By: Alexa Rodriguez

The strings are tangled. You can’t put on a show this way.

Start fiddling with the strings as they tighten around your fingers and squirm around in your sweaty palms. You signed up for this, remember? You wanted this.

Compensation: Minimum wage + tips
Availability: Weekends
Requirements: Fun personality
Dress code: Family friendly with a twist
Looking forward to meeting you!

You’re already burning in your all-black attire. “Family friendly with a twist” supposedly meant, “Hide your face, nobody wants to interact with a clown making minimum wage.” That’s right—because currency is not only limited to dollars but also extends to your human capital, and these molds of sapphire and calcite are capitalizing on your lack of capital.

And, by the way, did you actually think they were “looking forward to meeting you”? No, but you were looking forward to meeting them. Because you’re trying to find a way to capitalize on your lack of capital, too.

Quiet. Your opinions don’t matter, your actions do. So make the most out of this. Show them what you’re made of. Blood and whippings. Arteries and executions.

The rich—you mean the kids—will eat this up.

Before the booth’s curtains open, you grip onto the control bars tightly, almost aggressively so. The tips of your fingers are roasting atop this firewood. These control bars—jail bars, rather—are turning to ashes in your hands, the remaining wood piercing your skin just enough to bring a small glob of scarlet to the surface of your ring finger. Red, the color most commonly associated with the devil. Red, the color of a heat wave, the color of the heat on your cheeks.

Red, the color of the first aid you won’t receive.

You’re exaggerating. Calm down, it’s just the sun. It’s this sweltering heat. You’re just agitated. You’re just anxious. You’re just uncomfortable. Calm down. You’re overexaggerating. You’ll give yourself a heat stroke, on this day in the middle of winter.

sunrise over the city

Here you are in front of the results of American wealth, the Czech marionettes, the makings of Marx’s Communist Manifesto. You’re an amateur in the midst of a group of master puppeteers. But you can’t freeze now (no, you’re melting), the curtains are opening.

Shhh!!…No, don’t move now, we’re just starting…I already know how to play with puppets, can we do arts and crafts?…John, take your hands off of Amanda at this instant…But, momma, I want to go home…

Kids. That’s all they are.

How far can you extend your creative abilities to animate small wooden human replicas?

Politics. A political satire. A satire on strings, on connections. Your eyes are fiery with excitement. Your hands are yearning for rebellion, perhaps for a bit of violence.

When is this thing starting? I want candy…Rosie, be patient, the curtains only just opened, look at the cute puppets!…I don’t want to watch it anymore! They’re scary!…

You can’t stand the noise, it’s too hot for this, it’s too hot to be in all black today, it’s too hot to be here today. It’s too hot to be here.

Your hands have taken the wheel themselves, and you find the puppet in a worn-out dress and bonnet kneeling to a newer, more pristine puppet.

Open your mouth. Get into character.

“Ma’am, ‘scuse me, your High Duchess-ness, I’d pretty please like a raise on my next paycheck, thank you missus.”

Use the second marionette’s cane to whack the first. “Oh, please, you don’t earn! And show some respect! You’ve gotten a slither of peasant on my glass slippers.”

Tune in your audience’s laughter. You almost feel jealous of them. You’d like to laugh at your own expense, too. You’d like to be part of that laugh track.

“Yes, your Duchess-ness, that’s exactly why I’d like a raise. My paycheck is nothing more than zero coinage.”

Louder. You hate the noise. Worse, all the warmth from their breath is making it even hotter, and you feel like you’re suffocating. Possibly suffocating on the reality of reality.

You’re tripping over yourself, drifting, but you have to go on, you have to make your pay today.

You didn’t realize your hands had been sweating so much that you lost control of the control bars. Your marionettes are dying under the weight of the bars, the peasant holding the weight of her Duchess-ness. She doesn’t want to be there, she has to. An almighty god, her Duchess-ness, to be escorted by carriage, by a billion and one peasants.

Luckily, she will not die from the heat like you will. Soon. Puppets are not subject to the limits of biological aging. (Neither are the rich, for that matter.) These are simply objects, objects imbued with the souls of old folks who fell off of the London bridge or dressed up as Yankee Doodle (without the dandy).

Face it, you’re too weak to join the rebellion. Look at you. Your hands are too clammy to retrieve the control bars. You’ve lost control. You’ve submitted.

The rebellion is already ending. The strings are burning, and your money is melting. The land you stand on will fade with you, and so will the children, and so will all future generations. And so will the poor and rich alike, and so will the socially adept and socially inept.

Wood will be no longer, because trees will wither into currency. They’ll turn to ashes, ashes, they all fall down.

You’ve fallen. The sound of your fall ripples throughout the audience, almost like the cracking of an axed tree and the subsequent booming.

Nobody wavers. Simply a calm yet disappointed, Call in the substitute. You won’t be earning today. Not one in the audience cares that you’re sinking in the soil, into the boiling recesses of the earth. Maybe if you had fallen in the forest, nobody would have witnessed the fool you made of yourself.

“Be patient, peasant, your time will come.”