Excerpts and Extracts

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Κεφάλαιο 1ο
Στη Διαμαντοστρωμένη Ακρογιαλιά

Το μοναστήρι των ξωτικών με τις ψηλές του στέγες σαν μεγάλα πολύχρωμα κοχύλια κάποιου μαγικού γιαλού υψωνόταν στον λόφο λουσμένο στην αστραφτερή φεγγαρόσκονη, που το ζωηρό αεράκι είχε παρασύρει από τον κοντινό καταρράκτη. Αστραποβολούσε τυλιγμένο στη μυστήρια και αέρινη εσάρπα της νύχτας με τα χίλια μυστικά.
Πολλές άυπνες νύχτες είχε περάσει πετώντας πάνω από την απέραντη και ονειρική θάλασσα του ροδόνερου και τώρα, καθώς στεκόταν στη διαμαντοστρωμένη ακρογιαλιά βλέποντας τους κατάλευκους ελαφόκυκνους με τον μακρύ λαιμό, τα γεμάτα χάρη φτερά κύκνου και τα πελώρια κλαδωτά κέρατα να τον παρατηρούν με τα λαμπερά, γεμάτα περιέργεια, σκούρα μπλε μάτια, ένιωθε πως το ταξίδι του πλησίαζε στο τέλος του και ίσως ένα νέο μεγαλύτερο ταξίδι γεμάτο συγκινήσεις να άρχιζε.

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Ποιός ήταν αυτός ο μυστήριος ξένος με τα μακριά εβένινα μαλλιά και τα ανεξιχνίαστα μάτια, που σκίαζαν το χλωμό του πρόσωπο σαν δυο σκοτεινοί ουρανοί, τον γαλάζιο χιτώνα με τα ασημένια σχέδια, που θύμιζαν αρχαιοελληνικά γράμματα, και τα μεγάλα πανέμορφα φτερά σαν εξωτικό νεραϊδοπούλι; Γιατί άραγε είχε έρθει να ξεκουραστεί στο νησί των γαλάζιων πιερότων; Γιατί στεκόταν σαν χαμένος ανάμεσα στις ζωντανές άρπες εκείνου του γιαλού, που τραγουδούσαν απόκοσμα, καθώς ηχούσε η βαριά καμπάνα του μοναστηριού καλώντας τα στοιχειωμένα καράβια με τους διάφανους κουρσάρους-φαντάσματα να προσαράξουν στην ακτή, για να ηχήσει η γνωστή βραχνή φωνή του αόρατου καπετάνιου, όπως γινόταν αιώνες ολόκληρους.
– Εμπρός λεβέντες! Ρίχνουμε άγκυρα και γραμμή για το πανδοχείο «Βελανιδιά», όπου μας περιμένει ο υγρός αμέθυστος, γλυκό νέκταρ βγαλμένο απ’ την καρδιά του «Μη με λησμόνει!» και πρόθυμες δεντροτσούπρες, για να καθίσουν στην αγκαλιά μας.
Όταν οι υπερωκεάνιοι πειρατές-φαντάσματα με τα μακριά μπερδεμένα γένια, τα κερασφόρα δίκοχα, τις χοντρές γούνες γύρω από τα πόδια και τα μπράτσα φεύγανε, τα τρικάταρτα καράβια επιβλητικά, με τα ακρόπρωρα φορτωμένα μυστήρια σκαλίσματα, σαν γαλάζιοι ίσκιοι του Αχέροντα, μένανε πίσω να χορεύουν ανάλαφρα στο βιολετί κυματάκι.
Ο ξένος τους κοίταζε, καθώς χανόντουσαν στο επικίνδυνο και ανεξερεύνητο δάσος με τις φεγγαρολαμπίδες, τις μικρές συλφίδες του φεγγαρόφωτου, που κατέβαιναν κάθε βραδιά στο κοιμισμένο νησί, για να φωτίσουν με τη μυστήρια φεγγαρένια αναλαμπή τους τον δρόμο του κατάκοπου ταξιδευτή λούζοντας σαν μικρά παγωμένα κεράκια τα πάντα γύρω μ’ ένα φως γαλάζιο και ασημένιο.
Τι γυρεύει εδώ, σ’ αυτόν τον παράξενο τόπο, ένας άγγελος χωρίς φωτοστέφανο, χωρίς την κορώνα των αιθέριων κατοίκων του ουρανού, που φωτίζει και οδηγεί τον νου και ζεσταίνει τις κρύες καρδιές των ανθρώπων που έχουν χάσει τον δρόμο τους; αναρωτιόταν ο Σιρεφά. Θα πρέπει να είμαι τρελός, για να ξεκινήσω μοναχός ένα τέτοιο μακρινό και δύσκολο ταξίδι.
Αν ο νάνος με το κόκκινο ημίψηλο δεν είχε πεί ψέματα, εδώ, σ’ αυτόν τον τόπο, θα έβρισκε τη χαμένη ανάμνηση και θα θυμόταν πώς είχε χάσει το χρυσό του στέμμα από ατόφιο φως. Από πού όμως έπρεπε ν’αρχίσει την αναζήτηση;
Ίσως να μάθαινε κάτι, αν μιλούσε στους ψαράδες πιερότους, που ξεκινούσαν κάθε νύχτα από το κεχριμπαρένιο λιμάνι με την πορσελάνινη αποβάθρα, στολισμένη με ψηφιδωτά από αστραφτερές γυαλόπετρες, για να ψαρέψουν μεγάλα χρυσόψαρα στη θάλασσα του ροδόνερου, στις βάρκες τους που θύμιζαν βρεφικές κούνιες, και να επιστρέψουν με την ανατολή, που σ’ αυτό το μέρος του κόσμου ήταν πιο πολύχρωμη και μαγευτική από κάθε ηλιοβασίλεμα.
Οι καλύβες παγόδες τους, γεμάτες πλουμίδια και χρωματιστά σχέδια, ήταν λίγο μακρύτερα, με καμινάδες που καπνίζανε απλώνοντας γύρω μια ομίχλη πορτοκαλί καπνού με μυρωδιά ζεστού σταφιδόψωμου και κανέλας. Εκεί οι κολομπίνες περίμεναν υπομονετικά οι πιερότοι τους με τις φαρδιές γαλάζιες πυτζάμες να επιστρέψουν με τα λαχταριστά χρυσόψαρα. Ίσως αυτές μπορούσαν να του δώσουν οδηγίες. Χωρίς να το πολυσκεφτεί, πήρε το δρόμο για το χωριό με τις παγόδες και τα αειθαλή μοβ δέντρα, τα αθάνατα γιακαράντα, κατευθύνθηκε στην πρώτη καλύβα και χτύπησε τρεις φορές τη δρύινη, στρογγυλή πορτούλα.
Ένα προσωπάκι με μικροσκοπική μυτούλα, μεγάλα μάτια και ροζ χείλη φάνηκε για ένα δευτερόλεπτο πίσω από την τούλινη κουρτίνα, αλλά μια ματιά ήταν αρκετή, για να δείξει στον άγγελο ότι αυτή η πόρτα δε θ’ άνοιγε εκείνο το βράδυ. Αντί γι’ αυτό, μια άλλη πορτούλα, λίγο μακρύτερα, άνοιξε και μια αστεία κοντόχοντρη γριούλα με κόκκινα μάγουλα σαν μικρά ώριμα μηλαράκια και χείλη σαν ρουμπίνια φάνηκε στο κατώφλι και προσκάλεσε τον Σιρεφά στην καλυβοπαγόδα της πολύ φιλικά με μια ιδιαίτερα ψιλή και αστεία φωνούλα. Δικαιολογημένα έκπληκτος και χαρούμενος ο Σιρεφά μπήκε στο πολύχρωμο σπιτάκι, χωρίς να το πολυσκεφτεί.
Μόλις μπήκε, η γριούλα έδειξε μια αλλόκοτη πολυθρόνα, που έμοιαζε τόσο απαλή και άνετη, ώστε ο άγγελος, που έτσι και αλλιώς ένιωθε την κούραση του μακρινού ταξιδιού που είχε κάνει να βαραίνει πάνω του, δε δίστασε.
Όταν βούλιαξε σ’ αυτήν την απίθανα μαλακή κι αναπαυτική πολυθρόνα, κατάλαβε αμέσως ότι δεν ήταν γεμάτη τσόχα ή μπαμπάκι ή ακόμα και πούπουλα αλλά από κάτι πολύ πιο περίεργο και εξαιρετικά αναπαυτικό, που σου γεννούσε την επιθυμία να κλείσεις τα μάτια, ν’ αφεθείς στην ευχάριστη μαγική αίσθηση και ν’ αφήσεις τον νου σου να ταξιδέψει σε μέρη ακόμα πιο φανταστικά κι απίθανα κι απ’ αυτό ακόμη το απίστευτο νησί, αν μπορούσε να υπάρξει κάτι τέτοιο.
– Είναι συννεφοπολυθρόνα, εξήγησε η αστεία γριούλα. Όταν πλέκω σ’ αυτήν και με παίρνει ο ύπνος, βλέπω τα πιο λιχουδιαστά μελένια και σιροπιαστά όνειρα. Απ’ έξω είναι από νεραϊδοΰφαντο μετάξι και μέσα είναι γεμάτη με τα πιο απαλά λευκά συννεφάκια. Σκέψου πόσα πράγματα είχαν δει στο ουράνιο ταξίδι τους αυτά τα συννεφάκια, πριν οι ζαχαρένιες δροσονεράιδες τα κλείσουν σ’ αυτήν την πολυθρόνα. Σίγουρα ακόμα έχουν μέσα τους όλα αυτά τα ουράνια ταξίδια, γι’ αυτό κανείς θέλει ν’ αφήσει τη φαντασία του ελεύθερη, όταν κάθεται ή ξαπλώνει σ’ αυτά. Τι να σε τρατάρω; Θα ήθελες ένα ποτηράκι λικέρ από ουράνιο τόξο ή ίσως ένα λουκούμι τεσσάρων εποχών; Είναι υπέροχα.
– Τι είναι το λικέρ ουράνιου τόξου; ρώτησε ο Σιρεφά.
– Είναι λικέρ φτιαγμένο από απόσταγμα ουράνιου τόξου, δάκρυ φεγγαρολαμπίδας και πρωινές δροσοσταλίδες. Η γεύση του είναι απερίγραπτη.
– Και τα λουκούμια τεσσάρων εποχών; Πρώτη φορά ακούω κάτι τέτοιο.

