Jokesmith by

….“Making snide comments like a vicious troll is easy, but comedy is hard.”


My friend Chris posted this on the Humoristic website. Maybe it’s a stretch to call Chris my friend. We messaged and agreed to meet halfway, which he determined as the Taco Bell on River Bottom, near the abandoned Miracle Mall. It’s closer to his apartment, but with Chris it’s my way or the highway, and I don’t have that many friends. In the real world. Basically, Chris.


I pull into the parking lot a minute early and cruise all the way around. I look for a red Mazda Miata, which is how Chris described his vehicle. I don’t see it, so I park and wait. No vehicle of that description enters. Tired of waiting, I get out of my Ford Escort and go inside. I scout the dining area, and there’s this guy. He sits in a corner wearing a flannel shirt and a baseball cap. He has a chubby face and a smug expression.

“We’ve been expecting you,” he says. Nobody else is there.

“Sorry I’m late, except I was really here.”

“Don’t be sorry. Be a winner.”

“I looked for your Mazda Miata.” It turns out Chris drives a clunker that isn’t even red.

“I don’t give a hoot about fancy cars. It was a precaution, in case you were a dweeb.”

We stand in line, Chris in front. He’s short and impatient. He orders a Combo Supreme and a Mountain Dew, which looks like green snot.

“Too obvious,” Chris says. “You need to give the green a twist. Compare it to absinthe. Imagine, if you will. Paul Verlaine sits alone at a table bolted to the wall and nurses a glass of Mountain Dew.”


We’re back in our corner. Chris talks with his mouth full. He dribbles.

“Keep up with the news. Practice in front of a mirror. Learn a routine and tweak it. What is your angle?” He does a tough-guy impression.


“My angle?”


“Acute or obtuse.” He laughs.


“I want to be funny, but improv and standup scare me.”


“Live onstage is no big deal.”


“Where do you perform?”


“I’m a jokesmith,” he says. “I know what makes people laugh.”


“I write lines on flash cards. I repeat them over and over.”


“What you need is a fresh take.” Chris holds a taco up for inspection. He wafts it under his nose like a fine cigar.


“Why is the taco nature’s most perfect food? The crunchy shell and the smooth filling. The spicy ground beef and the tang of fresh onion, offset by the bland and creamy guacamole.”


My burrito tastes good, but maybe I missed the boat. Chris puts the fingertips of his free hand to his lips. They burst apart like a big kiss.


“The juxtaposition of disparate sense impressions.”



Robert Boucheron is an architect in Charlottesville, Virginia. His short stories, poems, and essays on literature and architecture appear in Bellingham Review, Fiction International, Saturday Evening Post, and online magazines.


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