Tuesday, July 20, 2010

With two dummies in the yard

***Ninth in a series***
A particularly spooky, creepy Mystic Moment


Max LeMonk, the monkey puppet, and I wandered out of the revival movie theater, tired and queasy. I was tired and queasy from the bewildering amount of popcorn and Pepsi and Lemon Drops I consumed; Max as queasy from the double feature of the classics The Exorcist and The Shining.

It was never like Max to be less than practical and even jadedly sardonic about movies while I readily suspended disbelief. Needless to say going with Max to a Sandra Bullock movie is not for the timid.  But these two classic scary movies bothered him… a lot.

“Do you think Jack Nicholson was permanently affected from playing that guy?” Max asked.  Yep, was freaked. That was something I would asked.

We turned to take the shortcut though the alley cluttered with old cars and garbage cans. Suddenly, there were growing amounts of flickering sparks coming from a dumpster, and a misty welding smoke-like haze started filling the air.  Max and I turned just as a brilliant flash engulfed us.

As our eyes focused, I could see we were still in the alley, but it was as bright as day.  “Where’s our shadows?” Max asked. All but one car was gone – a frog green 1973 AMC Gremlin.  But more alarming was the realization that there were parts of ventriloquist dummies scattered everywhere.

We walked slowly around the front of the Gremlin and discovered an old man with a large beat up hat sitting on the ground against the front bumper eating a sub sandwich. When his head looked up, we saw it was don Rey Ortega.  There was a little mayo on his chin.

“Oh, no,” Max said to don Rey. “Not even you can make this creepier. And you got something, what is that? Mayo? Right there on your chin.”Max looked up and said, "Picture if you will, a house of dummies..." doing an almost perfect impersonation of Rod Serling.  It was so good, even don Rey had to laugh, but then he inexplicably threw dirt on Max's shoes.  This was particularly curious, given the spooky atmosphere was, above all, curiously sterile. Where did the dirt come from?

At the same moment I trembled in fright from the sight of the dummy carcasses, I felt comforted being in the presence of the nagual, “don Rey,” I asked. “What is this horrible place? This pitiful, horrific sight?”

Don Rey smiled and held out his sandwich, offering me a bite. 
These are all discarded from the old Vaudeville days, old Farley over there has been collecting those dummy parts for years.

Then don Rey grabbed a ball of air into his and, and blew it out of his palm. The brick walls of the alley disappeared, revealing an old Tudor mansion. In all the windows, there were ventriloquist dummies in various states of repair.
Broken and forgotten dummies stare blankly at you from every room in the house. It gives most people the creeps and keeps most away from this place, it makes you feel like your in The Twilight Zone. Like the little dusty, cracked and paint chipped hands are gonna reach out and grab you.


Don Rey comforted me with a nod. He opened the wrought iron gate and waved us into the yard.

When we reached the house itself, several dummies leaned out, seemingly drawn to don Rey, who was cocking his head sideways as the dummies spoke. A twisted sound of laugher and crank organ music seeped around us. A crazy old woman dummy in the second floor window said:
If you manage to gather up enough courage to make it through the house, across the overgrown yard and to the garage, you will notice that the windows are spray painted black.

Then as we approcated the door, we heard eerie cackling and the sound of a crank organ.

The voices and carnival music are coming from inside. Go ahead reach for the old door handle.

Max reached out, his paw trembling. The old woman dummy laughed as Don Rey's Adam's Apple bobbed. The door creaked open, and inside the house the were workbenches and shelves and dummies from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Don Rey explained.
This is where old Farley repairs these little wooden fellas and finds homes for them. Bright lights, colors and music fill the garage and old dummies with fresh paint and new clothing smile and wink from the shelves.

And in the midst of what seemed to be a thousand faces, there was old Farley himself. He had an old sweater on, and had a little wood chisel in his hand.  I wanted to say hello, but don Rey waved us away, not wanting us to disturb him in his work.  Instead, he lead us to a window, and pointed to a car in the driveway. We had seen the car before.
He says that everything deserves a second chance at life, you see that old Gremlin over there? He's turning it into a puppetmobile.

Max couldn't help but giggle, but stopped mid chuckle when he saw a puppet that looked to be a combination of Madonna dummy and an orangutan puppet.  It looked very odd to me, but I could tell Max was smitten.
Beautiful things in life can be made with spare parts found here and there.
Max moved to the Madonna-utan, but just as he was about to speak, her head started to spin like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist a flash of light blinded us. 

As our sight returned, we were back in the dark alley. A piece of paper blew up into my hand. It was an old fashioned, handwritten receipt from Old Farley's Puppet Repair. Written on the reciept in don Rey's hand were the words:
Which parts will you choose? And what will you give new life to?

Also on the receipt was was a charge of $10 for "one adult tour" and $5 for "one junior tour." But too, it was paid in full, which was good.
***
Trivia quiz: What entertainer not only is a great ventriloquist, but plays one heck of a bamboo flute? Rey Ortega's adventures in entertainment can be found at reyortegaentertainment.com. One day I'll work up the courage to ask Rey, "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?"  Inquiring minds want to know.


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