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– Αααα, έκανε η γιαγιούλα μ’ ένα λιχούδικο χαμόγελο. Υπάρχουν πέντε γεύσεις. Τα λουκούμια της άνοιξης είναι γεμάτα αρώματα λουλουδιών, γεύση ώριμων φρούτων και ήχους από χαρούμενα κελαϊδίσματα πουλιών. Τα λουκούμια του φθινοπώρου έχουν τη δροσιά βροχούλας κι αρώματα πεσμένων φύλλων. Τα λουκούμια του χειμώνα είναι σαν απαλές χιονονιφάδες, μυρίζουν Χριστούγεννα, αλλά στο βάθος τους έχουν μια καρδιά από ζεστασιά και ιστορίες κοντά στο τζάκι. Εμένα μου αρέσουν πολύ και τα λουκούμια του καλοκαιριού. Έχουν σχήμα κοχυλιού με αρώματα από θαλασσινό αεράκι, ξέγνοιαστα παιχνίδια στην αμμουδιά κι όλη την ελαφράδα μιας μικρής βαρκούλας που λικνίζεται στον κατάλευκο αφρό. Τα πιο μυστήρια όμως είναι τα λουκούμια της πέμπτης εποχής. Δροσερά αλλά και ηλιόλουστα, γεμάτα αρώματα και γεύσεις ζουμερών φρούτων και υπέροχων λουλουδιών, που δεν υπάρχουν σ’ αυτόν τον κόσμο. Μη με ρωτήσεις πώς φτιάχνονται! Η συνταγή τους είναι μυστική και περνάει από γιαγιά σε εγγονή.
– Θα ήθελα να δοκιμάσω, είπε ο Σιρεφά. Ευχαριστώ πολύ.
Η γυναίκα έφυγε, για να επιστρέψει μέσα σ’ ελάχιστες στιγμές μ’ έναν κρυστάλλινο δίσκο φορτωμένο μ’ ένα μικρό μπουκαλάκι, που στο υγρό περιεχόμενο του έβλεπες όλα τα χρώματα της ίριδας να χορεύουν και να παίζουν, κι ένα πιάτο με τα μαγικά λουκούμια.
Αντί για ένα χρώμα, όταν κοιτούσες αυτά τα λουκούμια, έβλεπες μέσα να αχνοφέγγουν σαν υπέροχο όνειρο σκηνές των τεσσάρων εποχών, που συνέχεια εναλλάσσονταν, τόσο μαγευτικές, ώστε κανείς δεν ήξερε αν έπρεπε να φάει αυτά τα υπέροχα γλυκίσματα ή απλώς να τα παρακολουθεί να μεταμορφώνονται και να αποκαλύπτουν τα γοητευτικά μυστήρια της πανέμορφης φύσης, που πάντα ξαφνιάζει τον άνθρωπο με την τόση της φαντασία και μεγαλοπρέπεια.
Το λικέρ και τα λουκούμια ήταν ασυνήθιστα, αλλά η γεύση τους ήταν ευχάριστη όσο κι η παρέα αυτής της γλυκιάς γριούλας, που ρωτούσε όλο ενδιαφέρον, αλλά χωρίς ενοχλητική περιέργεια, να μάθει για τον Σιρεφά και για το τι τον είχε φέρει στον μακρινό και ονειρικό εκείνο τόπο.
– Ψάχνω μια χαμένη ανάμνηση, εξήγησε ο άγγελος. Γυρεύω να μάθω πώς έχασα το φωτοστέφανο μου. Μόνο άμα το βρω, θα γίνω πάλι αληθινός άγγελος.

