Storytime with Peter

A number of years ago I attended a summer tennis camp. If I remember correctly I was in fourth grade, so I was about eight or nine years old. Camp would last three hours, so, at the half way point the instructors would give us a break and let us drink lemonade and relax for a few moments. I would, of course, spend most of my break spitting game at this cute little number named Ashley.

I spent a couple of days doing my thing. I tried to get to know her, find out her interests, likes and dislikes, etc. (i.e. Does your school have recess before or after lunch? Man, long division’s a pain in the ass. Cursive? More like schmursive.)

After a few days, I decided things were moving too slowly. I needed a special something to give me an extra kick. I thought the perfect way to do this was bust out a killer joke. Now, even as old as I am currently, I am not a funny guy. I was even less funny over a decade ago, so I did the only sensible thing. I stole a joke from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The night before Jay had made a joke in his opening monologue about the U.S.’s recent involvement in Kosovo. The joke was something along the lines of:

How do you pronounce Kosovo? Vietnam.

The joke of course being that Kosovo was a quagmire that would entangle the U.S. in a bloody, futile struggle for decades. (Nice call, Jay.) Obviously, as an eight year old I didn’t get it. Yet for some inexplicable reason, that was the joke I chose to tell Ashley. As you might guess the political reference was lost on Ashley, too. She stared blankly at me. It was awful. And just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.

Michael, this glasses wearing scrawny pain-in-the-ass who was a couple years older than Ashley and I, was standing a few feet to the left of us. He broke the silence.

“That joke was on Jay Leno last night,” he said in a scrawny, nerdy way.

Now I was faced with a decision. I could own up to my bizarre plagarism. Or, I could do something even less sensical than telling a Vietnam joke to an eight year old. I chose the latter.

“No it wasn’t,” I said defiantly.

“Yes it was. You stole that joke from Jay Leno,” he said as nerdy as ever.

“Look, maybe he made a similar joke, but I didn’t see it. I don’t even watch Jay Leno.”

“Are you trying to say that you made up your own joke about Kosovo and Vietnam?”

I gave one quick glance back to Ashley to try and gauge her reaction to this whole incident. She was as inscrutable as ever.

“Yes. Yes I did.”

After that Michael left Ashley and I alone and the two of us went back to talking, but it wasn’t the same. I guess she could never really get over the fact that I lied to her. I suppose it was my own fault. I never should have expected an eight year old to pick up the subtleties of a Vietnam War joke. Maybe I should have said something about poop.

I’d like to think that after all these years Ashley feels differently about that incident. Maybe, rather than be baffled as shit, she would be flattered than I chose such an obscure attempt to impress her. She might look back at the day and remember the moment she fell in love with me. If this were a movie we would see each other again at a coffee shop or a book store, we’d exchange numbers and everything would lead up to us either getting married (if this movie were a romantic comedy) or having a child out of wedlock (if this movie were a Judd Apatow movie).

But, neither one of those things will happen because we don’t live in movies. Also, because even if I did see her, there is no way in hell I would recognize her.was about


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September 2009
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