Stand and be Fired Upon!
By Mike Stevens
A Charles Placard Tale
Charles Placard was angry. He had tried with all his skill to write the great American DRAMATIC novel, but it seemed everyone thought he was going for comedy. His first instinct was to pack up his literary aspirations and go home, but damn it, he WOULD make a career out of writing! But how? What should he do? The more he thought about it, the more he knew what he should do. If all the critics and fans thought he was so damn funny, then that’s exactly what he’d deliver. Why, he’d write the funniest novel ever seen by mankind! He practically ran to his typewriter, and started writing, with much excitement roiling in his veins.
He would call his novel, “Stand and be Fired Upon”. It would tell the story of a coward who joins the navy, in what he thought was only a clerical position, but it soon turns deadly serious. He kept typing as one humorous situation after another sprang first into his head, then was typed out on paper. He typed and typed, taking breaks only when he could stand it no more. The jokes where literally almost writing themselves. He’d never been this focused. Suddenly, he reached the end. He could scarcely believe it! It was then he realized just how hungry he was. He’d review the ending he’d just written, then order a pizza.
He picked up the last sheet of typewritten paper, and read: “...and still the bombs fell all around him. He was so scared! He’d never thought this would happen. What was he doing here? He was supposedly only a file clerk. He looked across the waves at the specter of the enemy battleship, saw a puff of smoke, turned to start running, and... The End
Man, was that ever funny; see people, now THAT is funny! He couldn’t wait to stick it to his old publishers, Behemoth Press. They had refused to take him seriously, insisting he was a comedy writer. They’d laughed at his attempts at drama, and he’d stopped dealing with them. Now he got an ironic pleasure from the thought of the look on their faces when he, Charles Placard, became a famous comedy writer, for someone else!
He’d decided on Slapstick Press as the perfect company to publish his new novel. He sat, clutching his precious manuscript to his chest. He had a 1 o’clock appointment to see a Mr. Carlin. Just then the receptionist, whose name was Georgina according to the golden nameplate before her, called out,
“Mr. Placard? Mr. Carlin will see you now. Through that door.”
Still clutching his manuscript, Charles opened the door, only it came to a sudden, jarring stop, then a small voice said.
“Hey, take it easy! Don’t open the door so fast; I’m back here!”
Charles was immediately contrite, replying, “Oh, I’m so sorry! Here, let me close the door. I was just on my way to meet Mr. Carlin, and...” He had looked behind the door to finish apologizing, but no one was there. He did a double take in confusion.
“Ha, ha, ha! That electronic voice get’s everybody the first time; eh, ha, ha! Please, come in and sit. I’m Jay Carlin, and welcome to Slapstick Press!”
Charles was spitting mad, but supposed he shouldn’t show it, after all, they were a COMEDY book publisher. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Carlin, and you really got me on that trapped behind the door bit, eh, ha, ha! There’s probably something heavy back there to keep the door from opening all the way.”
“Yeah, a big rock: eh, ha, ha!”
Eh, ha, fricking ha! “Well, you sure had me going. I fully expected to look behind the door and see a dude holding his brains in his hands!”
“Eh, ha, ha! Did you bring a sample of the book you’ve written. The premise sounded hilarious on the phone.”
“Sure did. Here you go. I think you’ll agree that it’s comedic gold!”
“I see you brought the entire novel, but that’s okay. Give me twenty minutes to read a bit, and I’ll call you back in.
“Mr. Placard, Mr. Carlin will see you again,” announced Georgina. Charles strode up to the door, and walked over to Mr. Carlin’s desk.
“Well, do you find the premise even funnier now that you’ve read a bit? It’s all written, so you can have it immediately.”
Carlin got a strange look on his face. “Ah, Mr. Placard, perhaps you accidently brought the wrong manuscript. This is much too heavy a subject for us to publish. We specialize in comedy, not something this dramatic.”
“What are you talking about? My book is nothing more than an excuse to write one literary pratfall after the other!”
“This,” said Mr. Carlin, pointing to the open manuscript, “this is one big downer. Surely you must have grabbed the wrong manuscript by mistake.”
Charles turned beet-red in the face. “Mr. Carlin, I’m afraid our business is concluded! I don’t want to be represented by a company who can’t see funny, when it’s laid right in their lap; good day, sir!"
Now what? When he was trying for serious, they thought it was a comedy. When he was trying for comedy, they thought it was serious. Hey, maybe he should write a “Don’t Have a Clue?” cookbook!