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  • Jedediah Smith

The rooster variations

Jedediah Smith

The suit plumber

A suit plumber opened his shop for its first day of business. The OPEN sign had

not stopped swinging before customers began to arrive.

The Mayor marched in wearing gabardine and announced, this suit leaks! To prove

it, he lifted a sleeve and one hand after another dripped out. Landing on the floor, they

slithered like octopi, climbing shelves, unscrewing joints, penetrating reserve tanks, and

getting into everything.

A ventriloquist complained about his dummy whose plaid suit appeared to be

stuffed with steaks. I can’t get a word out of him, he said. I think his suit’s clogged. Work

for the snake, eh?

A detective needed the piping on his twill suit adjusted. The hot and cold run

backwards, I think. I think I can no longer tell salt water from sweet. Perhaps the jacket is

inside-out, but who could ever tell?

A sweaty frogman hobbled in, dragging his feet several feet behind him, shouting,

My alligator shoes have gone swampy! I live in fear of moccasins!

Ready to close, the suit plumber saw himself come in.

You’re a fraud, he said. All the fabric of the universe is full of holes. It won’t hold

water. Monkey with them all you like, you’ll only wrench them wider. You’ll fall through.

I can plumb that abyss, he said and so saying, he looked back at himself and

straightened his tie.

Not a lion

When his wife gave birth to a sea lion, the husband did a backflip. He danced on a

rainbow striped ball shouting, Our fortune is made!

He took his baby sea lion out on the road. At first people who had read of the birth

came to see their act, but quickly the crowds thinned.

The sea lion does nothing, one said. It's a baby yet to learn tricks.

Yes, another agreed. It just sits there and stares with those wet brown eyes that

seem so suspiciously human.

No no, look, the father shouted, balancing a chair's leg on the tip of his nose. See?

He is my son. Soon he'll be able to do this.

Everyone turned and left. Except for a circus ringmaster who shook his head and

said, Shame on you. That's no sea lion. Your child is a seal.

True love

A man presented his wife with a fake mink fur coat as an anniversary present.

Why a fake mink? She asked.

You don't want a real one, he told her. They are so cruel, and we have so many

mink friends. What would they think of us?

A few days later, the woman told her husband she wanted a divorce.

Is there someone else? he asked.

Yes, I met a real mink. He was attracted to my fake mink coat.

But then your love is based on a lie.

Oh no. We have so much in common. When we met, he was wearing a fake you coat.


Recently retired, Jedediah Smith taught literature, mythology, and history at the City College of San Francisco. His books include The Gunslinger in Technicolor, a poetry chapbook and How to Make Verse, a translation of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s book of poetics. More of his work can be read at


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