The Motion of Puppets

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

Book: The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue Read Free Book Online
Authors: Keith Donohue
as the others ran to trap her, Kay could slide the flattened matchbook under the back door, for no one would suspect her of such a thing. Heads together, they conspired in whispers, and she felt an almost human intimacy in how their voices mingled, how the secret bound them together in the moment.
    Had it not been for the Worm, they might have carried off the plot. The moment Mr. Firkin called for time, Noë let out a banshee cry and raced for the exit, her wooden feet clattering against the floor. The Devil chased her, wailing and gnashing his jaws. Nix dropped his juggling, sending the balls bouncing wildly, and stepped in her path, and the rest of the puppets moved forward in the rush, the Dog barking at the sport, the Queen aflutter, even old Firkin gasping to intercept her mad dash for freedom. Seeing her chance, Kay slipped away to the back door, the matchbook clutched in her hands, looking for a blank space to slide it through, when the Worm threw its body across the bottom draft, its crazed eyes spinning, and hissed at her to stop.

    The trial had to go forward without the Judges. In their absence, the Queen presided from her oatmeal box, and Mr. Firkin agreed to play the prosecutor, with the Devil on defense. The puppets spent most of the night constructing a courtroom out of wooden boxes, old tools, and spare parts. Ordinarily they would have preferred a few rehearsals, but given the gravity of the charges, they decided there was no time and ultimately improvised as they went. The Worm acted as bailiff and led the prisoners past the jury of the Three Sisters, the Good Fairy, and Nix. To have included the Dog in passing judgment would have made a farce of justice, so he was left to wander, sniffing at the two women in the dock.
    Kay was penitent, head bowed, hands folded as if in prayer. Next to her, Noë stared straight ahead, her straw hair sticking out like a dandelion puff, a hint of anger shining in her button eyes. The Queen brought down her gavel and Mr. Firkin rose for the prosecution, a scrap of lamb’s wool serving as a wig.
    â€œMum.” He bowed first to the Queen and then to the jury box. “Ladies and gentleman, the province intends to show, beyond the doubt of a shadow, that the defendants on the night before tonight, that is to say last night, did willfully and knowingly conspire, plot, scheme, and connive to make good their escape from this place. Using a forbidden pencil and paper—Exhibits A and B, my friends—they did write a note and then tried to slip said note under the door.” He turned on his heels to face the accused and pointed his finger at their faces. “This is well known to be in direct violation of the rules, what you are allowed to do. Furthermore it is, on a personal level, disappointing. And upsetting. Especially from those of you who have been here a long time and should know better.” He dabbed his eyes with the tail of his shirt.
    â€œThank you, counselor,” the Queen said. “Does the defense wish to make opening remarks?”
    The Devil stood on cloven feet and paced in front of the jury box. He was trying to make eye contact with the jurors, but they would have none of it, averting their gazes at the last possible moment. “Who among us is not guilty of having a dream? My friend the prosecutor would like you to think that a crime has been committed. He’ll show you a pencil stub, a matchbook, a note. Mere props in this sordid drama. And he’ll say that my clients were attempting to contact people outside the Back Room in some wild cock-and-bull fairytale notion that said matchbook, said note would convince a human bean—”
    The Good Fairy burst out laughing and had to cover her mouth. The chuckle infected the whole courtroom. Two swift bangs from the Queen’s gavel silenced her.
    Raising a black eyebrow, the Devil continued. “As I was saying, as though this pitiful scrap of paper, this so-called

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