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The Floating Statue
    by David Lubar

The Floating Status
Artwork by Lance Card

As corny as this sounds, I found the statue in the back of my uncle's attic. I know that seems like some weird twist on Narnia, but at least it wasn't in a wardrobe or some kind of closet. I discovered it in a box of junk. It was a statue of a man laughing, and it was so ugly it was wonderful. The guy had his mouth wide open and he had these huge buck teeth. His smile was so big that his eyes were squished into nothing much more than slits. He had one hand raised like he was about to slap his knee. And he had wings. They were tiny wings, folded flat against his back, so small I didn't notice them at first.

He stood on a base that had three words engraved in it: "Rise with laughter."

At the time, I had no idea what that meant. I almost put the statue right back into the box where I found it, but instead I brought it downstairs with me.

"What's this?" I asked Uncle Dalton.

He peered over the edge of his newspaper. "No idea. It's ugly. That's all I can say. My father -- your grandpa -- collected all kinds of junk. Someday, I'm going to clean out that attic."

"Can I have it."

"Sure," he said, this time without even looking over the top of his paper.

"Thanks." I took the statue with me when I left. Uncle Dalton lives just a couple blocks away from me.

It was on the way back that I found out what was special about the statue. I was less than a half a block from home, and looking at the ugly thing, when I said, "If you were any uglier, I'd get arrested for carrying a deadly weapon."

It wasn't a great joke. Actually, as I figured out a bit later, it was a good thing the joke wasn't that funny. At the moment, all I knew was that my feet weren't touching the ground.

I felt like I'd just stepped onto extremely slick ice. I looked down. I was floating. I wasn't very high -- maybe just an inch or two above the ground -- but my feet were definitely no longer in contact with the sidewalk.

I was so startled that I let go of the statue. It fell from my fingers and hit the grass at the edge of the sidewalk with a thud. The instant I let go, I fell too.

"Weird." I bent down to pick up the statue, but I hesitated. I wasn't sure what had just happened, but I didn't want to float away. I touched it with one finger. I touched it with two fingers, and glanced at my feet. Then I picked it up, ready to drop it again right away if anything happened.

Nothing happened.

I read the inscription on the base again. Rise with Laughter.

Could it be? I let out a laugh, but I didn't rise.

I decided to tell another joke. Most of the time, I have no trouble thinking of jokes. But if I have to think of one quickly, I usually go blank. The best I could do was an old joke. "What's the difference between boogers and broccoli? Kids don't eat broccoli."

Yeah, it was old and sick, but I smiled a bit. And I started to rise from the ground. I drifted a bit higher this time. I guess even an old joke is better than the one I made up earlier. When I looked down, I saw that my feet were about three inches above the sidewalk. I waited a few minutes to see if I'd come back down or rise higher, but as far as I could tell I just stayed at that height. When I let go of the statue, we both dropped to the ground again.

This was getting interesting. Almost right off, I thought about two kids I knew -- Sheldon Shildkret and Arnie Loomis. Sheldon was the best joke teller I'd ever met. He was always cracking everyone up. He could also do great voices. He was the only kid I knew who could do perfect imitations of all the best cartoon characters. And he did a hilarious impression of our gym teacher, Mr. Gutwhistle.

Arnie wasn't a joke teller like Sheldon, but he was always playing tricks on people and doing other funny stuff. I'll never forget the time he dipped the tips of all of Mrs. Tolbeck's dry-erase markers in this stuff that kept them from writing. You couldn't tell anything was wrong by looking at them. She almost went crazy trying to put our lesson on the board. Finally, she ran down the hall to borrow some markers from Mr. Bordon. She never did find out who'd done it, but the rest of us knew it was Arnie. I wondered what would happen if Sheldon or Arnie got his hands on the statue.

I had a funny feeling that I might be able to float higher if I told myself a better joke. It would be fun rising another foot or two. I thought hard, trying to come up with the funniest joke I could remember. I couldn't think of anything. Then I realized I could test the statue another way. I just had to come up with a joke that was a lot less funny than the broccoli joke. That wouldn't be hard. Almost any of the jokes I remembered from when I was little would be less funny than the booger-broccoli one.

I had it. I remembered a totally stupid joke. "A skunk had two kids. They were named In and Out. How did she tell them apart? It was easy. Instinct."

My feet barely left the ground. I held onto the statue for a while, waiting to see if I'd come down. Once again, I just floated. Finally, I opened my hand. I came down right away. I didn't even have to drop the statue. All I had to do was flex my fingers so I wasn't holding it.

I wondered how high I'd go if I told a really funny joke. Maybe I didn't even have to tell a joke. Maybe I just had to hear one. When I reached my house, I didn't go inside. I continued down the block to the corner.

That's where Arnie's house was. And he was home. Better yet, Sheldon was there with him. "Hi, guys," I said, walking up to the porch.

"What's that?" Sheldon asked, pointing to the statue.

"Just something I found in my uncle's attic," I said. "Nothing special."

"Don't be modest," Sheldon said. "Anyone can see you posed for it."

