Mr Laurel Skis 

Stan would rather be skiing than doing this. 
That’s what he tells the nurse, when she leans in, 
And maybe he has been planning to go out with a joke, 
With one eye on the epitaph and his reputation as movie history’s funniest. 
Or maybe it’s the pain of the needles – he is so tired of the needles –  
And he really means it; injury on the slopes would be better than this. 
But I’d like to think there’s something more to his words. 
Something more intrinsically Stan. 
He is, after all, the man who has kept writing all those years 
In Suite 203 of the Oceana, 
Even when the act he was writing for could be no more. 
His friend with the bowler hat and the tie twiddle no longer around, 
But there in spirit, in routines unfilmed. 

Oh, you should see the one in the hotel lobby with the donkey. 
With Stan and his flugelhorn, with the rope tied round his waist, 
With the donkey perched on the promontory outside 
And every expectation that a blow on said horn would equal 
One startled donkey scampering downhill 
Followed by Stan’s swift demise. 
You should see what happens to his friend this time –  
Because it’s always his friend who gets it –  
Who falls through the trapdoor or disappears face first into the snow. 
Stan wishes he could see it. 
Which is maybe why he has carried on writing it. 
Which is maybe why he is thinking what he is thinking now. 

“I’d rather be skiing than doing this,” he tells the nurse. 
“Can you ski, Mr Laurel?” she asks him, expecting the punchline. 
But not this punchline. 
“No, but I’d rather be skiing than doing this.” 

If he has to have final words, could they be more perfect? 
If we could all of us bend reality to let the Boys have one last movie, 
Wouldn’t it be a swell set-up? 

Oh, Stan – we really would rather you were skiing. 
Especially if you invite your friend, Mr Hardy, along too. 

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