Wood You Be Mine?





The story, in three acts, of a boy fulfilling his dream of becoming a wooden doll.

Act 1:  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

Act 2:  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

Act 3:  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

Original Version:  Wood You Be Mine? ’04

Act 1

Part 1:

Okay, that’s not fair. Legno was seriously lacking in common sense, forethought, and overall good judgment, but the idiot had his reasons. The skinny 11-year old had been orphaned at a young age by a woman who sniffed too much glue when he was still in the womb. As such, his capacity to learn was, to put it lightly, diminished. Stefano Saggezza, his foster parent, had done his best to educate him. As a local schoolteacher, Saggezza was no stranger to nurturing young minds, but unfortunately, nothing seemed to stick in Legno’s. Ironic since Legno’s mind was riddled with glue.

Six years had passed since he adopted the young Legno. Saggezza, no stranger to the drink, woke up on the kitchen floor one hot morning in early June after a particularly intense bender. As he ran his fingers through his white, wispy hair, he couldn’t help but notice an etching of himself with the boy on the kitchen wall. Looking at it, the old man reflected on the day he adopted Legno. Not having anyone in his life, he sought to fill the void by adopting a child. Hoping for a child whom he could mold into an intellectual, he chose the boy chewing on his own toenails in the corner, admiring the boy’s ingenuity. That day, he took Legno home with him.

Things hadn’t quite turned out as Saggezza had hoped.

Through the years, Legno seemed to grow dumber and dumber, a fact which never ceased to baffle Saggezza. And although he cared for the boy, Saggezza’s apathy over attempting to raise him was unquestionable.

Legno barreled down the stairs; the racket pierced through the hung-over Saggezza. He flew through the small living area giving no regard to the old man. Entering the kitchen, he threw open the curtains to let some light in.

Saggezza groaned, “Damnit, Legno.”

Ignoring his complaints, Legno poured himself some juice and chugged it as fast as he could. He was in a rush, you see. He had big plans today. Big plans, indeed.

“Where are you off to?” Saggezza asked, half-heartedly as Legno began heading out the door.

“Going in to town!” Legno responded in a loud, annoyingly peppy manner.

“For…?”

“Listen, Saggies…”

“Don’t ca—”

“…I’ve been thinking how it’s time for me to finally get out there. Be a man. Sow my wild oats.”

“You’re 11.”

“Yeah, and it’s also the 19th century. Isn’t the average lifespan, like, 14?”

Rubbing his temples and letting out a long sigh, Saggezza muttered, “If you’re going in to town, buy me a bottle of Campari.”

“Artichoke liquor? Yeah, I guess life in the Sicilian ghettos wasn’t bad enough.”

“You’re awfully precocious for a blockhead.”

Legno paused momentarily, not exactly certain of the words Saggezza used.

“Buh?”

“Never mind, Legno,” Saggezza said, sighing once more. “Hav…”

Before he could finish his sentence, Legno, with a pep in his step, grabbed his shoes and was out the door in a flash.

Saggezza, silently to himself, finished, “Have fun, son.”

Legno made his way out of the house in the outskirts of Palermo and in to the bustling metropolis itself. As he strutted down the cobblestone streets, he couldn’t help but catch his reflection in a store window and admire what he saw: Legno clocked in at a solid one and a quarter meters and thirty kilograms; his hair, curly and unkempt, was slowly being turned into an afro by the strong winds; his acne telling the tale that puberty was here, and that he was no longer a boy. Nay, he was less of a boy and more of a god.

Oh, yes. He was looking good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Part 2:

With misguided confidence and a self-satisfied grin on his face, Legno approached the first girl he laid eyes on: Gloria Pane, a local bread maker’s daughter, one year above him in school.

“Older woman,” Legno said to himself. “Jackpot.”

Legno, moving with a fluidity of an eel in treacherous waters, sidled up next to Gloria. Leaning in next to her, he stated in an awkward aloofness, “I could’ve sworn we were in Palermo, but it certainly looks like Cougar Town from where I’m standing.”

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, Legno. What do you want?”

“Just to talk. I thought we could get to know each other. How’s your day so far?”

“It was fine,” Gloria said in an exasperated tone, “until some asshole tried hitting on me on my way home.”

Legno stood there, softly biting his bottom lip and nodding to himself. After a moment or two, he replied, “Okay, well we’re going to try this again. This time around, you’ll be playing the part of ‘Not a bitch.’ Sound good?”

Legno had always wondered what it was like to get slapped in the face.

Okay, moving on, Legno thought as he rubbed his cheek.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Diana Bontempo walking in to a nearby candy store. Wasting no time, he quickly followed her in, caring nothing for subtlety or tact.

As Diana picked a box of peppermint fudge off a shelf, Legno walked up, staring at her. She tried her hardest to ignore him.

“Good time,” Legno said, grinning like a goon.

“What?” Diana asked.

“Good time,” Legno repeated, still with that satisfied smile on his face.

Gloria turned her attention back to the chocolate, trying once again to ignore him.

“Bontempo. Bon means good and tempo time. Bontempo. Good time.”

“What’s your point?”

“Just wanted to see if you lived up to the name.”

Legno never wondered what it was like to get kicked in the testicles.

As he limped out of the candy store, he muttered “This day is horseshit” to himself. “All these girls think who the hell they—”

Suddenly, a thunderous roar of applause stopped Legno in his tracks. He couldn’t tell what exactly, but something was occurring at the other end of the street. A mass of people of all ages had gathered and were rambunctiously clapping and cheering. For what, he wasn’t quite sure.

Downcast and dejected, Legno half-heartedly made his way towards the crowd, hoping whatever it was would take some of the bite out of the awful morning he’d been having. As he drew closer, a sound pierced through the noise of the crowd. It was singing.

Oh, she loves to sing and she loves to dance/Buy her a drink and you can spank her ass!

A roar of laughter erupted from the crowd.

Flash her a smile and shoot her a wink/And then good sir, you’ll be seeing some pink!<

The laughter continued, even louder this time.

If you need a snack then she’ll cook you eggs/And if none are left then she’ll spread her legs!

The people were going crazy for the song, but Legno was too young to grasp the humor of the raunchy ballad.

Although not as captivated by the song as the rest of the audience, he was still determined to see what exactly was going on. Not strong enough to push through and not tall enough to peer over, Legno had to resort to jumping up in the air to see what was happening.

Legno hopped desperately over the crowd; his pale, skinny calf muscles doing all they could to propel him as high as possible.

Each glimpse painted more of a picture:

*Hop* A long-haired man standing tall.

*Hop* A cross-shaped object in each of his hands.

*Hop* Another figure, smaller in stature, dancing to the minstrel’s song.

*Hop* A swath of golden blonde hair.

*Hop* Eyes as green as a meadow.

*Hop* Dark, caramel-colored skin.

*Hop* He was in love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

His heart raced. His palms were sweaty. So utterly taken aback by this girl’s beauty, he could barely move. He had to wait until the crowd dispersed before seeing her again.

After what felt like an eternity, the performance ended.

“Thank you, thank you!” one man screamed, “Please, please, have no reservations about emptying your wallets as we have emptied our hearts! Thank you!”

