[Fiction] Friday Challenge #167 for 6th August, 2010
Strains of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” floated into the room.
Patrick Johnson listened as the dial tone engaged the number and began to ring. His quickly scanned the table of brochures whilst seated at the Rock and a Hard Place Café.
“Hello, Ironic Punishment Department, please hold the line,” said a gravelly voice like tombstones sliding together.
Patrick began to mumble, “That’s okay,” before he was cut off and the strains of Bobby McFerrin crackled out of the receiver. Patrick nodded his head to the rhythm of the song and began to sing along. He was a verse and half in and was about to whistle along when he was interrupted.
“I’m sorry for the delay,” said the voice, “how can I be of assistance?”
“Well, I’m new down here and I was investigating the possibilities of where to spend eternal damnation,” said Patrick. “I was looking through the brochures and I wanted to know about the Ironic Punishment Department.”
“The Ironic Punishment Department specifically tailors purgatorial situations based on your individuality and personality. For example, what was your occupation on the Earth above?” said the voice that would cause Linda Blair to be cleaning peas off the ceiling for a week.
“I was a teacher, a high school English teacher,” said Patrick.
“In that case, an ironic punishment would be that you had to take a substitute class on the last day of the school term, probably a PE lesson, and no matter how much you wish, that final bell will just not sound your release. Just for kicks, we could make the day rainy and windy and have a full moon.”
“Oh I see,” said Patrick.
“And what was your favourite food?” said the voice like a hammer on nails.
“Strawberry iced doughnuts.”
“We could either send you on a quest for the perfect strawberry iced doughnut, and you never find it, or force-feed you until you can take no more. Alternatively, you take a bite and it tastes like broccoli or boogers or something,” the voice like fingernails down a chalkboard continued.
“Did you play an instrument in your life above? Because if you did, we have a special songwriter’s workshop about how to write lyrics that are ironic.” asked the voice with an edge of brimstone.
“Or how about that awkward moment when you give your mother-in-law a farewell embrace and you suddenly gain an erection? Perhaps not ironic, but certainly uncomfortable. Do you remember ever having that dream where you realise that you are naked and you hope no one notices? ”
Patrick murmured a hesitant and nervous, “Yes.”
“That can also come true, should you wish,” said the voice of a fiery furnace. “We also have a special Mother Won’t Be Happy To Hear What You Have Done program where you relive your childhood misdemeanors in front of your mother. All those things that you denied doing, they have a way of coming back to bite you on the bum. Do you have any questions?”
“No, I don’t, but you’ve given me a bit to think about.”
“The Ironic Punishment Department takes pleasure in your discomfort. Please don’t hesitate to call if you need any more information,” said the voice that wouldn’t have been out of place fronting a death metal band.
“Thank you very much for your time,” said Patrick. He returned to his brochures and began absentmindedly to whistle the refrain of the hold music.