The Marionette Master

Here is a shepherd, a marionette, hitting another. And the audience cheers. Here is a dragon, about to eat a clown. And the audience screams. Here is a boy of paint and pine, trying to kiss a girl of straw and silk. And the audience sighs.

It's not so hard to make a show. You learn the tricks, what notes to play. And you stitch and nail and carve and sew until you have the players you need. A bit of brocade will make a princess, a bit of fur will make a beast; a beard and a club will make an ogre, a little white paint will make a clown.

Tie some strings to them, and they come alive.

Oh, it's a cheerful kind of labor to cobble together a fantasy world. And your actresses don't get pregnant, or run off with rich fools, and your harlequins don't get drunk, and your animals don't trail turds across the stage. The audience? What do they know? They love it just the same. They can't afford the Opera or the Comedie Francaise, so they're happy enough to crowd into our creaking box of a theater, and watch our actors of cloth and wood. They cry the same tears the rich cry in their balconies, and laugh the same laughs, sometimes better, since there's no fine airs here (sooner or later, our harlequin's sure to fart), and so they go home through the dust and the mud, humming the princess' little song, and dreaming of Venice and Serendip, of China and Peru. All for a few coppers.

Because you see, I tie my strings to them too, invisible strings of heartbreak and laughter, and long after they've left, their spirits still wander wherever I please.

Copyright 2008 James B. Chevallier
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