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The Real Boy


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


WASHINGTON: And I looked right at him. And he's like, whoa, are you alive? You're 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 push the wooden people aside and I start dancing, right?



WASHINGTON: I give the crowd a little James Brown, and they love it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Moving, doing it, you know.


WASHINGTON: Then I throw in some M.J., and they lose their minds.


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.


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.


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


WASHINGTON: My child, what are you doing here?

What, 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.


WASHINGTON: I get back to the man's house. 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 you going to do about my nose? And then I see him coming at my face with some kind of cleaver.

Hold on now, son.

I'm your son now? And he (chopping noise) 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 saved me for last.

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


WASHINGTON: It's awesome. It'd 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, laid my head on a bag of cotton candy, and I thought about how happy I was to have found the circus.


WASHINGTON: When I woke up, right away I know something's wrong. I jump 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. 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, 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 until today.


WASHINGTON: On SNAP JUDGMENT right here from PRX and NPR, we proudly present "Circus, Circus." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.