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On the planet of the jesters

Somewhere in a remote galaxy, on the planet of the red jesters, in the colorful and picturesque city of Gibberia, where everybody speaks fluent gibberish, there were many strict laws that no one dared defy, unless he was ready to receive ten to a hundred whacks as a punishment.

The most important gibberian law had been enacted by Great Ridiculous himself, the city founder, and could be summarized in the following phrase:

That doesn’t sound so bad, will think many of you. After all, is there anything healthier than laughter? But, if you think carefully, you will soon find that things aren’t as harmless as they may seem at first glance. “Laugh at all costs” means you have to laugh even when you are not in the mood to do so, when you are sad or something awful has happened to you or to your friend or to your neighbor and certainly everybody can see that is not so nice.

Now some of you will think that great Ridiculous, who had come up with this law, must not have been right in the head, but then what successful jester is completely sane? None whatsoever. People don’t call them fools for nothing.

As if having to laugh all the time wasn’t enough, there was something even worse, something absolutely dreadful you had to endure if you wanted to continue living in Gibberia: crying was forbidden on pain of death. Even baby jesters weren’t allowed to cry and so, if they needed to be changed or fed, they had to giggle and they giggled in such an annoying nerve racking way that their parents ran as fast as they could to satisfy their every need, great or small.

In Gibberia there lived the hero of this tale, a jester who answered to the name of Giggles Ticklefoot. Giggles found it extremely hard to comply with gibberian laws and for that reason he had been punished numerous times with hundreds of whacks with the cane. He hadn’t received them all at once of course, but still it was not a pleasant business. Giggles never laughed as much as the authorities would find adequate, when a flower pot dropped on someone’s head, when someone fell down or generally when something unpleasant happened to another jester.

It’s no wonder that the most popular shops in Gibberia where those that sold pranks and all kinds of materials for practical jokes: chairs with nearly sawed off legs, so that whoever attempted to sit on them would fall clumsily down, candies and treats tasting like red hot chili pepper, exploding cigars, books titled ‘A hundred fun ways to make someone trip’ and other similarly ill tasted jokes. Such tricks were extremely popular in Gibberia and jesters used to buy cartloads of them to mess with their friends and laugh their hearts out.

A store such as this was owned by Giggles’s best friend Beansprout Eggpeeler. He always advised him to laugh all the time. Idiotic laughter, he used to say, is a matter of practice. The more one laughs without serious reason, the easier it becomes to laugh at each silly little thing and spare oneself unneeded beating with the cane.

Giggles did his best to follow his friend’s advice. He tried to giggle foolishly, even when nothing even remotely funny occurred, but such a thing proved impossible. The funny thing was that it was easier for Giggles to laugh when something bad happened to him, than it was when it happened to someone else. One of the rare moments he could laugh for real was when others pulled a prank on him and he fell for it. For that reason he sought to become an easy target for all sorts of tricks and jokes. Though laughing wasn’t as easy for Giggles as it was for other jesters, he had never reached the other extreme, I mean crying.

Crying was an unforgivable act of defiance that led to certain death. In fact, even when a jester was beaten with a stick, he was forced to laugh and that naturally made the punishment even more inhumane. It’s to be expected that, when something so natural is so strictly forbidden, one has a constant desire to do it, but since no one was eager to be punished in the severe way dictated by this cruel law, they suppressed this completely natural urge to cry and indulged in all sorts of sadistic pranks and practical jokes targeted at their fellow jesters.

Giggles would probably do the same, but unfortunately for him he had a gentle character, well disposed towards others, completely out of place in this harsh, unfriendly environment. So Giggles craved a good cleansing cry and I don’t mean a light drizzle of a cry, I mean a cataclysmic cry, full of sobs and a waterfall of tears. All this years of suppression had made him almost incapable of crying, as if the muscles of his very soul had atrophied. That’s not particularly strange, if one considers that, since he was only a defenseless baby he had had to giggle, chuckle and laugh when he needed something, instead of crying like those lucky earth children.

One day not different in any way than the others Giggles woke up by the characteristic shrieky voice of his landlady, Mrs. Jokerin Happyprankster.

‘Ticklefoot, wakey-wakey, he he he, it’s already eight o’ clock; come down – why don’t you? – and taste your yummy breakfast!’

Giggles opened his right eye, only to close it again right away. He was in no hurry to get up and that is quite normal, since life in Gibberia was such a nightmare. Anyway, in a few moments he opened his eyes for good and, still bleary, yawned and stretched; then he went over to the door to open it.

‘Be good now! Don’t forget to wash your face!’

‘Why doesn’t she mind her own business?’ said Giggles annoyed.

But, as he reached for the doorknob to open the door, a bucket full of cold water fell on his head from the top of the door covering him completely with its ice cold content. Mrs. Happyprankster had come during the night and had placed the bucket in such a way that her tenant would enjoy a refreshing shower gibberian style, when opening the door in the morning.

Hearing the cry Jokerin laughed her heart out.

‘Now wasn’t that refreshing?’ she screamed ecstatic. ‘I warned you that you should wash your face, didn’t I? Cleanliness is a virtue of kings.’

Few things are so unpleasant as such an unwanted shower so early in the morning and that’s even more so, when one is barely awake, but Giggles, whether he liked it or not, was obliged by law to laugh about that nasty prank and mean it.

Indeed the poor jester laughed and he kept on laughing, as he opened the door and crossed the hallway to reach the stair. But, when his foot touched the first step, he slipped, lost his balance and, after bumping on each and every step he met on his way down, he finally landed painfully on the lower floor on his bottom. Mrs. Jokerin had spread butter on the top step to ensure that her beloved Giggles would start his day properly. Our hero bruised and aching all over got up and still giggling he went into the kitchen.

‘On my soul, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in all my life. If I’d known you were in such a hurry to taste your breakfast, I would have brought it to you in bed,’ said wickedly the shriveled old hag.

‘Ha, ha, ha, what a piquant sense of humor! How on earth did you think of something so…so amusing, Mrs. Happyprankster? You’ve really outdone yourself,’ said the unfortunate jester with his hand still on his aching rear end.

‘Oh, come now! Sit on this here chair to catch your breath! You need it after such a fall,’ said the horrible woman.

The unsuspecting jester sat on the chair suggested to him by his landlady and of course fell right off; the leg of the chair had been sawed nearly off, so as to break when the thin jester attempted to sit on it.

New obscene giggles from the landlady, new forced chuckles from Giggles.

