When Henry was two years old he ran down his street naked and screaming at the top of his lungs. Everyone always found it the most hilarious story. As amusing as her found it himself, he couldn’t help but be embarrassed by his forgotten, youthful self, even at still a young age. His mother said he had the strangest manner about him at the time. She said he did appear to be afraid of anything, despite flailing his hands about in the air. And he didn’t have a look of fear at all on his face, more of curiosity. She liked to think, so she said, that her little boy was performing an experiment. He wanted to know how everyone would react to such a sight, and the fact that it wasn’t with total lack of horror was the reason, she claimed, that he hadn’t done it since then. Otherwise she was sure he would be this instant, whichever year right this instant might be.
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One day little Henry heard a joke at his school. Being only eight years old he often felt that humour was slightly beyond him, and attempted, on occasion, to put forth a joke with no clue as to the actual entertainment in it. All he new was that jokes made people laugh.
That evening, when his mummy came home and wandered into the kitchen, placing her handbag on the counter, Henry toddled over to her, his neck bent up high and he spoke.
“You don’t really need an umbrella, do you?”
“Because it doesn’t rain between the bedroom and the kitchen.”
Henry held his breath for the burst of laughter he’d been anticipating all afternoon. Millicent froze. Wide eyed, she looked at her son, her cheek twitching. She tried to think of what to do, but when she couldn’t, she hurried up the stairs, bewildered, searching for her husband.
The couple sat Henry down. The boy had no idea what was wrong with the joke, but he was aware he was now in trouble for it.
“Now, Harry,” began Millicent, but whatever she’d hoped to end the sentence with never surfaced. Immediately she burst out laughing. Her face turned a light red, and tears welled in her eyes. Alexander was quite still and confused for a moment, but the infectious hilarity got to him before long.
Henry was delighted! His joke had set them off and amused his mother to no end! He giggled hysterically. They all laughed together for a long time.
The evening was in good humour from then on. At one point Millicent asked her son, “Do you understand that joke you told us, sweetheart?”
“Not really,” he said.
She laughed again.
“OK, darling, I’m sorry but I don’t think you should tell anyone that joke anymore. It’s quite naughty, really, and you’re lucky Mummy had such a good reaction to it. But it’s probably best that we keep it between us, OK?”
It was several years before Henry would attempt the joke, and when he finally understood it, he found it to be the most hilarious thing he’d ever heard.