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The Joke is on you!


Chuck Grant was an introvert and a work-o-holic. His wife was a little less so. Chuck had a Ph.D. in economics and had just begun to climb the corporate ladder of an international concern. His wife Debbie was a physician and was ambitiously studying to become a psychiatrist. They possessed a bungalow with a nice garden and each sported a new car. Their plan was to get their careers going, have a beautiful villa, secure their financial solvency, and then they would think about having a child.

Fate was with them and fulfilled their dreams, Chuck had become chief economic adviser of a daughter company and Debbie had finished her studies for psychiatry. Now it was time for the last point of their agenda to come to fruition. And indeed one day it was proved that Debbie's womb had borne fruit. She exulted over the fact that she was a mother-to-be. Then one day a baby boy was born. They named him Johnny. Their joy was complete. But Chuck's economic acumen had not gone unnoticed by his superiors at the central think tank of the international. He was wanted at the head office. So they moved to the Big Apple and purchased a plush apartment. His salary increased significantly, so much so that he could help Debbie to set up shop as a psychiatrist specializing in family matters. They increased their insurance portfolio so that they were covered for just about any eventuality.

Johnny was a delicious little boy, His eyes sparkled whenever his parents looked at him and he had such an attractive lock of blond hair. When everything was said and done, he remained the center of attention. His parents hired a live-in maid for him and for their large flat with its impressive view over the City. One day the time of kindergarten had arrived. His parents asked him what he desired most, thinking he would ask for a new bike or some other thing. But he asked specifically for three pink ping-pong balls. Chuck and Debbie thought that odd, but they shrugged it off as simple childishness. His father took care of the business, and his mother gave him a wonderful bicycle. For of course he had to have a normal gift like all their acquaintances gave to their children. Johnny loved to play with his pink ping-pong balls. Chuck taught him how to give them a special effect so they would roll back. John loved it! He guarded the balls with his life, but unfortunately the maid stepped on one and crushed it. Never had his parents witnessed such an outburst of fury in their otherwise so docile child. Days went by before John accepted the fact that anybody could have misfortune in his life. From then on he kept one ping-pong ball in his room in a safe place and the other one he always carried along to play with. However an older boy at school who was jealous at the fine clothes and shoes John was always wearing, took it from him and trampled it under his feet before Johnny's very eyes. From that day on they were enemies. Our little friend had only one ball left. It never left his room. John never closed his eyes before having glanced at it for the last time.

Elementary school came along and again his parents asked him what he wanted most. It proved that ping-pong balls were still foremost on his mind. He demanded this time four red ones. His father took care of it again and his mother gave him an expensive model train. But he did not play very much with the train. The ping-pong balls fascinated him most. Again his father and mother shrugged it off as childishness. They reasoned also that it was because he had had bad luck the former time. Anyway they had no complaints. Johnny was a very obedient boy, and though he was not exactly an infant prodigy he was always at the head of his class. His parents suggested he join a table tennis club. Johnny did so, to please them, but he gave it up quite soon.

John went to high school and once more Chuck and Debbie asked him what he wanted most. This time he asked for three purple ping-pong balls. His parents raised their eyebrows and tried to dissuade him. But the harder they tried the more he insisted. They had more difficulty now to shrug it off as childishness. In fact they started to get a little worried. But all things considered their boy was every inch normal. On top of that they were happy with their careers. Chuck had become a member of the board, and duty made him a globe trotter. Debbie had established quite a practice. Why worry about a few ping-pong balls? So his dad took care of it once more and his mother presented him with a multiple speed mountain bike. John stayed at the head of his class all through high school.

Graduation time arrived and John graduated with the best results of all students. As family custom prescribed, his parents asked him again what he would like to receive, but it was not without misgivings. John answered that he would like to have two soft blue ping-pong balls.
  "Just for the heck of it," he added, to prevent his parents from worrying. They said nothing, but that evening they had a long discussion in bed. They concluded that they would consult a famous psychologist who specialized in adolescence. The learned man found it also rather strange. They arranged a meeting between John and the professor. They talked for about two hours and the high brow found nothing wrong with John. But he did not get to know why John was so obsessed by colored ping-pong balls. Tests also showed that John was every fibre an all American boy. The professor told Chuck and Debbie not to worry. According to him John had simply an eccentric tick, very rare indeed, but nothing to be afraid of. So his dad gave him the balls and his mother proudly bestowed a sports-car.

John went to university. There had been various universities that had offered him scholarships, but of course he chose Harvard. Like his father he opted for economy. He raced through his studies almost effortlessly, and obtained his Bachelor's without problems. In another year he added his Honors thesis. As always he had been a good fellow. He did not drink excessively, did not smoke, stayed away from drugs, and did not even chase girls. This time he asked for green ping-pong balls. His parents did not mind any more. His father gave them and his mother added a signet ring with the family escutcheon. John continued his studies and obtained his Master's maxima cum laude. This time he asked for a brass ping-pong ball on a stand. His dad supplied it and his mother gave him a huge allowance so he could go over to England and do his Ph.D. at Oxford. With not too much difficulty he finished it in four years. He met a fine girl and persuaded her to come over with him to the States. His parents had become very rich. His father had become president of the company. His mother had sold her practice for a large sum. They were living in a mansion. John married the girl. As a wedding gift he asked for a solid silver ping-pong ball on a gold stand. His father took care of it and his mother gave them a nice apartment.

John was helped into the saddle by his father and got a comfortable niche in the company at the head office. It did not take long and he proved his worth. He and his wife were not so demanding though. She simply stayed a domestic engineer and devoted her time to music, Not long after their first child was born. John's parents became grandparents. They were very proud!
  "Son, anything you ask for will be yours!"
  "O dad, I would very much like to have a solid gold ping-pong ball on a stand of pure Venetian crystal."
  "Consider it given, son!"
"And I will pay for toys and baby clothes," his mother added.

Time went on and John and his wife got twins, a boy and a girl. They called them Chuck and Debbie after their grandparents. At the same time they were married for twelve and a half years. John's father had retired in the meantime. His parents were so proud that they presented him with a solid platinum ping-pong ball on a gold stand.
  "We wanted it to be a surprise," they said, hiding a little bit of embarrassment.
  "I thank you both very much. It's terrific!"

Then one evening John was out late for an important meeting, which did not proceed the way he had liked to. On his way home he did not pay enough attention, tired as he was. A collision took place and John landed in the hospital. He was unconscious for about two days, then he regained consciousness. Quickly he convalesced. When he was in reasonable shape he returned home to gain more strength. His parents visited him.
  "Why did you always love ping-pong balls so much?" they asked, mustering all their courage. For John had always refused to talk about it.
  "Yes, why?" his wife chimed in. "Is it because the spherical shape has a particular meaning in the New Age movement?"
  "No, he was fascinated by them from early childhood," his parents interrupted."
  "Why then? Tell me, if you love me!"
  "I'll tell you, dear." And now his parents and his wife were practically hanging on his lips.
  "It was because," and here he stopped for a second.
  "Yes, it was because," his parents said, bending forward.
  "Because...," and then John gurgled a strange sound and died from internal injuries the doctors had overlooked...




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