CLAUDE'S PUPPET SHOW
The upstairs room of Claude's carriage house is off-limits to most guests. Those so honored tramp up the narrow stairs and open the door to a room with thick Aubusson and Shiraz carpets laid helter-skelter and a bank of windows filtering sunlight swarming with dust motes. It's where Claude keeps his puppets.
Noh and African masks leer from a brick wall and marionettes hang, loose-jointed like corpses from the rafters. A quartet of Bunraku puppets seemingly stops a conversation as though gossiping about the person opening the door. Another sits sadly in the corner like a wallflower and one can't help but feel sorry for it. Why have you left me all alone?
The puppet theater waits for murderous Punch and poor, dear Judy, abandoned ever so neatly, faces smothered in acid-free paper in a trunk. Another, more modern trunk holds the hand puppets Claude takes to shows where he delights school children. All of their favorites are there, fuzzy-bunny versions of Cookie Monster, Lambchop, and adorable animals. But the other puppets never leave Claude's special room.
Claude is a branch manager at a bank. He is a handsome man, but reserved as many bank managers are. When he comes home in the evening, he goes up to his puppet room, stands on the big Shiraz and takes off his shoes. Slowly, he sways and strips off his so subtly pinstriped jacket. He languidly swishes it around and thrusts his hips. Bump. Bump. Grind. His tie and shirt follow next. Shimmy. Shimmy. Shake. Coyly he peels his undershirt off, fingertips rubbing his nipples erect. Oh. Baby. Yes. His belt, pants and underwear follow accompanied by sensuous moans and artful gyrations. Claude takes a bow, lies on his back and ejaculates in the general direction of the marionettes.
Last week, a pretty third grade teacher had asked him, "And what does your wife do, Claude?"
"Oh, I'm not married," he had said. "But I have a girlfriend."
"Ah. What's her name?"
"Tiki. Her name is Tiki."
"What an unusual name."
"Yes. Isn't it. Excuse me," he had said, escaping behind the puppet stage.
Every night, Claude changes into his casual clothes and goes out. From the chiffarobe, he selects jeans with tears in the knees and a flannel shirt. He laces his black high-tops and shrugs into his green army surplus jacket, so chosen for its many pouches. A knit hat completes the ensemble. He selects one--and only one--puppet from the kiddie trunk. Those are the rules. Tonight, it is Cookie Monster.
Cookie Monster curls up in a pocket of Claude's jacket and waits for his cue. Claude feels him restlessly shifting against his abdomen, tickling, on the walk to the club.
The Lamp Post is on the wrong end of Bay Street, away from the trendy spots where tourists drink Mai Tai's and Singapore Slings. It's near the port where the merchant sailors slink through the night thirsty for less fluid things. Claude slips in unnoticed. He is a regular.
He goes to his seat by the bar where the pole disappears into the ceiling. The bar girl hands him his beer. Cookie Monster creeps out of his jacket and climbs onto his hand, waiting.
Tiki comes out in a blaze of purple light and wipes off the pole with an antiseptic wipe. That's one of the things Claude loves about her, that fastidiousness. Her skin is oiled and she moves with snake-like charm. The strobes kick in as she takes it off. Take it all off!
Cookie Monster heads toward her g-string.
Tiki's black spike pump lands in the middle of Claude's chest and she says, just for him, "Hey, Puppet-Boy. You know the rules."
Yes, the rules! Make me follow the rules!
Cookie Monster obediently takes a ten-dollar bill from Claude's wallet and slips it into her thong.
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