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 second part in this three part exercise.
The man was walking about five paces ahead of the woman in the parking lot. It was a very hot day, and he could feel the heat rise up from the black-top and permeate his dress pants and button-down shirt. In the reflection of the dark window of the grocery store he was walking towards, he was able to see the woman behind him, and instantly fell in love with her. She wore cowboy boots, short shorts, a loose tank-top and sunglasses; and while his parents or anyone else might have disagreed, he knew this was the kind of woman he needed in his life.
It was clear they were both going to the grocery store, and it was in this realization the man found his dilemma. The grocery store didn’t have automatic doors. Should he stop when he reached the entrance, and hold the door open for her? Would he be standing there too long, and just look awkward? He knew he could probably start a conversation with her, but . . . his last girlfriend despised men holding the door open for her. She had even gone so far as to attack him with a baseball bat when he forgot her hatred of this courtesy, and claimed while beating him that he was trying to subdue her with false male chivalry. That relationship had ended on a rather positive note for him.
While it was clear the woman five paces behind him had no baseball bat on her, he was afraid of offending her lest she share some of his ex’s sensibilities. How could he even get her to look at him, if he didn’t something so horrible as hold the door for her?
They were approaching the entrance. The man began to sweat from causes other than the heat. His perspiration not only soaked through his armpits but the entire sides of his shirt. (Fortunately, the sweat took the scent of his “Alpine Springs” deodorant.) In a split second decision, he swung the door open and barely managed to avoid hitting himself with it. He gestured for the woman to pass through. She smiled as she approached, but did not enter the grocery store. Instead, she reached forward and grasped the door edge. She gestured that he should go first.
“No, no,” he said.
“It’s fine,” she said.
“I’m trying to be polite . . .” he said.
“But you’re hot,” she said.
The man looked down at himself, and indeed it did appear as though he’d walked through a waterfall of manly perspiration. “I . . . It’s not that bad. You first.”
“No,” she said. “I mean, you’re hot hot. Like, physically attractive. I’m trying to charm you.”
“You’re trying to charm me . . . ?”
“By holding the door open for me?”
“Oh . . .” Charmed, the man smiled and stepped into the air conditioning of the grocery store.