‘Mrs. Happyprankster, you are priceless!’ said the unhappy jester trying hard to laugh idiotically, as the law enforced by the great Ridiculous dictated. ‘What a fine sense of humor!’

‘I wish I could say the same about your heavy bottom,’ said the woman. ‘So long, my comfy little chair! I can’t stand it; I think I’ve peed myself.’

Giggles sat on another chair and Mrs. Happyprankster served the omelet that of course she had seasoned with plenty of red pepper.

But enough of the ill tasted pranks of this foolish woman! Suffice it to say that, when finally Giggles got out of the house to start his day, he was feeling miserable, unhappy, banged up and generally simply pitiful but, no matter how much he wanted to protest, to cry, to scream, he simply couldn’t do it. He had to laugh, always laugh. To avoid other unpleasant occurrences, he decided to leave the city and to find solace in the one place where no one could find him.

There was a hill for which Giggles had a special fondness.  It was called Silly- Hilly. It was a stupid name for such a beautiful hill offering a splendid view of the flowery green valley of Hogwash and of the Bozo woods but then they had pretty stupid names too.

Great Ridiculous had ordained that all the hills, lakes, valleys, rivers and mountains had to have such names. Funny names that made jesters want to laugh. Now, as to why such beautiful places had to be named so, only Great Ridiculous knew the answer. As a matter of fact the law determined that the appearance of those places had to be equally funny. For that reason certain jesters attempted to paint the Silly-hilly with red paint using a giant road roller leaving only a few pieces of green land here and there like ugly blotches. Fortunately they soon got bored and gave up, but tastelessness had sadly left its mark on this once charming hill. There were here and there big sections of earth painted with bright red color.

Be that as it may, Giggles loved it and, when no one was watching, he tried to return it to its original state using a tiny brush and some white spirit that in order to keep secret he had put in a tiny container like the small bottles in which perfume parlors sell expensive perfumes. With his tiny brush he had managed to bleach the entrance of an ant nest, a daisy and a small pebble and he was so proud of his efforts that he felt like a real rebel.

‘Little by little I’ll bleach the whole hill,’ he said full of determination. ‘A piece of grass here, a stone there I’ll make the hill green again.’

As poor Giggles was trying to get back on his feet so to speak, after Jokerin’s morning tortures, he noticed a tiny ladybug and, as it was red, he thought that most certainly it was also painted. Probably a drop of paint had fell on it and now the poor little creature was red.

Happy that he had found something to unpaint, he took out his little brush and dipping it in white spirit he started chasing the ladybug to catch it and give it its natural color back. Of course the ladybug was in no hurry to be unpainted, even more so since red was its natural color, and so it started running to escape. You also need to know that ladybugs on the planet of the jesters are very fast; so much so actually, that if a jester wants to say someone is very fast, he says “fast as a ladybug”. But Giggles, eager to unpaint something that day no matter what, started running behind it in a vain attempt to catch it, with the sole result of falling clumsily down.

Poor Giggles was so used to laughing about his mishaps that he laughed even if no one was around to see or hear him. So, not knowing what else to do, he burst into laughter. After having laughed for some time, he got up and went on to sit in his usual place at the edge of the hill. He had picked that particular spot several years ago and he liked it a lot. It was a rock with comfortable flat upper part and from there one had a great view over the surrounding valleys and over the capital city of the jesters a bit further away. From up there one could see the Great Gigglearium, where all the decisions were taken and the laws were passed which then applied to all jester cities and villages.

Great Ridiculous was there with the council of the old farts. The old farts were the most ancient jesters and in their senile wisdom they decided what was funny and what wasn’t. Needless to say, they had reached the conclusion, many centuries ago, that everything is funny except crying, a crime so heinous that it brought about capital punishment to those who committed it.

The greater criminal ever in the history of the planet was a jester that answered to the name of Dungbag Dillydally and had made the mistake of bursting into tears, when his cat Butterball had been electrocuted. He had been crying for three whole days, before getting caught and executed without a trial. In fact his case remained notorious in the history of the jesters and his unforgivable act was the reason he was given the insulting nickname “Crybaby”.

From this spot one could also discern the Great Library of Jokes, where one could read all known jokes and all funny anecdotes included in the history of the planet i.e. more than a funny-million jokes. A funny-million was a thousand silly-millions, namely a million smelly-millions and that was really quite a lot of jokes. The only one who had ever succeeded in reading them all was Great Ridiculous, since only he was immortal and for that reason, to put it plainly, he had been around for quite a long time.

From there one could also see the cane whackers headquarters. They were the police of the capital and their main duty consisted in delivering the cane whacks to those who showed disrespect to the laws of the planet, the criers and all sorts of similar outlaws and criminals.

One could also admire the great ticklearium, where they attempted to heal using tickle-shocks all those who, despite all the cane whacks they had received, remained laughless and serious. There were trained ticklers with specially designed tickling devices that could drive insane with their tickling “Crybaby” himself.

And of course we can’t leave out the great loony bin that was used to drive insane dangerously sane people. Sanity was something unacceptable on the planet of the Jesters. A real jester had to be a regular nutcase, like great Ridiculous himself, and for that reason sane jesters were forced to endure certain extremely unpleasant therapies: trying to solve unsolvable riddles for endless hours, trying to find their way out of vast labyrinths without an exit and other similarly unreasonable tortures that could drive mad sanity itself.

All this had only one purpose: to ensure that everyone would comply with the inhumane law “laugh at all costs”. Needless to say, living in such a cruel and unfeeling environment forced one to become every bit as inhuman, if one wanted to survive. Nobody wanted to find themselves in the ticklearium or in the loony bin and thus everybody laughed all the time hysterically, unbearably. They laughed horribly so much so that Giggles, though he would never dare admit it, suffered immensely when he heard them laugh that evil nervous laughter echoing in every corner of this weird city. But, no matter how much he wanted it, he could never escape from it, as it haunted him every hour, every minute, every second of his life.

Of course he would not confide these things, not even to his closest friend, since to doubt Great Ridiculous equaled treason and consequently whoever did it was to be sentenced to death following the worst torture, sixty hours of continuous tickling and only after he was certified as a total nutcase. That last part was particularly important, because, if there was the slightest doubt concerning the subject’s insanity, the execution could not take place, since sane jesters were not held responsible for their actions. According to the council of old farts sanity made you do sane things inadvertently and therefore in such a case you couldn’t be held responsible for your actions.

If, after your stay in the loony bin and after the learned doctors of the asylum assured the proper authorities that you were completely nuts, you continued to break the law, then you were a criminal and they could proceed with the final punishment.

Whatever the case might be, the only time Giggles felt a little happy was when he ascended the hill and sat on the flat rock near the tree with the violet leaves. That tree offered his shadow and a cool place to sit during the summer as well as some protection from the wind during the winter.

