Healing through story

Tag: Maurice and Milo

shortfiction24 – Milo in Paris

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

Bob Gillen

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.

Credit: The Guardian

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.”

***

Mannequin Monday – Find Your Light

In this week’s story bite, Milo sits waiting for his voice to return. Knowing it will not.

And I offer comments on Daniel Silva’s new book The Cellist.

What I’m Writing

Here’s a story-bite sequel to a story titled Sawdust that I first posted on this blog in February 2020. Maurice and Milo are back to entertain you. Enjoy.

Find Your Light

Bob Gillen

“I’m bored.”

The words slipped out of Milo’s mouth in a whisper. He had not spoken for weeks. Not since the night Maurice died.

Again, “I’m bored.”

Milo sat upright on his stool, back against the wall. Sat next to the urn that held Maurice’s ashes. The ashes of his partner. The man he had worked so many clubs and venues with. Milo felt himself smile. Remembering the clubs, the gigs, the audiences. 

And again, Milo heard himself say, “I’m bored.”

What the hell? Maurice is dead. Cremated. Reduced to a jar full of ashes. Milo had no more words. Not without Maurice.

“Heaven ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, buddy.” Milo shuddered. Hard to do for a ventriloquist’s dummy. But shudder he did.

Without moving his eyes, Milo took in the room. Light from a tiny window high on a north wall fell on the urn. Find your light. Maurice’s stage mantra.

Maurice’s ex-wife Darla had dismissed Milo and the urn to a corner of Maurice’s office. The office so small Maurice’s feet hit the wall if he stretched in his chair. The place where they had run all their routines. The room where Maurice’s imagination ran wild. 

Milo’s eyes rolled back and forth. Nothing. No one there. 

“I’m talking to you, Milo.” 

Milo’s jaw clattered against his upper lip. Maurice? Is that you? You’re back?

“It’s me. Maurice. Your voice. I’m still here.”

This is not real.

“Yeah, it’s real. Weird, but real.”

Can we do another gig? 

“Not gonna happen. I don’t know how long I can talk to you. Through you.”

Milo felt his head nod.

“Nothing here but white light. No one around. No one to talk to. Not even harp music. Just light.”

Milo blinked. Did Maurice do that?

“It’s peaceful. I like that. No worries. No drunks in the audience to heckle us. No hassles traveling from one club to the next.”

How can I be talking?

“Milo, buddy, listen to me…I am so bored. You know me, I like to move, to talk. I love being on stage. Love performing. You and me, we did great together, didn’t we?”

It wasn’t my call.

You left me.

 “That night I died on stage…heart attack. I hated to leave you, but it wasn’t my call.”

I’m alone.

“And that bastard club manager, I know he pocketed the cash he owed us. It was a full house. We always packed them in.” He laughed. “I guess we cleared the room pretty quick that night, huh?”

My jaw feels stiff. Haven’t moved it in weeks.

“Like I said, where I’m at is okay, but it’s dull. All those words? Joy, peace, glory, eternal life…they’re not cutting it. I’m missing something.

Milo thought, I’m missing something…you.

“Wait a minute, buddy. Something happening here. The light is brighter. Still quiet, though…Wait! I see someone. A shape…I think it’s time. Milo, take care. Thanks for the good times. Catch you.”

Milo stared straight ahead, mouth closed, jaw rigid. How do I find my light now?

***

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