It’s a chilly Sunday, and I’ve joined the early-morning scrum for the organic veggies down on the market. I’m just loading up my bike when one of the homeless guys wanders over to watch. He’s neatly turned out with a blazer over his jumper, and a woolly hat pulled down low onto his eyebrows.
“Here,” he says. “I’ve got a joke for ya. What’s got 99 legs and limp?”
I look at him for a few seconds, then with a twinkle in my eye, I say, “Surely you mean, ‘What goes 99-clonk, 99-clonk?’”*
He looks at me, and thinks for a minute. Then, matching me twinkle for twinkle, he starts to laugh.
“Yeh,” he admits. “You’re right. 99-clonk! Anyway, I’ve got another. What have you got, that I haven’t got? And I don’t mean anything sexual,” he adds, hastily.
“A bike?” I guess. He shakes his head.
Wondering if this is leading into a request for a donation, I decide to tackle it head on.
“Well, yeh,” he says, suddenly sheepish. “But not that.”
I run through several other possible options, from the veggies I’m carrying to the gloves I’m wearing.
“Nah, nah,” he says, “I’m not gonna tell ya. Well, alright … I’ll tell ya. But only because I like ya.” Pausing for dramatic effect, he affects a triumphant tone, and says, “A ladder!”
I look at him for a moment, perplexed.
“But I haven’t got a ladder…”
“Haven’t ya?” he says, equally perplexed.
“No…” I say, and there’s a moment’s silence, before we both burst out laughing.
“I tell ya what,” he says, as we exchange pleasantries and wish each other a good day, “you’re just my kind of woman, y’know that? Just my kind of woman.”
And I smile.
*For the uninitiated, this time-old joke refers to a centipede with a wooden leg. Yeh, I know, I know…