The first story in my debut collection The Lookout and Other Stories is “Gone Fishing,” an absurd romp at the dentist’s office where our hero Seamus prays to survive his hygienist/tormentor so he can go fishing at the lake. Here’s the cut off:
She released the chair’s lever without warning. Seamus’ body dropped a good two feet, practically giving him whiplash. She turned on the blinding interrogation lamp as the words “last chance” flashed through his mind.
Right after this point is when the games begin.
This is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written because, as they say: drama is easy, comedy is hard. I originally wrote the story in a humor writing class taught by comedian Shelley Berman, who is most recently recognizable as Larry David’s father in the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Everyone was nervous on the first day of class because we all knew this was “the funny guy,” which meant we didn’t want to be unfunny in front of him. We loosened up during that initial lecture since it was basically three hours of stand-up about the history of humor.
Throughout the semester he would laugh as we read our work aloud and would sometimes offer the comment, “It’s good. Just next time, make it funny.”
The workshop required a steep learning curve and was one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had. So, thank you, Shelley. Without your input, “Gone Fishing” wouldn’t be nearly as good.