This Laugh’s on Me

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By Martin Smith.

Any retelling of the legend of Marty McMurth always began with his birth day, when he received a perfect score on his APGAR scale. On that day, his mother, Mrs Martha McMurth, laboured for twenty-three hours. Her mouth howled and her belly ached and her eyes wept and her sides stitched and her bladder leaked, and with one last prolonged suck on the gas, she gritted her teeth and clenched her fists and steeled her loins and pushed with all her might until her first-born entered the world.

‘Congratulations, Mr and Mrs McMurth,’ the midwife said. ‘You have a boy.’

‘A boy!’ Mr Michael McMurth said as a nurse placed scissors in his hand.

‘A boy!’ Mrs McMurth said from behind the gas mask. She released a joyful laugh. ‘A boy. A boy. Did you hear that, Michael? A boy. Our boy. Our little Marty.’ And she took a deep suck of the gas and broke into hysterical giggling.

‘I did, Martha, I did.’ And Mr McMurth snipped his son’s umbilical cord, grabbed his wife’s gas mask, took a deep suck of the gas and broke into hysterical sobbing.

The midwife placed young Marty on the scales. ‘Seven pounds, one ounce,’ she said to the assistant nurse, who dutifully recorded Marty’s weight in his birth notes.

The midwife looked up and down Marty’s pink, slimy body and stared into his pudgy face. The boy returned a deadpan stare. ‘Skin colour. Two,’ the midwife said. And the assistant nurse wrote ‘2’ in Marty’s birth notes.

The midwife placed a stethoscope to Marty’s chest. The boy’s bottom lip quivered and his body shivered as she checked her watch and mouthed a count. ‘Pulse. Two.’ And the assistant nurse scribbled another ‘2’.

The midwife grabbed Marty by the ankles and held him upside down. She slapped him on his backside, and Marty McMurth drew in his first breath and released a gleeful laugh and writhed like a hooked eel. ‘Breathing. Two. Activity. Two.’ And a brace of twos entered the birth notes.

The midwife pinched Marty on his arm, and he released what sounded like an ‘ouch!’. ‘Grimace. Two,’ the midwife said. And a final ‘2’ completed Marty’s perfect APGAR score of 10.

Still holding Marty upside down by his ankles, the midwife turned her head around to the overjoyed new parents and said, ‘Good news, Mr and Mrs McMurth. Your baby’s fine. He appears to be completely normal.’

‘Knock, knock,’ a voice said.

The midwife’s head spun back towards the scales, and puzzlement filled her face as she searched for the voice’s whereabouts.

‘Knock, knock,’ the voice repeated.

The midwife looked down at Marty, and a gummy, upside-down smile met her astonished face.

‘Who … who’s there?’ she said.

‘Lettuce,’ Marty said.

‘Le … le … lettuce who?’

‘Let us have some of what she’s having.’ And Marty pointed towards his mother as she again sucked deeply behind the retrieved gas mask.

The midwife released a throaty laugh, and as her jowls wobbled and her belly jiggled and her arms shook, her grip weakened, and Marty McMurth slipped from her grasp and dropped head first to the floor and landed with a thud.

Mrs McMurth screamed as she leant over the edge of the birthing bed and stared white-faced at her fallen child. Mr McMurth groaned as he dropped to his knees and gathered his crumbled son in his arms. And the midwife swore as she flushed and avoided eye-contact with the newborn’s parents.

Marty opened an eye and looked up at his parents and the midwife, and he smirked and said, ‘Thank you very much. You’ve been a great audience. I’ll be doing two shows a night, and matinees on Saturdays, in the neonatal intensive care unit until the end of the month. Book early. Tickets are selling fast.’ And he closed his eye and went limp.

And amidst threats to sue and claims of unprofessionalism and humble apologies, the assistant nurse scrawled one last note in Marty’s birth record—Sense of humour: 2.


 Eight-year-old Martin Smith


Martin Smith is a writer of short fictions of humour. Having spent a working life crunching numbers, he retired to the Bellarine Peninsula in 2013, where he lives and writes in a beach house at Queenscliff. When he is not banging away on his keyboard with thumbs and index fingers or reading snippets of his scribblings to his beloved Rose, you’ll more likely than not find him walking the beach barefoot at low tide or downing a double scoop of Peppermint Chip at the local ice-creamery. He plans to publish two collections of stories of humour (This Laugh’s On Me and The Cannibal’s Guide to Health and Wellbeing) in 2023.

Martin joined Geelong Writers in 2022. He is a member of The Seaside Scribes, a writing group that meets at the Queenscliff Neighbourhood House every second Tuesday.

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