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The Puppet Connoisseur
Matthew searched around him frantically. Where had his mother gone off to? She had just been beside him a moment ago. He looked up at all the tall figures walking around him, the top of his head only reaching their hips. They bustled this way and that, pushing Matthew along with the flow of traffic. He felt that he was being pulled further into the center of the town square away from wherever his mother might be.
Suddenly, from his right Matthew heard the sound of applause and cheering. With the short attention span and curiosity found in most five year olds, he quickly forgot about being lost and he pushed through the crowd, incited into searching for the source of the loud noise. Matthew found a ring of spectators standing in front of a puppet theatre. He ducked and dove through the forest of legs that were impeding him from his destination, eager to see what was on the other side of them.
He got through to the middle, right where the puppet theatre was. Matthew stood in his spot silently mesmerized as he watched the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” unfold before him. Now he knew why there was such a large crowd gathered around and why they cheered and applauded so enthusiastically. Matthew had seen puppet shows before. His friends would often put together a show for each other to watch. However, this puppet show was something far greater than that. There was something more in the way the puppet master spoke and moved his characters. Each puppet stirred something different in Matthew’s little heart. The puppet master had poured life into them.
When the show was over, Matthew stood at the front cheering even more loudly than everyone else. He was excited to see what story would be next up. However, he was highly disappointed when the curtains of the puppet theatre closed completely and the audience began to break off and go their own separate ways.
Matthew, on the other hand, did not leave but went around to the back of the puppet theatre. There he saw a lanky man dressed in black with a red scarf around his neck and a white French burette upon his head. He was bent over a trunk, gathering his belongings and putting them inside. He had not heard Matthew come up behind him and continued to pack. The tall man stood, lifting the trunk with him, and began to walk away.
Then, one of the puppets fell out of the trunk as if trying to escape and fell to the cobblestone ground. Not noticing, the man continued walking at a leisurely pace. Matthew quickly trotted over to the puppet lying on the ground and took it into his hands. It was aged he could tell, but not in a dilapidated way; it was aged with years of experience and performance. Matthew could imagine it having traveled all the way around the world, holding stories and memories to share from each place that it had been to. The puppet was a worker with a red shirt, yellow vest, and blue pants. He was adequately equipped with helmet, tool belt, hammer, and tape measure.
As much as Matthew liked the puppet he knew that he was supposed to return it to the puppet man. His mother had always taught him not to take things that didn’t belong to him. So, he started after the man, who was well down the street at this point.
“Excuse me, excuse me!” Matthew called out to him.
He turned around, still carrying his trunk of puppets, and looked at Matthew. Then his eyes fell upon the worker puppet in Matthew’s little hands and a smile spread across his face.
“I think you dropped this. Here.” Matthew walked over to the man and held out the puppet for him to take.
“I have a lot to carry. How would you like to help me out by bringing that to my van for me?” The man turned around still smiling and began to walk off.
Matthew couldn’t believe his luck. The puppet man had actually asked him to hold onto the puppet and help him carry it! He took the job as an honor and walked with determination.
“What is your name young man?” the puppet man asked as they walked.
“I’m Matthew,” he replied happily. This man was a very kind man, he could tell.
“Matthew, where are your parents? Shouldn’t you be with them?” he asked concerned.
“I lost my mom in the crowd,” Matthew responded sadly, suddenly realizing again that he was lost.
The puppet man stopped walking and turned his head to look at Matthew.
“Well, Matthew, I will help you look for your mother then as soon as we get this stuff to my van. I’m the Puppet Connoisseur by the way.”
“The Puppet Connoisseur…,” Matthew repeated. He thought it was a very cool name.
“Yes, I am the expert of puppets!” he said. Then he chuckled aloud.
Matthew and the Puppet Connoisseur had finally reached the van. It was just a normal silver van, at least on the outside. When the Puppet Connoisseur set down his trunk on the floor and pulled the door of his van open, Matthew gaped. The van was filled with piles of various random items; it was like a treasure trove. The Puppet Connoisseur picked up the trunk and set it inside after making some room for it. Matthew reluctantly held out the worker puppet to the Puppet Connoisseur. He had grown even more attached to it after having held it during their walk to the van. The Puppet Connoisseur laughed at Matthew’s unwilling expression.
“You can hold on to him for a little while longer, Matthew. At least until we find your mother. How about that? Phillip doesn’t like being put in the trunk anyways. He’s more of the adventure type.” The Puppet Connoisseur winked at Matthew, who was now overjoyed and hugging Phillip close to his chest.
In the next hour, the Puppet Connoisseur and Matthew talked and laughed as they looked for Matthew’s mother. Finally, they found her distraught and in tears.
“Matthew!” she cried, running over to him and enveloping him in a hug.
“I was so worried. Don’t you ever run off like that again. Do you understand, Matthew?”
“Yes, Mom. I’m sorry.”
“That’s quite alright. You’re safe and that’s what matters.”
Then Matthew’s mother stood up and noticed the Puppet Connoisseur.
“Thank you, so much for keeping my little boy safe and returning him to me.”
“It was my pleasure.” Then he winked at Matthew as if they shared a secret.
“Thank you for everything, Mr. Puppet Connoisseur,” Matthew said as he held out Phillip to him again.
“You keep Phillip, Matthew. I think he’s grown rather attached to you and doesn’t want to come back to my trunk.”
And with that, the Puppet Connoisseur left towards his van, smiling.
Matthew, of course, treasured Phillip for all of his childhood years. Every memory had Phillip in it because they did everything together. They ate together, laughed together, and played together. As Phillip gradually came apart with the years, Matthew lamented with every rip and tear. And when he grew older, he set Phillip upon a shelf in his room so that he could reminisce about his one fateful day with the Puppet Connoisseur.