THE PUPPET'S TATTERED CLOTHES
When Kevin meets a family of traveling puppeteers, he finds glimmer of hope in his broken life. Intrigued by the inner workings of the complex and delicate puppets, Kevin accidentally breaks one while exploring the potential secrets that lie within. Will Kevin be able to repair it without the owners finding out, or will his careless mistake cost him the chance for a new future and the affection of a young woman?
Cover design by Dena Testa Bray
There were at least two clear threads to this story. First, German writer Theodor Storm wrote a short story in the 1870's translated to English as Paul the Puppeteer. It's about a young man who becomes involved with the daughter of a puppeteer, thereby becoming fascinated with the world of marionettes. At that time, marionettes were a much more common feature of entertainment than they are today. Secondly, in the 1990s, I was a clinical social worker in Chicago, employed by a large agency to help teenagers who'd been legally emancipated from their parents because of abuse and neglect. Their stories have haunted me ever since.
Across the street, above the glow of the HOTEL sign, a light came on within a glowing window. The hotel was little more than a rooming house, dingy and sad, the sign its most impressive feature. A man appeared, leaning out with his hands clasped over the sill. Tangles of hair covered his shoulders in a goatish braid, a long gray beard extended over his protruding belly.
Even though he was hidden, Kevin sensed the man could see him, that he knew about being apart, and how to leave messages unanswered. The man nodded to him and turned his head, calling to someone in the room behind. After a moment, Carly squeezed her hip into the narrow space between the man’s shoulder and the window frame, a mass of loose curls swinging around her face instead of the braids. The man—her father, Kevin was sure—nudged her and wagged his chin toward Kevin’s window, and she looked out across the dark space between them. Kevin leaned forward and raised his right hand and eyebrows, but remembered she couldn’t see. He was just about to call out when she turned and went back into the depths of the room.
The man’s mouth moved, but a passing truck shifted from first to second gear, and the roar of the loosened engine drowned out what had been said. The man shrugged; the HOTEL sign shone up onto his grinning face, making his gums gleam as if he were before the eye of an enormous floodlight.
A cloud of exhaust rose, and Kevin turned away. When he looked again, the man sat in the room beyond with a small, stiff child on his lap. The next time Kevin looked, Carly was back at the window. Behind her, an older woman with very dark skin stood, re-braiding her storm of hair. Somewhere, a telephone rang three times and stopped.