Slapstick Social Customs–Part 1

Here’s another piece from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Novakovich.  The idea behind this one is to practice humor through the use of over-exaggeration, caricature, and slapstick.  Novakovich suggested trying this with familiar social customs.  Here’s the first part in this three part exercise.

Mr. Porter grasped the hand of his new employee so firmly when they were introduced, that the thin bones of her hand were forced to contract together like the ribs of a fold-up fan.

“It is so good to have you in the company, Ms. Sparrow.”  Mr. Porter’s shake was forceful enough for Ms. Sparrow to feel her arm wriggle in its socket.  Not wanting to appear feeble, Ms. Sparrow attempted to return the pressure of the handshake as best she could with her compressed hand.  She was barely able to bend her fingers around Mr. Porter’s hand, which was akin to a stress-ball in that it looked soft and rubbery but was actually quite firm if not inflexible.  Still, Ms. Sparrow forced all her upper-body strength into returning the warm pressure of her new boss.

“It’s great to be here, sir.”

Mr. Porter was relieved to feel some strength in his new hire.  He smiled and nodded so that the whole of his bald head and neck were wrinkled in satisfaction, along with his bushy eyebrows.  Ms. Sparrow nodded, too, though her focus was on keeping her hand as steady as possible.  Her bones wanted to shake like the puppet arms of a marionette, but she made it look as though the rapid up-down motion of Mr. Porter’s handshake were something she was participating in of her own accord.

When her hand was finally freed, Ms. Sparrow could feel her whole arm tremble the rest of the day in remembrance of the motion and pressure of that handshake.  She flinched inwardly the rest of the week when she met new people and was obliged to shake their hands.

As for Mr. Porter, he could feel a slight tingle in his calloused palm after his introduction to Ms. Sparrow.  The tingle was caused by her resistance to having her hand crushed in his.  Mr. Porter smiled and nodded to himself the rest of the afternoon, pleased to have found himself an employee with a true fighting spirit.


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