A PRIVATE JOKE REVEALED
Phil was sitting at his desk, wondering if his close friends Mark and Annette had returned from their latest quest, when the phone rang.
“Hi, Phil, we're back.” It was the calm voice of Annette that broke the silence.
“Hello, Annette, how did it go?”
“Too close for comfort,. We nearly didn’t make it this time. If it hadn’t been for Rachel and her eagles, we would be dead. The evilness had us trapped and exhausted.”
“It sounds as though you two deserve a good rest.”
“We're good now, thanks. We've been back a week and have had time to go over a few things about our relationship.”
“Oh! That didn’t sound good.”
“We had to have a good talk. We were too close to the end at Wharfemere.”
“I'm glad to know you are back, safe, if not too sound.”
“It's good to be back, and the extra few days off have given us new hopes for the future together.”
“Good to hear that. Annette, he loves you and needs you.”
“I don’t know, I can’t connect this week.”
“Does that feel like another North Moor?”
“No, this is worse! He just won't talk about it.”
“I'm sorry. I've only known him do that once or twice, and each time you have to let him come around, in his time.”
“I'll do that. I just hope it doesn’t take too long, I miss him.”
“I know; we all do. Have you any idea when you may be coming over?”
“It will probably be another day or two as we need a bit more time to get over Wharfemere.”
“That's okay. Take all the time you want. I hope to see you two soon.”
“Phil, we'll look forward to it. Before you go, Mark said I can ask you about the joke you shared.”
“Oh! That goes back to one of those charity walks the celebs do. Katy Morgan was always complaining about the heat, sweat and dirt. After he had enough of her whining, one day he dropped his camera on the sands and shouted, ‘You think you have problems. Try lugging these cameras around, hearing you losers whining all day and getting no credit for our work. You never think of the poor people out here, sweating twice as much, just so you jerks can be seen by your fans at home.' Then he dropped the camera and called to the crews, “Does anybody else feel this way, you are welcome to join me. I’m taking the jeep back, getting a shower and then I’m going home.”
“Was that why he stopped filming for years?”
“It was a good part of it. He was also sick of the whole scene, parties, papers and celebs-that to him is not why he is a photojournalist.”
Annette laughed, at the thoughts of what she had just learned about the man she loved, “Right. I must go, I have things to do. Thank you for explaining the joke for me, I bet it caused a stink, in more ways than one.”
“Okay, give me a call when you want to me to come over. Bye, Annette.”
Now that Phil’s mind was slightly at ease, he could start to relax. Yet the startling news that Mark was sliding back again was so worrying. The last time, it took Phil weeks to get him out of the darkness that he had wrapped himself in. Phil had something he wanted to ask Mark and Annette. He called the house phone and all he got was the engaged tone and a background hiss. All day, the deadly silence played on his mind. When it got to the point he couldn't bear the silence any longer, he decided to drive out to the house.
Walking down the stairs to the car park Phil was wondering, “Why didn't they answer the phone?” He got in his car and drove the journey to Mark's house in silence, so worried he forgot to put the radio on. The car turned up the drive to the house forty minutes later. Phil got out of the car and walked up to the house. Having been given the front door key by Mark for emergencies like this, he let himself in.
“Mark, are you here?” Phil called out to an empty house.
Walking around the ground floor, Phil saw signs that Mark hadn't been himself: cups on the table, papers left out with strange equations written on them. Phil decided he needed to get his friend back to normal before it was too late. Looking around the kitchen, he found an old broken broom. “This will be good to tap on the hatch,” he thought.
There was no answer, which was more worrying. In past times, this meant he was locked in the attic. A place he only went when things were so bad he had to be alone. Slowly walking up the wooden stairs, Phil thought he heard a noise in the back bedroom. He was tempted to investigate but thought better of it, Mark was far more important to him. Standing under the loft door, he gave it a hefty thump. “Surely he would hear,” he thought, as he hit the hatch twice. But there were no signs of the hatch opening. “Mark, can we talk this out!”
Slowly, the hatch inched open. And Mark stood bathed in sweat hell and panting “What the hell have you been up to?”
“I'm losing it, Phil!”