This past week I heard a couple of stories, which I found amusing, and either of which, I venture, could have happened to any of us.
The first is about an unpleasant incident in which John, as we shall call him, is involved as he is going to work.
While waiting for a train on the platform of the New York subway he is jostled by a man, who mumbles an apology and dashes off. The man, I should add, happens to be young and black. Instinctively, John feels in his pocket for his wallet. It is not there. He runs after the man, catching him by the sleeve of his jacket just as he is boarding a train. In the ensuing scuffle, the sleeve comes off in John’s hand just as the doors are closing and the train moves off. John is rather shaken up, but proceeds to his office, where he regales his secretary with the story. She interrupts to tell him that his wife telephoned, and would he call her back immediately. He does so, fearing that this might be yet more bad news, but before he can tell her what happened she says: “The reason I need to reach you, darling, is that you left your wallet on the kitchen table.”
In the second anecdote, George is out drinking with a gang of his workmates – it doesn’t matter where – and the party goes on well into the evening. Having consumed great quantities of ale, he decides that he has had more than enough, announces that he is going home, and staggers off into the night.
The following morning, he arrives at work looking very much the worse for wear. His face cut and bruised, and his hand is heavily bandaged.
“What on earth happened to you?” his colleagues demand to know. “You look as if you were beaten up. Were you in a fight? Were you mugged?”
“Not exactly,” says George, and goes on to explain that he was indeed attacked – not by louts but by a couple of llamas.”
“Llamas” they cry, incredulously, and with unconcealed mirth. “Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.”
“It’s true,” he insists, adding that the animals, having knocked him to the ground, disappeared into the darkness, leaving him lying in a ditch, scarcely able to stand. Somehow he made it home, though he doesn’t remember exactly how.
For the rest of the week, poor George is the object of derision on the factory floor, but insists that the story is true. No one believes him, of course, assuming that he was either set upon by yobs or that his furious wife went after him with a saucepan, and didn’t want to admit as much.
On Friday, the local newspaper comes out. The main story on the front page appears under the following headline: ‘Animals Escape from Local Children’s Zoo’. It goes on to report that the keeper had left a gate unlocked, allowing a number of farm animals to get out. Among the escapees were several goats, some sheep and ….a pair of llamas.