The Guffaw

Snow in Irbed, Jordan

The night was drawing to an end. John Doe stared at the screen of his mobile phone. The street outside was dark and covered in snow. He was at the mercy of his mobile phone. The electricity had been cut off weeks ago and the only technological item at his disposal was the device he was clasping. It had cost him 300 dinars, his monthly wage. He headed to the kitchen, following the dim light shed by the candles in the corridor. He stepped on one of them and swore at the candle and at the light. Then he dissolved into a bout of laughter. One could accuse John Doe of not having always led an exemplary life, but at least he looked on the bright side of things. When he learned that his wife had been cheating on him and that his son was calling him names behind his back, he merely jested about his misfortunes.

After he had bust a gut in the corridor, he continued on, cursing while moving forward toward the fridge, which for the time being was standing there just for show. He grabbed a bottle of water, knowing beforehand it was way too small to quench his raging thirst. He laughed at his ugly face when he saw his reflection on the screen of his mobile phone. Then he jotted the gag down and logged the incident into the aforementioned gadget. He went to his bedroom and took his favorite book off the shelf. It was falling to pieces. He plunked it down on the pillow and, straining his eyes, began reading under the beam of light his mobile phone was furnishing.

He woke up in front of the pitch-black TV screen, which shot him a baleful glance. A faint smile flickered across his face. He then stood up to switch it off. The moment he reached the device, he realized the futility of his actions. His faint smile grew into a chuckle, which thereafter turned into a shriek of laughter that ultimately developed into a wail of anguish. It was precisely the reaction one would expect from a polished actor playing the role of a slightly less skilled actor gone mental while portraying a random character who also happened to be an average guy. John Doe was well aware of his mental issues, but at the same time he had no clue as to how to address them. He had accepted them as a part of his lot in life, one to be spent incarcerated inside a head that had never really belonged to him anyway. The snow fell from above, the orders to drill holes in the street came from above, and his wife had always chosen to be on top—up until she had chosen to switch mounts altogether.

A fly kept skimming across John Doe’s head. It dropped dead the moment it landed on his crown. Before picking it up, he took a picture of it. He looked inside its big eyes and for a second felt as if someone were spying on him through them. A strange feeling of being under surveillance enveloped him. Who could be monitoring his every move? Was it Dr. Lacan? The inventor of the Martinis? Were they all following the commandments of Sartre’s existentialism? Wait, it had to be an Anglo-Saxon-Mason-Judeo-bisi-sodo-popu-socio-dickological conspiracy that had the whole world in cahoots to hatch up a plan for the sole purpose of taking John Doe down.

He put the fly in his mouth to discover its taste. He had seen plenty of people eating flies on the screen of his mobile phone. For a second or two, he no longer felt lonely. He climbed up to the attic in order to take his mind off the current state of affairs, like the fact that his unfaithful wife had been stabbed to death with her own selfie stick. John Doe started laughing hysterically again. Not content with that, he decided to take his histrionics to a whole new level. He crumpled to the cold ground, huddled onto one side of his body, and ran around in stationary circles. This time, his performance matched up to the one that could have been delivered by a deranged actor who was masterfully playing the part of a decent actor who was supposed to laugh at a joke he didn’t get. When told a joke, he himself laughed in the proper fashion even though he did not hold the jokes currently in vogue on the block to be very funny. On the other hand, he deemed reality to be hilarious. The world was full of holier-than-thou people getting themselves tangled up in dismal situations. That was without question a real hoot! He stopped laughing for a moment to wipe away the tears of mirth that were welling in his eyes. Then he continued on laughing.

John Doe woke up to the vibration of his mobile phone. He asked himself why nothing was the way it ought to be. The answer came readily to his mind. He suddenly felt as if he had solved the mysteries of the universe. Teachers gave lessons on stuff that wound up being useful to know. Radio and TV announcers told the population how to conduct themselves in each and every situation. Screens were always packed with marginal glosses for reference and comprehension. All links linked to further links. There was no denying he was perfectly fine the way he was; everything was the way it should be. Damned be all those who dared to state anything to the contrary.

However, there was something about his impeccable logic that irked him beyond measure. He went outside to cast a glance at the world. The sun glared out of a clear blue sky. The weather forecast issued by his mobile phone was at odds with the evidence in front of his eyes. He laughed heartily and put his phone away.

The next morning he woke up laughing at how disappointing reality was. He laughed and reviled everyone—except himself, of course, for he never erred.

John Doe had tried to cry once, but he had ended up bursting into laughter instead.


Written by Sameer Ramees.

Choose your own adventure

Mankind once did something unpredictable and became

a) unrecognizable, thus ceasing to exist.

b) the avatar of chaos, thus becoming doomed to eradication.