Stop Me If You've Heard This Before

Is there anything more touching than a little girl trying to win her daddy's approval? Just heartwarming. Welcome to Sally's world, where every day is Father's Day...

Stop Me If You've Heard This Before by Michelle Ann King

Sally took her place in the center of the kitchen and bounced lightly on the soles of her feet. She shook out her arms and stretched her neck, trying to force the muscles to relax. It was all right to be nervous. All the best performers still suffered from stage fright.

“Okay,” she said, “here we go. You're going to like this one.”

She paused, unhappy with how thin and weedy her voice sounded. It had no resonance, no projection. But then this was just her father’s kitchen, not an auditorium. She had to make allowances.

She coughed to clear her throat, took a couple of deep abdominal breaths and collected her thoughts, mentally rehearsing the delivery of the punch line. She would get it right this time, for sure.

She raised an imaginary microphone to her lips. “Okay. So, three men walk into a bar. There's a Scotsman, an Irishman, and that bloke who used to play Grant Mitchell on EastEnders and now does all those documentaries about gangs and pirates.”

In his chair at the back of the room, her father shrieked with laughter, tears running down his cheeks.

Sally dropped her arms to her sides. And yet again, he’d managed to get it wrong.

“That's not the funny bit,” she said. “That’s all I want from you, to laugh at the funny bits. Is that so hard? So much to ask?”

This was what happened, every single time. No matter how easy she tried to make it for him, how clear she tried to be about her needs, he just didn't get it. What kind of father couldn't support his daughter's dreams? Couldn't even laugh at her jokes?

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I… I’ll do better, I promise. Start again.”

Sally walked over to his seat. She shook her head and replaced the duct tape securely over his mouth. His head began to droop so she cut another flap of skin from his neck to make sure he was paying attention.

His eyes went wide and he screamed again, the sound muffled this time. She poked him with the knife a few times and the scream degenerated into a series of choking, gasping noises. It actually sounded reasonably like laughter.

Encouraged, Sally patted his shoulder and went back to her place. “Okay,” she said, composing herself and putting her professional smile back in place, “listen up, because you'll really like this one.”

Michelle Ann King lives and writes in Essex, England. Her work has appeared at Shotgun Honey, Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, The Molotov Cocktail and others. Links to her stories can be found at

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