The Puppets of Kudzu (1)

Franco Dellaronti dreamily looked out the window while scrubbing and rinsing dishes. He whistled while he worked, but then suddenly stopped when the clouds went away, and the sky bloomed with sun like a fat piñata giving birth to a glimmering candy store, and the damaged Earth greened with slithering kudzu right before his very eyes. The end of time had ended, and somehow prosperity had returned.

He rushed to his bedroom and grabbed his favorite puppet, a beloved remnant from his days at puppetry school down in New Orleans. The puppet’s name was Cheise Karn Mouise (pronounced SHAYSS CAIRN MOOSAY), and he was an old-time French bastard with a very pale and gloopy face that looked like he had been whitewashed in grease paint. He had thin white doll hair atop his head and Kia Soul taupe-colored eyes that never blinked. Franco impaled the puppet on his arm like rough sex and they rushed outside together to see the new, green world.

“Would you look at all that kudzu,” Franco said. “I have a great idea that’s going to make us filthy rich.”

He worked the puppet’s mouth to make him mumble something in a strange high-pitched voice. “What’s that? I hope it’s safe.”

“Of course, it’s safe. I would never endanger your life. You’re Cheise Karn Mouise, and you’re my best friend and I love you.”

He rotated the puppet’s head, so it was looking right at him. Franco tried so hard not to move his lips when he made the puppet talk, and it made him sound stuffed up, restrained, unable to completely annunciate the words.

“You’re my best friend and I love you too. So, what’s this grand idea of yours have to do with all that kudzu?”

“We’re going into business,” Franco said with asserted determination. Then he made the puppet explode with excitement — like an ice cream truck that swallowed dynamite.

“Awesome! I’ve never been in business before. What are we going to do?”

“I’m glad you asked, Cheise Karn Mouise. Now get this. What does one do with such an abundance of kudzu?”

“I have no idea.”

“One makes kudzu pie!”

Franco Dellaronti moved his hand slowly toward himself and soon the puppet was so close to his face they almost bumped noses. “That’s a terrible idea. Who ever heard of kudzu pie?” the puppet said.

“It’s a fabulous idea. I’m going to be rich!”

He worked the puppet to make him show a troubled concern for his master.

“Now hold on there, Martha Stewart. Do you even know how to make kudzu pie?”

Franco became flustered. “Of course, I do. I mean — how hard can it be?”

He made the puppet hit him in the side of the head.

“You better get down to the library right away and do some research before you make a total ass of yourself!”

Then Cheise Karn Mouise hit him again.

“Would you stop hitting me,” Franco scolded. “Okay, I’ll go to the library. Do you want to go with me?”

He made the puppet tip his head in a gesture of judgmental parenting. “Are you going to be embarrassed this time?”

Franco thought about it far too long. “I’ll be okay. I think the psychiatrist is really beginning to help me see things on a deeper level.”

He made the puppet grow tense and serious. “I don’t trust him.”

“What? You’re the one who suggested I go see him. I don’t understand.”

“I haven’t seen any improvement in you at all. And now you’ve got some crazy idea about selling kudzu pie!”

“I think you need a time out Cheise Karn Mouise,” Franco said, and he popped the puppet off his arm and let him fall to the ground before going back inside to take a shower.

It was an aluminum-colored day with a blinding sun stinging the yard where he had set up his kudzu pie stand. Franco Dellaronti made his very own sign and set it out and it read in big green letters: KUDZU PIE – $5 per slice. Whipped cream extra. A car came down his street about every 10 minutes, but no one ever stopped. He sighed and took a bite of pie for himself, then chased it with a big squirt of the canned whipped cream until it ran out of his mouth. He looked down to the ground and saw that Cheise Karn Mouise had suddenly come to life, real life, and the puppet jumped up onto his feet and swayed a bit before getting the hang of standing on his own.

“Whoa, that’s fun. But why so glum, my friend?” Cheise Karn Mouise asked.

“I haven’t sold a single piece of pie. I might as well just shut down. I’m nothing but a failure.”

Cheise Karn Mouise shook his once wooden head, now real flesh and bone. He was disappointed in his master. “You can’t give up already. Have you done any marketing?”

Franco looked at the little lively puppet that stood no more than three feet tall. “Marketing? What’s that?”

 “You have to let people know about your product! You big goof.”

Franco looked around the yard and pointed. “I have a big sign out front.”

The puppet shook its head in frustration. “You have to think a lot bigger than that if you want to sell enough kudzu pie to generate sustainable income.”

It was then that a car slowed and stopped in front of the house and the driver activated the window. “Hi there!” said a woman full of perfumed perk. “I’ve never had any kudzu pie, but I’d be willing to give it a try. Do you give out free samples?”

Franco turned to the tray where he had laid out small servings of his kudzu pie for people to try before they buy. “Yes mam. Give this a taste,” and he went to the car, and he handed her a small cupcake cup with a piece of the pie inside it.

The woman sniffed at it and then gingerly pushed it into her mouth and began chewing. Then her face scrunched, and she gagged a little bit, and then spit the half-macerated sample at Franco’s shoes. “That’s horrible, mister. You should be arrested for trying to sell that shit! You’re going to poison someone!” The woman gave him the finger and sped off.

He looked to Cheise Karn Mouise for comfort. “See. I’m a failure!” Franco went to his pie stand and kicked it to pieces and scattered them all over the yard in a disturbing fury as the puppet looked on in disbelief. “Fuck kudzu pie!” Franco bellowed, and then he huffed his way back into the house and slammed the door.


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