The moths who had sampled your loin wares found that they could not digest them
Happy Birthday Fred Allen
Had he not died in 1956, American comedian Fred Allen would be turning 122 today. To celebrate, a letter he wrote in 1939 to one of his closest friends and most frequent correspondents, Joe Kelly, who had recently left a pair of swimming trunks at Allen’s home. This letter can be found in the book, Fred Allen’s Letters, alongside numerous other gems including the previously featured classic, Five Accidents in Two Minutes. That book is long out of print, but a copy exists at the Internet Archive. Enjoy.
Old Orchard Beach
August 25th 1939
Dear Mr. Kelly,
You will learn here that in your great haste to flee the hospitality rampant at 5 Odena you departed leaving a pair of wormy swimming trunks about the premises.
The moth-eaten girdle hung on the line until twilight set in. I was ashamed to be seen taking this chastity band in the house and it seemed best to wait until night had started its fall before sneaking out on the back veranda to salvage your gear.
I approached your trunks warily as they were surrounded by a busy covey of moths. After a stiff battle the woollen jockstrap was brought indoors; try as I might I could not fend off the moths who formed a flying wedge and bore down on me inside the house.
As I reached around for a late copy of the Biddeford Journal to fashion a truncheon with which I hoped to rout the closet-butterflies, my attention was caught by an undernourished moth who clung to the seam of your garment heaving and wretching no end. Closer inspection showed that he was trying to cough up a frayed end of your trunks he had swallowed. As I watched him straining to spew I noticed a strange thing. The little fellow racked with spasm was aiming his oral cavity at a small hole in your neptune drawers. Then it dawned on me. This was no truss sabotage. Closer inspection showed that each moth had a dusty talon down its tiny throat intent on coughing up shreds of your kelp-knickers. Each moth had its oral cavity aimed at a ragged aperture. Why? I asked myself. Like a veritable flash, Mr. Kelly, came the answer.
The moths who had sampled your loin wares found that they could not digest them. Gastronomic repentance set in and here they were assembled for the collective purpose of coughing up their spoils and fitting their gastric contraband back into the gaping holes they had made in former moments of epicurean weakness. Impressed by their good intentions I abandoned the moths to their work of reconstruction and the following morning, when I looked again on your swamp-leotard, I was happy to find the many holes in your garment filled in and hundreds of tired moths lying about the crotch sound asleep.
At the moment your hip-cloth reposes in the lower drawer of the Grand Rapids portable cupboard that stands southeast of the door as you enter our chamber. If not called for within thirty days this navel awning will be sold at auction, or mailed to your next of kin.
Or at any point since.