On the run from Andi Peters following a misunderstanding about cruises, Melissa begrudgingly agrees to follow her friend Joanne (and Joanne’s 17th century throwback ‘life partner’ Fax) to the Edinburgh Fringe. While leafleting for Fax’s dreadful stand up show about faith healing and vegans, Melissa endures the highs and lows of pretentious student plays, ‘street typing’, and the knowledge that her shop has been left in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand tills…

Crap Comedy is the follow up to the 2018 novel Crap Holiday. Read it here.

Oh god I’m so hungover. Fax’s plum gin wine is actually pretty good if you have a dozen glasses of it.

He tried to do some of his stand-up comedy at me before I left last night. Something about rowan trees ‘always leading to intercourse with ladies.’ I’m not sure I’m his target audience. Joanne was in hysterics of course, but that might have been because she was stoned off her tits. I keep trying, and failing, to imagine Fax doing his comedy at a load of Scottish people.

I don’t know why they’re always trying to include me in their mad plans. I think they feel sorry for me. What they don’t realise is that usually my problems are caused by being involved in their mad plans.

Saif arrives just as I’m swallowing some sick.

‘Do you want to come to a Forex seminar with me?’

Oh fuck not this again.

‘It’s at 2.30 in September.’

I’m not sure how that helps. And I still don’t know what a forex is. Also I don’t want to go anywhere with Saif.

‘No, probably not.’

‘OK, can I go then? I need some time off.’

‘Yeah whatever.’ I get the shift book out. ‘What day?’

‘2.30 in September.’

‘Yeah but what day?’

‘I don’t know. It’s in September though.’

‘That doesn’t really help if I’m honest, Saif. I can’t book you a day off if I don’t know what day you need.’

‘I don’t need the whole day off, I just need the afternoon off. It’s at 2.30.’

If I concentrate really hard, maybe the Co-op will go on fire.

‘Well, we can sort that out later.’ I put the book away. ‘I wondered if you wanted to go on the till this morning? I’ve got to do some… stocktaking. In the back room.’

‘Hey yeah I can do that, don’t worry about the frontline this morning.’ This immediately makes me worry about the ‘frontline’, whatever that is. I think he means the till. ‘Do you want me to do an upsell?’

‘No it’s alright, just take people’s money.’

‘How about a free tin of sauce with every purchase?’

I look at him. ‘What do you mean ‘tin of sauce’?’

He gestures vaguely towards the back of the shop.

‘It’s fine anyway, don’t do anything like that.’

I’m caught in a dilemma as I head to the back room. On one hand, I’m not convinced Saif isn’t going to invite random customers to do forex with him. On the other hand, I’m really fucking hungover and I need some sleep.

I’m woken up by the smell of incense and Timotei leaking under the door. Oh god. I can’t even skive off work in peace.

I’ve just remembered – Joanne and Fax are technically still barred from the Co-Op after Fax tried to ‘pick up a can of coke with his mind’, and caused £3.80 worth of damage. I would be well within my rights to go out there and manhandle them out of the shop, but that would involve getting up. Better plan – lie here and hope they go away. Saif can deal with them. If the three of them haven’t worked out the concept of Earth money between them in an hour, I’ll go out there.

There’s a knock at the door. I’m presented with two choices. Either I get up and deal with whatever disaster Fax and Joanne have caused now, or I try my hand at praying.

‘Melissa? I’m afraid I must intrude upon your labours…’

‘Our father, who art in heaven, what the fuck is thy problem? Can thou get Fax to fuck off please? Ta.’

‘Melissa are you in there? It’s an emergency!’

What kind of emergency could Fax and Joanne possibly have that means they have to come here? If I go to the trouble of getting up and opening the door, and their ‘emergency’ turns out to be a lunar eclipse they’re not prepared for, I am not going to be happy.

I have one more crack at dying, just in case it works, then I have to admit defeat.

Fax is standing outside the door wearing a velvet jacket and a worried expression.

‘I’ve lost M’Lady!’

Now is not a good time for my eyeballs to take up jogging. Once I’ve got Fax back into focus, I still can’t summon up the necessary mental energy to ask what he means.

‘Joanne is missing! Something must be done at once!’

I look over at Saif, who shrugs. ‘He said it was an emergency. I didn’t do an upsell, don’t worry…’

I turn my attention back to Fax. My brain’s operating a couple of minutes behind everyone else’s.

‘What do you mean she’s missing?’

‘I woke up and she was gone! And her phone is off!’

‘Are you sure she hasn’t just… gone out?’

‘No, she’s missing! I can sense it! Our chakras are very finely attuned to one another. Also she’d have said bye bye. So I came here in case she was here, but she isn’t!’

Suddenly I really fancy some nachos, but now is not the time.

‘Fax I’m sure she’s just nipped out…’

Oh god he’s going to cry. I have to stop him crying. I can’t have a crying hippy in the middle of the Co-op. People will think he’s upset because we sell bacon.

‘Right, come in here and I’ll make you a cup of tea.’ Another quick glance at Saif confirms that he hasn’t killed any customers yet, so he’ll probably be fine for a bit.

I’m fucked if I can operate a kettle this morning, but I’ll have a bash anyway.

Fax perches on the wobbly shelf ‘n’ crates combo that passes for a desk, and wipes his eyes. ‘Do you have any mugwort tea? That would help to open my third eye.’

‘No sorry we’ve run out, it’ll have to be PG Tips.’

The tea making goes brilliantly until I remember that you’re supposed to use a teabag. As I hand Fax his mug, I resist the urge to ask if he wants me to put a plaster on him. That always seems to make people feel better, but that would involve me touching Fax, and I don’t really want to.

‘You say you’ve tried her mobile?’

‘Yes. And then I tried multi-vibrational alignment but that didn’t work either.’

‘Oh dear.’

‘What if she’s been kidnapped?’

I pity the poor fucker that ever tries to kidnap Joanne.

‘What if one of her suitors has stolen her and plans to marry her?’

‘Fax she’s not an iPhone, no one’s stolen her.’

He jumps up and spills his tea on his cords. ‘I must find her!’

I look at the clock. It’s only just gone 11. She can’t have been gone that bloody long. I try her mobile, not because I’m worried, but because I want her to come and collect her hysterical boyfriend before he commits sudoku all over my floor.

She answers after three rings.

‘Jo, where are you?’

‘I’m in town, why?’

I have to swallow down a mixture of laughter and sick before I can reply. ‘Fax was… a bit worried, because he didn’t know where you’d gone. He came to see if you were here, and I had to make him a cup of tea.’

‘Fax! Oh no! I left him a note!’

She demands to speak to Fax. Fax practically tries to climb through the phone to get to her.

‘Oh M’Lady, I thought you’d been kidnapped! Oh, Tesco, I see. Where did you leave it? Oh, I never thought to look there! No, I love you more than life itself. No I’ll be fine once I’ve done my affirmations and eaten some lavender.’

I can’t look at Fax any more. If I look at him I’ll laugh, and if I start laughing I won’t be able to stop, and I’m pretty sure that will lead to me shitting myself. Remember – hangover.

‘She left me a note in the fridge,’ he explains.

In the… that’s it, I can’t cope. ‘Excuse me for one second’ I yell over my shoulder as I run to the toilet. I sit there until I’m done laughing and pooing, and then I feel surprisingly much better.

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