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Real Boy

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

At first I couldn't really see anything. I could only hear. I could hear the wood carver kind of walking around picking up stuff. He painted eyes on my face and I could see.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: And I looked right at him and he's like whoa, you alive? You made out of wood. And I said figure it out brother. And I jump up and I'm out of the door and it's fabulous - the stink and the pretty girls and the flashing signs and this bright sunlight. And I start staring back at the people staring at me and I see I'm the only one made out of wood. And I wonder if that's going to be a problem.

And next to a big tent I see a sign. It says come see the greatest show in the land. I sneak in the back of the tent and right on a stage I see a bunch of other people made out of wood. And I say hey, what's up? But they're quiet. Then the curtain lifts and bright lights shine down on us. Then strings lift the wooden people up and make them start hopping around. Strings - I don't need no stupid strings, so I pushed the wooden people aside and I start dancing, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hit me.

WASHINGTON: I give the crowd a little James Brown and they love it. Moving and doing it, you know? Then I throw in some M.J. and they lose their minds.

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON: Backstage, Mr. Big Top wants to talk to me with a quickness, says we can split the take 50-50. And I'm like how am I going to do all the dancing and you get 50 percent? How about 70-30?

It's a done deal.

An hour later, he announces the next show.

In the center ring the amazing puppet with no strings.

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON: This time I do a moonwalk. Ladies are throwing flowers on stage. I leave them wanting more and walk off feeling like a star.

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON: After the show, while Mr. Big Top congratulates me, the blue woman appears in a cloud of dust.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: My child, what are you doing here?

Well, I'm getting ready for the next show.

But don't you want to be a real boy?

No, I want to be in the circus. And she spits it like it's a bad word.

Don't say this word circus.

Circus, circus, I want to be in the circus.

Never say this word again.

Listen to me - circus, understand? The blue woman pulls out her wand and aims it and zaps me right between the eyes. My face starts itching. What the - and my nose, it starts growing all crazy - magic. And she's winding up to shoot me again and I scram out of the back and I'm running as fast as my little wooden legs would carry me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: And I get back to the man's house and I'm like hey, hey, look at my nose, Mr. Woodcarver man - courtesy of your little blue lady friend. How'd you get with her anyway? And he's like well, you know, that blue lady, she's a fine woman and when you get a little older you going to understand that.

No, forget about all that. What are you going to do about my nose? And then I see him coming at my face with some kind of cleaver. Whoa, whoa, whoa,

Hold on now, son.

I'm your son now? And he chops and it hurts, but it does fix my nose. I'm too angry to say thanks and I just leave and I get back to the circus where I'm appreciated. And I love everything about this circus. I love the lions. I love the elephants. I love the clowns. I love the cotton candy. I love the hairy lady. I love the flying trapeze and I love that Mr. Big Top saves me for last.

Prepare to be astounded by the amazing puppet with no strings.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T STOP 'TIL YOU GET ENOUGH")

WASHINGTON: It's awesome. It had been a crazy first day of life and even little wooden boys get tired, so after the last show I climbed into the fat man's trailer and laid my hand on a bag of cotton candy and I thought about how happy I was to have found the circus. When I woke up, right away I know something's wrong. I jumped to my feet. What's going on? What's going on? What's going on? I look down at my fingers and I can't believe it. My hands, my arms, my legs - no, everything is made out of meat. I'm a real boy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: And then I see her in the corner, clapping her hands together.

Isn't it wonderful? Aren't I a good mommy? It took most of the magic I had, but I did it.

And I know I can't be in the circus like this. Turn me back right now.

You're welcome. You are welcome, dear son.

Turn me back. And she disappears. I know I've got to go talk to Mr. Big Top. We've got to work something out.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, I need a dancing puppet, not a dancing little boy. They'll throw me in the slammer and I'm not going back in there. It's over. No more circus for you.

Please, Mr. Big Top...

No more circus.

The blue lady ruined everything and since that dark time - since that very dark time - I haven't been able to go back to the circus. I could never go back. And you - you could never go back either, never, because the puppet circus is no more. It is that time, but not to fear SNAP nation 'cause the dance just got started. More storytelling awaits your pleasure right now, even if you missed a moment, or if you didn't, subscribe right now for the amazing SNAP JUDGMENT podcast, featuring stories you can't get anywhere else - pictures, movies, stuff - right now at snapjudgment.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WASHINGTON: Apologies are in order to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We thought those skunks had their scent glands removed. That's what I was told when we send them over there. Sorry about the mishap, but let's not hold grudges, CPB. PRX - the Public Radio Exchange - told us there is such a thing as skunks without scent glands - PRX.org. WBEZ in Chicago starts beef with WBUR in Boston. You won't believe what they said. And even though this is not the news - no way is this the news. In fact, you can assemble a bunch of clips from former shows and pass it off as a brand new episode just so you get a few hours of precious sleep. Happy Holidays SNAP nation. And you would still not be as far away from the news as this is, but this is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.