Shelby and Jayjay giggled just at the thought of Ashley breaking pose to tell a joke.
Jason nodded behind his camera. “That’s good, Shelby, good, Jayjay,” Jason said. “Go with that.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Nate said. “No jokes, Ashley. Please. Just pose. Jokes later.”
“Kirk, Spock and Scotty walk into a bar,” Ashley began.
Nate sighed. Shelby and Jayjay stared. Jason continued taking pictures.
“Kirk, Spock and Scotty start drinking heavily,” Ashley continued. “Kirk gets drunk first and kisses Spock and tells Spock he’s always wanted to do that. Spock gets drunk second and kisses Kirk and tells Kirk he’s always wanted to do that. Scotty gets drunk third and beats the hell out of Kirk and Spock and tells the bartender he’s always wanted to do that.”
Ashley burst out laughing at her own punchline.
“I don’t get it,” Jayjay said.
“That’s not even a joke,” Shelby said.
“Okay, can we get on with the pose now?” Nate asked. “Can you just be still now?”
Ashley caught her breath. “Scotty beat up Kirk and Spock,” she said.
“It’s not funny,” Shelby said.
“It is funny,” Ashley said.
Nate looked at Shelby, “Don’t get her going,” Nate said.
“It’s a good joke,” Ashley said. “I made it up. It’s mine. It’s funny.”
“Nate,” Shelby said, “tell a real joke to show Ashley what a joke is.”
“Listen,” Ashley said, “I told a real joke!”
“Is anyone going to pose today?” Nate asked. “Are we going to just write off a morning’s work?”
“Nate, tell a joke,” Shelby said, “and then Ashley will see what a real joke is and we can all get back to work.”
Nate sighed again. “Ashley, will you get back to work if I tell a joke?”
Ashley said nothing. She glared from Shelby to Nate.
“Nate,” Shelby said, “tell a joke.”
“Okay,” Nate said. He thought for a second, then sat up straight on his drawing horse. “The last time I was in Las Vegas, one evening I was standing around outside a casino wondering why my roulette system wasn’t making me rich when a beautiful hooker walked up to me. She leaned real close and whispered that I should take her home. She told me she could show me a real good time. She said her friends called her ‘Listerine.’ I said, ‘Listerine? That’s an interesting nickname. Your mouth smells very fresh.’ She said, ‘Mouth? Is that where you’re supposed to put that stuff?’”
Shelby and Jayjay laughed. Jayjay clapped her hands. “I got that,” Jayjay said.
“See?” Shelby said, to Ashley. “That’s a joke. That’s funny.”
“Oh, you guys are all wet,” Ashley said. She straightened up, completely breaking her pose and looked out at Loch Ness.
“Ashley!” Shelby, Jayjay and Nate all yelled.
“You guys are all wet,” Ashley said, again. “You guys are all wet and I’m going swimming.”
“Ashley,” Shelby said, “that water’s freezing! It’s like forty degrees or something. You can’t go swimming!”
“Ashley,” Nate said, “that water is something like six hundred feet deep! Do not go in the water.”
“I’m going swimming,” Ashley said. She turned her back on Nate and the others and started walking toward the loch.
Nate looked at Shelby, Jayjay and Jason. They looked back. For a split second everyone just looked at each other, then they all ran after Ashley. Jason kept his camera to his eye and continued snapping shots as he ran.
Nate caught up to Ashley first. He put a hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off and continued toward the water.
Shelby stepped right in front of Ashley. Ashley walked into Shelby, as if she were trying to walk through her. Shelby braced her hands on Ashley’s shoulders and studied her face. “Ashley, are you alright?” Shelby asked.
“I want to go swimming,” Ashley said. “I wanted to tell a joke and I did. Now I want to go swimming. And I will. Leave me alone. Why shouldn’t I do what I want to do?”
Nate, Jason and Jayjay stood behind Shelby.
“What’s gotten into you, Ashley?” Jayjay asked.
“Why shouldn’t I do what I want to do?” Ashley asked, again. “Leave me alone.”
Everyone exchanged glances. Nobody knew what to say. Then Jayjay pointed. “It’s that ratty sweater,” Jayjay said. “I bet Ashley is having some kind of allergic reaction to the fabric or some chemicals in it or something. She can’t think straight. It’s the sweater. Let’s get her out of it.”
Shelby and Jayjay immediately grabbed for the bottom of the sweater.
Jason glanced over his camera and looked at Nate. “Nate, do you think?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know,” Nate said. “I don’t think—”
The instant Shelby and Jayjay touched the bottom of Ashley’s green sweater, Ashley began screaming.
(Ashley And The Green Sweater concludes tomorrow)