Friday, February 4, 2011

Scientists tell Jokes

She bundled around the kitchen picking up after dinner and listening to her husband converse with his co-workers.  Not normally a social person, she was excited Rob was meeting people even if they were just his co-workers.  Being married to a scientist these past few years have taught her much about a world she never really understood, but mainly that scientists tend to stick together.  She often thought it was because only they understood each other.

She breezed out the kitchen door ready to offer refills and snacks.

“Hey.”  Rob smiled at her.  “Come sit with us for awhile.  We are telling jokes!”

Timidly she set her pitcher on the table and sat on the loveseat next to Rob.

“Oh I got one,” a biologist called out from the sofa.  “Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar.  One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’  The other says, ‘Are you sure?’  The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive.’”

Groans and giggles filled the room.  She pasted a smile to match with the guests, but couldn’t quite bring herself to laugh. 

“Do you get it honey?” her husband asked gently.  “Of course,” she lied through the smile on her face.  “I took chemistry in college.”

Thankfully before anyone could challenge her response, a brilliant young woman from the other side of the room perked up.  “I’ve got a good one!”  She continued in a sing-song voice; “Charlie was a chemist, but Charlie is no more.  What Charlie thought was H2O was H2SO4!”

“Get it?” Rob turned to her through fits of giggles.  “H2O is water, and H2SO4 is sulfuric acid!” and he burst into laughter all over again.

“I’ve got a good pick-up line,” the college student sitting by her called out.  He turned toward her and winked at her husband.  “Hey baby,” he started in a stupid sexy voice, “if I was an enzyme, I’d be DNA Helicase so I could unzip your genes.”

A collective laugh rang out through the room as her husband glanced toward her with expectant eyes.  “It’s ok,” he said while patting her leg, “it’s a science thing.”

As she looked around the room, she was no longer certain if they were laughing at the jokes or at her.  She felt stupid and insignificant, tiny and small.  She could feel the tears welling up behind her eyes waiting to fall.

“I think I hear the baby crying,” she offered as an explanation to exit the room.

She scampered up the stairs and quickly entered the baby’s nursery.  The tears fell uncontrollably as she lifted the quietly sleeping baby from his bed and into her arms.  They rocked together as her tears soaked the fuzz of hair on his head.

She knew to him she wasn’t dumb.  She knew to him she wasn’t stupid.  Perhaps one day he will grow up and tell her jokes she didn’t understand, but maybe she would be smarter then.  

Her tears slowed and were replaced by kisses on his soft skin.  Gently placing him in his bed, she gathered herself and tried to repair her broken self confidence.  Drying her tears she slipped out of his room.

She entered the kitchen before entering the living room.  A quick check of makeup, and she was ready to re-enter the room full of guests.

Once again she breezed through the kitchen door, but this time she was armed with a renewed sense of self and a plate full of cake.

This fictional piece was inspired by Red Writing Hood's weekly prompt:  Write a story in less than 600 words where a character tells a joke and a character cries.  Constructive criticism is always welcome ... on that point, I switched between writing this is first person to third person.  Do you prefer one over the other?

oh and in full disclosure ... I did laugh at these jokes. It's ok, you can call me a dork.


  1. I thought the jokes were cute, although the sulphuric acid punchline was a bit over my head! Nice job!

  2. That was great! I love the concept behind it. The DNA one was hilarious. :)

  3. I really liked it. I liked how she felt so insecure, but knew in her role as mother she was sure and strong with who she was, despite the underlying insecurities that motherhood brings us all, if that makes sense. And I love how much stronger she felt walking in with the cake in her hand. That part was excellent. I actually think I prefer the third-person for this story. I think had it been 1st person you'd be in need of more internal dialogue, and it might have made us lose her character a bit. Although I'm sure if that's how you started and stayed throughout, she'd be as strong as she was here, anyway. I'm rambling. I liked it. That is all. ;)

  4. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the third-person POV. It's always my favorite. And you know what? I feel just like SHE did....anytime someone is talking sports. I don't even know who is in the Super Bowl. Or is it Superbowl. Or...? LOL Great job, and I liked your brainiac jokes!

  5. i thought the jokes were funny too, lol. Thumbs up for this :)

  6. I love that the jokes, no matter how funny they are on their own, become an instrument of torture for her. And I could hear the condescending laughter. I definitely wanted to choke Rob, just a little.

  7. Ok, those jokes are hilarious. I like the non-scientist point of view. Great job.

  8. Rob needed to stop making her feel stupid. But she also needs to toughen up - and there's nothing like a plate of cake to do that! ;)

  9. I like this in the third person, but am also partial to first. Which, I realize, is not help to you.

    I loved the jokes, but really wanted Rob to realize that he was being condescending. Then again, how many times have I gotten together with co-workers and "talked shop" in front of my husband.

    Great post and I can't wait to read more. I'd like to see her come into her own.

  10. I like it a lot. I think it may have felt more natural in the first person, but the third worked too.

    It was a really good piece! And the jokes were kind of funny, especially the DNA Helicase one. Brilliant :-)

  11. My best friend and her husband are both scientists. At their wedding, I was the only member of the wedding party w/out a PhD. I didn't exactly feel stupid, but I did keep telling them I use the other side of my brain. LOL

    Sad, though, that she feels this way. I didn't like that her husband kept asking her if she got it, especially in front of the others. Difficult dynamic in that marriage...


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