Once upon a time, in a world where being in control was important, a marionette named Matilda was sitting on top of a large, woven toy basket in Gretchen Oswald’s room. Matilda had been Gretchen’s puppet for the past five years and, between the two of them, they had entertained both small crowds in Gretchen’s family room and larger crowds as part of her school’s talent shows. As far as Matilda could remember, she had been a very loyal and loving puppet to Gretchen, which is why it had made her upset that Gretchen had not performed with her for the past few months. A marionette’s number one job is to give the illusion that the puppeteer is in control and Matilda felt she had done everything possible to continue this illusion for as long as she could. Matilda had tried to convince herself that Gretchen was too old to play with puppets anymore, or perhaps her other toys had worked hard to become more interesting. Deep down, however, Matilda knew what it was that was keeping Gretchen from playing with her and couldn’t stop herself from thinking that, without either of them knowing it, the two of them had performed together for the last time. Every morning since that performance, Gretchen had woken up and ignored Matilda so the marionette decided that it was finally time to find herself another puppeteer.
Although she didn’t feel happy about her decision, once it had been made, there was no going back. Matilda patiently took her time and thought about her plan in great detail. She didn’t like to think of it as an escape, but not fulfilling her purpose as a marionette gave her an overwhelming feeling of restlessness that she could no longer ignore. During her breaks from thinking about how her plan to find a new puppeteer, Matilda’s mind would replay the final time they had performed together. The performance was particularly special as it was the first time they had put on a show for the general public to see. Gretchen’s mother had organized a make-shift stage in front of the local grocery store on the weekend to allow the two of them to entertain the people coming and going from gathering their weekly supplies. Although this was an extremely thoughtful gesture, the reactions from the local shoppers was very different when compared to the positive responses they had received when performing in front of Gretchen’s family or friends. During those performances, the two of them were in sync and Matilda didn’t have to work anywhere near as hard to convince Gretchen that she was in complete control. Despite their efforts to make this the most memorable show they could, Matilda had trouble concentrating from the moment the music started. She could sense Gretchen’s frustrations which only made matters worse and it became obvious that the people passing by were not being genuinely entertained but were only making positive comments just be polite. No longer able to continue giving Gretchen the illusion she was in control, Matilda broke the number one rule of being a marionette and tangled her own strings in order to try and save Gretchen from any further embarrassment. Having been forced to end the show early, Gretchen placed Matilda on the top of her toy basket in the corner of her room and had not made an effort to practice performing with her since.
Matilda’s opportunity to leave the bedroom went just as she had planned. Gretchen had left for school and her mother came in to complete her weekly clean of Gretchen’s bedroom. Matilda made sure that today was not going to just be a regular clean, however, and, by leaving some Gretchen’s older toys out on her floor, convinced Gretchen’s mother to find a large, cardboard box which she began filling with toys Gretchen no longer played with. Having not been used for so long, Matilda knew that she would be one of the toys placed in the box. With her strings still tangled, Gretchen’s mother picked up Matilda and waited a moment before walking over to place Matilda in the box. As the lid closed over her, Matilda took one last look around Gretchen’s bedroom and smiled.
The darkness of the box made the hours that passed appear very long, providing time for Matilda to think of all the ways she could be a better marionette for her next puppeteer. Suddenly aware of some muffled shouting outside of the box, Matilda was surprised when the top of the box opened up, letting in a flood of bright light. It took the marionette a moment to realise that the face staring down into the box was Gretchen’s and Matilda was shocked to see that she had been crying. Gretchen gave a sigh of relief as she took the marionette out of the box and hugged her. Wiping away her tears, Gretchen sat on the edge of the bed with Matilda in her lap. Just like they had practised, Matilda let Gretchen think she was in control as Gretchen began the long process of untangling the marionette’s strings in preparation for their next performance.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
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