If you’re just joining us, here’s the story so far.
Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story. We are in the middle:
The Man Who Thought Laughter Was a Hug
(Containing the preposterous tale of a man struck by lightning.)
Once we had left the three doctors, continued Benjamin Miller his troubled tale, we explored the town in search of its secrets. Quite soon, we saw a group of men and women standing near an open door, and laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Sylvia asked one of the laughing men.
“It’s my grandfather,” said the man. “He’s dying.”
“That sounds very sad,” Sylvia said. “Why is everyone laughing?”
“You had better ask him,” said the man and pointed inside the house.
Sylvia, Ochi, and I walked into the house. An old man was lying on a bed, and everyone around him was laughing. Even the old man was laughing.
We approached the old man. Sylvia said, “We are strangers in town. We hear that you are dying.”
“Indeed I am.”
“But all your family and friends here, they are laughing.”
“It’s a good thing they are.”
“Why? Could you explain it to us?”
“For that, you will have to hear the story of my life,” said the old man. “Do you have time?”
“Good. So do I,” said the old man. Everyone around him laughed. And then he began to tell his tale.
My name is Happy Gladwell, began the old man. I was born in the big city of Green Is In, not a long walk from Capital City. When I was three years old, a big storm had come to the big city. I happened to be outside when the storm hit, and I couldn’t make it home in time.
As I tried to find shelter from the rain, lightning struck my head right here.
I passed out, and when I woke, the storm was gone.
The town’s doctors examined me and said that I was all right. But I was not all right. One thing had changed in me, and they did not see it. Something in my head has been reversed, and ever since the age of three my brain began to believe that a laugh was a hug.
That way, whenever someone laughed at something I said or did, I felt they were hugging me. Whenever someone hugged me instead of laughing at my joke, I did not care for it.
That is how I spent my childhood. I learned to be funny, and all my friends laughed and laughed at everything I said. I learned to make funny faces, and my little sister laughed and laughed.
Every time my mother would put me to sleep and kiss me goodnight, I made sure to tell her a joke. That way she laughed, and I felt she had hugged me.
Later on, when I grew older, I met a woman, my True Love. As soon as I saw her, I knew that I wanted her to love me for the rest of my life. And so, for every day since, I had made her laugh at one thing or another.
Together we moved to the Land of No Respect, where the funny people belong. Here, we had children. I made faces to my children each and every day, and that way I felt they hugged me and loved me.
This was decades ago. Now, everyone is older. My children are parents and grandparents, and I am old and dying. But old as I am, I want everyone’s love. So here we sit, and each person, at his or her turn, remembers a funny story about something I did or said during my lifetime, and everyone laughs. That way, I can die knowing everyone loves me.
This has been the sad story of my funny life, said Happy Gladwell.
And having said those last words, Happy Gladwell died.
Half the people laughed while half the people cried. Then the half that cried laughed, and the half that laughed, cried. And so they changed, back and forth, crying and laughing, laughing and crying. When they cried, it was funny, because they had just laughed. And when they laughed, it was sad, because they were actually sad.
Ochi, Sylvia, and I gave their condolences to the family, and said that Happy Gladwell seemed to have made many people happy. Then, deep in thought, the three of us left the place.
And now you’ve heard, King John the Cute, the story of how something can be funny and sad at the same time.
(To be continued on Thursday…)