10. Pinocchio & Co

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Once upon a sidewalk, there lay a talking piece of wood.

"Hello?" said the wood.

No answer. The street was empty.

"Hello? Anyone there?"

Still no answer. The night passed in silence, and the morning arrived.

"I'm a piece of wood, and it's morning," the wood sighed. "If I didn't have supreme taste, I'd make a dirty joke now."

Still no answer.

Finally, a poor toymaker came along the way, whistling a merry tune. Why exactly he was whistling a merry tune, he did not know—his bills were long past due, the roof of his little house was leaking, and nobody wanted to buy silly wooden toys anymore—but whistling merrily is what toymakers do. It is like princes kissing awake princesses, or wicked stepmothers buying every latest designer mirror.

"Hey, you!"

Stopping in his tracks, the poor toymaker glanced around. Had someone spoken to him?

"Yes, I'm talking to you, goofball! Finally someone came this way! You have no idea how long I've been lying around here. I feel quite stiff."

"Um...pardon?" The toymaker looked around again, took a step forward—and stumbled.

"Down here, blockhead!"

Supporting himself against the wall of the closest house, the toymaker glanced down.

"Err...am I talking to a piece of wood?"

"Finally, he got it! Give the boy a prize!"

"I am talking to a piece of wood. I am talking to a piece of wood."

"Not just any wood, either! None of that cheap pine stuff. Oh no, I am premium oak."

"Hello, Premium Oak."

"That's not my name! It's just what I am."

"Oh. Well, what is your name, then?"

"I don't have one yet, stupid. I'm a piece of wood."

"Ah...yes. Of course."

"But I think I should have a name," the piece of wood mused. "I should be something better than just a piece of wood. After all, we should all work to improve ourselves. And I think I could really make something of myself."

"You could?"

"Yes, of course. With your help."

"Me?"

"Well you don't expect me to carve myself, now, don't you?"

"N-no, of course not."

"Well then, that's settled. Take me to your workshop immediately and make something interesting of me. I was thinking the hilt of a magical sword, or a club for a homicidal giant, or—"

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"—a puppet?"

"Yes!" The poor toymaker beamed. "I have no children, you see. This way I can teach you all you need to know about the world and toy-making and people and toy-making, and you can go to school and make friends and maybe, if you are good and kind and well-behaved, you might even become a real boy one day."

The puppet covered its face with its freshly-carved hands.

"Please, someone shoot me now!"

"I could," the toymaker offered, "but I'm afraid it won't do any good. You don't have a heart. The bullet would just pass through and only leave a hole for me to fix."

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