Mutilated mouth

A ventriloquist dummy! A fucking ventriloquist dummy!” Donald hated those puppets! They have always been a source of repulsion rather than entertainment. He hated everything about those dummies: their oversized eyes, their eternal rosy cheeks, their ridiculous hairstyles, and their stupid fixed smiles. Every time they opened their mutilated mouths he expected coagulated blood to come out of it. He could never decide who was more pathetic: the puppet or the puppet’s master? Ventriloquist dummies always looked like they had a paralysis that only spared their mouths and eyes. And ventriloquists themselves had this dull and uncomfortable fixed grin on their faces every time the puppet talks. What was so funny about seeing this sad couple talking to each other?

Donald had some more scotch and then put the puppet on his knees, facing the mirror. He slipped his hand in the hole right on the neck of the puppet, moved its jaws and head and then almost immediately threw it back to the floor. Disgusting! What was he going to do with the thing now? He squeezed the plastic bottle of his scotch until the last drop and then threw it against the puppet. He put his back on the bed and felt into a deep sleep.

Three big thumps on the door put an end to a continuous stream of snoring. Donald shouted to the cleaner to leave him alone. What time was it? He checked the clock. Past one thirty. He could feel the poisonous tail of a massive headache drilling the back of his head. A really strong stench was invading the walls of his nose. He tried to turn his face but then realised that the horrible smell was following him. It was his own halitosis mixed with the more pervasive smell of old chlorine coming from the hotel’s swimming pool. Donald promised to himself not to go into the pool. Not only did it smell like a poorly sanitised public toilet, but also he remembered seeing a thick layer of oily liquid that covered the whole surface of the water. Gathering all his forces he got up and decided to take a shower. In his way to the bathroom he stumbled into the puppet. He almost forgot about the thing. Donald grabbed it and put it in the chair next to the bed and continued his clumsy way to the bathroom. He spent half an hour under the comforting streams of mild water. He checked his teeth and chin in the mirror, then started spreading shaving foam on his cheeks while he was trying to figure out what to do for the rest of the weekend. The hotel was already paid and his plane wasn’t leaving until Sunday afternoon, but he was totally broke. He was pondering the pros and cons of using his credit card when he heard a sound in the room.

He went back to the room, looked around and saw nothing. Then he dropped his eyes in direction of the dummy and found it back on the floor, spreading its limbs like the wings of a helicopter or like a desperate creature crawling through the dessert in search of a way to save its life. Already this image infuriated Donald, and then he noticed that the puppet’s right index seemed to be pointing somewhere under the bed. He leant under the bed, had a quick look and then noticed the exact position where his missing wallet was sitting. The puppet’s big eyes were staring directly at Donald. A cold shiver went down his spine. “Fucking puppet wants to steal my money!” He rushed to the dummy, kicked it twice on the side, picked up his wallet and then sat down on the bed. In the wallet he found the card-sized remote control, his credit cards and a couple of twenty-dollar bills. Donald was so furious to realise he was broke that he was ready to jump on top of the puppet until it was reduced to pieces, but he held back his anger. Probably the fucking puppet was worth something; probably he could sell it for a couple of thousand and then try his luck again in the casino. Who knows, he might end up getting back his $11,000! With this idea in mind Donald finished shaving, put his clothes on and set off to the street. Before he left the room, he made sure to hide the dummy.

Donald sat at a booth in the International House of Pancakes, ordered orange juice, coffee and the house special. He seemed to be distracted by every passer-by that he spotted through the window. But he wasn’t paying attention to them. His mind was an endless spring of mixed ideas: a bit of bitching about Valerie, some regretful thoughts about stupid bets he made the night before, and lots of complicated schemas to get back his $11,000 before he left Vegas. The idea of getting money out of the puppet turned around his head like a cheesy song. Donald speculated that the thing was probably worth three grand, two at the minimum. That was enough for him to get started. He could begin with minimum bids at craps, to increase the initial sum. No blackjack this time, the dealer always had the upper hand. Once the first objectives reached, he’d move into the roulette, and place his bids on odds or evens, where there was a higher chance to double his bet. He considered the odds of green numbers but promptly dismissed it as a minor issue. Yes, with two grand and moderate luck he could easily get to $5,000 on one night. He would have enough time to think about doubling that on Sunday. The more he thought about the puppet, the more it became the only alternative for his salvation. But he hated the idea of the stupid dummy becoming his saviour.

A black cloud brusquely darkened his face, and all the bad memories about ventriloquists came back at once, like a sudden rain of dead pigeons falling upon him. Who would pay two grand for such an appalling object? Nobody in Vegas would spend even a minute considering it. People came here to spend their money in gambling and lap dancers, not in ventriloquist dummies! That dull puppet was no saviour, it was a disgrace! This last word came like a revelation to him: the stupid thing was all the time there under the bed of his room and it was obvious that there was a link between the puppet and his catastrophic performance the night before. The infamous puppet was cursed! Donald experienced such a sudden disgust that he almost choked with the house special. He coughed, drank some coffee and took a decision: he was going straight back to the hotel to take out his revenge on the dummy.

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