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Liz Milne

‘So you see,’ said Geppetto to the pieces laid out on his workbench, ‘I’ve thought of everything you might need.’
            Geppetto fell silent, brooding on his short-lived marriage, the nightly embarrassment as his member refused to rise to the occasion. And his acid-tongued wife’s unconcealed derision.
            ‘You will never be found wanting, my boy.’ Geppetto picked up a dowel. ‘Mountain ash, seasoned with a treatment of my own devising… Always firm and fast growing. All you’ll need to do is utter whatever words of love the lady – or gent, no prejudices here, my boy – needs to hear. You’ll be a hit.’
            Geppetto smiled, thinking of his creation growing to successful manhood. He sighed happily and rubbed his nose, feeling the bumps from the old break. His acidulous wife could soften, it seemed, and had warmed their marital bed with the local butcher: a man as pink, hairless, and hygienic as one of his sausages. This large man, who had taken Geppetto’s wife, heedless of Geppetto’s pain, had flattened Geppetto’s nose when he had remonstrated with them. Their sharp shared laughter still needled his psyche, prickling even now, some forty years later.
            ‘Your nose,’ he told the pieces, ‘will be unbreakable.’ He held aloft another dowel. ‘Abyssinian hardwood,’ he breathed. ‘Hard as titanium, slow growing for solidity. Why, this short piece is four hundred years old. Cost a pretty penny, but anyone punching your nose will break a knuckle.’
            Geppetto grinned, imagining the pink smooth butcher in agony on the floor, clutching his ruined hand, then shook his head to dismiss the thought.
            He began the assembly, finding satisfaction as the pieces snapped, clicked and screwed into place.
            ‘A suit of clothes,’ said Geppetto, fitting his wooden child with the outfit made by the local seamstress for the replacement of the old, rotted mantel above her fireplace, ‘to make a man of you.’
            He placed his creation tenderly on the small bed he’d made, hoping to encourage his wife to have a child as soon as possible. She’d indignantly refused, even in those early days, when his intentions could still outwit the reluctance of his flesh.
            The Blue Fairy visited and, charmed by Geppetto’s simple hopes, granted his wish, transforming the wooden puppet into a real boy.
            Geppetto, a delighted and devoted parent, never hid from the boy the truth of his origins.
            Problems arose when the boy grew manly and felt desire for a young lady. He whispered sweet nothings to her, dismayed to feel the response on his face, rather than in his pants.
            Crying, he confronted Geppetto.
            ‘Is it possible?’ murmured Geppetto thinking back. ‘My dear boy, I’m so sorry!’ he gasped in horror.
            He tried to explain that he had automatically finished the face with the length of wood that best matched the forehead and chin, but it was already too late.
            Enraged by his father’s terrible mistake, the boy was already swinging the axe, seeking to wipe out his hurt and anguish with every blow.