The Gallery and the Obtrusive Puppet
It was a morbid Monday at the Fist Gallery in Mankato, Minnesota as Bob Weir’s acid ghost was mumbling the lyrics to Black Throated Wind as he lazily strummed a toy guitar in the corner and the manager polished antique glass doorknobs with a clean, white cloth at the cash counter.
“The world is a laxative and I just crapped my mind pants,” Max Pine whispered to glowing orbs and vases and dangling jewels shaped like broken hearts and then he breathed on one of the doorknobs and then rubbed. He held the object up into the sunlight that was streaming through the shop windows like Bog spreading luscious thighs in Heaven and he studied it. He still wasn’t pleased and so breathed and rubbed some more.
“Cleanliness is more important than Bogliness,” he said aloud to no one. He set the knob down and leaned back in his beat-up chair at the counter. He ignited a ciggy wiggy with a crackhead blowtorch and he threw up the smoke and relaxed. He listened to the neighborhoods dance and breathe and make love all around him in the outside world for a long time and then the door ding-donged and a large woman with an orange-shaped face and clean, blonde hair came strolling in holding a black leather portfolio case.
“I like the way you polish those knobs,” the woman said to him.
“I was watching you through the window. Out there… I was standing on the sidewalk for quite a while. Creepy, huh? But I noticed you were so gentle and attentive with them,” the woman said. “That’s very attractive.”
Max Pine was a bit annoyed. People annoyed him, especially people who spoke to him. But there was something very odd about this one, odd indeed.
Is there something I can help you with?” he asked the robust gal, and she smiled wide and Max Pine noticed she had really big, clean teeth, almost too big and clean, and they were encased behind oversized lips, too full for that face, and they were the color of unpeeled garden beets… Not enough blood flow?
“I’d like to speak to the manager if I could,” she said.
“I’m the manager,” Max said.
“Well, that’s deliciously wonderful,” the woman said and then oddly giggled. “This may be the luckiest day I’ve had all week.”
“What is it then I can help you with?”
“My name is Christine LaBrush and I’m a very famous transgender cartoonist. I was wondering if you’d be willing to sell my work in your gallery?”
“Ah hah. I thought there was something not quite right about you.”
“You said you were famous, but I’m afraid I’ve never heard of you.”
“Well, in certain circles I am famous, and in Amsterdam, I’m huge there. So, you will look?”
Christine LaBrush placed the black leather portfolio case on the counter and unzipped it. She carefully extracted some examples of her work and presented them to him.
Max Pine placed groovy glasses upon his face and studied the cartoon strips and then looked up at her; he tried to picture her as a man in his mind without being too obvious.
“Hmm, I’m not really getting it,” he said. I mean, the artwork is decent, but the story line seems a bit queer.”
“It’s supposed to be queer,” Christine said, somewhat offended by Max’s critique.
He looked at the strips again.
“I don’t know, we usually don’t deal with comic strips. Look around, I sell real art.”
“That’s a mean thing to say! This is just as much art as the crap you got hanging on the walls here!” Christine blubbered.
“Hey friend, just settle down. No need to get all ornery up in here,” Max told her. Tell you what, what you got here is kinda blah, blah, blah. Draw me up something new tonight, you know, something that will knock my socks off and I’ll consider it.”
Christine was dejected.
“All right, I’ll see what I can do. Hey, do you like Batman?”
“He’s all right, I guess. Why?”
“There’s a Batman film fest playing at the old theater downtown tonight and I was wondering if you’d like to go with me.”
“To the movies?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t go out much and I really don’t care for the theater. Besides, you need to work on your new comic strip.”
“Is it because I am the way I am? Is that why you don’t want to go with me… Because I used to be a man?”
Max hesitated and shifted uncomfortably.
“Not at all. I have things to do. That’s it. I have things to do, and I told you I don’t like to go out.”
Max’s dead father had been a black cowboy and his mother was a Chinese seamstress who was a hoarder and lived alone in a crapped-out house in Toledo, Ohio. Max studied his odd appearance in the mirror in his bathroom at his apartment. He felt his face and it seemed rhinoceros-like to him. He played with his wiry jet-black hair and squished his bulbous nose with the tip of his finger. His skin was the color of burnt sepia and he played with the curly black hairs on his arms.
He dragged a stool in front of the mirror and then pulled down an old time, creepy looking puppet from a high shelf he had in the bathroom there. He fisted the thing and then sat down with it.
“Am I repulsive, Popo?” he asked the puppet.
Max made the puppet turn its head toward him and open its chipped-up mouth to speak.
“You’re not repulsive,” the puppet said.
“Thanks Popo, that makes me feel better.”
“You’re revolting!” Popo blurted out, and then he let out a high-pitched, crackling guffaw.
“You’re a tricky dick, Popo, a tricky dick!”
Popo laughed out loud again.
“Can you look at something for me and tell me if you think it looks okay?”
Max stood up, unbuckled his pants, and let them fall to the floor. With his free hand he stretched his underwear out in front of his slightly Samoan belly as far as it could go.
“Look inside there Popo and tell me what you think.”
“Whaaaaattt?! You already got your hand shoved up my ass, what more do you want?”
“Shut up and just look,” Max scolded.
Max maneuvered the puppet downward so that its head was almost completely inside his underwear.
“It’s hard to breathe in here,” Popo said.
“Just take a look and tell me what you think.”
“Well, all I can say is, I’m suddenly hungry for kielbasa and kraut.”
TO BE CONTINUED