“You have ten minutes” growled the guard Captain.
Sarah walked to the shoreline, being careful to look to her right so as to avoid an upright glance from her soon to be ex lover Tim. She moved in close beside him, turning to face the guards, then sat, lay her head on his shoulder and her hand on his forearm.
“Ten minutes” she said.
“I heard him” Tim grumbled; “and then I’m off forever.”
“Don’t say that” Sarah pleaded. “The sentence was for 6 years Tim, don’t make it an eternity. You can do this. We can survive this.”
“Six years in Dysphoria. Do you have any idea what I’ll be like after six years of tragedy training?”
“I asked you to keep it between us Tim. I love your humor. But you know the edict. No laughing, ever. You and I might be able to get away with it, so long as we were careful, and well out to the range of the Council of Gloom cameras. But you just had to try and be funny in public, and now… now we simply have to endure the punishment.”
Tim was inconsolable. “I only said 'pull my finger!' You didn’t have to do it!”
“How was I to know what you were doing?” Sarah sobbed as she spoke. “I thought maybe you’d jammed it on something and needed me to relocate the knuckle. It was you that farted! I would never do that! Especially not in a crowd!”
“Yea well,” Tim replied, “you don’t think farts are funny. But I knew I could get a laugh out of it and…” he paused, wiped the tears from his eyes and sighed heavily, “life has been so morose lately, I needed to make people smile. I just had to! You get it don’t you? It’s uncontrollable, I can’t stand being around face puckering people too long or I go insane!”
Sarah squeezed his arm. “Of course I understand my darling. But the state doesn’t, and while George Herbert Walker Freddy Kruger Bush the 65th is president, they never will.”
“Look at me one last time Sar, please. Let me see you smile.”
“They’re watching Tim, you know I can neither look at you, nor smile, or I’ll end up in the unfunny farm right alongside you, only on the next continent over.”
“If only I could chuck this red jacket, I could dive into the surf and swim away.”
“It was surgically sewn to your skin Tim, while you slept. I know they say ‘never take off the jacket' as if it’s some silly rule, but the fact is, you can never take off the jacket. It marks you as a troublemaker, a happyman. If you try to remove it, you’ll bleed to death.”
Tim groaned, then wept. He blubbered “this is really it then isn’t it. This is our last goodbye!”
“I’m afraid so my sweet. But I promise you, I’ll wait for your return; and I will love you, no matter how dour you become!”
“Time’s Up!” shouted the guard.
Sarah kissed her man’s arm, then rose.
“One last thing Sarah, please.” Tim held out his hand, keeping his face covered by his other arm so she wouldn’t need to break any rules.
“Anything Timothy,” she said; “anything that won’t get me thrown in despondency jail.
“Pull my finger would you please?”
Sarah cried out. “Oh Tim! I love you! But I won’t do that!”
As she walked away and the guards moved forward, Tim called again. “No really, I did dislocate it! Honest!”
“That’s not funny Tim,” she whimpered.
“See? I’m not funny! They have the wrong man! Tell them Sarah! I’m as funny as a funeral!”
It was a very long and lonely walk home for Sarah. Only once, only when she was certain to be out of camera range and even then only after covering her face with the flap of her coat, did she let out a giggle. “Pull my finger” she whispered to herself, and chuckled, just once, so as to remember what it was like.