Once Pinocchio was determined to ride his gift for wooden mendacity all the way to the top of the political pile. Certainly no mean feat, for the number of politico-prevaricators working the national carny circuit had long since become incalculable. But Pinocchio carried on undaunted, putting on such a show that the faithful of an entire party ultimately came to sport campaign buttons of “Grand Old Pinocchios” with unblushing pride. After all, didn’t he look every bit the part? What other political puppet could boast such a matinee idol profile in the classic square-jaw mode? Or such an ability to assume nearly any pose, no matter how unnatural it might appear, at the mere pull of a string? So practiced at suggesting lifelike behavior had Pinocchio proved that to own such a mechanical marvel became the ambition of many a puppet master. So many, as it turned out, that only the wealthiest among them could afford the ever-greater price being fetched at puppet auctions for the likes of Pinocchio. Not that there were many political puppets who could seriously rival him, of course, in the range of belief-defying positions they could adopt but also, and equally attractive to any practiced puppet master, in his uncanny skill at turning wild summersaults end over end over end over end that would tangle up a lesser puppet without fail in hopelessly knotted strings. All the while never ceasing to talk out of both sides of a stiff-lipped mouth with a knack that seemed engrained. True, a goofy, frozen expression might often accompany such a feat, as if he knew he was lying through his teeth but couldn’t help himself. Or hoped it didn’t matter. Or didn’t really care. Otherwise, however, the wonders of the consummate marionette were never on more convincing display. No surprise, then, that bidding wars for this most facile of puppets took on a life of their own. And puppet masters being accustomed to manipulating their marionettes from behind closed curtains, it soon became the norm as well for auctions to be conducted in secret, with rumors of vast sums of money bid that couldn’t be verified but were soon old news anyhow as even vaster sums were bruited by the day. With each new performance by this matchless puppet, the ooohs and ahhhs drawn from slack-jawed crowds at the capers played out before their eyes were loud and clear, as each new puppet master pulled the strings with expert dexterity and to unprecedented effect. Nothing seemed beyond Pinocchio’s powers of preternatural flexibility. Except for one thing: the curious change that came over the puppet’s classic profile the faster and more footloose his dancing about turned. At first it appeared his nose was growing longer with each new jib or dodge, challenging his ability to avoid tumbling flat on his face at least once a day. But then it became evident that an even greater change was occurring to his chin, that chiseled emblem of oakish resolve long touted as his trademark. As if in response to the pull of a rapidly lengthening nose, the puppet’s famously forthright jaw was seen to be vanishing at an equally astonishing rate. How long it would remain recognizable as more than a nubbin of its prom-king glory was anybody’s guess. Already the once-firm lines so prized in puppet politicians were dissolving into those of a chinless wonder instead. One whose worth might well have fallen to zero come the next puppet auction for billionaires. Then again, maybe not. For Pinocchio’s hallmark profile could always be recarved onto a smaller head, couldn’t it, and keep the lifelike illusion before the public indefinitely?
Copyright © 2012 by Geoffrey Grosshans