughs himself silly) I’m helpy!

We Brought it on Ourselves

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room)

Husband: (enters from kitchen) Hey, did you hear what Niece K wants to be when she grows up? (opens up laptop)

Me: (typing, doesn’t look up) I already made the reference and he didn’t get it.

(Husband plays Dentist Song from Little Shop of Horrors)

(Boys watch in WTF)

Alpha: What the hell was that?

Husband: A song from a movie.

Beta: What kind of movie has a song about a dentist hurting people?!

Husband: A movie about a plant. A talking plant. That eats people.

Beta: (pauses) It is not. You’re lying.

Me: He’s not. It was a play called Little Shop of Horror, they turned it into a movie. The the plant talks and is called Audrey Two.

Beta: (stares) You are both totally lying to me.

Me: (starts laughing) It does sound like something we’d lie about.

Husband: I wouldn’t believe me either.

Old joke is old

(Scene opens in dim cluttered dinning room)

Me: (typing furiously on laptop)

Beta: (bounces into the room) Mom! I have a joke for you!

Me: (internal sigh) Shoot.

Beta: You have to look at me!

Me: (sags a little, looks up) Shoot.

Beta: (smugly, holds up fingers in a V) I’m a Roman and I’m ordering five beers!

Me: (raises eyebrows, hold up fingers in shape of an L) Fifty bucks? Really?

Beta: (confused) No, see I was…wait…what?

Me: The letter “V” stands for five but the letter “L” stands for fifty.

Beta: (pouts and tries not to smile) No fair, mom.

Me: I might have heard that one before.

As long as we’re laughing

(scene opens in tossed parlor)

Me: (holding hair tie between gritted teeth) Gamma, stop moving or brushing your hair will be more painful.
Gamma: (ridiculous suffering)
Beta: (stomping down the stairs, snuffling loudly)
Me: Beta, go upstairs and brush your teeth.
Beta: (sighs in busted, turns around to go back up, snuffling loudly)
Me: (calls after him) And blow your nose!
Husband: (looking around for his gear) And do a little dance.
Me: And make a little love!
Husband: Hey Beta! Get down tonight!
Beta: (off screen) I’m not talking to you guys!
Gamma: You guys make no sense.

In Jokes Make Everything Better

(cut scene-flashback, opens in foyer of Universal Studios hotel, two people having a conversation)

Me: (quietly) Beta, you’ve been talking about food all day.
Beta: I’m hungry all day.
Me: (epiphany moment) Beta, do you eat your feelings?
Beta: (serious face) Yeah. (dork face) Its because they’re so delicious.
Me: (letting it go, talks for other times) Well, its because you put cheese on them.

(flash forward, six people in parked van, most red eyed from crying)

Everyone: (collectively mired in personal misery and sorrow)
Husband: (reaches out, touches wife’s arm gently to get attention, mimes eating)
Me: (nods, collects self, sits up straighter, calls over shoulder) Beta? Do you want to go put cheese on our feelings?
Beta: That’d be great.
Me: (waves to husband to work the car machine)
Gamma: Why are we putting cheese on our feelings?
Husband: I think we’re getting something to eat.