He chuckled. Arnie chuckled. I felt myself starting to rise. It wasn't a great joke, but I definitely felt my feet leaving the ground. I flexed my hand, letting go of the statue for just an instant. I didn't open my hand enough so the statue dropped. But the loss of contact was still enough to bring me back to the ground.

"Let me see," Arnie said, holding out his hand.

"It's kind of delicate," I said.

I expected him to argue. But he just shrugged and said, "Okay."

Sheldon pointed to the steps. "Have a seat."

I joined them. Every time Sheldon said something funny, I had to flex my hand before I floated up from the steps. Finally, I got tired of that and put the statue down next to me. I couldn't figure out how to test it without them knowing what it did, and I wasn't sure I wanted to share that information with anyone just yet.

"Hey, I got something to show you," Arnie said a while later. He went inside, then came back out with a catalog from a place that sold all kinds of practical-joke items like pepper flavored chewing gum and rubber vomit. "Check it out. This is fabulous."

I flipped through the catalog. Arnie was right -- it had some really great stuff in it. When I was finished, I handed it back to him. As I turned toward him, he jerked his hand away from the statue. I guess he'd been just about to snatch it. Maybe it was time for me to take it home where it would be safe. I could find some stand-up comics on TV to hear funny jokes.

"See you guys later," I told them as I grabbed the statue and stood up.

Arnie looked at me and grinned. "You aren't sticking around?"

"What's so funny?" I asked.

"Nothing," Arnie said, but his grin didn't go away. "I just figured you'd be stuck here for a while."

"Hey, I know what's funny," Sheldon said. "Arnie took his dog to a pet show. They gave the dog a trophy for showing up with the best monkey."

I laughed so hard I almost forgot to open my hand and let go of the statue. My laughter stopped dead in my throat when I realized I couldn't move my fingers.

"Got you," Arnie said. He held up a tube of glue. "Sticks to anything," he said. "Sorry, I couldn't resist. It's no big deal -- you can get it off with paint thinner. I've got some in the garage."

My feet were off the ground. I grabbed the statue with my other hand to try to pull it free. That hand stuck, too. I jerked and pulled, but it was no use. The glue was really strong.

"Hey, relax," Arnie said. "It'll come off. I told you, all you have to do is use some . . ." He stopped suddenly.

I guess he finally noticed that I was no longer standing on the ground. I'd risen six inches already, and was still drifting higher.

I ended up about a foot above the ground.

"Awesome," Arnie said when he'd regained the ability to speak. "How are you doing that? Is it some kind of trick?"

For a moment, I wondered whether I should lie. It might be better if they didn't know how it worked. But I couldn't think of a believable lie, so I told them the truth.

That was a mistake.

"Why'd the kid put his finger in his nose?" Sheldon asked.

"Stop it . . ." I said, still trying to pull my hands free.

"He wanted take-out food."

I was rising again. I guess, if I didn't let go of the statue after each joke, the height just added up. "Sheldon, please, no more."

"What's the difference between a fart and fifth grade?" Sheldon asked.

"No! Stop!"

He ignored my screams. "A fart only stinks for a minute or two."

Next to Sheldon, Arnie was laughing and slapping his leg. He looked alarmingly like the statue. Except he wasn't rising.

I was. Sheldon told a funnier joke. And then another. I rose even higher. I was probably about ten feet off the ground. My future looked bleak. I'd either rise until the air got too thin to breathe or I'd drift until I starved.

I pulled my knee to my chest and put my foot against the statue between my hands. I pushed down hard. I could feel the glue pulling at my fingers. I knew I had to get it over with all at once, like ripping off a Bandaid. I let out a scream and kicked against the statue with all my strength.

Oh man. I can't even describe how much that hurt. I looked down, past my bleeding fingers. The statue was stuck to the bottom of my shoe, now. I toppled over. For an instant, I felt I was falling. No such luck. My topple was cut short by a tug. Now, the statue was pulling me up by my foot.

I used my other foot to pry off my shoe. I managed to kick it free.

The shoe and statue fell.

I fell.

I hit the ground right next to Arnie and Sheldon. The statue clobbered Arnie on the head.

Arnie staggered like he'd been clobbered on the head with a falling statue. Actually, I think it was the shoe that hit him, since the statue didn't stick.

My body ached where I'd slammed into the ground. My fingers burned where I'd torn off all that skin. But I couldn't help it. I laughed. I pointed at Arnie and laughed until my stomach hurt a whole lot more than the rest of me.

Arnie bent down and picked up the statue. He still looked pretty dazed. The shoe was still attached to it. So were Arnie's finger's now. That was some pretty impressive glue.

"Look," I said to Sheldon. "Arnie has a stat-shoe."

Sheldon laughed. So did Arnie. "Stat-shoe," he said, repeating my words.

It wasn't all that funny, but it did get his feet off the ground by an inch or two.

"Good start," Sheldon said. "Mind if I take over."

"Not at all." I sat back and enjoyed the show. I might be half-barefoot and bloody-fingered, but at least I had both feet on the ground.

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