That day our good jester yearned for the solace of solitude. He sat on the rock and let his mind and his thoughts drift away to heavenly worlds; worlds without laughter, can whackers and wicked pranks. So far away he was that he didn’t notice that someone was watching him. Suddenly a crystal voice singing sweetly disrupted his thoughts and made him turn to face the violet tree. The song was something between the twitting of a bird and a human voice. Who could have been singing so sweetly? It was a bird but not like the usual birds; it was the most beautiful feathered creature Giggles had ever seen; with blue and red feathers covered in golden dust, an orange tuft like a glorious crown, a long graceful neck and a really impressive tale touching the ground like a long veil.

Giggles, charmed by that strange, magnificent spectacle, got up to approach the bird and have a chance to observe it better. But the bird alarmed spread its wings to fly away.

Laugh at all costs!

That doesn’t sound so bad, will think many of you. After all, is there anything healthier than laughter? But, if you think carefully, you will soon find that things aren’t as harmless as they may seem at first glance. “Laugh at all costs” means you have to laugh even when you are not in the mood to do so, when you are sad or something awful has happened to you or to your friend or to your neighbor and certainly everybody can see that is not so nice.

Now some of you will think that great Ridiculous, who had come up with this law, must not have been right in the head, but then what successful jester is completely sane? None whatsoever. People don’t call them fools for nothing.

As if having to laugh all the time wasn’t enough, there was something even worse, something absolutely dreadful you had to endure if you wanted to continue living in Gibberia: crying was forbidden on pain of death. Even baby jesters weren’t allowed to cry and so, if they needed to be changed or fed, they had to giggle and they giggled in such an annoying nerve racking way that their parents ran as fast as they could to satisfy their every need, great or small.

In Gibberia there lived the hero of this tale, a jester who answered to the name of Giggles Ticklefoot. Giggles found it extremely hard to comply with gibberian laws and for that reason he had been punished numerous times with hundreds of whacks with the cane. He hadn’t received them all at once of course, but still it was not a pleasant business. Giggles never laughed as much as the authorities would find adequate, when a flower pot dropped on someone’s head, when someone fell down or generally when something unpleasant happened to another jester.

It’s no wonder that the most popular shops in Gibberia where those that sold pranks and all kinds of materials for practical jokes: chairs with nearly sawed off legs, so that whoever attempted to sit on them would fall clumsily down, candies and treats tasting like red hot chili pepper, exploding cigars, books titled ‘A hundred fun ways to make someone trip’ and other similarly ill tasted jokes. Such tricks were extremely popular in Gibberia and jesters used to buy cartloads of them to mess with their friends and laugh their hearts out.

A store such as this was owned by Giggles’s best friend Beansprout Eggpeeler. He always advised him to laugh all the time. Idiotic laughter, he used to say, is a matter of practice. The more one laughs without serious reason, the easier it becomes to laugh at each silly little thing and spare oneself unneeded beating with the cane.

Giggles did his best to follow his friend’s advice. He tried to giggle foolishly, even when nothing even remotely funny occurred, but such a thing proved impossible. The funny thing was that it was easier for Giggles to laugh when something bad happened to him, than it was when it happened to someone else. One of the rare moments he could laugh for real was when others pulled a prank on him and he fell for it. For that reason he sought to become an easy target for all sorts of tricks and jokes. Though laughing wasn’t as easy for Giggles as it was for other jesters, he had never reached the other extreme, I mean crying.

Crying was an unforgivable act of defiance that led to certain death. In fact, even when a jester was beaten with a stick, he was forced to laugh and that naturally made the punishment even more inhumane. It’s to be expected that, when something so natural is so strictly forbidden, one has a constant desire to do it, but since no one was eager to be punished in the severe way dictated by this cruel law, they suppressed this completely natural urge to cry and indulged in all sorts of sadistic pranks and practical jokes targeted at their fellow jesters.

Giggles would probably do the same, but unfortunately for him he had a gentle character, well disposed towards others, completely out of place in this harsh, unfriendly environment. So Giggles craved a good cleansing cry and I don’t mean a light drizzle of a cry, I mean a cataclysmic cry, full of sobs and a waterfall of tears. All this years of suppression had made him almost incapable of crying, as if the muscles of his very soul had atrophied. That’s not particularly strange, if one considers that, since he was only a defenseless baby he had had to giggle, chuckle and laugh when he needed something, instead of crying like those lucky earth children.

One day not different in any way than the others Giggles woke up by the characteristic shrieky voice of his landlady, Mrs. Jokerin Happyprankster.

‘Ticklefoot, wakey-wakey, he he he, it’s already eight o’ clock; come down – why don’t you? – and taste your yummy breakfast!’

Giggles opened his right eye, only to close it again right away. He was in no hurry to get up and that is quite normal, since life in Gibberia was such a nightmare. Anyway, in a few moments he opened his eyes for good and, still bleary, yawned and stretched; then he went over to the door to open it.

‘Be good now! Don’t forget to wash your face!’

‘Why doesn’t she mind her own business?’ said Giggles annoyed.

But, as he reached for the doorknob to open the door, a bucket full of cold water fell on his head from the top of the door covering him completely with its ice cold content. Mrs. Happyprankster had come during the night and had placed the bucket in such a way that her tenant would enjoy a refreshing shower gibberian style, when opening the door in the morning.

Hearing the cry Jokerin laughed her heart out.

‘Now wasn’t that refreshing?’ she screamed ecstatic. ‘I warned you that you should wash your face, didn’t I? Cleanliness is a virtue of kings.’

Few things are so unpleasant as such an unwanted shower so early in the morning and that’s even more so, when one is barely awake, but Giggles, whether he liked it or not, was obliged by law to laugh about that nasty prank and mean it.

Indeed the poor jester laughed and he kept on laughing, as he opened the door and crossed the hallway to reach the stair. But, when his foot touched the first step, he slipped, lost his balance and, after bumping on each and every step he met on his way down, he finally landed painfully on the lower floor on his bottom. Mrs. Jokerin had spread butter on the top step to ensure that her beloved Giggles would start his day properly. Our hero bruised and aching all over got up and still giggling he went into the kitchen.

‘On my soul, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in all my life. If I’d known you were in such a hurry to taste your breakfast, I would have brought it to you in bed,’ said wickedly the shriveled old hag.

‘Ha, ha, ha, what a piquant sense of humor! How on earth did you think of something so…so amusing, Mrs. Happyprankster? You’ve really outdone yourself,’ said the unfortunate jester with his hand still on his aching rear end.

‘Oh, come now! Sit on this here chair to catch your breath! You need it after such a fall,’ said the horrible woman.

The unsuspecting jester sat on the chair suggested to him by his landlady and of course fell right off; the leg of the chair had been sawed nearly off, so as to break when the thin jester attempted to sit on it.

New obscene giggles from the landlady, new forced chuckles from Giggles.

