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Kangaroo Court

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 “Don’t give us that cock-and-bull story,” the prosecutor said. “We can wait till the cows come home. Let’s talk turkey.”

“You’re trying to throw me to the lions,” the accused said.

“You’re in the doghouse all right, but I’m giving you a chance to keep the wolf from your door.”

“It’s a fine kettle of fish I’m in.”

The prosecutor was impatient. “Just grab the bull by the horns.”

The accused had to tell the truth. “That night it was raining cats and dogs, so I stopped in for some Wild Turkey–”

“You were at that bar at 6:15 p.m.,” the prosecutor interrupted, “but I guess the early bird catches the worm.”

The accused continued. “I ruled the roost … I was the cat’s meow, and there were plenty of fish in the sea. Besides, though my wife watched me like a hawk, when the cat’s away, the mice will play.

“But I guess birds of a feather flock together, because my wife was there too, with him. And that was a horse of a different color. Though he was strong as an ox, I didn’t play possum. They had really gotten my goat. Maybe it was like closing the barn door after the horse had run away, but I’d have been a monkey’s uncle if I had let sleeping dogs lie. They were bees in my bonnet, so like a bat out of hell and in two shakes of a lamb’s tail I was next to them.

“‘Every dog has his day,’ I said to him. I waited for her to eat crow.

“But she said, ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.’ And then, adding insult, ‘Monkey see, monkey do.’

“He waved his hand at my breath and offered, ‘Hair of the dog that bit you?’

“‘It’s for the birds!’ I told him. Right then I’d quit cold turkey.

“‘Get off your high horse,’ my wife said.

“But he assured her, ‘His bark is worse than his bite. Besides, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,’ and he hugged her.

“He had been my best friend, but I guess only a dog is man’s best friend. I saw that he was really a wolf in sheep’s clothing. So was she. He’d been to my home countless times, like a fox in a henhouse.

“I wanted another chance, but my wife said, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and a leopard can’t change its spots.’

“So I flipped them the bird and left the bar.”

The prosecutor was silent as a mouse, but then he asked, “Like water off a duck’s back, is that what you’re saying?”

The accused nodded. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world.”

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I’m giving you a chance to feather your own nest.”

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink … but I miss my wife and wish she were alive. Him too.”

“Spare me the crocodile tears. You know what I think? I think you felt like a black sheep, that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And I also think your wife was a white elephant, that you wanted the lion’s share of what you’d squirreled away for yourself. It’s sad, because she was a real warhorse, the goose that laid the golden egg. But to you she was just a fly in the ointment, wasn’t she?”

The accused cleared the frog from his throat, and asked, “You really think that I would kill her?”

“Does a bear shit in the woods?”

“But my marriage was a sacred cow.”

“What kind of snake oil are you trying to sell? You knew that there was more than one way to skin a cat, didn’t you? You decided to kill two birds with one stone, didn’t you? Didn’t you? We want to know.”

“Curiosity killed the cat,” the accused answered.

“That might be, but the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

“Don’t put the cart before the horse — I don’t see any witnesses. They’re both food for worms, sleeping with the fishes, gone the way of the Dodo.”

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The chickens sure have come home to roost. And an elephant never forgets.”

The accused shifted uneasily. “I thought I smelled a rat. What stool pigeon turned me in? Where’s the snake in the grass?”

“You’re a sitting duck,” the prosecutor said.

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I believe you like I trust the boy who cried wolf. Your threats are a paper tiger.”

“This is more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” the prosecutor said, laughing like a hyena. “Let me introduce to you a canary that can sing, a woman with more lives than a cat — your wife.”

She walked into the courtroom and sat in the back row.

The accused said nothing.

“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?” the prosecutor asked.

The accused was a deer caught in the headlights, and decided to cooperate. “You’ve been a busy beaver, and I see that my goose is cooked. I guess there’s no choice but to fish or cut bait.”

But the judge had heard enough, and said to the prosecutor, “It looks like you have all your ducks in a row.”

And the accused howled in horror and was taken away in chains, to spend the dog days of every summer after in a cage not fit for an animal.

Scott Stein is editor of When Falls the Coliseum and author of the novels Lost and Mean Martin Manning. His short comedic fiction, book reviews, and essays have been published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Oxford University Press Humor Reader, The G.W. Review, Liberty, National Review,, Art Times, and Reason. He is a professor of English at Drexel University. Scott tweets @sstein. His author site is

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One Response to “Kangaroo Court”

  1. (Grinning like a Cheshire cat)

    Looks like you’ve been horsing around!

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