Once there was a little girl who, sadly, developed an infectious laugh. This may sound like a nice thing, but it wasn’t. Every time she found something funny and started laughing, everyone around her felt compelled to join in and laugh until they felt sick.
All the laughing also left them susceptible to catching giggle pox. The whole town was immunized against them before she started school. Even so, it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone laughing at random intervals only to notice them scratching at little pink smiley faces trailing up their arm or across the bridge of their nose. An infectious laugh isn’t very nice at all.
At home, the little girl was called Mary, even though the rest of the town called her Little Miss Please-Don’t-Laugh. Her family loved her very much, and tried to raise Mary to be a serious child. They watched documentaries with her, read to her from the dictionary, and discussed philosophy at the dinner table.
Unfortunately, Mary had a naturally sunny disposition, and she managed to find the humor in even the most serious situation. There were days that her family spent so much time laughing themselves sick that they couldn’t eat anything from sunup to sundown. On one of these days, Mary’s mother laughed as she packed a large picnic basket of treats and managed to send Mary to go visit her grandmother for the day.
“Have fun,” she gasped out in-between chuckles. “Don’t talk to strangers. Come back in the evening after we’ve had a chance to rest. Give grandma a big hug from us.”
Mary happily took the basket and skipped out the door. She loved visiting her grandma. Grandma always let her stay inside and watch cartoons while she was busy outside hanging up the laundry or working in the garden. Mary loved cartoons. They were so much funnier than documentaries about the life-cycle of metamorphic rock.
On her way through the woods, Mary met a talking wolf. “Hello, little girl, where are you going?” he asked.
It was just like in the cartoons! She laughed just thinking about it. The wolf laughed too. “I’m going to grandma’s house,” she said cheerfully.
The wolf, still laughing, darted off into the forest. Mary chuckled and continued on her way. A talking wolf! It was so funny.
Grandma already had a basket of laundry waiting outside. Cartoons already! Mary squealed and hurried inside. Grandma wasn’t in the kitchen or living room. Was she in her bedroom? Mary knocked on the open door and skipped inside.
“Grandma?” she said, looking around. Grandma was in bed, but she looked so funny! Her face was all furry and she had big teeth. Mary smiled widely and took a deep breath.
“Little miss, please don’t laugh,” Grandma said in a scratchy voice.
“That’s me!” Mary said, and she laughed and laughed and laughed.
Grandma laughed too and stumbled out of the room. She came in a little later, looking a lot more like herself. “Mary, you saved me from the terrible wolf!”
“What terrible wolf?” Mary asked.
“Never mind. Do you want to watch cartoons?”
And so Mary watched cartoons and ate the treats that her mom sent over. Grandma turned down her hearing aid and finished hanging up the laundry.
Not many years later, Mary temporarily grew out of her infectious laugh. She became a teenager and played angry music and sighed and rolled her eyes whenever anyone said anything funny. The town celebrated.
When she grew up a little more and went to college and another town had to be immunized against giggle pox, the townspeople all smiled at the news. “That’s our Little Miss Please-Don’t-Laugh.” They raised enough money to send her far, far away for an internship when she finished her degree.
Mary found a job in her new city and settled down. The townspeople breathed a sigh of relief. Except when she came home to visit. Then they laughed themselves sick, of course.