‘Mrs. Happyprankster, you are priceless!’ said the unhappy jester trying hard to laugh idiotically, as the law enforced by the great Ridiculous dictated. ‘What a fine sense of humor!’

‘I wish I could say the same about your heavy bottom,’ said the woman. ‘So long, my comfy little chair! I can’t stand it; I think I’ve peed myself.’

Giggles sat on another chair and Mrs. Happyprankster served the omelet that of course she had seasoned with plenty of red pepper.

But enough of the ill tasted pranks of this foolish woman! Suffice it to say that, when finally Giggles got out of the house to start his day, he was feeling miserable, unhappy, banged up and generally simply pitiful but, no matter how much he wanted to protest, to cry, to scream, he simply couldn’t do it. He had to laugh, always laugh. To avoid other unpleasant occurrences, he decided to leave the city and to find solace in the one place where no one could find him.

There was a hill for which Giggles had a special fondness.  It was called Silly- Hilly. It was a stupid name for such a beautiful hill offering a splendid view of the flowery green valley of Hogwash and of the Bozo woods but then they had pretty stupid names too.

Great Ridiculous had ordained that all the hills, lakes, valleys, rivers and mountains had to have such names. Funny names that made jesters want to laugh. Now, as to why such beautiful places had to be named so, only Great Ridiculous knew the answer. As a matter of fact the law determined that the appearance of those places had to be equally funny. For that reason certain jesters attempted to paint the Silly-hilly with red paint using a giant road roller leaving only a few pieces of green land here and there like ugly blotches. Fortunately they soon got bored and gave up, but tastelessness had sadly left its mark on this once charming hill. There were here and there big sections of earth painted with bright red color.

Be that as it may, Giggles loved it and, when no one was watching, he tried to return it to its original state using a tiny brush and some white spirit that in order to keep secret he had put in a tiny container like the small bottles in which perfume parlors sell expensive perfumes. With his tiny brush he had managed to bleach the entrance of an ant nest, a daisy and a small pebble and he was so proud of his efforts that he felt like a real rebel.

‘Little by little I’ll bleach the whole hill,’ he said full of determination. ‘A piece of grass here, a stone there I’ll make the hill green again.’

As poor Giggles was trying to get back on his feet so to speak, after Jokerin’s morning tortures, he noticed a tiny ladybug and, as it was red, he thought that most certainly it was also painted. Probably a drop of paint had fell on it and now the poor little creature was red.

Happy that he had found something to unpaint, he took out his little brush and dipping it in white spirit he started chasing the ladybug to catch it and give it its natural color back. Of course the ladybug was in no hurry to be unpainted, even more so since red was its natural color, and so it started running to escape. You also need to know that ladybugs on the planet of the jesters are very fast; so much so actually, that if a jester wants to say someone is very fast, he says “fast as a ladybug”. But Giggles, eager to unpaint something that day no matter what, started running behind it in a vain attempt to catch it, with the sole result of falling clumsily down.

Poor Giggles was so used to laughing about his mishaps that he laughed even if no one was around to see or hear him. So, not knowing what else to do, he burst into laughter. After having laughed for some time, he got up and went on to sit in his usual place at the edge of the hill. He had picked that particular spot several years ago and he liked it a lot. It was a rock with comfortable flat upper part and from there one had a great view over the surrounding valleys and over the capital city of the jesters a bit further away. From up there one could see the Great Gigglearium, where all the decisions were taken and the laws were passed which then applied to all jester cities and villages.

Great Ridiculous was there with the council of the old farts. The old farts were the most ancient jesters and in their senile wisdom they decided what was funny and what wasn’t. Needless to say, they had reached the conclusion, many centuries ago, that everything is funny except crying, a crime so heinous that it brought about capital punishment to those who committed it.

The greater criminal ever in the history of the planet was a jester that answered to the name of Dungbag Dillydally and had made the mistake of bursting into tears, when his cat Butterball had been electrocuted. He had been crying for three whole days, before getting caught and executed without a trial. In fact his case remained notorious in the history of the jesters and his unforgivable act was the reason he was given the insulting nickname “Crybaby”.

From this spot one could also discern the Great Library of Jokes, where one could read all known jokes and all funny anecdotes included in the history of the planet i.e. more than a funny-million jokes. A funny-million was a thousand silly-millions, namely a million smelly-millions and that was really quite a lot of jokes. The only one who had ever succeeded in reading them all was Great Ridiculous, since only he was immortal and for that reason, to put it plainly, he had been around for quite a long time.

From there one could also see the cane whackers headquarters. They were the police of the capital and their main duty consisted in delivering the cane whacks to those who showed disrespect to the laws of the planet, the criers and all sorts of similar outlaws and criminals.

One could also admire the great ticklearium, where they attempted to heal using tickle-shocks all those who, despite all the cane whacks they had received, remained laughless and serious. There were trained ticklers with specially designed tickling devices that could drive insane with their tickling “Crybaby” himself.

And of course we can’t leave out the great loony bin that was used to drive insane dangerously sane people. Sanity was something unacceptable on the planet of the Jesters. A real jester had to be a regular nutcase, like great Ridiculous himself, and for that reason sane jesters were forced to endure certain extremely unpleasant therapies: trying to solve unsolvable riddles for endless hours, trying to find their way out of vast labyrinths without an exit and other similarly unreasonable tortures that could drive mad sanity itself.

All this had only one purpose: to ensure that everyone would comply with the inhumane law “laugh at all costs”. Needless to say, living in such a cruel and unfeeling environment forced one to become every bit as inhuman, if one wanted to survive. Nobody wanted to find themselves in the ticklearium or in the loony bin and thus everybody laughed all the time hysterically, unbearably. They laughed horribly so much so that Giggles, though he would never dare admit it, suffered immensely when he heard them laugh that evil nervous laughter echoing in every corner of this weird city. But, no matter how much he wanted it, he could never escape from it, as it haunted him every hour, every minute, every second of his life.

Of course he would not confide these things, not even to his closest friend, since to doubt Great Ridiculous equaled treason and consequently whoever did it was to be sentenced to death following the worst torture, sixty hours of continuous tickling and only after he was certified as a total nutcase. That last part was particularly important, because, if there was the slightest doubt concerning the subject’s insanity, the execution could not take place, since sane jesters were not held responsible for their actions. According to the council of old farts sanity made you do sane things inadvertently and therefore in such a case you couldn’t be held responsible for your actions.

If, after your stay in the loony bin and after the learned doctors of the asylum assured the proper authorities that you were completely nuts, you continued to break the law, then you were a criminal and they could proceed with the final punishment.

Whatever the case might be, the only time Giggles felt a little happy was when he ascended the hill and sat on the flat rock near the tree with the violet leaves. That tree offered his shadow and a cool place to sit during the summer as well as some protection from the wind during the winter.

