Myra watched the puppet show from the edge of the crowd. Normally she would not have given it a second look, but the size of the crowd and its reaction to the show made her curious. She edged closer to the front to get a better look.
A chorus of brightly costumed figures sang as three pairs of dancers whirled around the tiny stage in a lively waltz. Above the puppets, a forest of barely visible black strings dangled and vibrated in rhythm to the tune. Myra tried to follow the connection between strings and puppets but there were so many of them that she finally gave up. How many puppeteers were there? And how did they manage so many different puppets and complex motions? It seemed impossible.
The tune came to a close, the puppets bowed, and a curtain dropped over the stage. Above the puppet stage another curtain opened revealing a lone puppeteer. He smiled and nodded in response to the shouts and applause from the audience. From the lower curtain, a little puppet emerged carrying a sign which read, “Thank you. Next show is at two. Contributions are appreciated.”
The large black hat placed in front of the puppet theatre quickly filled with dollar bills. Myra fished about in her purse looking for a dollar to add to the collection. She finally located her wallet but she only had a ten and a twenty. She put a ten in the hat and bent to retrieve a five and two ones as change. Before she could take them, a pair of the puppets popped out of a door in the bottom of the stage and snatched the hat away, dragging it back through the door.
“Hey!” she exclaimed. “I wasn’t through!”
As she stared indignantly at the stage, one of the puppets reappeared and held up a small sign: “Sorry, no change given”. Then it disappeared behind the curtain again.
Before she could turn away, the upper curtain reopened. The puppeteer winked at Myra and handed her a five and four ones. She blushed as she accepted the change.
The puppeteer was slim, blond and very handsome. She found herself wondering what he was like – would he be fun on a date?
“Your show is wonderful. I really enjoyed it,” she said.
“Well,” he answered, “if you’re not busy, I’m having a small party tonight at my place at seven. I’d like it, if you came.”
One of the puppets handed her a card with the puppeteer’s name and address printed on it. She blushed again and nodded, “I’d love to. Thanks”
That night Myra took a cab to the address on the puppeteer’s card. She was not a bold or adventurous woman but something in the puppeteer’s smile had flipped a switch in her heart. What have I got to lose? She asked herself as she pressed the buzzer over his name. If the party’s a dud or too weird, I can have one drink and leave. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
There was music in the room and she heard laughter and a buzz of conversation as she stepped through the door into the flat but when she looked around – the room was empty except for piles of puppets on the couch, the chairs and scattered about the floor. The puppeteer was seated at a table. He rose and greeted her with a smile, “So glad you came. Please come in.”
She hesitated, didn’t he say seven? She was sure it was already nearly eight. Had she misunderstood the time? But he was holding out a drink and smiling, that smile drew her in.
“I’m early? Sorry, I thought you said seven.” She took the drink and sat down across from him at the table.
“You’re right on time, Myra.” he said.
She sipped the drink. It was delicious and she was thirsty. She took a bigger sip and looked around to find the source of the music. In a corner a group of puppets were playing a popular song with guitars, a sax and a drum set. “Oh my,” she said pointing at the little musicians, “are they mechanical?”
He smiled again, “Finish your drink, I have something to show you. Then we can dance on the terrace.”
He had such an incredible smile. It was beyond charming, she thought, it was entrancing. It made her heart race.
He stood and held out his hand. She downed her drink and stood. All at once she felt dizzy. “Wow, that drink…drink sure…”
The room seemed to tilt a bit. She reached out to take his arm but her hand tangled in a string. “What…what’s this? Puppet strings?” she giggled.
“Oh don’t mind them,” he answered. “Soon you’ll have some of your own.”
He was guiding her toward a door. It opened onto a kind of work room. “Is this where you make the puppets?” She asked.
Several large puppets greeted her, “Hello, Myra. So glad you’re joining us.”
How strange, she thought, he has strings but they don’t, his mouth never moves, but theirs do. Which one is the puppet? Who is the puppeteer? It was her last thought.
At the park, the puppet show had drawn a large crowd. The troop of puppets danced and played instruments on the little stage. When the performance ended, the curtains above the stage parted, and the puppeteer bowed to applause from the audience. A pretty female puppet stood next to him. She was so lifelike that if she hadn’t been wearing strings she could have been mistaken for a human. “Please give my new assistant a show of appreciation,” he said. “Take a bow Myra.”