Ventriloquism is a dying art. I’ve watched its popularity rot to the point of stagnation. We once walked amongst the greatest entertainers in the world, yet now we are mocked for our childish and boring craft. We’ve been reduced to novelty acts, not too dissimilar from clowns. You’re more likely to find us selling our souls for $5 an hour at a child’s birthday party than you ever are to see our glorious return to the stage. And even now, even after we’ve been reduced to this pitiful existence, we are being ignored in favour of a fat middle-aged buffoon dressed in lycra, vaguely resembling a superhero. The age of the ventriloquist has surely passed, leaving the few of us who dedicated our life to the craft hanging in the void.
I sit writing this surrounded by a mass of bills all stamped with the same damning message, “Past Due”, in blindingly red ink. Keeping up with payments has become near impossible since the decline in job offers. Every now and then, a distant family member will book me out of pity for their kid’s birthday, but the money is just enough to keep me alive on a diet of beans and bread, let alone pay any bills. The walls are beginning to close in around me and the hand of death is slowly becoming more enticing.
There is one thing gives me comfort though; my “dummies”. I hate the term dummies, always have. The word dummy portrays something as lifeless, or a prop. Mine are not like that. Each time I look into their eyes I can feel them. I can sense their sadness as they sit on the shelf, slowly manifesting itself into hatred. Each one of them was hand crafted with love and care, sometimes taking longer than it would to carry a child to term. They are worth more to me than any human life, including my own. I feel the guilt wash over me every time I clean the dust off them and wonder when will be the next time they will be put to use.
As my career declined, I found myself questioning more and more what life must be like for them. I felt angry at myself for treating them like tools. Their only purpose in their life was to bring me financial gain. They rarely experienced life outside of my suitcase or the theatre hall. But the more time I spent with them the more I came to understand how wrong my assumptions were. I had made each and every one of them into stars. Let’s face it, people don’t come to see the guy with his hand up a puppets ass, they come to see the puppet. Each one of them carried more personality and fame than I could ever hope to achieve. They never showed signs of fatigue or depression like I did. They sat in pristine condition each day, only requiring a touch-up and waxing every few months, whereas I required daily maintenance. I’m not ashamed to admit that I felt some form of jealousy for their success, but I didn’t hold it against them. We were a team after all.
People would pay money to meet them. Good money in fact. Just to stare and ogle at the fine craftsmanship they displayed. The more animated looking models would fetch a good sum, but it was the realistic dummies people were always more interested in. The more human-like their appearance, the higher the urge to meet them became. This is what sparked my new idea. If ventriloquism could no longer pay my bills, maybe my skill in crafting the dummies could.
Finding my base model came simply enough. Kids these days are unsupervised 90% of the time. It was as simple as pulling my van up to the side of the road and snatching one as he walked home from school. Almost too easy. I undid the boys stitching by making an incision the full length of his spine and removing the contents inside. I grabbed handful after handful of flesh, bone and organ and tossed them into the bin. The amount of flesh crammed into that little frame was a surprising find. When I had finished, a sack of skin laid on the table, limp and lifeless.
I stuffed the sack with cotton and dressed him in an oversized suit to hide any of the lumps and bumps my amateur embalming skills had caused, then added a zip to the incision I made on his back for easier access. I sawed through his jaw and waited for the crack as it gave way on either side of his chin, creating that iconic up-and-down style mouth we are all familiar with. I carved out his eyes, sewed them shut and pinned on big colourful replacements where they once were. I attached a rod to what was left of his spine as it dangled from his skull, allowing me to turn the head using the opening at the back. I propped him up on my shelf next to his brothers and sisters and wiped away the last drops of blood that seeped through the openings I had made.
Unfortunately, two weeks have passed and I am no closer to paying the oldest of the bills. My new dummy has begun rotting and it won’t be long before I will need to craft a new one. So, if you’re reading this and you are a parent of a young child with a birthday coming up, why not book me for the entertainment? I’ll even take the little rascal off your hands for you when I leave.
Credit: Fear & Fiction