A second man came around with a pail, hoping for some generous patrons to throw in spare change. After roughly three minutes, a few measly coins were lining the bottom of the pail, and the majority of the crowd retired back to their homes. Legno, more nervous than he had even been, reluctantly made his way forward. Part of him wished the crowd were still there so that he’d have an excuse to not approach her yet.

With all of his prior confidence long gone, and feeling like someone just kicked him in the stomach, Legno continued to inch forward.

There she was. Lean and fit and appearing to be roughly Legno’s age, she was even more beautiful than he had realized. But as he drew closer, he saw that she was in a lifeless, supine position next to the miniature stage where she performed.

“Can we help you, little guy?” a voice asked, seemingly out of nowhere.

Legno jolted back, startled. He had been too enamored to realize that there were two lanky gentlemen standing right there.

Immediately, Legno noticed the similarities between the two men. No, more than just similar…identical. Their long, stringy brown hair; their gaunt, unshaven faces; and their flowing green tunics. He was seeing double.

“Um…so she must be worn out from the performance, huh?” Legno replied, not quite answering the question.

The one man turned to the other, both confused, then looked back at Legno.

“…yeah, sure. I guess,” he replied. “So you liked the show?”

“I really couldn’t see what was going on. And I didn’t really understand the lyrics. If you’re hungry, why would you want a girl to spread her legs?”

After a few seconds of an unbearably awkward silence, the second man answered, “Yeah, the show isn’t really for kids. We usually tell parents that beforehand, but I guess yours wasn’t around…”

“Nah, I assume he’s passed out in his own filth by now,” Legno replied while turning his head to examine the area. “Anywho, what is all this exactly?”

“My brother here and I are traveling minstrels, the soon-to-be famous…”

At this point, the man stopped for a moment, hopped up on stage, threw out his arms, and finished, “GEMINI BROTHERS!”

“You’ll have to excuse him,” the other man sighed, “he’s a bit more theatrical than I am. I’m Giovanni; he’s Giuseppe. I play the fiddle, and he provides the vocals and movements for our lady Marion there.”

“…Marion…” Legno said to himself, “that’s the most beautiful name in the world.”

“It’s just a silly play on words since she’s a marion—”

“…Marion…” he repeated, utterly captivated.

“So kid, you never answered me,” Giuseppe said, hopping off the stage, “What can we help you with? You said you didn’t quite get the show, so…”

“I wanted to meet the girl!” Legno blurted out as if he didn’t say it quickly, he wasn’t going to say it at all.

The two brothers, again, shared a confused look.

“You…” started Giuseppe.

“…what?” finished Giovanni.

“Meet the girl…Marion. I want to hold her, kiss her, love her, marry her, raise a family with her, and then one day grow to resent her. Every little boy’s fantasy.”

Silence.

“Oh, and I guess we’ll get a Labrador at some point.”

“You want to meet…Marion?” Giuseppe asked, bewildered, “You know she’s a doll, right?”

“Oh man, is she ever,” Legno responded, his eyes wide as he stared at her motionless body. “Look at her there, sleeping like an angel.”

“No, kid,” Giovanni interjected, “she’s an actual doll. A marionette. She has strings attached.”

“What girl doesn’t? Amiright, fellas?”

Giuseppe smirked and turned to his brother, “He’s got ya there, Gio.”

“Don’t encourage him,” Giovanni said, snapping at his brother. “Okay, listen…wait, what’s your name?”

“Legno Abigail Ragazzo.”

“Okay, Legno. Marion here is a doll…”

“Oh man, is she…”

“No, shut up, you said that already. Listen and let me finish. Marion is an actual doll. She’s made of wood. She has no flesh, no organs, and no brain.”

“Sounds like a match made in heaven if you ask me, Gio,” Giuseppe choked out, partially laughing at his own joke.

“You seem like a nice kid,” Giovanni continued, ignoring his brother’s comment, “a little dense, but not your fault. Frankly, I blame the schools. But that’s neither here nor there. My point is that you two can’t be together. Why don’t you try finding a nice living girl your own age?”

“But…” Legno began, before being cut off by Giovanni.

“We’re doing one more show here tonight at dusk,” he stated in a very matter-of-fact manner, “Same spot. If you want to, come by and we’ll let you say good-bye to ‘Marion’ before we head back north.”

“Yeah,” Giuseppe said, picking her up, “Maybe she’ll even let you give her a kiss good-bye.” Turning his head to the doll, he continued, “Won’t ya, love?”

Giuseppe, speaking in a high-pitched voice out of the side of his mouth, responded to his own question as if he were Marion, “Oh, that would be the cat’s pajamas!”

“Oh, you’re a filthy little slut, aren’t ya, love?” Giuseppe cackled, then immediately tossed Marion into her carrying case. “Gio, if you kindly, a little help disassembling the stage?”

“Wait, what are you…!” Legno cried.

“We still have a lot work to do before we can pack it in for the morning,” Giovanni responded, exhausted from the conversation. “I’d let you stay, but to be honest, you’re kind of a weirdo, and I’m a little afraid you’re going to fondle the doll.”

“I’d be gentle.”

“I’m sure you would be. Listen: Tonight. Dusk. Come early so you get a good view of the show. But for now, seriously, get out of here.”

“Don’t be so hard on the kid, Gio. He and Marion might actually make a good pair. Sure, she’s made of pine, but something tells me Legno here’s got a little wood in him, too.”

Giovanni, now scrunching his eyes and rubbing his temples, pleaded with his brother, “Beppe, please shut up. Legno, we’ll see you later today, alright?”

“Fine,” Legno pouted as he limped away, his body once again heavy with a feeling of rejection.

He walked down the cobblestone streets, hands in his pockets, anger in his eyes.

“Stupid!” Legno exclaimed as he kicked a rock down the street, “Gemini!” he yelled again, punting yet another rock, “Brothers!” he screamed at the top of his lungs as a third rock went flying into the distance.

“You sure are an angry fellow, aren’t you, lad?” a tiny, somewhat gravely voice said.

Legno looked around, trying to find the source, “Who…?”

“Maybe I can help with that,” the mysterious voice added. “I overheard that little exchange you had with those gypsies. Not very helpful, were they?”

“No, they were kind dou…” Legno started saying, still looking around. “Wait, seriously, who are you and where are you?”

“Look down, son.”

Peering at the ground, Legno discovered who this mystery person was, except it wasn’t a person at all…

…it was a giant talking bug.

“My name is Timothy, and I’m going to make all of your dreams come true.”

END OF ACT 1

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Act 2

Part 1:

Legno stared, his mouth agape, his eyes wide. He tried to respond, but all he could manage to muster was “Bluuuuuhhhhhhh?”

“Understandably, this must be a lot for you to take in,” Timothy replied.

“Bluuuuuhhhhhhh?” Legno continued.

“It’s not everyday one sees a well-dressed, well-mannered, and above all else, well-spoken insect, is it?”

Silence for a second, followed by “Bluuuuuhhhhhhh?”

“Okay,” Timothy said, slightly annoyed and beginning to turn away, “I guess I’ll find some other boy to woo that cute little lady that you have eyes for.”

