I slipped on a wet rock in the woods and fractured my elbow a few days ago making it difficult to type (or produce my audio podcast "Conversations With My Dummy". Fortunately it's my left hand so I can still perform ventriloquism when I need to talk to Harry. So I figured this is a good time to do a cut and paste job. Keeping up with the theme of illusion in the past blogs, I'm sharing an excerpt from my young adult novel "Pooja and the Wooden Detective".
The leitmotif of the novel is illusion (see below) and one of the themes is Steve Dubois' illness. He can't differentiate his dummy, Dicky from reality.
Below you have a synopsis of the novel and then a page or two of Steve's reply after Pooja, his protege, who's learning ventriloquism herself with her puppet Maya, asks him what he talks about in therapy with his dummy. Dicky is upset because he's not going on a double date with Steve.
Excerpt from Pooja and the Wooden Detective
A Young Adult Novel
By Steve Charney
POOJA is a 13 year old East Indian girl in love with ventriloquism. She's smart, savvy and precocious. Her teacher, STEVE DUBOIS, is a magician and ventriloquist way too attached to his dummy, DICKY, for his own good, but Dicky protects Steve from his personal demons until his therapist can cure him.
Pooja, Dicky and MAYA (Pooja’s own puppet), solve mysteries on stage and off. And with her pal, COOPER, they discover who murdered the man at the BrouHaHa comedy club, who and why foreigners are after an 80 million dollar CANDI® doll and what makes Steve Dubois tick.
The leitmotif is illusion. This is reflected again and again in the animated dolls, Dicky, Maya and the quantum computerized doll, Candi. Several key characters are in disguise. Even the murder in the first paragraph has been faked. The metaphors and descriptions continue the theme. The key to solving this humorous mystery is exposing the deceptions and uncovering the truth.
But first Steve had bad news for old Dicky. Dropping to a bench in a small park, he turned the boy's head towards him and looked intensely into his glass eyes. "I’m not taking you to Lulu’s."
"She invited me. It’s gonna be a double date. Remember?"
"My doctor is right. You're an enabler. I'm leaving you home."
Pooja sat next to them. "What's an enabler, Mr. D?"
"It's someone who protects you out of love. Because of that, it's harder to cure yourself. Right, Dicky...Dicky?" Dubois poked the boy. The dummy jumped. "Yeah, So?" He looked at his ventriloquist and raised his eyebrows.
"Mr. D, I'm not an expert or anything but can you really blame Dicky? I mean you're making him talk, right?"
"But I can't help it. He's protecting me from inner demons.
Pooja perked up. "Demons? You got demons, Mr. D?"
"It's like this, Pooj. You sit in the back of your classroom with Maya, your puppet, on your lap. When a kid wants to be your friend, Maya bites her head off because you're scared. Maya protects you so you don't get hurt again. So Maya is the only friend you have. But she's imaginary! And every time you make a real friend she convinces you to act crazy until your new friend runs away. You don't get hurt, but you're all alone.
"That hurt would have to have been a whopper, if you can't even remember what it was."
"Yep. That's what my doctor says. Dicky won't face it either."
Dicky whispered, "Nothing to face. I wasn't there. I came later."
"It split me in two. To heal, I need to face it head on. The problem is, Dicky likes things the way they are."
Dicky raised an eyebrow."Why wouldn't I? Steve doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs or eat junk food. I'm his only vice. What’s the big deal? It's good I'm enabling him. Keeping him from getting hurt is why I stick around."
"I get it now, Mr. D, he's fighting for his survival. If you're cured, you won't need him anymore and like one of your magic tricks, he'll disappear. But you gotta do it. I'd hate it if I didn't have any friends except a puppet."
Dicky shook his head. "Some pal you are, Poo, trying to break up best friends. That's mean."
Steve gave it to Dicky good. "She's right! It’s not normal. Don’t you see? I want real friends. Not you."
"What about Pooja?" Dicky said. "She's cool. Or was, until she tried to break up our friendship."
"Pooja is cool. But she's a teenager. I need to be with someone my own age."
"I'm your age."
"You know what I mean!"
The boy hopped up and down on Steve's knee. "This is the best relationship you’ve ever been in! I shudder when I think of your mom. Or that girlfriend who sponged off you for three months and then disappeared. I never ask for a dime, and I help pay the rent as part of our comedy team."
Steve was welling up. "This isn’t healthy. Don’t you see that?"
He began to weep. Tears dripping down his cheeks. Dicky and Pooja stared.
Embarrassed, he lowered his head into his hand. "I don't wanna be like this."
Pooja wanted to hug her teacher and tell him it was all right. But she couldn't. "I'm not an expert or anything but you gotta remember who that person was who hurt you so badly."
Dicky tilted his head. "Are you talking to me or Steve?"
Pooja patted Mr. D's shoulder. "You, Mr. D."
Now both of Dicky's eyebrows sprung up. "What about me? Don’t I have a problem too?"
"You are the problem, dude."
Mr. D sniffled. "You wanted to know what I talk about at the doctor's. Now you know."