If A Cow Could Laugh


By:  Kenda





“Rick, as much as I hate to ask this question, I'm going to take the plunge.  What are you doing?”


“Whatta ya’ mean, what am I doing?”


“For the past half hour I've been sitting here watching you stare off into space, then periodically scribble something down on that pad of paper you have in front of you.  Now, I know you can't possibly be writing up your monthly expense report for me.”


     “And just how do you know that, Mr. Smarty Pants?”


“Because for one thing, I haven't asked for it a minimum of twenty times yet.  And for another, you're sitting over there smiling and chuckling to yourself.  Believe me, you never smile when you're trying to recreate your monthly expenses for me.”


     “You've got a point there, A.J.”


“So, what exactly are you doing that's bringing you so much unabashed glee?”


     “Nothing really.”


“Rick. . .”


     “Well, okay.  It's like this, A.J.  Have you ever stopped and contemplated the answers to some of life's really big questions?”


“You mean like, why is there so much hatred in the world?  Why are there wars?  Or why are some people born with so much, while others are born with nothing?  Or why would a man want to physically abuse his wife?  Or why do some children go to bed hungry at night?  Or why—“


     “Well, those weren't exactly the questions I had in mind.  But yeah, you're kinda on the right track, I guess.”


“Rick, if something's bothering you and you want to talk about it, I'm always available.”


     “No, no.  Nothing's bothering me.  At least not anything as important as solving world hunger.  But yeah, there are some questions that have been keepin' me awake at night lately, that I've written down here today.”


“Well, how about if you read them to me then?  I can't promise you that I can give you the answers, but I'm willing to listen if nothing else.”


     “Okay. That sounds good. Here's the first one.  A.J., have you ever wondered why you need a driver's license to buy liquor, when it's against the law to drink and drive?”




     “Or how about this.  Why isn't the word phonetic spelled the way it sounds?”


“Excuse me?”


     “Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?”


“Why are there what?”


     “Interstate highways in Hawaii.  I can tell by the look on your face that you've never thought of that one, huh?”


“No...I can't say I have.”


     “Ready for the next one?”


“As ready as I'll ever be.”


     “Why are there flotation devices under plane seats instead of parachutes?”


“Well, I suppose because...well...I guess I don't know.”


     “See, that's really stupid, isn't it?  That one's been keeping me awake for weeks now.  Oh, here.  How about this one?  Why are cigarettes sold in gas stations when smoking is prohibited there?”


“I don't--”


     “And hey, have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?”


“No.  Though I have imagined a world with a hypothetical brother on several occasions.”


     “For the sake your health, I'm choosing to ignore that comment.  Now here's a good one.  You know how much we like to watch the news in January and see the east coast buried in snow, while thanking God we live in Southern California?”




     “Well, have you ever wondered at those times how the guy who drives the snowplow gets to work?”

“No, I can't say that thought's ever crossed my mind.”


     “Geez, A.J., you're kinda' shallow, you know that?” 


“If anyone but you had that opinion, my feelings would be hurt.”


     “I don't even know what that's supposed to mean.  Okay, here's the next one.  If 7-11 is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year like they advertise, why are there locks on the doors?”


“I haven't the foggiest notion.”


     “Neither do I.  That's why I wrote it down on this piece of paper.  Here's a good one I'll have to ask Mom.  If nothing ever sticks to Teflon, how do they make Teflon stick to the pan?”


“They use...well they use...well...”


     “Ha!  You don't know either, do you?” 


“Let me just think about it for a few minutes!”


     “Well, while you're thinkin', I'll move on to the next one.  You know how when you drop a piece of toast it always seems to land with the buttered side down?”


“I don't drop toast.  But yes, I've noticed that every time you drop toast, it always lands buttered side down on my freshly washed kitchen floor.”


     “That's exactly my point.  So anyway, if you tied buttered toast to the back of a cat, and dropped that cat from a second story window, what do you think would happen?”


“Rick!  That's awful!”


     “I didn't say I was gonna do it!  I was only wonderin'.  I mean, with the way cats always land feet first, you have to wonder what would happen if a guy did tie a buttered piece of toast to a cat's back.  Do you think the cat would land on its feet, or would it land on its back on account of the buttered toast tied to—“


“Rick!  Who the hell cares anyway?  Are all the rest of your questions this stupid?”


     “What do you mean stupid?  These questions aren't stupid.” 


“Yes, they are!”


     “No, they're not!”


