Point of View: A Joke Fleshed Out

Whereupon everyone who’d been listening became constricted with uncontrollable laughter

    Invited out the other day onto the water, where I hardly ever go, preferring to take in the views rather than hang over the rail, I ran to CVS to buy some Sea Bands, thinking they might help.
    I shouldn’t have worried, for the cruise to and from Coecles Harbor on a restored wooden prewar cabin cruiser was marvelously placid, the adults convivial, and the children beguiling.
    I had bought a good bottle of California pinot noir for Ed Gifford, whose 51st birthday we were celebrating, though I’m afraid I drank most of it. At one point, I reported that my eldest daughter had, after spending a number of years in suburban Pittsburgh schools, proved to be an immediate hit when she moved back for the second half of her senior high school year.
    “Emily had been a cheerleader in Pittsburgh — they were raucous,” I said. “She livened things up here with new cheers.” 
    Whereupon everyone who’d been listening became constricted with uncontrollable laughter. Usually quick on the uptake, I waited until they came up for air and had wiped away their tears before asking what had been so riotously funny.
    “We thought you said, ‘Nude cheers’!” one of them said. “It wasn’t just me — she heard it that way too.”
     Then I began to laugh. “That’s the funniest thing I ever said,” I said.
    “But you didn’t say it,” said the captain.
    “Oh yes I did,” I said. “It just needed some fleshing out.”
    Later, I told Emily about it as we talked on the phone. “I had them rolling in the aisles, Emily.”
    “I’m not surprised, Dad. You’re a clown.”
    “ ‘How ill white hairs become a fool and a jester!’ ”
    “I didn’t say that.”
    “Prince Hal did. To Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1. I’ve begun to read all of Shakespeare’s plays. They’re on my bucket list.”
    “Well, anyway, that was very funny. And did you also tell them I was the naked high-dive champion at the Maidstone Club?”