The International Writers Magazine: Observations from Ireland
My psychologist told me to smile more.
“It’s scientifically proven. It will make you feel better. Your brain will release endorphins. “
She grinned. It scared me a little.
“Even if you have to pretend. Just try it. When walking down the street for example. “
I never liked to smile. But she was my psychologist.
I left her office. Moved my facial muscles gradually from a grimace to a smile. And for a moment, a fleeting moment, I think, maybe, I did start to feel happy. Then some passing pedestrian caught my eye. He didn’t like what he saw. Turned around and punched me.
Dislodging a bicuspid. Which had a crown. That needed replacing. Which caused a weakness in the tooth next to it. That needed to be extracted. Leading to extensive bridge – work and further re-alignment in the upper left quadrant. Total cost 1, 700 euro. All because Dr. Kathleen Harrold told me to smile more.
I felt that this was not fair. I decided to do something about it. Like retrieve the money. Somehow. 1,700 euro was a lot for a writer whose novels always seemed to bypass the bookshop and go straight from printer to bargain bin.
I was honest, though. Only wanted back what was owed me. Not a cent more - not a cent less. It was the principle. I enlisted the help of my friend, Ambrose. An extremely petty criminal – strictly small time but competent for the job at hand. A plan was devised. Sunglasses and some slightly ill-fitting headgear were acquired.
Every week, Dr. Harrold’s secretary, Kim, transferred the earnings from Dr. Harrold’s practice to a bank in Rathgar. All we had to do was intercept Kim. After she had her usual coffee in the local coffee shop.
We observed her from a corner table. I looked at Ambrose. He looked at Kim. He seemed lost in thought.
“Are you alright?”
“Ambrose. No one’s going to be hurt. We just bump into her, grab the bag, run, go somewhere safe, I count out the 1,700 euro – not a cent more, not a cent less – return the surplus and never listen to a psychologist again!”
He sighed. Shook his head.
“You know in all those movies, in all those books, or in biographies, and the guy is sitting down, and he looks across a crowded room and sees a woman and he announces to all and sundry, that’s the woman I’m going to spend the rest of my life with…well, and I know this is probably not the appropriate time, but that’s the woman I’m going to spend the rest of my life with!”
I was dumbfounded.
There was a long pause.
“Can we rob her first?”
Ambrose stared at me. I argued the point. Weakly.
“My 1,700 euro. It’s the principle. Not a cent more – not a cent less.”
He removed his shades.
“ If you lay a finger on that woman - my future wife, the mother of my unborn children, the woman I shall grow old with - I will kill you.”
He stood up. Took off his ushanka. Walked purposefully over to Kim. I crouched down hoping she wouldn’t see me. He tentatively started to talk to her. At first she reacted shyly, but she warmed to him and seemed quite smitten as he pulled up a chair and sat next her. Cupid was working overtime. Not just one arrow. A quiver full.
Two months later they got engaged. A marriage date was set. Ambrose asked me to be his best man. I immediately regretted saying yes.
Not only was I, now, 1,700 euro out of pocket but I had to make a speech in front of a group of strangers.
If there was one thing I disliked more than smiling it was speaking in public. I needed advice. What should I do? Also, what could I put in the speech? Ambrose had supplied me with some vague biographical details, but having edited all mentions of his slightly felonious past, some of it comical, I had very little to work with.
“Ambrose, please let me mention that time you hijacked a passing car after robbing a post office, but the police had no problem picking you up because you were stuck in the middle of that funeral cortege.”
“No, because (a) I look stupid and (b) I’m a changed man.”
“But what do I say in the speech?”
“Make something up. You’re a writer.”
I spent weeks agonizing over a hodge-podge of hoary old best man jokes and banal patter. I’d polished off trilogies quicker. Eventually I came up with two pages of the most uninspired clichéd drivel I’d ever written. The big day was approaching. My anxiety levels were rocketing. I was mainlining on Xanax and camomile tea. One morning I even knocked back a whole dropper bottle of Rescue Remedy. How would I get through that speech? I was left with no choice. I needed help.
Dr. Harrold sat back on her specially designed orthopedically tested psychologists chair. She thought about my predicament.
“Imagine the wedding guests naked.”
“But being Kim’s boss, you’ll be there Dr. Harrold. I’ll be imagining you naked. Should I be imaging my psychologist naked?”
“Try to relax. Listen to your breathing.”
“There’ll be no breathing. I’ll be dead. Having to make that speech will kill me.”
“Just try it. Breathe in. Breathe out. ”
I tried it. Pointless.
“How can I listen to my breathing when I’m in the middle of trying to remember my lines. That sounds like multi-tasking to me. It is not a strong point for most men.”
“Smile. It will make you feel better and it will help the audience relax.”
I tried smiling. She continued.
“You really should smile more. Releases endorphins. Scientifically proven.”
She then peered over her glasses and scrutinized me.
“By the way, did you get some dental work done?”
© Karl MacDermott December 2014
Karl MacDermott is an Irish-born comedy writer. He has written jokes no one has laughed at, radio plays no one has listened to, a television series no one watched and a novel “The Creative Lower Being” no one read. He should be a very morose individual but he is not because he is deeply passionate about facilitating his delusions. He has had articles published in The Irish Times and online publications such as Literary Orphans, Every Day Fiction and Pure Slush. He is currently writer-in-residence at his home in Dublin. His new novel “Ireland’s Favourite Failure” is available on Amazon Kindle.
Find out all you need to know about him here