The Rigor Mortis Reptile
The only person I've ever known who is worse at telling a joke than me is my mother. I am terrible at it and she was worse, so I suspect it's genetics. Like me, she'd get all the lines mixed up, and ruin the punch line, or forget it.
I loved that about her.
She'd get into the middle of a story she loved telling, and she'd start laughing so hard, she couldn't get out the last few lines. She'd hold her hands to her stomach to stop the pain, happy tears flowing, and she'd finally make her way through to the end of the story, spitting it out as she gasped for air. Usually, at the end, we were laughing at her telling more than the story itself. There's nothing as funny as someone who cracks themselves up.
My all time favorite I'd get her to retell, all the way up to a year or so before she died, was the dead alligator story.
On a hot, southern summer day, Mom and Edie were walking home from somewhere. They decided to veer off the path a bit, and walk along side the bank of the canal that wound through town. A nasty smell pulled them over to investigate. In the middle of a clump of tall grass, they found a true treasure - a dead alligator, rank from laying there for awhile. Alligators were pretty common in the southeast part of Texas where they lived at the time, and this one was several feet long.
As soon as they saw it, they knew it was too good to pass up. Somehow the two of them dragged that alligator out of the weeds, and back over a few streets. They picked a good spot, and hid the alligator and themselves inside the cover of the bushes.
I can only imagine how it smelled to sit in those bushes with a stinky dead alligator, waiting in the hot Texas sun. Sure enough, pretty soon someone came strolling down the road, and right when they reached the spot where my mom and Edie were, the two of them grabbed the middle of that smelly, dead alligator and shoved it out into the path of the stranger passing by. Of course the stranger screamed their head off, and took off running. Mom and Edie reeled the dead alligator back into the bushes, and waited for another victim to come strolling by.
She told me that they were able to scare the daylights out of quite a few people, shoving that alligator out onto the path, then quickly reeling it back in before anyone could see where it'd come from (at least that's what they thought). The rigor mortis of the reptile made it a bit easier to shove and reel, repeat.
Eventually another pair of legs came strolling along; they shoved the alligator out into the path, but the person didn't scream or run. They just stood there, calling out "Judy Ann, Edie, you get your sorry tails out of those bushes right now. She told me they both got the whippings of their life, after which their Mama just about scrubbed the skin off of both of them. By the time she'd get to this point in the story, she'd be wiping her tear-covered face, shaking her head, gasping for air, and quite possibly clenching her knees together, because she should have made a pit stop before the retelling.
Picturing my mother as a silly, mischievous snip of a girl, who loved scaring the daylights out of anyone who passed by, shoving a smelly, stiff dead alligator at them - well, that's one of the memories I'm so thankful she shared with me while she could. I'd say to anyone out there with older parents, ask them about their childhood. Get them to share their favorite stories with you. Someday you'll be so glad you did.