“Prove it.”


     “You can't answer them, can you?”




     “See.  I just proved it.  Now onto the next one.  Why do they put Braille dots on the keypad of the drive-up ATM?” 


“So that a blind person...well, so that...well...”


     “Gottcha!  A blind person can't drive a car!  So therefore you have to wonder why they waste the money installing Braille keypads on a drive-up—“


“Just forget it, Rick.”


     “Okay.  If that's the way you want it.  Here's the next one.”


“I can hardly wait.”


     “Why is that when you transport something by car, it's called a shipment?   But when you transport something by ship, it's called cargo?”


“Because with a car...well, because with a ship...well, because when you transport something...well it...”


     “Come on, A.J.  Just admit it.  You don't know.”


“Well, you haven't given me a lot of time to think about it.  It's not like anyone's ever asked me that question before.”


     “And you thought your big brother was dumb.”


“Believe me, none of this is disproving that theory.”


     “What was that?”


“Nothing. I didn’t say a thing. Are we finished now?”


     “No.  I’ve got a few more.  You know that little indestructible black box that's used on planes?  The one they always retrieve after a big crash that has the flight recorder in it?”




     “Why can't they make the whole plane out of that material?”


“I...don't know.”


     “Neither do I.  But I think I'm gonna write the FAA and suggest it.  You wanna sign your name to my letter, too?”


“No.  You go ahead and take all the glory for that idea.”


     “Okay.  If that's the way you want it.  But don't say I didn't offer.  Now onto the next question.  Remember when we were kids, and used to visit Great-Grandma Simon's farm in the summer?”




     “Do you remember helping Great-Grandma milk old Bessie?”




     “I've been thinking about that a lot lately.  Do you think if a cow could laugh that milk would come out her nose?”


“I don't—“


     “ 'Cause remember last week how I made you laugh when you were taking a drink of Pepsi and it all ran out your nose?”


“I've been trying to forget that.”


     “So anyhow, that made me wonder if the same thing could happen to a cow.   That is, if a cow could laugh, of course.”


“Of course.  Are we finished yet?”


     “No.  I've got two more.  This one's really been buggin' me.  A.J., do you think you'd need a silencer on your gun if you shot a mime?”


“Since I can't imagine ever having a reason to shoot a mime, I guess we'll never know the answer to that question, will we?”


     “Guess not.  And here's the last one.  I saved it especially for you 'cause you always do this.”


“I always do what?”


     “Why is it that when you're driving and looking for an address, you turn down the volume on the radio?”




     “It doesn't make you see better, does it?”


“No.  But—“


     “And you don't have to hear anything in order to find an address, do you?”


“No.  But—“


     “So see, it makes absolutely no sense.  But a lot of people do it.  Especially you.  All the time.”


“Is that it?  Are we finally done?”


     “Yep, that's the last one.”


“Good.  Because now I have a few questions for you.”


     “Okay, great.  Just let me sharpen my pencil, then I'll add 'em to my list.”


“You do that.  First question.  If Mom and Dad had been married five years later, does that mean I'd be the oldest child, and that you would have never been born?”


     “Hey!  What kind of a question is that?”


“Or if you had been my older sister, instead of my older brother, would my life have been easier?”


     “Well...I don't know.  I guess I never really thought about—“


“Would that mean that there'd be no boat parked in my yard?  Or no Marlowe leaving fleas all over my sofa?  Or no destructive parties in my house?”


     “I suppose that's a possibility, but—“


“Or let's say Mom had put you up for adoption some time before I was born.  Would I—“


     “Why would she have done a thing like that?”


“Oh, I can think of a thousand reasons.  But anyway, let's say she did.  Would I have looked for you?  Or would I have been smart enough to know what I was getting into and not initiated such a search to begin with?”


     “A.J., I don't like the direction these questions are takin' here.”


“Or if I tied a buttered piece of toast to your back, and dropped you from a second story window, would you land on your head, in which case no damage would be done, or on your—“


     “Oh, you're real funny, A.J.  Ha. Ha.  I think it's time to put away life's questions for today.  I don't think I want to know the answers to some of them.”


“I believe that's a very wise idea, Rick.  After all, there truly are some questions none of us were meant to the know the answers to.”


     “Amen to that, brother.  Amen to that.”







*Author’s Note:  Rick’s questions weren’t written by me, but rather are little ‘what ifs’ I’ve read over the years that I brought together during the process of penning this short story.





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