Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Brick Joke



By Keith N Fisher

Many years ago, while driving a produce truck, I heard an obscure joke I never forgot. Subsequently, I’ve told it many times with varied results. It’s not very funny, but it’s cute. I’m not sure who wrote it, but here it goes. Be sure to read all the way through, because I’m going to make a point about writing.

Once, there was a man named George. He wanted to build a brick barbecue. He made plans, and calculated exactly how many bricks he would need. Then, he marched into the home improvement store and asked for seventy-one bricks. The clerk told him that like doughnuts, the bricks he wanted were packaged in dozens.

“But I don’t want seventy-two bricks,” George said. “What would I do with the other brick?”

The clerk responded with, “I don’t know. Perhaps you could use it as a door stop?”

George shook his head and went to the mercantile. He was told the same thing but since they were a wholesale business, he would only be able to get them by the pallet.

“How many would that be?” George asked.

“Ninety-six. The counter man said.

George did the math in his head “Then I would have twenty-four bricks left over.”

“Yeah but you would get the wholesale price.”

George decided to go to the brick plant.

“That’s correct. There are ninety six bricks on each pallet.” The yardman said. “But we discount each pallet after the first one. The more you buy the cheaper it is.”

“So I can get a really good deal if I want to build five barbecues. But that would leave me with fifteen bricks. Can’t you just break up a pallet?”

The yardman shook his head.

Finally, George relented, went back to the home improvement store, and purchased seventy-two bricks. He had a wonderful time building his barbecue and sure enough, he had one brick left over. George stood there looking around, wondering what to do with the brick. Suddenly his blood pressure shot through the roof and do you know what he did with that brick?

?????????

He tossed into the air as hard as he could.

Okay, Okay, I told you it wasn’t very funny.

On that same afternoon in the produce truck, my friend told me another joke,

Back in the days of designated smoking areas on commercial airplanes, a woman named Jenny tried to get a non-smoking ticket of a commuter flight. She was told there were no more seats in that section and if she wanted to get on the plane she would need to sit with the smokers.

“I can’t do that,” Jenny complained. I can’t stand it, besides my dog is allergic.”

“Well, if you want, we can check the dog as baggage,” the ticket agent said.

“Not Fifi. She’s like a family member.” Jenny said.

“I’m sorry ma’am. You could wait until the next flight.”

“When would that be?” Jenny asked.

“Tomorrow morning.”

Jenny paced the ticket area and finally decided on a plan. It was a short flight and perhaps she could appeal to the kindness of her seatmates. She purchased the ticket.

Boarding early, Jenny found her seat on the aisle, over the wing and sat down with Fifi in her lap. Soon, a burley businessman with an unlit cigar in his mouth, sat next to her. Jenny introduced herself and Fifi.

“My name is Dave,” he said.

Contrary to Jenny’s nature, she chatted with Dave about their reasons for being on the plane and when the plane started down the runway, she assumed his sympathies were with her.

Soon they were in the air and some of the passengers began to light up. Jenny complained to Dave about her aversion and Fifi’s allergies. Dave raised a lighter to his cigar, glanced at her, and put his cigar away.

After a while, Dave fidgeted, and reached for his cigar. Jenny sighed.

“Don’t worry. Since this plane isn’t pressurized, I can open this window. I’ll blow my smoke outside,” Dave said.

Jenny relented, knowing Dave was actually trying to work with her, but the window blew Dave’s smoke right toward her. She coughed and Dave snuffed out the cigar.

Still more time passed and Dave lit his cigar again. This time, Fifi started sneezing. When Jenny complained, Dave said, “Look. I love this cigar about as much as you love that dog. I’ll make a deal with you.” Dave pointed out the window. “I’ll toss my cigar out the window if you toss your dog.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Jenny said. “I can’t do that to Fifi.”

Dave nodded his head in self-righteousness.

Before long Fifi was gasping for breath and Jenny had an idea. “We could switch seats.”

Dave huffed and climbed over her to stand in the aisle. Jenny slid across and took a deep breath of fresh air. She put Fifi on the ledge and encouraged her to breathe. “Thank you, Dave,” Jenny turned to him and said. Seconds later, the unthinkable happened. Fifi climbed out the window.

Jenny was inconsolable. Dave reached over and dropped his cigar out the window in a symbolic gesture but Jenny didn’t care. How would she ever be able to go on without Fifi?

After a while, the plane had grown quiet except for Jenny’s sobs. All the smokers had extinguished their cigarettes and Jenny glanced out the window toward the wing. Do you know what she saw?

???????

Was the Dog sitting on the wing, smoking the cigar?

?????

Nope. With wide-eyed amazement, Jenny looked and saw the brick . . .


If I hadn’t been driving a produce truck between Salt Lake and Provo, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this two-part joke. I was sequestered and bored, besides, my friend told it much, better than I can. The trick is in the timing and acting oblivious to the fact the first part is stupid, while keeping their attention in the second part. Never the less, the responses when I tell it, surprise me sometimes.

Recently, in critique group we addressed the problem of a book that reads like two different stories in the same story. There is the first part, which doesn’t appear to relate the second part, and seems like an entirely different book. In the end, however, both parts come together.

A suggestion was made to publish it as a two-part story. Other than connectivity, it’s a great piece of writing, but I’m a little unsure about the two-part idea. As writers we often write sequels but if we are good writers each story will be stand alone, not dependent on the other.

In a two-part the writer is obligated to make the first part exciting enough to carry the reader into the second book. Then if the second part lets them down, the reader will never forget that. When I tell the brick joke, it causes serious doubts about my joke telling abilities.

There is also the inherent danger of adding fill to a manuscript in order get the word count up for two books.

I think it would work if the parts were equally interesting. Each part needs a complete arc that provides closure for the reader. Also the first part needs a few teasers that lead the reader into the second part, then makes the reader glad he took the time to read.

If the second part of the brick joke had been funny enough, it would’ve been worth the time it took to get there. Make all your writing worth the time to get to the end.

Please forgive my stupid joke and consider, if I had posted this blog in two parts, would you have read it all? Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

4 comments:

Weston Elliott said...

I always heard it that he threw the dog out the window, she threw his cigar out the window and which hit the ground first? The brick.

Still just as dumb!

I'd never thought about that relating to a book though - which is funny because looking at it now I have a manuscript that does just that... hmmmmm...


Thanks for making me think...

Keith Fisher said...

Yeah I heard a similar version, but I changed it to keep the animal activists from screaming at me. now that you told it, they can go after you :)

boredmormon said...

As long as you tell readers in advance how many books are in the series they won't mind an incomplete story arc. Its quite reasonable to stretch an arc over two or three books. Just don't say thirteen and die after twelve. That really ticks people off.

Then again I had a friend who was very dissapointed with the end of the "Fellowship of the Ring" movie. They didn't realise there were two more to come out.

swampfaye said...

Is it possible for someone to join this lds blogck group or do you have to be invited?