“Wait!” Legno yelled, finally with actually words, “You’re not serious, are you?”

Turning back towards Legno, Timothy calmy stated, “No. I’m not. But I assumed that would snap you out of it.”

Although the initial shock had finally subsided, Legno still couldn’t believe his eyes: There in front of him was some sort of overgrown cockroach, roughly thirteen centimeters in height. Adorned with what appeared to be a blazer, walking stick, and a top hat, Legno got on his hands and knees for a closer look.

“I’m sure you have a lot of questions for me,” Timothy remarked.

Legno’s gray eyes squinted as he examined the creature. After a few moments, he responded, “Where the hell do you find a top hat that small?”

“Really? You see a talking insect, and that’s your question? My attire?”

“It’s so well crafted. Is it a fashion thing, or do you just have a weird-shaped head?”

Having no interest in playing in to the boy’s stupidity, Timothy began, “I saw how those two men treated you. Not very helpful, were they?”

Legno’s eyes narrowed, and he turned his head, not wanting Timothy to see his expression of shame and embarrassment. “No. Not at all,” he replied.

“You’re just a young man looking for love, aren’t you?”

“Yes! Absolutely! And they refused to help!” he responded, his eyes widened and head snapping forward to face Timothy again.

“Ah, well that’s where I come in. Don’t you know why they refused?”

“Because the whole damn world’s out to get me,” he muttered pathetically as he turned his head to face the ground.

“Oh stop with that woe-is-me type attitude,” Timothy said with a sigh. “You’ll get nowhere in life thinking like that. Take a look at me for instance…”

“…and your hat…”

“Take a look at me for instance,” Timothy repeated, “I wasn’t born this way. I started out as just another common member of the Recticulitermes lucifugus.”

A baffled look danced across Legno’s face and he asked “You’re…rectal fungus?”

“Why don’t you just do us both a favor and keep quiet for a while? Now, as I was saying, I was just another common insect, but I always knew I deserved more. I had the potential to be more, and it was going unrealized.”

“So you ‘being more’ meant becoming an abnormally large bug with abnormally small clothes?”

“No, son. Me ‘being more’ meant a chance at a new start and a new beginning to make my life anything I wanted it to be. All I needed was that push in the right direction,” Timothy explained, “And I was able to amass everything one could want, including love.”

“You were able to find love?” Legno’s interest was now truly piqued. Timothy had said the magic word.

“Indeed I was,” Timothy replied. “And you can, too. And as I said earlier, I’m going to help.”

“How?”

“This girl, this…?”

“Marion.”

“This Marion. She’s not quite human, correct?”

“She’s, well…no. She’s a doll. But at the same time, she’s more human than the rest of us.”

Timothy nodded. Sure, what the boy had just said made absolutely no sense, but a mixture of youth and infatuation rarely made for the most sound of minds.

“So,” Legno began, “what do we do? How can you help me?”

“Oh, it quite simple, son,” Timothy replied.

“Simple how?”

“I’m going to help you become a wooden boy.”

Legno was taken aback. That idea, it was…it was…

“…the best idea I HAVE EVER HEARD!” Legno exclaimed.

“I thought you might like it,” Timothy said with a smile.

“And then the Geminis…es will have to take me along with them! A doll that can sing and dance all his own, they’d make a killing!”

“My thoughts exactly!” Timothy declared, sharing Legno’s enthusiasm for the idea.

“But why help me? I’m no one to you,” Legno asked in a rare moment of lucidity.

“When life is kind enough to grant you a chance at something better, the least you can do is to pay it forward. These Gemini Brothers, they’re like so many other people in the world: They look to put others down, suppress their potential, and keep them from obtaining what they want and what they deserve. And that includes you, son.

“A person can grow bitter and angry when they are denied their heart’s desire,” Timothy continued, “and I’d hate to see a boy with his whole life ahead of him become jaded towards the world at such a young age. The thought of it just breaks my heart.”

An image of Saggezza flashed in to Legno’s mind and a pang of empathy struck him. He was beginning to piece together why his surrogate father drank so much.

“That’s…that’s really nice,” Legno replied, noticeably touched by Timothy’s kindness. “But how do we go about that?”

“Simple. We see the witch who made me what I am.”

“We see which what?” a confused Legno asked.

“No,” Timothy responded, almost immediately.

“I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking,” retorted Legno.

“I’m not doing shtick with you. We’re going to see a witch, as in a woman with magical powers,” Timothy countered, not interested in the back-and-forth that was sure to ensue.

“Fine,” Legno pouted as he began the rise back to his feet, “but it would’ve been a riot.”

At that moment, Timothy, with a few deliberate hops, began a scramble up the left side of Legno.

*Hop* First to his ankle.

“Yes…”

*Hop* Then to his knee.

“I’m sure…”

*Hop* Next to his forearm.

“It would’ve been…”

*Hop* And finally resting upon his shoulder.

“Utter hilarity,” Timothy finished, slightly out of breath, “but we have to be on our way if we want to get to my friend’s house. I imagine you’d like to get there sooner rather than later.”

“Fair enough,” Legno responded. “Just point me in the right direction.”

“We’re actually not that far,” Timothy replied, “start by heading north out of town and in to the woods. As luck would have it, it’s roughly three kilometers away. We can get there in no time!”

Needing to hear no more, Legno rapidly made his way through town and in to the heavily forested area, all the while having Timothy perched carefully upon his shoulder. Not one for the great outdoors, this was the first time Legno had traversed the region. It was the first time he heard the crunch of the dry grass beneath his feet, the first time he had been eclipsed by the lush green of the cherry bark oak trees, the first time the growling sounds of the animals filled his ears.

But as exciting as this all was to his senses, more exciting was the prospect of the new beginning that Timothy had promised. Unfortunately, despite his emotional enthusiasm, Legno’s diminutive frame wasn’t used to supporting this much physical exertion, and he was soon doubled over and wheezing.

*Huff* “Are…” *huff* “…you sure…” *huff* “…we’re going…” *huff* “…the right…” *huff* “…way?”

“Yes, yes. But take a minute to catch your breath. You’ll do neither of us any good by passing out in the woods,” Timothy answered.

“It’s just that we’ve been traveling for hours, and I feel like we haven’t gotten any closer,” Legno said, sounding more than a little discouraged.

“It’s been fourteen seconds, Legno,” Timothy responded. “Look,” he said, pointing with his cane, “you can still clearly see everyone in town.”

“That can’t be ri…” Legno began as he glanced over his shoulder, only to see the townspeople going about their day, their voices still audible:

“What do you mean you’re out of eggs!”

“I swear to GOD I’m not afraid to slap you in public!”

“The minstrels were hot, but they were way too old. I wonder if they have a younger brother…”

“And then he said he wanted to see if I ‘lived up to my name,’ the creep.”

“Huh, well, I’ll be dipped. Hey look, there Diana goes again!” Legno then cupped his hands and screamed, “Diana! Hey, Diana!”

“What!” she screamed back. “What is it you want this time, creep!”

“That dress makes your ass look fat!”

