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.

17. On The Road

This van goes approximately one mile a week. Every other second I get bummed by the suspension.

My mind goes back to that godawful minibus Joanne got us on to go to the ‘Smouldering Woman’ festival. That bus constantly smelled of B.O. and lavender. I wouldn’t have minded the BO until that bitch sat behind us decided she was ‘triggered’ by my drinking a Gordon’s miniature.

‘Right, so a thousand fetid lesbian armpits don’t trigger you, but me opening a small gin to take away the pain is unacceptable.’

That’s what I should have said. Anyway. That’s behind me now, I won’t think about that any more, and will instead focus on ‘can Andi Peters find me here?’

Oh for fuck’s sake, I have to move. My arse won’t take this.

‘Sorry’ yells Joanne from the front. ‘Are the cushions not aligned?’

‘Do we have cushions? That would help, where are they?’

She looks round. ‘Oh, are they not there? We might have not brought them then.’

Well, that’s outstanding. I guess I’ll sit on my bastard suitcase then. Ow, maybe not the bit with the rolling pin in it.

Five minutes later I’m really bored. I know, I’ll fuck with those two.

‘Are we there yet?’

‘What? No of course not.’

‘…What about now?’

‘No, we’re nowhere near, we’ve only been going for a bit.’

‘Oh OK. But we are nearly there? Like in five minutes?’

She turns round in her seat. ‘We’re not even in Scotland yet. Why are you being mental?’

‘I just want to know are we nearly there yet.’

‘No! God just chill out, it’s gonna be ages yet.’

I’m quiet for 30 seconds, then I’m bored again.

‘…Are we nearly there now?’

Joanne is about to get out of her seat and slap me, when Fax suggests that ‘a singsong might be lovely’.

‘Oh that is such a brilliant idea!’ screeches Joanne. ‘And you’re such a beautiful singer!’

‘How about The Bailiff’s Daughter of Islington? Shall we sing that in the round?’

I tap Fax on the shoulder. ‘No, because it has to be a song we all know.’

‘Oh, do you not know that one then? Maybe we could get you started off?’

Before I can reply, he starts crapping on:

‘There was a youth, and a well-beloved youth, for he was the squire’s son…’

Joanne clearly doesn’t know this song either, because she just interjects with ‘Yeah!’ in the style of Ice T. This is not going to work if only Fax knows this song.

I tap him on the shoulder again. ‘Excuse me. I don’t think we know that one.’

‘Shut up I do!’ says Joanne.

‘Oh,’ says Fax. He has a think. ‘Well, what about A Brisk Young Sailor Courted Me?

‘What about Bob the Builder?’ I counter.

Joanne spins round and looks at me like I’m joking. I am not.

‘We all know that one don’t we?’

‘Well,’ says Fax. ‘I think I’ve come across the cartoon before.’

‘We are not singing fucking Bob the Builder!’ snaps Joanne. ‘We are singing A Brisk Young Sailor Courted Me, in the round.’

‘Off you go then’ I smirk, knowing full well she doesn’t know that song either.

Fax starts. ‘I must confess I love him still, down in the meadows she did run, a-gathering flowers as they sprung…’

‘BOB THE BUILDER!’

Joanne spins round again.

‘BOB THE BUILDER!’

I realise I don’t necessarily know all the words to Bob the Builder. I do know the most important part though, which is ‘Bob the Builder’.

‘BOB THE BUILDER, BOB THE BUILDER! BOB THE BUILDER, BOB THE… BOB!’

I do a bit of a dance to show my enthusiasm, and to hide the fact that I’m only doing this to piss them off.

‘For fuck’s sake!’ yells Joanne. I am contrite, if you don’t count the laughing I’m doing. Fax isn’t saying anything, but his back looks confused.

*

18. Hardened Criminal

We’ve been driving a good few hours (not counting the AA visit), and as far as I can tell we’re still in the Midlands.

‘Jo, in all seriousness, how long do you think this is going to take? In hours?’

I think she’s forgiven my previous ‘are we nearly there yet’ game. ‘Erm, I think about twelve hours? Maybe eleven?’

Twelve fucking hours in a van with these two. No.

‘Maybe Fax could drive a bit faster?’

‘What, like speeding?’ gasps Joanne.

‘Well, no, but maybe more than 40mph on the motorway,’ I suggest.

‘Oh no,’ says Fax. ‘I once had an interaction with the police. If I get into trouble with them again I’m done for.’

