Maurice and Milo are thrilled to perform at a club in Paris. They dream of becoming a global act. Alas…
What I’m Writing
In February 2020 I posted a story titled “Sawdust” about my quirky characters, Maurice and Milo, a ventriloquist and his dummy. A second story followed in August 2021. Today’s story is about them again, this time a prequel to Maurice’s sudden death onstage one night. POV is once again Milo’s. Here they are, excited to be performing at a club in Paris.
Milo in Paris
The club’s green room sat in the basement, under the stage. Dark, poorly lit. A tiny closet to the side. A locked door that led somewhere unknown. Maurice sat at the dressing table in front of the mirror.
I watched him work through his makeup routine. He darkened his eyebrows, combed his moustache. Pulled on his fedora, positioning it carefully. He liked to frame himself as a film noir character.
Maurice turned to me. The dummy in the next chair. “You look good tonight, Milo.”
“Thank you. And I must say, you are looking quite well yourself, Maurice.”
Maurice smiled. “Thank you, my friend.”
Maurice smoothed my shirt, white with blue stripes. Pinched the crease in my dark slacks. He reached for a navy blue beret, positioned it carefully on my head.
“I think we’re ready.”
A knock on the door. “Five minutes.”
“Thank you, five minutes.” Maurice stood. Smoothed his own outfit.
“Our first gig in Paris, Milo. This is a big night. We’ll be here for a week, if tonight works. The first step in becoming a global act.”
“One show at a time,” I said.
“You’re right. You’ve heard me say that many times.”
Maurice picked me up and opened the door. As we mounted the stairs, I heard the applause from the act preceding us. Two dancers, their shoes tapping on the floor, dashed past us as we reached the wings.
“You’re on,” the club manager said.
Maurice took a deep breath, adjusted my beret, and stepped out on stage.
In the green room after our performance, Maurice said, “I hope you don’t feel badly when they call you sawdust, Milo.”
I shook my wooden head.
“The drunk in the Hawaiian print shirt was obnoxious. Obviously an American tourist speaking bad French.”
“We’ve seen worse,” I said, softly. “But it sounded classy in French. Sciure. Sawdust.”
“Funny…the word sawdust,” Maurice said. “Tonight it reminds me of my first job as a kid, right out of eighth grade. A summer job as a delivery boy for the local butcher shop. There was always sawdust on the floor of the shop. It was my job to sweep it up every night at closing time, and spread new sawdust on the floor. I did that while the butcher used a wire brush to scrub the blood and scraps off his carving block.”
I had never heard him talk of that before.
“That was a lot of years ago, Milo. A lot of years.”
Maurice folded my outfit carefully, placed it in the suitcase with his own jacket and fedora.
“We’ve come a long way,” Maurice said. “A long way from doing sock puppets in my bedroom. Trying to drown out my mom and dad screaming at each other.”
It was always me.
He looked at the me. Me, Milo. It was always me, even as a sock puppet. Always French. Always there at his side. Somewhere at home he still had the sock. Rolled up in a drawer somewhere. Or in a box in the closet. If his ex-wife Darla hasn’t thrown it out. She hated me. Not at first. But it didn’t take long for her to realize I came first. I was more real than anyone else to Maurice.
I understood him like no one else did. An odd thing to say. A wooden dummy understands you better than any person. Odd, maybe, but real. Real for us.
“Tomorrow night will be even better,” Maurice said. “We open for a jazz trio. It will be an audience that appreciates the finer things in life.”
“Oui,” I said.
Maurice smiled. “There’s always a tomorrow night.”