Nothing But Wood

wooden reflections
Mornings are cruel because you either wake up with a clear head, remembering all the nasty occasions that were supposed to go away, or you wake up with a headache paracetamol can't blot out.

"Ah, a new scratch to boot". Grundie, or Woodface as his friends called him, eyed the mirror with disgust. A bad start to already bad week. He, the smartest and brightest of anyone else in that stupid company Animatronix, knew what was going to happen.

And it wasn't something whole generations of stupid employees could laugh off. Oh no, not this one. Not this beautiful plan that had been growing in Grundie's mind like a defiant embolism since that fateful day, the day when they launched the company newsletter. Those horrible, horrible people.

He backed away from the mirror, and began to choke, struggling back the porcelain tears. He smacked himself once, twice hard. "Stop it", he hissed. "Stop being such a crybaby".

50 long years he served Animatronix, giving his life and body to that company, putting smiles and laughter on millions of faces. When they said juggle, he juggled. When they said fall flat on your wooden nose, he fell flat. When they began to bring in the new computers and wireframes, he actually helped to make space. Those dastardly, evil machines heralded bad times to come. Oh sure, the company made more business, more money. So what. All it got him was a corner in the storeroom with the poison paints.

His creator, James Slowpoke the greatest master of puppetry, got sacked. Instead the company brought in new animators, those who did nothing with their hands but typed and typed and typed. Programming computer scripts, they said. Sheesh, who do they think eats up that kind of lie?

Not me, thought Grundie. Not while I'm still in one piece. Things have been going bad for the puppets for a long time now. All of them -- Joely on strings, Herman the stand up, Buster and Buddy the ventriloquist twins -- all of them were having a really, really bad time. Some lost limbs, which were not replaced. Others grew rusty, and the old wires immobilised them.

But no matter how horrible things became, the puppets took it in stride. Grundie personally thought it was just a fad, thought no one would want to see something that wasn't real and didn't exist. 3-D imaging, pah! He pursed his mouth and spat dry. Just a little trick he learnt from Master Slowpoke.

Nothing's ever painful enough to hurt Grundie. Nothing has been. But the company newsletter was the last straw. That... that..... was unforgivable.

On that day, it was a Saturday, Animatronix's new boss, Nichi Junior, decided to bring the puppets out for a day in the sun, on the stage. Grundie recalled that morning, as he trembled with excitement, ready to give the performance of his life. It was the launch of the company newsletter, and movie moguls from as far as Nepal and Borneo arrived to pay homage. Grundie spent the whole night digging up ideas and dance steps, ohboy were they in for a good time.

It was a great, historical event. At noon they wheeled out the monstrous TV screen showing fake, computer-generated life. The audience gasped, bug-eyed in terrified excitement.

Up the podium, squat red-faced Nichi read aloud from the newsletter. "Children used to love the old way of entertainment, of wooden, hand-held puppets. While they lasted, people had a good laugh. Those days are not numbered, they're over. Puppets and their fake painted faces are a thing of the past, left behind for good, once and for all. Animatronix brings you into a new and amazing world, of intelligence through electronics...."

Grundie, warming down after what he thought was comeback performance, blacked out -- collapsing in a clatter of wood and wire. Perfect timing as the crowd stood up and roared.

Later, Joely would tell him that all the puppets were to be sent to the dump. By Monday, he had made up his mind. He would go, but not without the whole company. They'd go with a bang, a glorious end to an illustrious career. Grundie planned to incinerate the entire place, with himself and his friends as kindling. "We started this place, we can finish it". Joely agreed, he loved her for it. Buster was against the idea, but he couldn't move his old crusty wires, so his vote didn't count.

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