Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Short Story Challenge 9 - Barry Barnado - Ventriloquist Extraordinaire

      He put the sock puppet over his hand and threw back the curtains. Today was a new day, full of promise and endless possibilities. This new ventriloquist act would be the best he had done yet – forget all those jumped up, over-complicated, hinge-jawed, wood crafted puppets – with this sock he would take it back to basics. It would be raw, unfettered and effective through its sheer simplicity. The voice – the voice would be the sole focus and the selling point of the act. No flashiness, no constant maintenance, just pure talent.
      Barry smiled as he bathed in the warm glow of the morning sun. Today was going to be a good day - he just knew it.

      PLAYING TONIGHT: BARRY BARNADO - VENTRILOQUIST EXTRAORDINAIRE screamed the oversized, lit up banner outside the The Grand Theatre. Under that: SOLD OUT. Not something that was added later or put over the posters but printed into the posters, over all the dates. They had been sold out for a long time – a remarkable achievement for a one-man ventriloquist show.
      The doors opened, streams of people slowly drifted out. But something seemed odd. No one was talking. People milled about on the street outside as usual but this time an eerie hush hung over them all. They just stared at each other, dumbfounded. Some looked confused, others shocked even. Brows were furrowed and some jaws still hung agape. What had they just witnessed?
      A few moments passed before the first person spoke. Somehow breaking the spell, the crowd erupted into avid conversation. How the hell did he do that? I’ve never seen anything like it… He didn't even move at all! Not his mouth, his throat, nothing! It was just a sock but…it looked…alive? In the end the ushers were forced to disperse the crowd and herd people off of the pavement.

      For many months this continued. Sell out show followed sell out show. One man and his sock – nothing else. Every person who was lucky enough to get tickets couldn't stop talking about it. News about it spread fast. Barry even got a slot on Parkinson. Many people who watched that TV interview noted how strange it was that he didn't break character once. He walked in with the sock puppet held out in front of him, his whole body stiff and expressionless. Not once did he speak as himself. It was all the puppet.
      “So Barry, what’s it like finding fame and becoming so successful this early in your career?”
      “Well it’s still a very exciting prospect…”, The puppet moved with unnerving accuracy, perfectly mouthing each syllable, “…Everyday feels like such as thrill. I can truly say I’ve never felt more alive…”
      Parky paused for a second.
      “I must say - that’s… quite a talent.”
      “That’s very kind of you to say, Michael. But for me, I don't really see it as a talent as such. I just see it as being natural. This was I can just express myself. Being like this, I feel like I can just …be free. Waddaya say, Michael - wanna try me on?”
      The audience laughed nervously.

      It came as a bit of a shock then, when the career of Barry Barnado was cut tragically short. His body was found fallen from the balcony of a hotel in the West End, the contorted features on his bloodied face ironically being the most expressive it had ever been since he had entered the public eye. The police had ruled it a suicide as no evidence of foul play had been discovered. However, what was strange was that despite many journalists, detectives and fans in search of morbid collectors items having carefully combed the scene of his death, and even having searched through Barry’s personal possessions, no trace of the sock puppet was found.

      Months later, on a beach in Perros Guirec, Brittany, 15-year-old Gilles de Bousies was taking his dog for an early morning walk when he spotted a dirty sock washed up on the shore. Against all reason, something compelled him to pick it up and put it onto his hand.
      He smiled. Today was a new day, full of promise and endless possibilities.

11th September 2011

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