What? What? Fax is a hardened perp? Why didn’t I know about this?

‘What, do you have a criminal record?’

Fax pulls the van over without looking in his mirror. It screeches to a halt on the hard shoulder, with the now obligatory ‘bang’ and ‘parp’. After a series of honks from pissed off motorists he turns round. Oh fuck, he’s crying again.

Joanne’s glaring at me like I’ve just said ‘So, Fax, I heard you bummed your sister.’ He wipes his eyes with his handkerchief. I learn Fax owns a handkerchief.

Joanne fondles his head. ‘It’s OK, you don’t have to talk about it.’

‘He bloody does’ I interject. ‘If we’re driving to another country I have a right to know if Fax has a criminal record.’ I don’t add ‘Not really, I’m just interested and nosy and it’s something to break up the journey.’

‘Please hand me my bag my love,’ sniffs Fax. He pulls out a bottle of some sort and has a sniff. Then he stops crying.

I can’t identify the smell. ‘Lavender oil?’

‘Poppers.’

‘Oh.’

He puts his handbag away and takes a deep breath. ‘I’m not the same person now.’

Oh my god did he actually kill someone? Rob a bank? My money’s on flashing.

Joanne must have noticed my expression. ‘God chill out, it’s not like he killed someone. He was just oppressed by the police.’

‘It’s hard being a minority’ says Fax.

‘Was this before or after you became an elf?’ I asked.

‘Oh, years before.’

‘So what minority were you?’

They both look exasperated. ‘You know, an Earth Spirit! One who is in tune with nature and can talk to it, only those fascists didn’t realise.’

‘Realise what?’

‘That I was communing with the grass.’

They’ve lost me. I should have kept playing ‘are we nearly there yet’. At least I knew the rules to that one.

Joanne starts stroking his sleeve. ‘They just didn’t understand that you were a Gaia being. You did nothing wrong. Would you like to sing something, would that make you feel better?’

Oh please god not I Gave My Love A Cherry, because that’s their sex song. If he starts singing that I might have to throw myself on the mercy of the M6 fast lane.

‘No it’s OK M’Lady, I am brave.’

Great, he’s brave. Smashing. ‘So why did you get arrested?’

He looks at me. ‘I didn’t get arrested, I was oppressed.’

‘Oh. Is that different then?’

‘They tried to limit my freedom of movement, because I’m an Earth Spirit and they’re not.’

Joanne nods. ‘They were so jealous of Fax.’

Hmm. ‘Is this like the time Ross Kemp refused to fight you in a dry cleaner’s because you ‘knew too much karate’?’

‘No, it was much worse, because they were actually oppressing me and trying to arrest me for being at one with the earth. Ross Kemp never did that.’

It’s technically true. Ross Kemp never did do that.

‘Why don’t you tell me actually what happened?’

Joanne glares at me again. I ignore her.

‘It was a Thursday morning. I was just going to do my Tai-Chi in the park…’

Joanne interrupts. ‘God why do you even want to know this? What are you, some kind of ambulance chaser?’

Ambulance? What?

Again, I ignore her. ‘Go on, it does you good to express yourself,’ I say to Fax.

‘And I was just sitting there, communing with the grass, feeling the emotions of each blade…’

‘And then?’

He starts sniffing again. Christ, we’re never going to get to Manchester, let alone Scotland.

‘These two brutish officers loomed upon me.’

Just when I was imagining two seven-foot-tall bearded thugs, he continues.

‘The one on the left took off her hat and told me to please get off the grass sir.’

Joanne goes to reach for his poppers again, but thankfully he says ‘Oh no it’s OK, I feel much stronger now.’

‘Right, so then what happened?’

‘I asked them why they were against grass.’

Of fucking course you did.

‘They looked at each other then at me, as if they were deciding telepathically to oppress me. Then they marched towards me and asked me again to get off the grass!’

‘So, let’s recap. You were sitting on the grass and two passing policewomen asked you to get off the grass?’

‘Yes.’

‘Did you get off the grass?’

‘Well, I did eventually, after they’d bested me in a fight.’

I…, wait, what?

‘I tried to convince them that I was only communing with the grass, but they were convinced that I was somehow breaking the law by not obeying some right wing Keep Off The Grass sign, like they own the grass.’

Joanne chimes in. ‘Which, by the way, is totally ableist against literally challenged individuals.’

‘Literally challenged?’

