The Mayfelds arrived at nine o'clock sharp. George wore a plain herringbone suit, while Doris wore a green dress. The children were also there, wearing their very best clothes. They had walked all of fifty feet to reach the Stebbs home but, Harley noted with disdain, they managed to track mud into the house. Doris was carrying a dish, which no doubt contained another rancid casserole, which Harley took with a big smile.
Paul was wearing a brown suit he'd picked up at the mall, along with black loafers and for some reason was smoking a pipe. He welcomed his guests fulsomely, ushering them into his home with sweeping gestures. He shook hands with each of the young boys, and bowed low to the little girl- which set her giggling, shyly. Harley, unremarked by all, grimaced- unless she was mistaken, the little brat had a crush on her mist- on Paul. The thought would normally have sparked jealousy and murderous rage- but instead, Harley felt nothing at all.
Paul spent the next half an hour entertaining his guests with a variety of magic tricks and jokes. The tricks were good- Paul clearly remembered some of his time as the Joker, for Harley had never met anyone who could equal Mista J in slight of hand. He made handkerchiefs disappear from his right hand, only to emerge from his left wrapped around candy. He pulled a long rope from his trouser pocket, then made it vanish again. All the while, he recited truly ancient jokes- joker her Puddin' would rather die than say- but which were somehow made funny by the mans charisma and delivery. He finished by pulling a Christmas light from his ear, and commenting on what a bright fellow he was.
Then, dinner was served. It was a simple meal, the kind Harley did best. Her time with the Joker had taught her how to prepare all manner of sweets, but not much about main courses. Still, she had managed a serviceable pot roast, mashed potatoes with fairly few lumps, and a superb apple cobbler. This last had been hastily prepared when Paul pointed out that she had 'accidentally' ruined dessert and could she be a doll and make something?
After an hour, the children began yawning. "Oh, dear" Doris fretted "I knew this was too late for them. Kids, take momma's key and go home. Tom, you're to see to it the others go straight to bed after they've brushed their teeth."
"Yes momma" the oldest boy said, as he ushered his sleepy siblings back home "Will you be home soon?"
"In an hour or two. Say good night to Paul and Alice, kids" George said, kissing his children good-night.
"Goodnight Paul! Goodnight Mrs Stebbs!" The children chorused. It was so sweet Harley thought she might contract diabetes from the saccharine nature of the scene. Or vomit.
'Ta think' she thought as she escorted the children to the door ' I once wanted a mess'a brats just like these! UGH! I'da put 'em in a sack and tossed 'em in the river inside of a year!'
Despite her growing homicidal feelings, she forced herself to smile and wave as the brats showed themselves out.
With the children gone, the conversation turned to more serious matters. Harley sat, bored almost to tears, as Paul and the Mayfelds discussed the pros and cons of various mutual funds, and the importance of a diverse investment portfolio. She reflected on how surprised most people would be to hear the Clown Prince of Crime having this conversation- to hear him discourse at length about cost-benefit analyses, and growth rates. But she had long ago ceased to be shocked by her man's sheer breadth of knowledge.
She remembered, once, they had gone to a restaurant in Chinatown. They had been incognito, just two ordinary Gothamites out for a meal. Unfortunately, the restaurant they chose was a small one, run by recent immigrants and which primarily catered to locals. Neither the owner nor the waiter spoke English, and Harley was getting ready to leave- when the Joker started to order in perfect Cantonese. When asked about it, he had simply shrugged and said that he'd picked it up 'here and there'. That was one of the more amazing things about Mista J. He really could learn things a bit at a time, picking it up here and there- and wind up an expert. One of his many, many marvelous qualities…
Harley could feel the tears welling up in her eyes, and quickly made her excuses. She retreated to the bathroom, locked the door behind her, and started to cry. Her Mista J had been the ultimate man- the kind of man all women want. Sexy, charming, wild, spontaneous, funny, brilliant… the list went on and on. And, for an all too brief time, he'd been HERS. She knew that, even when the Joker wasn't around her, he never even looked at other women. She'd been the happiest she'd ever been in her whole life…
And she'd gotten greedy. She'd started wishing for more and something- or Someone- had listened. She'd lost EVERYTHING.