His legs now going faster than anyone thought humanly possible, Legno made his way through the woods with the blistering speed of an arrow shot by an expert marksman. His movements were precise, fluid, and flawless.

Now deep in the heart of the Sicilian woodlands, Diana was finally no longer in sight and no longer could the screams of “If you thought that hurt the first time, wait until I use my good leg!” be heard. Legno considered it safe for a momentary stop. And as soon as he did, a fuming Timothy shouted, “Why in Heaven’s name did you think that was a good idea!”

“As great as true love is,” Legno replied, his breathing once again heavy, “I needed a little more incentive to keep moving.”

Now confused, Timothy asked, “And that would be…?”

“Not wanting to get kicked in the testicles twice in the same morning,” he answered back with a smirk. “Now, can we sit for a spell? It feels like my lungs are on fire.”

“Yes, that’s probably for the best. But do remember, we’re on a tight schedule,” Timothy warned.

“Yeah, I know, I know,” Legno replied as he plopped down on the ground. The sound of his breathing had that loud, nasally, wheezing noise that mimicked the tone of an enraged howler monkey. Thankfully, after a few minutes, his breathing returned to normal, and his heart no longer felt as if it was going to burst out of his chest.

Placing his hands on the ground, he pushed himself up, wiped his now-running nose with a dirty finger as a loud *SNURF* sound radiated from his nostrils, rubbed his face, and cleaned the mess on his hands with the backside of his shorts.

Immediately trying to forget what he had just witnessed, a repulsed Timothy asked “Are we…*urp*.” Right away, Timothy balled his left hand in to a fist and covered his mouth.

After taking a second to make sure he stomach was settled, he began again, “Terribly sorry about that. Are we quite ready, then?”

“Yep, yep,” Legno responded, some of his pep returning to him, “let’s get a move on.”

With Legno back on his feet, the pair resumed their journey. The boy was getting more and more acclimated to the outdoors as he maneuvered his lithe, narrow frame over the rocks and through the trees. All the while, Timothy played director, instructing Legno on where to go at every twist and turn.

“We’re getting close!” Timothy exclaimed eagerly, “Just a few more minutes and we should be there. Take a right at this bend, and that will guide you the rest of the way. The old girl’s going to be delighted to meet you, I’m sure.”

“Cool, cool. I love old ladies. They always have the most interesting smells. How do you know this one exactly?”

“Oh, we’re old acquaintances. She’s the one who taught me everything I know and made me what I am.”

Legno’s face lit up as he turned to Timothy, “So the top hat…!”

“Enough with the hat, son. As I was saying, back when I was just another insect, acting entirely on instinct, something drew me to her cabin. It’s hard to say what; life before that day’s not quite clear. But what I do remember is that it was as if I had been living in a house where the curtains were always closed. And after she helped me, it was as if the curtains had finally been drawn and I was able to see the sun for the first time.”

“But why did she change you? I feel like most people would just step on you when your back is turned.”

“A lovely thought, thank you for that,” Timothy drolly responded.

“Just sayin’,” Legno remarked under his breath.

<“Truth be told, I don’t know why she didn’t. Boredom, perhaps? Or maybe just loneliness.”

“You never asked?” said a baffled Legno.

“This is going to sound silly,” Timothy began, “but I suppose I was afraid of knowing the truth. Like if I were to look at it too closely, I might see the cracks beneath the surface of the whole thing. Like knowing the truth would be the pinch that woke me up from the dream.”

“Is that why you didn’t stick around?”

“I did for a while; I owed the old girl that much. So I spent time with her, conversed with her, helped her prepare her meals, and the like. As I said earlier, I believe she just felt like having some companionship.”

“Sounds kind of nice, I suppose.”

“It was for a time. She taught me everything I know. But after a while, I knew that I needed to move on.”

At this point, Legno’s investment in Timothy’s story began to wane. If girls or odd bodily functions weren’t involved, he usually couldn’t care less. Changing the subject to something of more interest, Legno asked, “Could you tell me more about you wife?”

“Oh, certainly. She was someone I had known for some time, but I never had the confidence to tell her how I felt. After I became what I am now, I realized it was finally my time. We fell in love and are now happily married with seven million children.”

“Good Lord, seven million? Your stamina must be out of control. And I can’t even begin to imagine what she looks like down there after popping out all those kids.”

“I think we should change the…”

“I once saw a picture of a guy who lost a big chunk of his torso after a bear bit in to it. If I had to take a guess…”

“So how about your foster father?” Timothy yelled, doing everything he could to speak over Legno. “You haven’t yet spoken of him.”

“Um, I think he’s doing all right down there?”

After a heavy sigh, Timothy rephrased, “I meant, in general, how is he? What does he do?”

“Well, Saggies, as he prefers me to call him, is a teacher. But I don’t think he really likes it or anything. He seems depressed all the time. And he drinks a lot.”

“Oh, that’s…that’s very disheartening. Do you have any idea why?”

“Um…not really. I mean, I’m a ray of sunshine, so it’s not my fault. The only thing I can think of is that I sometimes hear him say the name ‘Maggie’ in his sleep followed by a whimper.”

“Ex-girlfriend I take it?”

“Beats me. I kind of always assumed it was some sort of liquor they don’t make anymore. Or like a pet turtle that he used to have.”

“So those are your best guesses: Discontinued alcohol or turtle?”

“Well, when you say it like that, it just makes me sound like an idiot.”

Timothy bit his tongue and decided it’d be proper to just let that comment slide.

The next few minutes were filled with a comfortable silence; Timothy quietly soaked in the scenery, the forest’s musk filling his senses and reminding him of a time gone by, while Legno’s thoughts were brimming with the life he and Marion were sure to have. It was a life of joy, of passion, of tenderness, and of endless ‘knock on wood’ jokes.

And of late nights sensually applying varnish.

And of even later nights filled with sanding down each other’s edges. Those rough, rough edges.

Life as a wooden boy…oh, it was definitely going to be sweet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Part 2:

“We’re here, son. Look! You can see her cabin just over that hill!” Timothy exclaimed, snapping Legno back to reality.

With a few shakes of his head, his eyes, which seconds ago were blankly staring at the ground, widened and appeared to fill his entire face as his destination finally came in to view.

“Hey, you’re right!” Legno cheered as he made a dash towards the cabin, too excited to merely walk the last few meters.

As he drew nearer, the mundanity of the cabin’s exterior became apparent. Although unimpressed, Legno attempted to remain positive.

“You’d think such a powerful witch would have a fancier place,” Legno commented as he ran his fingers over the cabin’s oaken façade, which, though unassuming, was still well constructed. “But it’s pretty cool to see such professional craftsmanship. I guess my wood will be safe in her hands, huh?”

“Oh, dear,” Timothy muttered to himself while massaging his forehead in an attempt to circumvent the impending migraine Legno was sure to give him. “Be a good lad and give the door a few raps. I don’t know if the old girl is home or not.”

Legno, making his way to the door, did as Timothy requested and gave the door a hearty knock with his fist.

*Thunk*

No answer.

“Try again,” said Timothy.

