Noisy Water Review

Laughter

Claire Cancilla

The laugh began at the front of the theatre. It started with the guffaw of one man. The laugh knew this was all it would take. It had targeted this man, knowing that he would be easy to overtake. As the echo became fainter, the laugh, slippery thing, slid into the orchestra pit. It encircled the conductor, wrapping itself around him. The conductor chuckled, a deep noise that surprised the laugh coming from such a small man. The laugh sidled down to the floor of the orchestra pit and climbed onto the legs of the first violinist. Trying to hold in his giggle, the violinist snorted once, which echoed throughout the orchestra pit, causing the string section to wave as they tried to maintain focus. Soon, the laugh had covered the entire pit with its invisible presence.

It oozed through the first row, through the plush chairs, and into the laps of the people sitting there. The man on the end, with the red bowtie and a salt and pepper goatee, snorted. The woman he was sitting with, who was clearly not his wife, laughed, to hide her discomfort. The woman sitting next to her, wearing a diamond the size of a small egg, knew that she was not his spouse, because she was on the theatre’s board with his wife. She giggled because she knew she could use this information to blackmail his wife into giving her the Bainbridge Luncheon. Her husband, a balding man with a double chin, was dozing. At the sound of his wife’s laughter, he woke up, aware that something was happening. He too joined the ever growing chorus of laughs, assuming that a joke had been told. The laugh continued content in its work. The three college students next to the balding man looked at each other. The first let out a guffaw, and the others followed, although they only pretended to understand the joke. Their laughter was not real. The laugh disapproved of false joviality. Disgusted, it turned its attention elsewhere.

The laugh sidled to the second row. This group was harder to please, the laugh observed. It had to work harder. It slithered over the row, coating each person with an understanding of the joke. Then, it focused on each individual in the row, gliding with more intensity. The chuckles gained momentum, creating an overwhelming sea of noises, like a freeway during rush hour. The used car salesman, in the middle of the row, wearing a white suit, chortled loudly. The man next to him glanced up in surprise, and giggled, quite daintily, at the seemingly uncharacteristic display of joy. The laugh smiled.

Like dominos, the third row started to laugh. This row was easy. The laugh only had to surround each person once. The laugh glided to the fourth row. It quickly made its way through the fifth, the sixth, the seventh, rows, leaving behind it swells of laughter. Soon, all 53 rows were chuckling. The room was full of different laughs, guffaws, giggles, sniggers, chortles and chuckles, that somehow unified into one sound that made the thin walls of the theatre vibrate. The laugh had worked quickly. For one moment, the entire room was laughing in a single instant of unity, overwhelming the noises of the cars outside, the actor’s next line, and the rustling of programs. 

Just as quickly as it began, the laughter began to subside. As the room became quiet, the laugh began to fade, no longer slithering, but merely disappearing. The man with the red bow tie began to think about whether going in public with his companion had been a good idea, as the woman next to her was staring intently at him. His companion wondered how much longer the play would be, oblivious to the woman next to her, who was now staring at her. That woman thought about how she would expose this outing; whether it should be at the luncheon, or even more public, perhaps with the woman’s children in the room. Her husband noticed the receding laughter, and his eyelids began to droop. The three college students had already stopped laughing entirely, and were texting on their phones.

 The laugh could feel itself becoming weaker. The second row stopped, then the third, the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh. The laugh knew that it was only as strong as the last person laughing. When she became quiet, the laugh disappeared from the room entirely. The entire audience was quiet, with only the noises of the actor’s lines, the cars outside, and the rustling of programs.

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