Eventually, Harley stopped crying- not because she felt any better, but because she had simply run out of tears to shed. She washed her face, touched up her makeup, and returned to the dining room. Back at the table, Paul was regaling the Mayfeld's with tales of his college life. He paused when Harley walked into the room.
"Alice" he said, his voice tinged with concern "Are you feeling all right? You were gone an awfully long time."
"Oh, I'm fine Paul" Harley said, with a small laugh "Just…a touch of indigestion, that's all."
"Well, if you're sure…" Paul said, and turned his attention back to his guests "Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. So, there I was, hanging upside down from the ceiling in the Dean's office…" Paul's story went on, and Harley listened with half an ear. It was a fairly entertaining story, in its way- full of the usual bawdy, self-deprecating humor that characterizes most college anecdotes-but not a patch on the Joker's usual epic tales of murder, mayhem and hilarity.
Harley endured the tedium for as long as she felt she could, then excused herself to the kitchen to make some tea. She didn't know how much more of this she could take! She looked at the clock, sure that it must be midnight or close to it- late enough for her to end the evening by claiming to be exhausted. But no, it was only quarter to eleven and still too early. She put the kettle on the range, and sat down to wait.
Her thoughts drifted to the future. She had already decided to leave in the morning, but not where she would go. Her choices were pretty limited- her family had disowned her long ago, she couldn't hope to make a living on her degree ever again, and most of her old friends were long gone. Basically, she could go to Gotham and hope that either Red or Professor Crane were in town to help her, or she could go back to Arkham and let the doctors there try to help her. Not help her to become 'sane'- she knew that she had always been sane- but to get her life on track. Arkham Asylum offered numerous programs designed to help the newly-released reintegrate into society, including job training, housing placement, and career advice. They'd helped Arnold Wesker put together a normal life- however briefly- maybe they'd be able to help her.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a shriek from the dining room, quickly silenced. Then, she heard George Mayfeld screaming.
"OH MY GOD! DORIS! WH-WHAT THE HELL DID YOU- AAAARGGH!!"
Racing to the dining room, Harley was stunned by what she saw. Doris sat slumped in her chair, her head kept off the table by the large knife protruding from her right eye. George sat ramrod straight in his chair, pinned to the back of the seat by the fork in his neck. At the head of the table, Paul- no, she realized with growing joy- the Joker sat, seemingly unaware of his companions, with his feet crossed on the table, and one finger picking his teeth. At the sound of the door, the Joker turned to see Harley.
"Ah, Harley, there you are" the Joker said, as though nothing had happened at all "Take out guests out to the garage while I get the makeup remover. I'm done playing for now"
"P-Playing? Puddin', what…" Harley said, unable to believe this.
"Yes, playing. I thought I'd see how the lemmings lived, sample the suburban life. It's not something I've ever done before…at least, I don't think I have. Anyway, I'm done now"
Though she was relieved that her man was back, Harley felt herself filling with rage. "Y-ya mean…ALL THAT WAS JUST A GAME?! I went through HELL the last couplea days, I thought I'd LOST YOU, and it was just a stupid GAME TO YOU?!"
Before Harley could even register the movement, the Joker was right in her face, his long nose pressed to hers. He shoved her back against the wall, and leaned closer still. "Exactly Harley. It was a game, something to amuse me. Is that a … problem?" The last word was low and menacing, almost a growl.
"No, Puddin'. Not at all, Puddin'" Harley couldn't stay mad at him, not now. She had her Puddin' back, and that was all that mattered. As she grabbed Doris's body she heard the Joker head upstairs to the bathroom, presumably with the makeup remover she kept in her purse.
By the time she got George into the garage, the Joker was waiting. His face was bone white, his hair was acid green, and he was once more dressed in his favorite suit. He had a big smile on his face.