Legno once again raised his fist to knock on the door and brought it down with the force of a hammer; he desperately wanted the old witch to be there and was hoping her reticence was due to her not hearing him the first time. The sound of flesh and bone against the wooden door was even louder this time.

*THUNK*

*THUNK*

*THUNK*

Still no answer.

After letting out a heavy sigh of disappointment, Legno responded, “Of course. Of course she wouldn’t be home. Why would I expect to have any sort of luck with the way this day’s been going? Let’s head back. Maybe I can patch things up with Diana. ‘Diana, when I said your ass looked fat, what I meant was you have a great figure for popping out a whole mess of kids. Our kids.’ ”

Timothy snapped back, “Oh, stop complaining! A few bumps in the road and you’re ready to throw in the towel! It may not exactly be proper etiquette, but open the door and see if she’s in. It’s possible that she’s just asleep.”

“Let’s try,” Legno said quietly as he turned his hand and placed the bottom sides of his fingers underneath the hand-carved notch and gently opened it.

*Creeeeeeeeek* went the door as Legno slowly pushed it forward. As he leaned in, his head poked through and he uttered a simple, “Hello?”

For a third time, no answer.

“Walk inside,” Timothy replied. “Here or not, she wouldn’t mind my coming through unannounced.” He then turned his attention away from Legno and yelled, “Esther! Esther, dear, are you home? It’s Timothy, and I brought a friend who is quite intent on meeting you!”

“Look,” Legno said as he pointed to the table in the middle of the room. The cabin was fairly tiny, and it didn’t take the boy long to get a more than cursory examination of the place. “There’s a note on the table.”

“Well, it’s more than a bit rude to read someone’s personal letters, I’d say,” Timothy replied.

Walking towards the table, Legno countered with, “But it looks like it’s addressed to you.”

The note, which laid flat on the table, was filled with big, barely legible scribble, with

sprawled across the top.

“It appears you’re right, son. What does it say?”

“Yeesh,” went Legno as he squinted his eyes to try to make discernible the old woman’s scribble. He proceeded to read the note aloud:

“Germany?” Legno responded, confused. “Can we get there before tonight?”

“Legno,” Timothy sighed, “Germany is sixteen hundred kilometers away with seas and mountains in between.”

“Okay, so, what’s she doing there? Why isn’t she here?” Legno asked, his tone almost turning in to a shout.

“Oh, she has the sweetest little place there. Children from all over…”

“So that’s it!” yelled a once again defeated Legno as he cut off Timothy, “This friend of yours decides to take a goddamned vacay and I’m shit out of luck!”

“Did I say that this was my only idea? Failing to plan is planning to fail, Legno.”

“So then what now?” Legno asked, as some placidity returned to his voice.

“Let me ask you, Legno, are you a student of chemistry?”

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Part 3:

“Kind of. Sometimes when I’m feeling gassy, I like to take a match and…”

Deciding to stop Legno mid-sentence, Timothy replied with, “Never mind. I knew it was a stupid question before I asked it.”

“Yeah,” Legno said in agreement, “you only have yourself to blame for that one.”

“Regardless, the point I was getting to is that, if magic can’t help us, then perhaps science can. It’s been said that all magic is is science we don’t yet understand. Go to that bookshelf over there and look for a book entitled Scientists of the World – A History. During my time here, I educated myself the best I could. Luckily, Esther had scores of books on a wealth of topics, science being one of them.”

Doing as Timothy said, Legno walked to the bookshelf. He ran his fingers over the spines of the books, feeling their hard, leathery exteriors.

“Stop, there!” Timothy said, with Legno’s hand coming to an immediate halt. Placing his bony pointer and middle on the top of the book, he pulled it down and in to his palms.

“Heavy,” he said. “How is this supposed to help us?”

“Well, let’s start by opening it up. Look in the table of contents to see what page a ‘Stanislao Cannizzaro’ is on.”

Legno flipped open the cover, and immediately the book’s stale smell filled his nostrils. His face winced and eyes watered a bit as he breathed in the stench between the pages.

“Christ,” he managed to cough out, “doesn’t she ever actually, I don’t know, read these things?”

“I think the only time she ever gave them much mind was when I’d ask her to get them for me. And that’s why I think this book may be exactly what we need,” Timothy retorted as a smirk grew upon the left side of his mouth, the thoughts of success exciting him.

“Umm…” Legno began as he ran his forefinger down the index, “Stanislao, Stanislao…ah, here we go!” He then moved his finger across the page, careful to follow the dotted line exactly to its end point.

“Page 42,” Timothy replied, looking at where Legno’s finger stopped, “that should have exactly what we need.”

With the delicacy of a drunk fumbling for his keys, Legno threw the book open, landing on page 187. He then began to feverishly flip backwards through the pages, a *fwipping* noise filling the air as he did so, and a glimmer of hope once again filling his eyes.

187…186…185…184…

“You know,” Timothy said, “you can just…”

“No time!” Legno yelled.

162…161…160…159…

“I mean, we are on a bit of a timeline, so if you could…”

“Can’t stop! Won’t stop! Eye of the tiger!”

143…142…141…140…

“Oh, for the love of…” Timothy sighed, “stop for a second, would you?”

Hopping off Legno’s shoulder and on to his hand, Timothy made his way towards the book, reached out his right hand, and began rifling the pages starting at the beginning, keeping eye on the numbers in the top left corner.

“Ah, he we are,” Timothy proclaimed. “See where my hand is? Open to that page.”

Legno began moving his fingers carefully down the ridges of the dry, unevenly bound pages until he reached the correct one. Flipping it open, he saw the following:

“I have no clue what the hell it was I just read,” remarked a baffled Legno. “How is a Candid Zorro supposed to help me?”

“Cannizzaro,” corrected Timothy, “and it’d be proper to refer to him as ‘professor’ when we meet him.”

“This is the guy you think can help us?”

“That he is. The good professor has made his career on being able to change one organic compound in to another. Who’s to say he wouldn’t be able to change flesh to wood? Granted, it’s a long shot, but it’s the best shot we have.”

“Well, I trust you,” Legno said, although half heartedly, “so where to? It’s not like we can just go knocking on doors until we find him.”

“The book’s a few years old, but if it’s still accurate, then we should be able to find him at the local University in the heart of town.”

“Blah, I’m not looking forward to this walk back,” Legno muttered, “how about this time, you carry me?”

Had any other person made that comment, Timothy would’ve thought they were joking.

Now with the sun at its highest point in the sky, the trek back to the city wasn’t an easy one. Hot sweat poured down Legno’s brow; every inch of his body had a wet stickiness to it; the armpits of his shirt turned that greenish brown color that men know all too well.

Finally back in town, Timothy instructed Legno to walk in to the heart of the city. “That’s where the University is,” he claimed. “One of the biggest buildings in town; you can’t miss it.”

Compared to the walk through the forest and back, traversing to the University felt like no time at all. Within mere minutes, the pair of travelers were already pushing open the big wooden doors and entering the impressive main hallway of the school. The intricately designed gray marble floors ranked amongst the impressive things he had ever seen: The walls were so white that it almost hurt his eyes, and the entire hall had that worldly scent of old literature.

