The Last Comedian – Flash Fiction

The day humour was outlawed was a happy one for Irma Maddex Otic. She celebrated by working three hours of unpaid overtime in her data entry job, logging the serial numbers of thousands of microchips.

Irma is a no-nonsense woman who values hard work and takes her civic duty seriously.

So on her lunch break, she marches down to the Ministry for Humour Control. There is no one in line at the government office but to get to the counter, she has to negotiate a twisted rope barrier system that goes forever. 

‘Do you have a number?’ a man, with an overgrown beard and horn-rimmed glasses, asks at the counter.

‘A number?’

He points at a ticket machine at the beginning of the rope barriers.

‘But I’m the only person here––’

‘Everyone needs a ticket.’

Irma scowls and races through the barriers only to find the ticket machine is broken. She huffs her way back and reports the faulty machine.

The man frowns. ‘I need a ticket number to report broken equipment.’

‘Forget that. I’m here about a serious crime.’

‘Do you have a ticket number?’

Irma’s eyes bulge. ‘It’s ninety-seven.’

‘Madam, it’s a crime to lie to a government official.’

Irma spins on her heels, feeling dizzy as she weaves her way back to the machine. She rips off a partial ticket stuck at the end of the dispenser. 

Back at the counter, the man asks her name, then one-finger types into his computer.

‘Sorry, there’s no record of you. Are you sure that’s your name?’

‘Yes!’

‘I’ll try your address.’

She gives her address.

The man’s brow furrows. ‘The name listed there is “I.M. Exotic”.’

‘It’s obviously a typo.’ She shows her driver’s licence. ‘Fix it, please.’

‘Sorry. Not my department.’

‘Fine! Look up my licence number.’

He types away. ‘There you are, Ms Otic…A couple of security questions…What was the name of your first-grade teacher’s pet?’

‘Are you joking!’

‘We never joke at the Ministry…Oh…’

‘What is it?’

‘The computer needs to shut down for thirty minutes for an update.’

‘You’re kidding.’

‘We don’t kid at––’

‘Can I do this in hard copy?’

The man gives her a form with a bunch of tiny fields, forcing her to sandwich in all the details. 

‘You heard your neighbour laughing?’ the man asks, reading the completed form. ‘How would you describe the laugh?’

‘Huh?’

‘A chortle, a chuckle, a giggle? You’ll need to demonstrate.’

‘What?!’

‘To be sure it was a laugh.’

Irma clears her throat and makes a loud braying noise that reverberates around the empty office.

‘That certainly sounds like a laugh. Thank you for reporting this matter. We will look into it immediately.’

‘Right…thank you,’ she nods approvingly. Irma turns to leave, so she doesn’t notice the man’s beard twitching as he screws up her form and throws it in the bin. 

The man removes his glasses to wipe away a tear. Another job well done for the nation’s last comedian.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder via Pexels.

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