"Harley, I want to thank you. You made this game SO much more interesting. You were the perfect sitcom wife…plus, that pratfall was exquisite! Especially the cherry on the nose! HAHAHAHAHAHAAA!"
"Th- Thanks Mista J! I been working on my tumbling!" She said, basking in the warm glow of the Joker's praise. "What are we gonna do with the neighbors, Sweetie-Bear?"
"Hmmm" the Joker lifted George up by his collar "Tsk, tsk, tsk. George, George, George. Overindulging in alcohol is fine when you're young, but at your age you really should know better. But worry not, we'll help you and the missus get home safe. Hmmm… you'll have to lose some weight, first… HARLEY! Get into some proper clothes, and put your face on" The Joker moved to the toolbench and picked up a hacksaw. "Then get in the car, and get ready to drive"
Outside, Harley Quinn waited for her love to return. She wore her costume, and her face was painted perfectly. She saw the Joker exit the garage, a large black garbage bag hefted over one shoulder, striding purposely towards the Mayfelds house. He stopped in front of the large picture window, and stood for a moment. Then he began to spin, extending the sack, before tossing the bag through the window. "HEY KIDS!" He yelled "Come see what old uncle Paul brought you!" Then he raced to the car and hopped in.
Cocking one hand to his ear, the Clown Prince of Crime waited, snickering. Soon, three voices screamed shrilly.
"MOMMA?! DADDY?!" One voice, a girl's and more vocal than the rest, called out. This sent the Joker into hysterics.
"YAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Drive Harley-Girl, drive! HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAA!"
The Mercedes roared off into the night. Without needing to be told, Harley took the onramp to the highway, and drove in the direction of Gotham. For a time the only sound in the car was the Joker's rollicking laughter. Eventually, even that slowed to chuckles and eventually to silence. Soon after, Harley pulled the car over.
"Harley, why have we stopped?" The Joker asked, wiping tears from his eyes "Oh, don't tell me you're still angry about my little game."
"No, Puddin'. I wanna tell you somethin'." Harley turned to look at her man, her face solemn "Ya remember how I dream about us makin' a family together? An' settling down?"
"Yes" the Joker sighed, rolling his eyes. He was NOT in the mood for another of Harley's dreams.
She always did this- she would go on and on and on about this idiotic fantasy of hers. God only knew how much worse it would be now that they'd played at the real thing. He was somewhat surprised when his moll leaned over and hugged him.
"I changed my mind! I don't want anya that! I just want us to be Joker and Harley, forever an' ever an' ever an' ever!"
"Well, it's nice to see you're finally starting to wise up, Harley-girl. Now, drive on! My audience awaits!"
The car raced along the nearly-empty highway towards Gotham City. Harley knew that the next while was likely to be uncomfortable. Her Puddin would ignore her, she'd be beaten by the Bat and his brats, she would be cold and hungry, and would most likely end up back in Arkham within the month. She was happy.
I know that some of you will no doubt be disappointed by this ending. You will have expected something more- a deep psychological study, an intricate master plan, or some such. But, the reality is, this whole story began with one vision. I saw, in my minds eye, the Joker sitting at an ornate dinner table surrounded by dead bodies. The vision looked cool so I thought 'How can I make this scene a reality? How did he get to this point?' And so Suburban Fun And Games was born. It was never supposed to be more than a funny little story.
But then reviews started coming in, and it was clear that you saw more in my story than I had intended to put there. That's the reason this update was so long in coming- I was desperately searching for an ending that wouldn't seem anti-climactic. But I couldn't think of one that pleased me so I went with my original plan. If you expected more, or better, please accept my apologies.
Oh, and I can TOTALLY see the Joker doing this. His life is basically lived by the motto "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" (with respect to Aleister Crowley), and the idea might interest him- a wolf, not just wearing sheep's clothing, but living as a sheep. I doubt he remembers the events of Going Sane, at least not on a conscious level, so it would all be new to him.