The two wandered the halls until they stumbled upon an elderly lady who appeared to work there. “Excuse me, ma’am?” asked Legno, “I was hoping to find a ‘Stanislao Cann…zinarro’?”

“Professor Cannizzaro?”

“Yes! Yes, him! Does he still work here?”

“Mmhm,” was her response. She then extended out her left hand, pointed a bony finger, and finished with, “if you follow this hallway all the way to the end and make a left, his will be the third office on the right.”

“Thanks!” he said, turned and took two steps before turning back towards the old woman.

“Is there something else I can hel…” she began before Legno came up, opened his nostrils wide, and breathed in, with the melody of air whipping against the stuffy congestion filling the entire hallway.

The woman stood there, nonplussed as Legno merely said “Thanks again!” and galloped down the hallway.

Turning to Timothy, he said, “I said it before and I’ll say it again: They really do have the most interesting scents!”

It was the second time that day Timothy had to keep his contents of his stomach from decorating Legno’s left shoulder.

Legno banked down the corner of the hallway, nearly overshooting the third door on the right. “Stop, right here!” Timothy exclaimed. “Third office on the right!”

Coming to a screeching halt, Legno needed to catch himself on the wall to avoid having the momentum knock him down. After taking a second to catch his breath, Legno gently knocked on the office door as he pushed it open ever so slightly.

“Excuse me, Professor Cannizzaro?”

The middle-aged man, who up until now was preoccupied with examining a slide with a sampling of ammonia under his microscope, looked up upon Legno, failing to notice Timothy. Despite only being in his mid-30s, the professor was already extremely accomplished, and he sported a neck beard that all professors are expected to grow at some point in their careers.

Although not pleased by Legno’s barging in unannounced, he wasn’t particularly angered by it, either. A straightforward man, he simply asked, “May I help you?”

“Hi, my name’s Legno. And this,” he said pointing to his shoulder, “is my talking bug friend, Timothy.”

“Charmed.”

“I, um…” he paused, not quite knowing how to react to Timothy’s presence, and finally deciding to finish with, “Okay, fine, why not? How can I help the two of you?”

“Well, Professor, Legno here has a…unique request,” Timothy answered.

“Oh? And what might that be?”

“He’s been quite taken with this *ahem* wooden doll.”

“She’s everything a woman should be and more,” Legno replied, his hands folded and pressing against his chest, his lovelorn eyes staring off in to the distance.

With a confused look on his face, Cannizzaro responded with “I…see. And where do I come in?”

“We’ve read up on your work,” Timothy stated, “The changing of one organic compound to another, and we were hoping that there might be a way to do the same for Legno here.”

“You want me to turn this doll in to a real girl?”

“Ha!” Legno laughed, “That’s retarded. No, I want you to make me a wooden boy.”

Cannizzaro glanced at Timothy quizzically. Timothy’s only response was a shrug of his shoulders and a shake of his head that seemed to imply ‘I know. Trust me, I know.’

Breaking the momentary silence, Cannizzaro answered, “Any other day, I would’ve called you absolutely insane for even suggesting that, but standing before me right now is a walking, talking…Recticulitermes lucifugus, correct?”

“You are quite right, sir!”

“So it certainly appears that the line between ‘possible’ and ‘impossible’ is blurrier than I had previous thought. That said, even if there were a way to do that, it’d take years of research and experimentation, and that’s time I just don’t have. I’m sorry.”

“Me, too,” muttered a disenfranchised Legno, “Marion’s leaving tonight, and now it’ll take a miracle to become a wooden boy by then.”

“Well…”

“Well? Well what?”

“I don’t want to get your hopes up, and I can’t at all guarantee anything, but a hobby of mine is astronomy, and the skies tell me that there’s a meteor shower coming tonight around dusk. It should be dark enough for you to see it clearly.”

“How does that help us?” Timothy responded, asking for the both of them.

“If you believe the old folklore, those with the purest souls will get their heart’s desire when they wish upon a star.”

“Wishing upon a star…that has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” Legno retorted, his response being more than a little skeptical.

Looking up and to the left, Cannizzaro whispered to himself, “Said the boy who wants to become a wooden doll…”

“Pardon his manners, Professor,” Timothy interjected, trying to save face, “but besides that, could we trouble you for any other possible solutions?”

Cannizzaro breathed in slowly, shook his head, and then answered with “An act of God.”

“Ugh. Timothy, let’s go. Professor…” Legno began, and he now had a sheepish expression on his face, “sorry for my attitude, I didn’t mean to be rude. I’m just frustrated is all.”

“No need to apologize. We’ve all been love-struck at one point in our lives or another. And good luck. Remember: Meteor shower tonight. Go to the top of Deus Ex Collina, the hill at the edge of town; it’s one of the highest points in the area. You’d have a great vantage point.”

“Yeah, yeah…maybe.”

“Look at it this way: If it works, you get what you want; if it doesn’t, then at least you get to see a spectacular show.”

Legno let out of weak smile and nodded in appreciation as he left.

“Thank you again, Professor,” Timothy responded. “Best of luck with your research.”

“And best of luck to the two of you.”

Pushing open the door, Legno and Timothy left the way they came in. Waiting a moment for the door to close completely, Cannizzaro then turned back to his microscope and muttered to himself, “If you ask me, that boy’s already made of wood.”

He then paused for a second and took his eyes away from his microscope once again and said pensively, “Hm, Recticulitermes lucifugus.” He then leaned back in to the eyepiece of his microscope and began carefully adjusting the lenses before finishing his thought aloud. “I wonder how that boy was able to come upon such refined, intelligent termite.”

END OF ACT 2

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Act 3

Part 3:

“Shooting star; what a quack,” bemoaned Legno. “What now, Timothy?”

“Well, when all else fails and things look their bleakest, it’s not uncommon to turn to a higher power” was Timothy’s response.

“You mean, like, God?”

“Well, the Professor, although being hyperbolic, did say it’d take an act of God. And seeing as we have no other options currently, I don’t see how it could hurt. Granted, I find organized religion to be a bunch of hooey, but I’m not an unreasonable insect. Surely there’s a chapel or some such where we can inquire about a miracle for you.”

“If that’s the case, when I went through my biweekly routine of rummaging through the chest in Saggies’ closet that he thinks I don’t know about, I found a picture of a woman, and on the back it said ‘Magdalena’ and ‘Chiesa dello Spirito Santo.’ So, I don’t know, maybe we see if this Magdalena is still there, drop Saggies’ name, and perhaps she can fast track us a miracle up to the big man himself!”

“Curious. And you two don’t attend church often?”

“No, Saggies says he gave up on all that a long time ago.”

“Well, I can’t quite fault him for that,” Timothy stated pretentiously. “In any event, do you know where this church is located?”

“Yeah,” Legno said as a cold chill went up his spine, “I’m not super keen on the idea of going there, though. It’s right next to a cemetery. I’m not too good around dead things.”

“Death, Legno, is just an extension of life. There’s nothing to fear. If anything, it enhances life, reminds you to live it to the fullest. And that’s exactly what our mission is today, is it not?”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Taking a deep breath in and out, he continued with, “Let’s get a move on then. The place is a bit of a hike, but if we hurry, maybe we can get God to whip us up a miracle before dark.”