That day our good jester yearned for the solace of solitude. He sat on the rock and let his mind and his thoughts drift away to heavenly worlds; worlds without laughter, can whackers and wicked pranks. So far away he was that he didn’t notice that someone was watching him. Suddenly a crystal voice singing sweetly disrupted his thoughts and made him turn to face the violet tree. The song was something between the twitting of a bird and a human voice. Who could have been singing so sweetly? It was a bird but not like the usual birds; it was the most beautiful feathered creature Giggles had ever seen; with blue and red feathers covered in golden dust, an orange tuft like a glorious crown, a long graceful neck and a really impressive tale touching the ground like a long veil.

Giggles, charmed by that strange, magnificent spectacle, got up to approach the bird and have a chance to observe it better. But the bird alarmed spread its wings to fly away.

Granny's Haunted House

….What impressed me in this little girl wasn’t its determination to find out whether I was haunted or not. What really impressed me was the strange charm that I obviously possessed when seen through her innocent eyes and I have to admit that I also had liked her since our first encounter to that day.

I could see a lot of Grandma Henrietta in that little girl. And I was under the impression that she could see things through her own pair of invisible glasses that made all things look exciting, even the scary or unpleasant ones.

That was perhaps the reason why I chose not to alert my monsters and not to inform them of the investigation that was afoot and of course I would never have ordered them to scare that sweet little girl. I was however curious to find out how she would react, if she discovered one of my monsters. And there was still another reason much more important that made me act the way I did.

Since I had decided that old Signora Henrietta would be my first permanent human tenant, I knew I had to accept her family too and, in order to do that, I needed the trust and help of an ally inside that family. That little girl could be that valuable ally since, even if she were to find out my secret, she couldn’t reveal it to anyone, as most grownups don’t believe their children, even when they say the absolute truth.

So, to make the long story short, when Bianca climbed the stairway to investigate the attic I hadn’t said a word about it to my monsters yet. Most of them were boogeymen that immediately knew someone was coming and ran to hide in their usual hiding places. Rot however was chewing beetles, spiders and other similar dainty little treats near the heater and was too busy enjoying her disgusting lunch to notice anything else.

Kruntch, kruntch her heavy jaws full of huge teeth were snapping grinding and chewing in the darkness.

‘Dr. Watson,’ said Bianca trembling with anticipation, ‘I think we’ve discovered our first monster. Walk carefully because the floor is squeaky and, most important of all, don’t you even think of barking!’

With slow, careful steps the two detectives started circling Rot depriving her, like brilliant generals, of any escape route. My monster was hiding behind old mattresses and all sort of junk like hangers, old shoes and everything else that gives to an attic its familiar abandoned look.

The girl approached without making a sound, so much so actually, that Rot didn’t suspect anything till it was too late.

‘Coo coo,’ screamed Bianca and jumped in front of her.

‘Mammy,’ shouted the Abomination and Piko started barking full of joy.

‘Busted!’ screamed the little girl. ‘You are a monster, a real monster! That’s so cool! No it’s more than cool, it’s awesome.’

I don’t need to tell you that Rot nearly had a heart attack. Not only she wasn’t feared by that little girl, but Bianca didn’t even seem the least bit appalled by her ghastly, nauseating look. She thought she was awesome! Who could have imagined something so unbelievable? Even most of the other monsters in the house found the Abomination revolting and now…

‘Where is this world coming to, when the most appalling monsters can’t scare a little child?’ she thought.

After the first shock though, something like a pink shade appeared on her scaly cheeks. It might be because she was ashamed that someone had discovered her hiding place, but it might also be that she felt a little flattered by the reaction of the little girl. It’s not every day that a monster so disgusting as her hears someone say that it is awesome.

‘I knew it, I knew it,’ screamed Bianca dancing around the Abomination, ‘it’s a real haunted house! But tell me, are you the only monster that lives here?’

‘I’m afraid not,’ said Rot gloomily, ‘things would be much simpler, if I were. That stupid skeleton, Bony, also lives here and that snobby Draculeta, the vampire, who has recently discovered love or something and won’t leave us a moment of peace and that big ne’er-do-well Slimetooth and the demon Redpaw. Then there is of course Gorge and a bunch of other rascals.’

‘Yippee!’ shouted exited the little girl.

‘Now, be honest! You must fear me a little,’ said Rot a bit  offended. ‘Look how ugly and repulsive I am!’

The little girl didn’t say anything, she only looked at the Abomination once, before giving her a little peck on the chick.

Now Rot from green like poison became for a moment red like a lobster.

‘Now that we are friends,’ said the little girl ‘tell me! What is your name?’

‘I am Rot the Abomination.’

‘Great name,’ said impressed the little girl, ‘I wish I had an impressive name like that. Then children at school would come to me and say their name and I would say: I am Rot the Abomination. Yuck, they would say and they would run away and leave me alone but then of course I’d have also to look like you or it wouldn’t work.’

‘And why would a nice girl like you want other children to leave her alone?’ asked Rot.

‘Because they are stupid. The boys won’t play with me because I’m a girl and girls are just silly.’

‘Yes, but you don’t run away when you see me. Why is that?’ inquired the Abomination.

‘Because I’m crazy about monsters,’ explained the little girl. ‘The comics I read are full of monsters and my toys are also monsters. Everyone says my room doesn’t look like a girl’s room at all. Mom would like me to play with ballerinas and princesses but I don’t want to. And now that we’ve become friends, Mrs. Rot Abomination, tell me: When are you planning to eat me?

You can read for free granny’s haunted house on INKITT

Excerpt from “Granny’s haunted house”

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The knight hesitated. How could he, as fragile as he was, get out of his castle of rainbows? A single stone was enough to break him and now he was to face such a formidable foe. Impossible! On the other hand how could he leave without assistance his beloved butterfly?

Finally he reached a great decision. For the first time after centuries he would leave his castle and embark on a great adventure like a true warrior.

– But how can I reach the moon? He asked turning to the Soul. I don’t have wings like you.

After some thought she answered

– There is always the pearl road.

– What’s that? Asked the knight full of curiosity.

– Since the olden days it has been a well known fact that when the moon people are in danger the champion chosen for the purpose of saving them can travel from the earth to the moon and return from the moon back to the earth via a road of pearls. But as to when and where this road appears I cannot say. You have to look for it.

– I will, said the knight. I will save the moon people or break in the attempt. I swear.

And with those words the knight bid Soul farewell and went forth to seek the road of pearls.

He walked and he walked till he reached a river bank. There he filled his flask and continued on his path. Beyond the river there was a forest and from there forth came a terrible banging sound. It was like an avalanche or like a thousand rocks falling from the sky to the ground.

The knight was terrified. He had read about that place. From that very river bank the forest of the hammer-trees, feared by every warrior, stretched as far as the eye could see. There lived the dreaded tree giants with their enormous hammers. They pounded  the ground all day and all night and crashed like a bug whoever dared try to pass through.

