A yokel walks into Chicago | Bleader

A yokel walks into Chicago

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No ducks were harmed in the writing of this story
  • No ducks were harmed in the writing of this story
(Wordplay Week involves a series of Oulipian twists on a classic joke. First read the template duck joke. You'll also find guidelines there for offering your own Oulipian version of the story, which could win you a memorable prize.)

Dear folks. Everyone is so interesting here in the big city. I am interning at a drinking establishment that is popular with the legendary writing crowd. I get to take home all the uncracked peanuts I find on the floor when I sweep it out at the end of business, and one of the regulars told me he should be so lucky. He’s a famous local blogger.

Last night Ray, the boss, gave me an assignment. He sent me out to buy some grapes and some nails. I asked him why he needed them and he said he had a big decision to make. He made it sound pretty existential. I asked if it had something to do with the raven hovering over the bar and he said it was not actually a raven although said bird did not mind giving that impression. If said bird ever took a bath, he said, I would have a better idea of its avian credentials. But yes, said Ray, the bird did figure in his deliberations.

At any rate, this was a big responsibility and I wanted to make a good impression. I hailed a taxicab and asked the driver to take me to the nearest general store where I could buy nails and grapes. “It’s 1:30 in the morning,” said the driver. “Most of those places are closed.” I told him that if was a question of satisfying my personal needs I’d happily wait until morning, but this was an important work-related assignment. I told him where I worked. He said he used to go there all the time but now that he held down two jobs he didn’t have the time. I asked what his other job was and he said he’s a famous local blogger. Like I said, I’m meeting amazing people!

Well, the grapes were easy, but we drove around all night and we never did find the nails. At one point I called Ray and asked if staples would be OK. I could get a box of those at a 24-hour Kinko’s. No, he said, he was thinking along the lines of three-inch roofing nails, and for that matter if I wanted to eat the grapes it was OK with him because he didn’t need them anymore. What about that big decision you needed to make? I asked. “It’s made,” he said.

To make a long story short, I came in with the nails when I reported for work the next evening. Ray took me aside and said, “You may see something happen here tonight that you could never have imagined back in the little town you came from, and it will sicken and offend you. I want you to know I thought long and hard about this. But there is no other way.”

But the raven didn’t show, and nothing happened. That night, as I was walking home from work, I ran into the raven, who was just leaving the 4 AM joint down the street. I introduced myself, and I asked if he was also a writer. “Got any grapes?” he said. I do at home! I said, and asked him if he wanted to drop over. So he did. I set out a bowl of grapes. “I don’t actually eat grapes,” said my visitor. “I prefer grubs and sedge.”

“Then why do you ask for grapes? I said.

“What makes people laugh?” he said.

You see, that’s why I came to the city, to have profound conversations like this one! My new friend has lots of these deep thoughts and he’s trying to make a name for himself as a blogger. I told Ray, my boss, how interesting he is. “Don’t lose those nails,” Ray said.

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