Pumping his skinny little calf muscles for what felt like the hundredth time today, Legno headed east until he came upon the church. Noticing that the sun had begun its downward journey from the sky, Legno’s heart started beating with the fury of a stampeding elephant. Time was running out.

Finally arriving, Legno zoomed up the steps. Grabbing the metal ring and pulling open the tall, heavy door, Legno walked in to the church and was immediately awestruck. Adorned in the structure were stained glass paintings depicting the struggles of Christ, rows upon rows of benches, eager for parishioners, and, in the back, a woman lighting one of the many candles on a modest looking table as she silently prayed.

Legno, not being especially religious, wasn’t sure how to approach her. Is he allowed to interrupt? How does he address her?

“Wait are you waiting for?” whispered Timothy. “Go on; ask her if she knows this ‘Magdalena.’ ”

Trepidatiously ambling over to the woman, Legno cleared his throat and spoke. “Um,” he began, “Sister, right?”

The nun, whose eyes had been closed as her lips softly uttered a prayer, stopped midsentence and turned to Legno.

“Sorry for interrupting you,” he said sheepishly, “but, um, we’re looking for someone. I think her name might be Magdalena?”

“Oh yes,” the Sister replied, not at all bothered by Legno halting her prayer, “I believe she’s in the back room cleaning up. I’ll ask her to come over when she’s done. Do you mind waiting a moment?”

“No, no…that’s fine. Thanks.”

The nun turned back to the table to finish her prayer. Moments after, she slowly turned around and gracefully moved towards the back room to retrieve Sister Magdalena. As the pair waited, Legno soaked in the atmosphere of the church. Not a regular attendee, it was the first time he had stepped inside a church in years.

There was a calming ambiance in the building; Saturday mass wasn’t to start for another few hours, and the only persons around were the nuns and clergymen.

“Hello, child,” came a voice from behind him in a warm, motherly tone. “Sister Maryanne told me you wanted to see me. Do I know you?”

Legno turned around to face the woman. She was tall, just over one and three quarters meters. Although older, her face told the tale of a beautiful young girl who graciously aged in to a mature older woman, with her white coif and black veil carefully framing her delicate features.

“Well…” Legno replied, “do you know a man named ‘Stefano Saggezza’? I found your picture in his room, and I thought you might be able to help us since I don’t really know any other religious folks.”

“Stef…” Magdalena replied, in a tone barely above a whisper. “Are you…Legno?”

“Yeah! How’d you know?”

“Stef and I…”

“He prefers ‘Saggies,’ actually.”

She smirked and continued, “He and I were…friends. One of the last conversations we had was on the day he adopted you.”

“Oh,” Legno then paused, confused by this revelation. He cocked his head and squinted his eyes as he looked at her. “Really?”

“Yes, he thought that with you…” Magdalena stopped for a moment and looked down as a pang of emotion swept through her. ‘Stefano Saggezza’ had been a name she’d been trying to forget for a long time.

“He thought that I what?”

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Timothy said, finally chiming in, “but we’re not exactly here to reminisce, are we, Legno?”

“Yeah,” he agreed, although disappointed he wouldn’t hear the rest of what she had to say on the subject of his parent, “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, Tim.”

Magdalena had not previously noticed Timothy. Although oversized for a bug, he was still easy to miss. Upon the initial sight of him, she jumped back with a shock, her eyes widened, and she let out a frightened squeak before covering her mouth to silence it.

“Oh, ha, yeah. That’s Timothy. We’re buddies.”

“He’s your…friend? A talking bug?”

“I’m so much more than that, dear. And might I add, you look quite becoming in that habit,” Timothy replied in an attempt at playful flirtation.
Magdalena hesitated for a moment and gave a forced smile before turning back to Legno.

Magdalena stood without moving or making a sound and let Timothy’s presence sink in. Due to her livelihood, she he knew that there were things that couldn’t quite be explained; that’s why it’s called ‘faith’ and not ‘fact.’ She was able to accept the unacceptable. Today, the unacceptable was the revelation that there are apparently some insects that can talk.

As a nun, she accepted this reality. But as a woman, her intuition told her there was something not quite genuine about this ‘Timothy.’

“Legno, you never told me what it is I can help you with. It’s apparent you’re not here to discuss Stefano,” she said, her bright green eyes shooting a quick glare at Timothy and just as quickly turning back towards Legno, “so what is it I can do for you? I’d be happy to help in any way possible.”

“Well, there’s this girl. And, granted, I don’t really pray that much, nor am I super religious, but, I don’t know, I was hoping the, uh, the big guy up there,” he said, pointing the ceiling, “could throw me a bone or something.”

“I can light a candle and say a prayer for you, dear, but I can’t promise you anything. That’s not quite the way God works. As much as He loves us all, He’s unable to grant wishes and give us anything we want. That would take all the meaning out of life. Do you understand?”

“But why?” Legno asked, his eyes beginning to water, “Does he want me to suffer or something?”

“Oh, Legno,” she said, kneeling down to meet him at eye level, “without suffering, there’s no compassion. Without suffering, we become complacent. Without suffering, one’s true character is never tested. I like to believe that He tests us every day. And every day, we have opportunities. Do we make the selfless choice or the selfish choice? I believe every one of our actions has a consequence even though you may not be able to tell right away. All I can really tell you is to be a good person, do the right thing, and happiness will come to you. Life has a way of balancing itself out. I promise.”

Looking down, he murmured to himself, “But I want happiness to come now…”

Having heard enough, Timothy decided to interject. “Legno, and my dear, please do not take offense, but I think she may be a little off on this. ‘Power of prayer’ and glorification of suffering, if you want to be an outside observer and let life and opportunities pass you by, then by all means, take her advice. However, you can be like me, take initiative, and you can claim what’s rightfully yours.”

Magdalena, feeling furious and condescended to, was boiling up inside but kept a quiet and dignified veil of placidity.

“Come, there’s still time to make our way to the top of Deus Ex Collina to see that shooting star. If what Professor Cannizzaro said is true, you’ll be a wooden boy by dusk.”

‘You’ll be a wooden boy by dusk,’ resonated in Magdalena’s head as her left eyebrow arched in bewilderment.

“Might as well,” Legno sighed, “seeing as we’re all out of options.” After finishing his sentence, he gave a quick hop over to Magdalena and wrapped his arms around her for an unexpected hug.

“Bye, Mag. And thanks anyway. I’ll tell Saggies you said hi.”

Touched by the boy’s tenderness, she said, “Of course, child. And…” she gave a quick look to Timothy once again and finished, “and be careful.”

Down but not quite yet defeated, Legno lightly sprinted back towards to the entrance, pushed the tall wooden door open, and, before leaving, turned around to give the church one last look. And one last poignant look to Magdalena as well.

Magdalena watched him as he left, and, for a few moments, looked at the door. She stood there quietly gathering her thoughts before heading towards the back room and in to the head nun’s quarters.

She knocked on the door and the voice inside invited her in. Wasting no time, Magdalena asked, “Mother Superior, would I be able to take an afternoon leave? There’s someone whom I need to see.”

