But here is part two of my short story, "The Puppet Show". The final part will come next week, and unless there will be a problem with New Year's Eve online traffic or such, I'll have it posted by next Wednesday. If you are just tuning in for the first time, you can read part one at this link here. Enjoy and have a Merry, Scary Christmas! Or for the ones who don't celebrate Christmas--Happy Hallow-days!
The Puppet Show (Part II)
by Steven Rose, Jr.
The two of them had been touch-up painting the huge paper mache Buddha on the stage while discussing their future career goals in theatre. Manuel imposed, “I like stage crew work but I want to make my own plays. My own plays, not somebody else’s. Most of the plays here have been made by someone else other than the director, huh?”
Mariana said, with a sad but compassionate voice, nodding, “Yeah. I think every theater needs its own plays and playwrights. I get kind of tired of acting the characters that someone else has acted. I think that’s another reason my mom wants me to go into directing plays instead.” Then she laughed, “She’s afraid I might be told what to do too much by male directors who use actresses as sex objects for their shows. But I never wanted to make shows; ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to be other people in other worlds. But I’d like to be new people, other people who no one else has acted out before.”
Manuel said, “So you wanna play in premieres?” He was very delighted that he was talking to a girl who may one day be the actress in a world premiere play. He dreamt of directing that very same play with her in it.
She said with a tone of common sense, “It’s all actors’ and actresses’ dream. I don’t expect it to happen, although I believe there’s a very small possibility that it could. But I’ll take whatever I get. Just as long as I can act. I’m addicted to acting,” and she laughed childishly. Yet pretentiously.
As the two of them collected the rubble of the movie theater after having pried apart all of its planks, Manuel examined the sour face on the Motown-greaser girl. She kept hurling each piece into a steel bucket that she carried. The few facial features that resembled Mariana’s was the smallness of her mouth, of her nose, and the wideness of her eyes; these were the child-like features that never seemed to change on her. This girl was Mariana. Like the other boys who played with his mind throughout all his childhood and adolescent years, she was playing with his mind. She was in costume, in theatre make-up, to avoid him. Like all the other boys throughout his childhood and adolescent years pretended to be his friends, but when they would ask him to go on lone errands for them they would then ditch him, she was basically doing the same thing. All of a sudden, Mariana was all boys of his entire childhood, and all girls of his adolescent years who made themselves absent from his life because of his loner identity. But this bitch did not fool him. Not this time. But she was good trying to do so. She was very good.
Even though he felt like a mad man encountering a total stranger, he immediately asked her, “What happened that night we were going to go out?” Even though he figured out that this girl was Mariana incognito, he felt intrusive. Suddenly, without saying anything, Mariana strutted, gripping the steel bucket, into the backstage blackness behind the back curtain.
Manuel raised his voice from where he stood saying, “I don’t know what kind of a fool I am to you, but you can at least answer my question.” But there was no answer. Only the silent backstage blackness looming behind the back curtain. Without thinking, he strode after her.
He did not see her anywhere. He quietly walked downstairs to the dressing rooms but all the lights were out. He flicked them on, and peered into each dressing room in which, fortunately, each one was open. He would have felt very uneasy if he had to knock on any of them. Nobody was down there. He climbed back up the stairs to the backstage area.
Still Mariana was no where to be seen. All he saw was the black brick wall, a few old decaying props, and two doors. One of the doors was an exit and the other, hidden in a black corner, was a small, bright orange, wooden door. He remembered hearing the faint slam of a door just after Mariana walked to the backstage. It could not have been the exit because it would have sounded louder since it was made of metal. He knocked on the orange door. No answer. But he did hear, from within, a noise like that of something being slammed onto a wooden table, something that rattled as it hit the surface. He walked back to stage front to see if Mariana was anywhere on the cat walk. He could not see anybody nor anything but the infinite blackness of the high ceiling. Then he walked back to the orange door and knocked on it a few more times, but there was still no answer. He was about to turn the knob until he noticed the small brown rectangular sign saying, “NO ADMITTANCE.” The only place she could have gone was through that door. But the sign said nobody was allowed in.
Ever since Manuel walked into the girls’ locker room out of curiosity, at his cousin’s gymnastics tournament when Manuel was five, he respected signs. He had been whipped by his father and yelled at by his mom in front of the spectators and gymnasts for walking into that locker room. Ever since then, he respected signs in the way he respected live authority, in the way he respected Church, state, family and friends . . . . What friends? Who ever respected him? His life had been nothing but shut doors from childhood friends’ Anglo parents whenever he asked if he could play with those friends, nothing but shut doors when he would ask girl acquaintances out after walking them home from school while he was in junior high, in which those were shut doors which never opened again, and now here was just another shut door! No one had ever asked him in!