Our hero shook at the very idea that he was, whether he liked it or not, to pass through that horrible place. He sat at the shade of the harmless trees outside the horrible woods, to think matters through. He had not walked further than a mere few miles when he noticed a walnut tree that looked as if she hadn’t been watered for some time. Without much thought, the crystal knight opened his flask and emptied it to the roots of the thirsty tree. At that very moment an amazing transformation took place: the tree suddenly became green and lush and full of walnuts.

– It’s not the water that quenched my thirst but your kindness, said a strange voice, accept this gift in return! The knight felt something falling on his head. It was a walnut. The walnut had dropped one of her walnuts on his crystal helmet

Excerpt from “The Crystal knight”

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Once upon a time near the caramel waterfall, far away in the otherworldly forest stood a magical hut.  In this hut lived two sisters.

The first sister, Silena, was queen of all the fireflies and, extraordinarily enough, she herself was bright like a big firefly wearing a crown of pure silver. When she wanted to summon her subjects, she would go to a nearby clearing, she would start dancing and thousands of fireflies would fly to her and create a bright cloud of strange lights and shimmers.

The other sister was the ethereal, iridescent fairy Lilidrin. Her dress had all the colors of the spectrum and her wings were white as the snow. If she wanted, she could make rain fall, create a rainbow and slide on it as if it were an actual slide. 

The two sisters envied one another and quarreled over nothing almost all the time. Their favorite toy was the wondertree, in the heart of the forest, only a few inches taller than an ordinary pear tree. Its fruits had tough skin like painted glass and in them danced an eternal flame. You had only to break one of those glass fruits and one of your heart’s deepest desires would come true.

Extract from the book “Searching for the Wondertree”

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Somewhere in a remote galaxy, on the planet of the red jesters, in the colorful and picturesque city of Gibberia, where everybody speaks fluent gibberish, there were many strict laws that no one dared defy, unless he was ready to receive ten to a hundred whacks as a punishment.

The most important gibberian law had been enacted by Great Ridiculous himself, the city founder, and could be summarized in the following phrase:

Laugh at all costs!

That doesn’t sound so bad, will think many of you. After all, is there anything healthier than laughter? But, if you think carefully, you will soon find that things aren’t as harmless as they may seem at first glance. “Laugh at all costs” means you have to laugh even when you are not in the mood to do so, when you are sad or something awful has happened to you or to your friend or to your neighbor and certainly everybody can see that is not so nice.

Now some of you will think that great Ridiculous, who had come up with this law, must not have been right in the head, but then what successful jester is completely sane? None whatsoever. People don’t call them fools for nothing.

As if having to laugh all the time wasn’t enough, there was something even worse, something absolutely dreadful you had to endure if you wanted to continue living in Gibberia: crying was forbidden on pain of death. Even baby jesters weren’t allowed to cry and so, if they needed to be changed or fed, they had to giggle and they giggled in such an annoying nerve racking way that their parents ran as fast as they could to satisfy their every need, great or small.

In Gibberia there lived the hero of this tale, a jester who answered to the name of Giggles Ticklefoot. Giggles found it extremely hard to comply with gibberian laws and for that reason he had been punished numerous times with hundreds of whacks with the cane. He hadn’t received them all at once of course, but still it was not a pleasant business. Giggles never laughed as much as the authorities would find adequate, when a flower pot dropped on someone’s head, when someone fell down or generally when something unpleasant happened to another jester.

It’s no wonder that the most popular shops in Gibberia where those that sold pranks and all kinds of materials for practical jokes: chairs with nearly sawed off legs, so that whoever attempted to sit on them would fall clumsily down, candies and treats tasting like red hot chili pepper, exploding cigars, books titled ‘A hundred fun ways to make someone trip’ and other similarly ill tasted jokes. Such tricks were extremely popular in Gibberia and jesters used to buy cartloads of them to mess with their friends and laugh their hearts out.

A store such as this was owned by Giggles’s best friend Beansprout Eggpeeler. He always advised him to laugh all the time. Idiotic laughter, he used to say, is a matter of practice. The more one laughs without serious reason, the easier it becomes to laugh at each silly little thing and spare oneself unneeded beating with the cane.

Giggles did his best to follow his friend’s advice. He tried to giggle foolishly, even when nothing even remotely funny occurred, but such a thing proved impossible. The funny thing was that it was easier for Giggles to laugh when something bad happened to him, than it was when it happened to someone else. One of the rare moments he could laugh for real was when others pulled a prank on him and he fell for it. For that reason he sought to become an easy target for all sorts of tricks and jokes. Though laughing wasn’t as easy for Giggles as it was for other jesters, he had never reached the other extreme, I mean crying.

Crying was an unforgivable act of defiance that led to certain death. In fact, even when a jester was beaten with a stick, he was forced to laugh and that naturally made the punishment even more inhumane. It’s to be expected that, when something so natural is so strictly forbidden, one has a constant desire to do it, but since no one was eager to be punished in the severe way dictated by this cruel law, they suppressed this completely natural urge to cry and indulged in all sorts of sadistic pranks and practical jokes targeted at their fellow jesters.

Giggles would probably do the same, but unfortunately for him he had a gentle character, well disposed towards others, completely out of place in this harsh, unfriendly environment. So Giggles craved a good cleansing cry and I don’t mean a light drizzle of a cry, I mean a cataclysmic cry, full of sobs and a waterfall of tears. All this years of suppression had made him almost incapable of crying, as if the muscles of his very soul had atrophied. That’s not particularly strange, if one considers that, since he was only a defenseless baby he had had to giggle, chuckle and laugh when he needed something, instead of crying like those lucky earth children.

One day not different in any way than the others Giggles woke up by the characteristic shrieky voice of his landlady, Mrs. Jokerin Happyprankster.

‘Ticklefoot, wakey-wakey, he he he, it’s already eight o’ clock; come down – why don’t you? – and taste your yummy breakfast!’

Giggles opened his right eye, only to close it again right away. He was in no hurry to get up and that is quite normal, since life in Gibberia was such a nightmare. Anyway, in a few moments he opened his eyes for good and, still bleary, yawned and stretched; then he went over to the door to open it.

‘Be good now! Don’t forget to wash your face!’

‘Why doesn’t she mind her own business?’ said Giggles annoyed.

But, as he reached for the doorknob to open the door, a bucket full of cold water fell on his head from the top of the door covering him completely with its ice cold content. Mrs. Happyprankster had come during the night and had placed the bucket in such a way that her tenant would enjoy a refreshing shower gibberian style, when opening the door in the morning.

Hearing the cry Jokerin laughed her heart out.

‘Now wasn’t that refreshing?’ she screamed ecstatic. ‘I warned you that you should wash your face, didn’t I? Cleanliness is a virtue of kings.’

 

Excerpt from “On The Planet Of The Jesters”

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