‘You know, mongs. Mongs can’t read.’

OK then.

‘So, you went on the grass and they asked you to please get off it. This was the oppression?’

‘Yes, but you must know I did protest, as is my right in the Second Amendment.’

‘That’s America.’

‘Well, I’m sure it’s the second one in our constitution as well.’

‘Go on, tell me about the fight then.’

‘I challenged them to a duel.’

Oh my Christ of course he did.

‘And then they decided to get all heavy handed, and they manhandled me off the grass! And the next thing I know they’re saying “Do you have someone we can phone for you?” Just because I was trying to tell them I am an Earth Spirit!’

It’s time to stuff my fist in my mouth again, to stop myself from laughing.

‘And when I said telephones were racist, they arrested me!’

So he actually did get arrested.

‘Did you challenge them to a duel again when they tried to arrest you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, do you maybe see why they arrested you?’

‘Yes, because they wanted to oppress me!’

‘Maybe they wanted to oppress you because you challenged them to a duel.’

Joanne leans over to nip me again, but I’m too quick and interested to fall for that.

Fax is proper crying again now. Joanne starts singing Sumer Is Icumin In in an attempt to calm Fax down. Unfortunately, she’s singing it to the tune of Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine. It doesn’t work.

Then she offers to give him a blow job.

‘DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE JOANNE, I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL KILL MYSELF AND THEN YOU.’

I think she takes me seriously, because she backs off and starts rolling a joint.

Fax continues, in a wibbly Princess Diana voice. ‘Unfortunately they did capture me, and I was held in the slammer for a while.’
‘What, you really went to prison?’ I can’t imagine Fax in prison. He’d get beaten up within the hour because he’d claim one of the murderers ‘just needs some lemongrass in his rectum’.

‘Yes, I was held in the cell for the best part of a solar quadrant. They wouldn’t even let me burn sage in there!’

‘So, were you in actual prison, or…’

‘Yes, police prison!’

Yeah, but-’

‘It was half past 5 before I was freed!’

We’re all silent for a minute.

‘They interrogated me. I couldn’t take it anymore.’

‘My god, what did they do?’

‘They demanded a phone number from me before they gave me a cup of tea. Said they were “worried”. Asked if I had a “carer”. And when I said “Yes, the grass and the earth care for me”, they got funny.’

I won’t lie, I’m on the edge of my seat. My life isn’t very interesting. ‘Did you end up giving them a phone number?’

Fax smiles. ‘Yes, I gave them the number for the Ariana Wishing Well Spiritual Guidance Hotline.’

‘Is that an 09 number?’

‘No she’s in Redditch. She’s very nice.’

‘Even so, I’m not sure that’s the number the police were after.’

‘And they wouldn’t even give it a go! That just shows you how repressed the police are.’

I root around in my suitcase and find a bottle of Glens vodka. Fucking thank you to past drunk me.

‘Hang on, has anyone got a glass or anything?’ I shout, with my face in six-day-old fetid knickers.

Joanne pipes up. ‘I have this candle holder. I was saving it for next time I spoke to Ariana, but I guess you can have it for now. Promise me you’ll cleanse it with sage after.’

‘I promise. Give me it.’

It’s full of wax and bits, but I shake it out so it should be OK. Hope vodka doesn’t react with hippy leftovers.

I take a massive swig, then I pour some vodka into the candle holder. ‘What happened in the end? Did they charge you?’

‘No, in the end I was too powerful’ smiles Fax, ‘They asked me for my address, but before I told them I sent them some calming reiki.’

‘So they would let you go..’

‘Exactly!’ Fax is warming up now, and thank fuck he doesn’t notice my giggling. Joanne has nodded off, I think.

‘I sent them some calming beams, and they settled for letting me go with a warning, and telling me to “go home and tell my family what happened”. I did, I went straight home and lit a candle to Frigg, Goddess of Fridays, to thank her.’

Didn’t he say it was a Thursday?

‘Right, yes. Did they charge you?’

‘What? Oh no, not yet, I was just oppressed.’ He shakes his head as if he’s bringing himself back into the present. ‘So I don’t want to speed really.’

‘Fax, going more than 40 m-’

I stop, because I remember that Fax has been sniffing those ‘poppers’.

‘No, you do right.’

‘OK, we should let M’Lady sleep’. Fax beams and, after a few goes, starts the engine again. To be fair, now I know I’ve got some Glens I’ll be OK for a bit.

Well?

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