“Hey Mikey, how are you doing these days? Everything good, I take it?”
I never know how to act in front of Jules.
As someone who occupies a pretty important position, his colloquial demeanour can be quite off-putting. Still, we’ve known each other for some time now and I have learnt over the years to feel more comfortable talking to him, especially when no one else is around. Indeed, I’ve even come to calling him Jules, a rather disrespectful moniker that I doubt anyone else would dare to use.
“Oh, pretty good. Thanks for asking, Jules … Actually, I lie. I’m still recovering from all that time spent dealing with David“.
“David!!!??? I thought you were done fussing over him, what, four years ago! It’s time to let go and move on, Mikey”.
Jules mistook my silence as an invitation to provide further counsel, so he continued: “Look, Mikey, I know David was a big part of your life and I know you had a soft spot for him. But he’s too beautiful not to be shared with others, if you get my drift. In fact, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about today. I’ve got something that’s gonna take you mind off David … I’ve got a paint job that I need your help with“, said Jules.
“A paint job? What paint job? Where?”
Jules held up his right index finger, motioning upwards at the same time with his eyes and replied: “Up there, on the ceiling“.
“WHAT? Are you some kind of a crazy nut?”, I exclaimed after taking in the sheer enormity of the ceiling above us.
“First of all, how in the world am I going to paint that bloody ceiling? Man, it’s so high up I could barely see whether it will take paint. Secondly, you know I can’t paint for shit. I’m pretty good with my hands but painting is a whole different ball game, you know. In any case, why the heck do you want to paint THAT ceiling anyway?“, I asked incredulously.
“Look, Mikey, I’m getting old as you know, And at my age with just few little marbles still rolling around in my head, I’m getting these weird visions of grandeur. Call it senility, call it old fart craziness, call it whatever the heck you want. But please do me this favour. You’re the only one I can trust to do a good job“.
I sighed and looked up at the ceiling once again. I honestly didn’t want to do this. I was approaching my mid-30s, after working pretty much non-stop in my twenties. And I was genuinely looking forward to some rest. Plus, the thought of craning my neck up there, waving the paint brushes back and forth on that massive ceiling canvas was already making me slightly queasy in the stomach.
Still, what can I do? Jules is not a man accustomed to getting ‘no’ for an answer. Furthermore, I knew the job would lead to a shitload of other work later down the track, especially with a reference from someone like Jules.
“Well, Jules, I gotta say, this is one big-ass ceiling you’ve got here and it’s gonna take some time. Man, it’s gonna take a lot of time just to put some scaffolding in place so that I reach the damn ceiling, let alone paint it“.
“I know, I know, but take all the time you want. Just make sure it’s a good job … you know … inject some ‘WOW’ factor into the joint“.
Then Jules continued: “Of course, I will look after you compensation-wise. But, you know what? I can even do one better. I will tell you a joke. It’s a joke I’ve been wanting to tell for ages but just couldn’t find a suitable person to tell it to because … well … you understand, right?”
The thing about seriously important people is that you assume they are serious all the time. But what I’ve found out from experience is that some of them are just busting to be one of the boys. And Jules is a perfect example of someone who must put a respectable façade at all times, but is always dying to tell a dirty joke or two whenever given the chance.
“Ok, Jules. I will take the job. But only on the condition that the joke you’re about to tell me is going to make me shit in my pants because it’s so funny, OK?“, I said to Jules with a smile.
Jules looked around the hall sheepishly, and once he was satisfied that there was no one within earshot of our conversation, he said:
“Ok, Mikey, here goes. A man is carrying a duck under his arm, He walks into his bedroom and finds his wife in bed. He says: “This is the pig I’ve been fucking behind your back”. The wife looks at him and says: “My dear, that’s not a pig”. And the man replies to his wife: “I wasn’t talking to you”“.
There was a split second of silence.
Then Jules and I simultaneously erupted into a terribly loud and raucous laughter. The sound of our guffaw filled the massive hall with such great resonance that it alarmed all the people who were milling about on the perimeter of the place.
In fact, I was laughing so hard that my stomach started to stitch, while Jules went into a coughing fit such was the force of his laughter.
And with that, and a big silly smile still etched on my face, I reached out for Jules’ right hand, kissed the back of it and left the Sistine Chapel.
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