plrknib (excerpt)

An excerpt from my (hopefully) forthcoming memoir, “Plrknib” is up at The Rumpus.


Cincinnati, 1980.

In late November on a Sunday morning my mother burned something she was cooking and the smoke alarm went off. And the joke was there – right there – in the air like a piece of low-hanging, very ripe fruit. And I ran up to my room and shut the door and started writing:

Her cooking. Her cooking is so bad – in the kitchen – in our kitchen we haven’t got a timer –

So, she uses the smoke alarm.

And there it was: a joke. A real joke! It felt like a joke. Smelled like a joke. Looked like a joke. A kid’s joke. A parents joke. It was the first joke I’d written that felt finished, self-contained, not an idea or a fragment – something only high school boys would think was funny. It felt like a joke that a real comedy writer would write. A real stand-up would tell. It almost felt like I’d bought the thing. And all because my mother had burned something in the kitchen.


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