Concertgoers live in a world they believe to be loud and free. But there is, unheard by most, an outer world, a barrier between in and out, just as loud but not as free as they thought — the world outside a venue, where the door guy simply wants you to pay the cover charge. Take a spin in the head of Tin Roof’s door dude, Rex Stickel as he takes you on a journey with The Joke.

In the beginning, there was nothing. Which seemed perfectly fine.

And then …

There was everything. Dust, star dust, particles, pieces, fragments too small for a telescope to see. Swirling chaos, as it was intended. No rhyme or reason, no particular order, no plan. The infinite crashing directly into possibility. As if infinity wasn’t enough, the entire damn thing is expanding.

A bang, a really big bang was said to be the cause. It didn’t create only the universe we know and live in. It created all the universes and timelines, all at once.

It happened all at once.

Across all planes of time and space, in each and every reality all at the same time.

He’s an older man, silver, not quite a fox. Like most his age, his duty had been a career. Of course, he was a father, a husband, a partner. “Silent partner,” his wife would jokingly say with an elbow, a punchline he had grown to smile at over the years instead of in spite of. He was here now. It’s been a ride, but I’m here. The voice of his long-gone father never far from his ear. It’s not until you see a stranger in the mirror do you realize what’s important. The people you’ve been providing for, ignoring. Not anymore. Time to grow up, Dad chimes in.

He’s been summoned before, to rehearsals, practices, sports games of all sorts over the years. He’s filled plenty of bleachers among the popcorn chewers, the gum poppers. He’s stood in line for port-o-johns and autographs, spent time amongst the masses. Out. He has seen life as the herd. But this moment, happening across all known and unknown dimensions, was different. He had something to say.

It was here, outside, in the draft of the world when it hit him. His fingers ruffling through the folded bills in his wallet, absentmindedly counting to make sure he reached the same number he had just been told. The thought stopped him in his tracks. And then the smile. First keeping it to himself, for himself, but soon quickly shedding any facade possible of holding it back any longer. He’s going to say it.

Me: “Yeah man, the cover is $7 a piece.”

The man allows the smile to take over his face as he considers his companions. Of course this wasn’t his idea, but his wife’s cousin was in town getting married and this is what you do in these situations — what you’re told. But this moment, he was taking back. His fingers let go of the money inside his wallet. His gaze now fixated completely on me.

“Say, now how are we supposed to know that you actually work here?”

This is it.

“… and not just some guy out here collecting money?”

Laughter. Spilling over like a shaking beverage in the hands of a toddler. First sloshing but now flowing, delighted suppressed laughter, now coming from all directions, all previous tensions obliterated by this moment, happening now across all worlds. I feel it happening. My eyes roll back.

My lips crack into a smile.

My smile cracks into a grin.

I start to laugh.

I’m laughing into infinity.

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