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When Jokes Are In The Genes

by Mary Jo Shannon

A study of the Shannon genome would reveal, I suspect, that the Y chromosome contains a specific gene for playing practical jokes. These Shannon males play “good jokes” – ones that do not harm persons or property but add humor and spice to daily life. John, our youngest, most certainly received this gene from his father. An entire column would be needed to enumerate the countless examples of John’s practical jokes, as many of his friends and colleagues will testify, so I’ll save that for another day and focus on an example of such behavior by his father, my husband Harry. Harry has an unusually close relationship with Skip, our son-in-law. They enjoy each other’s company, and spend hours discussing basketball, football, work, and other mutual interests. Skip is especially fascinated with wines and far more knowledgeable than we are on this subject. He reads magazines devoted to wine enthusiasts, visits local and foreign vineyards and wineries, and knows which wines are best to serve with various dishes. In fact, he has become a true wine connoisseur, as well as an excellent cook and we enjoy the meals he prepares and serves on special weekends at the cabin.

On one occasion several years ago when we were visiting Skip and Kathy at their home in Cary, North Carolina, Skip showed us a case of expensive wine he had just purchased  He was especially pleased that he got a discount on the case, and intended to keep this wine to give as gifts to clients. He carefully placed it in the closet for safe keeping until needed. That’s when a diabolical thought entered Harry’s mind.

The next day while Skip was at work, Harry hurried to the grocery store and purchased a bottle of “Night Train,” the cheapest wine that Kroger had for sale — $1.99. Then he conspired with Kathy. They removed one bottle of the expensive wine, Kathy agreed to hide it where Skip would not be likely to find it, and Harry replaced it with “Night Train.” They were careful to glue the box top so Skip would not know someone had tampered with it.

Months later, when Skip opened the case to remove a bottle, he noticed that one bottle was different.

Kathy came running to see what was wrong when she heard him scream.

“Someone cheated me!” he shouted. “Either someone at the winery or someone at the store thought they pulled a fast one. I’m going to the store first, but I won’t stop until I get this straightened out.”

“Slow down,” Kathy warned him. “Talk to my father before you do anything rash.”

“What good will it do to talk to Dad? What can he do about it?”

“Just talk to him,” Kathy said calmly.

Skip respects his wife’s opinions and usually takes her advice, so he called Harry and told him what had happened. He was astounded at Harry’s burst of laughter. When Harry explained his joke, Skip admitted it was a good one. He was relieved to see Kathy had retrieved the good wine and was presenting it to him with a big smile on her face.

 This joke is, of course a favorite story at family gatherings as we laugh about the time Harry really got Skip.

If only Harry could have gotten the cheap stuff in that fancy bottle . . .

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