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A Money Maker
by Michael A. Kechula

Entering a tavern, I heard the bawdy punch line from a farmer’s daughter joke.

Three mangy-looking guys at the bar howled.

Swaying on a barstool, the bald one asked, “Hey, Pal. Got a good joke for us?

“Nope,” I said. “But I know an interesting story.”

“Let’s hear it,” said the bartender.

“Two years ago, I found a red coconut.”

“What’s so interesting about that?” asked a toothless patron.

“This one could talk.”

“Oh sure. What did it say?” asked the customer wearing suspenders.

“That it’s name was Ralph. Then it started to quote Shakespeare: ‘To be or not to be. Beware the Ides of March.’ So I put a sign on my house. Hear Ralph The Talking Coconut Quote Shakespeare. Only 25 Cents.”

“Did you make lotsa money?” asked Toothless.

“Only three dollars. So, I asked Ralph if he could sing. I couldn’t believe my ears when he sang opera. He sounded better than Pavarotti.”

“Any coconut that can sing that good gotta be worth plenty,” said Bartender.

“That’s what I figured. I contacted a theatrical agent. He said, “What a fabulous voice! But, I can’t book opera-singing coconuts. I got some openings for ventriloquists in Las Vegas. Maybe you could act like you’re a ventriloquist. Paint a funny face on the coconut, put it on your lap, and have it tell raunchy jokes.’”

“Did you do that?” asked Suspenders.

“Yeah. But not without a struggle. Ralph refused to be the dummy.”

“I don’t blame him,” said Toothless. “You musta hurt his feelings.”

“He was furious. He said the only way he’d join the act was if HE was the ventriloquist, and I was the dummy.”

“Did you agree?” Baldy asked.

“Yeah. We were a big hit in Vegas. Made $10,000 a week. Then suddenly, Ralph got laryngitis. X-Rays showed he’d developed coconut-itis, a rare incurable disease. Buried him a month ago. Not far from here. Things ain’t been the same since.”

Suspenders dabbed his eyes with a grimy handkerchief. “Give the man a drink on me,” he said. “That’s the saddest story I ever heard.”

“I’ll have cognac,” I said. “Best you have.”

“I guess it’s rough not having your coconut around,” said the bartender.

“Yeah. We were real close.”

“So, whadda ya gonna do now?” Suspenders asked.

“I ain’t sure. Maybe I’ll look for another singing coconut.”

The boozers pushed money toward me. Looking downcast, Toothless said, “Buy flowers for the coconut’s grave. Just say it’s from the boys at Harry’s Tavern.”

“Thanks. Ralph would’ve appreciated this. He would’ve sung something nice for you.”

“Have another drink on us,” Baldy said. “It’ll help ease the pain.”

When I left twenty dollars richer, the drunks were brawling over whether or not coconuts had souls.

It was so easy to con booze and money from drunken half-wits.

Next week I’ll visit taverns and tell the story about the orphaned elephant I adopted. The one that read palms. Until he lost his sight because of global warming.