He cursed all those shut doors, shot his hand out to the knob and attempted to turn it but it would not turn. He pounded on the door violently. It swung open only a few inches and an old man peeked out shouting, “What do you want?” He had thinning gray hair, a bushy mustache, and brown skin. He wore wire thin framed glasses and suspenders that clinched to the shoulders of his early 20th Century red and white striped shirt.
Manuel apologized, “I’m sorry, I was looking for somebody.”
The old man said angrily, “Well there’s no one in here, I’m very busy, I have a performance to get ready for that starts any minute, now go!” He talked so fast and in so sharp of a tone that he sounded as though he was dealing with a life threatening emergency.
Manuel said, compassionately, "I understand, but I was just wondering if you knew a girl by the name of Mar--"
"I said go, now!" the old man cut in, and then continued shouting, waving his arms violently, “Go! go! you’ll ruin everything, damn it! get out‘a here!”
Manuel felt the blood burning in his head. He grabbed the old man by the shoulders, started shaking him, bursting out, “Listen! I asked you really nicely if you’ve seen my girl! Where is she damn it? Tell me, now! Tell me!”
The old man threw Manuel’s hands off to the sides so hard that they almost touched each other in back, causing such a sharp pain in his shoulders that he thought the joints snapped. The old man was several inches smaller than Manuel, but his hands had a lot of power in them. He said, “You have no right coming in here shaking me like that and demanding information from me! I don’t have to tell you noth’in. You guys work for me, all of you! Now get out’a here now!”
Manuel realized that he had just attacked the manager of the theater, Al Pietro. For the first time since his employment at the Woodvale Opera House, he was seeing the manager. Before, Manuel had only heard stories about him. But even though the old man was the manager, Manuel did not care; all he wanted was Mariana.
He shoved the old man out of the doorway as the old man attempted to shut another door in his face, and jammed into the room shouting, “Mariana is my girl and I’m going to find her!” The room was dimly lit. It looked like a toy shop. There were puppets lined against the walls and others crowded onto shelves and tables. There were several stage sets made for puppets. They depicted scenes of deserts, circus tent exteriors and interiors, and medieval European castles. Some of the scenes were so three dimensional in appearance they almost looked real.
Manuel noticed, among all the scattered items, lying nude on a work bench, arms spread out, a marionette that looked exactly like Mariana. At least what was left of the face did. Half of the face was carved away, but the puppet had the same Motown hair style. The clothes lay carelessly spread out right next to the puppet. They looked exactly like the greaser clothes Mariana wore, only smaller. The cat eye glasses also lay next to it.
Suddenly Manuel felt a shove from in back that caused him to shoot across the room and then slam down onto the floor. Manuel soon noticed that the figure standing over him, looking like a giant, head eclipsing the dim light source causing the facial features to become shadowed out, was the old man. The old man barked out, “I said you guys work for me! You are not your own damn boss! You have no business coming in here, I don’t need you in here right now, GET OUT!” and Manuel felt a sharp kick in his ribs and himself sliding away in a spinning motion. A metallic door slammed.
He heaved himself up and noticed he was outside the building. A cold looking iron door stood in front of him. Vaguely, he remembered seeing a door like that inside the shop. He yanked it open and, surprisingly, it opened much more quickly and easily than he originally thought it would and therefore felt much lighter than it looked. He walked back inside the building but noticed that he was not in the work shop. In fact, he was not even inside the Opera House at all. Somehow he was outside again.
Confused, he spun around to examine the door that he thought he had walked through. Instead he saw the backside of a giant flat, with a door in it. He had only walked through a facade of what looked like the back exterior of the Opera House. He circled the giant flat, very confused. Then he started whirling around looking for the real Opera House but could not see it anywhere. He figured that he must have hit his head on the concrete much harder than what he had thought when that old man literally kicked him out of the building. Therefore he must have lost consciousness and then, during his lapse, some how ended up in a vicinity of the theater that he was not familiar with. He walked to the nearest large building, which was several feet away, figuring that it must be the Opera House. However, when he walked through the double doors he still found himself outside. Just another flat.
He walked a block over to the next towering building that at least somewhat resembled the live theatre. The side of the building he arrived at had no door and so he scurried around to another side. But there was no other side. Except for the side with the wood frame with canvas stretched behind it. Another flat. He kept trying each nearby building that he was positive to be the Woodvale Opera House but it always turned out to be a flat. He finally got to some houses but, after frustratingly knocking on each front door several times, getting no answer and so opening each door himself, he discovered they were flats as well. After a while he felt that he had covered the whole labyrinth town of Woodvale but he discovered that he had really only been covering a labyrinth of flats. He figured he must have been in a back lot that the theatre stored flats on. But there was no way to be certain; he hollered several times for help until his voice went hoarse but nobody answered. Nobody else was around.
The sun seemed to be descending within only a matter of seconds behind the mural looking mountains.
Someone was lowering the light.
Suddenly a violent gust of wind started blowing and then, almost simultaneously, there was a big bang of thunder. Then, for some strange reason Manuel could not think of, everything went still.
(To be continued . . .)