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Part 2:

Across town, Stefano Saggezza laid on floor, where he had passed out hours ago. He was awoken by a knock at the door.

With a belabored moan, he pushed himself up, wiped the drool from his bottom lip, and stumbled towards the threshold. In a swift motion, he opened the door, only to see the last person he ever expected to see.

The two shared a sad, meaningful look for a moment, and then, without a word uttered between either party, Saggezza shifted to the left to clear the entrance, and the woman slowly entered.

“Hello, Maggie,” Saggezza said.

“Hello, Stef,” she rejoined.

“You know, you’re still the only person I let call me that.”

She smirked.

“And what little pet name did you give for the guy you left me for?” he asked bitterly.

Looking at Saggezza cockeyed, she questioned, “You mean…God?”

“Yeah, I suppose that’s pretty short enough already,” he replied while turning towards the kitchen to rummage through his liquor cabinet.

Now more than ever, he was going to need a drink.

“Campari, Campari…he never brought back the…Legno! Legno! Where’s my Campari!”

“That’s actually what I came here to talk to you about, Stef.”

“What?” he asked, rolling his eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re here to berate me about my drinking, too.”

“No, as much of a concern it is, that’s not why I came. It’s about Legno.”

Snapping back to a sense of sobriety, Saggezza asked, “What’s wrong? How do you even remember him?”

With a sad smile, Magdalena responded, “How could I forget the child you wanted me to raise with you?”

Saggezza didn’t respond.

“He came by the church earlier; he came looking for a ‘miracle.’ He, well…he wanted to become a wooden boy.”

“That *urp* that sounds like Legno all right.” With a worried look beginning to drape over his face as the reality of something happening to Legno starting to sink in, Saggezza asked, “Is he okay?”

“I don’t know. He was with this…talking insect…”

“And I thought I was the drunk.”

“I know it sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. And listen, this overgrown bug – ‘Timothy’ Legno called him – I don’t trust him. There was a malicious air surrounding him. I really think something bad is going to happen to Legno, Stef.”

“You’re sure about this? I…” he stopped himself midsentence and and slowly turned his head to look at the ground, ashamed. “I know I haven’t been the best of fathers and was never really there for him, but if what you’re saying is true…”

“It is. They said they’re going to be at Deus Ex Collina by dusk. They were on their way there when I left. I took one of the church’s horses to get here. Take her; you might be able to beat them there. I can walk back to the church, just bring her back when you’re done.”

Picking his head up, Saggezza replied, “Thank you, Maggie, and I…you know I never stopped loving you.”

“I know, Stef, but this isn’t the time. And please tell me this lifestyle,” she then stretched out her left arm and waved towards the mess of empty bottles and trash, “isn’t because of me.”

With closed eyes and a shrug of his shoulders, he responded, “I don’t know what you want me to say, Maggie.”

“Oh, Stef. I’ll always love you, but just not like that anymore. You need to accept that it’s over and move on. Please, go to Legno. Make sure he’s safe. You still have a chance to make things right between the two of you. But all of this,” she once again waved towards the mess, “it needs to stop.”

“I know. I never wanted to live like this. Without you.”

“Stef. You pushed me away, and now you’re doing the same to him. If he feels empty inside, be there for him. Be the father he needs. Give him strength and guidance. He’s getting that from someone else now because you’re not there. And…and just go, Stef. Before it’s too late.”

Grabbing his boots, mud glued to the bottom and smelling as if something crawled in them and died, he forced them on, not wasting any time to untie and tie them. He whipped his canvas jacket on and rushed out the door. Turning towards Maggie one last time, he said, “Thank you. And I’ll make it all right. I promise.” As a single, hot tear rolled down his eye and on his cheek, he said in a low voice, “I’ll fix everything.”

Maggie walked slowly towards him and kissed the tear away.

“Goodbye, Stefano.”

“Goodbye, Magdalena.”

Finally, he turned and ran out towards the horse. Planting both hands on its backside, he used all his strength to throw himself up on top of the beast. Grabbing the reigns, he whipped them forcefully, and with a loud “Hyah!” he was off.

And with a pitiful, garbled “Nyah,” he pulled over to vomit.

“Oh, Lord,” prayed a disappointed Magdalena, “please get him there before he gets arrested.”

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Part 3:

Legno, with Timothy still perched upon his shoulder, made his way up Deus Ex Collina, the highest point of town. The sun was beginning to set, and the orange glow was blanketing the land as the sky began its shift from blue to pink.

“I still think this is a stupid idea,” Legno blurted to Timothy, his words seething with incredulity. “How’s asking a rock for something going to make any sort of a difference?”

With a sigh, Timothy responded, “It’s common folklore, Legno, that those pure of heart will get what they desire most. And although you’re…”

Timothy paused for a moment to choose his next words judiciously.

“…a unique, albeit perhaps callous sort at times, there is indeed a lot of good in you. If the legends are true, then I have no reason to see why it wouldn’t work, son.”

Only half listening to Timothy, Legno was too busy focusing his attention on the ballad being sung in the distance:

There ain’t no prick big or small/Trust us boys, she’s had ‘em all!

“Gah!” Legno yelled. “They’ve started! It’s done! Game over, man! Game over!”

Suddenly, a flash of light appeared in the sky. As the professor had predicted, the star shot through the heavens, a trail of shimmering gold marking its path. In mere seconds, it’d be gone from their sights forever. If Legno had any chance at all, it’d have to be now.

“Legno!” Timothy screamed. “It’s there! Make a wish before it’s too late!”

“This is so damn stupid, Timothy! Giant rocks don’t grant wishes!”

“My word, Legno! I wish you weren’t so stupid!” screamed Timothy in a rare moment of frustration.

“Ha!” Legno screamed back. “It didn’t work! Told you!”

“You have nothing to lose! Just try!”

“Fine!” he said, finally giving in to Timothy’s demands. He turned towards the hurdling meteor, threw his arms out and towards the sky and proclaimed, ‘Oh, spectacularly stupid hunk of rock, I wish I might, I wish I may, be a wooden boy this day!’ ”

For a beat, all remained as it was.

“Welp,” Legno began, “I don’t hate to say ‘I told you…’ ”

Suddenly, a prickling sensation encompassed Legno. It was tolerable for a moment but quickly became unbearable.

“I…uh…ow,” an unnerved Legno blurted out.

“Legno?” a flummoxed Timothy responded.

“I…I…”

His body began to convulse. He fell to his knees with his hands planting themselves on the ground to keep himself from totally collapsing. Timothy hopped off and stared in amazement.

“Legno, is it what I think?”

“I…I don’t…ow. Ow! Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!”

It was then that a flash of light surrounded Legno’s body. He tried to talk. He tried to scream. But no words were able to escape his lips. The light appeared to raise Legno’s body in to the air, hovering a meter above the ground. Timothy looked in awe as everything they had worked for that day finally came to fruition.

And within moments, he was dropped back on to the ground, once again on his hands and knees, struggling to catch his breath.

“What…*huff* the crap…*huff*… was that *huff*?”

“Legno,” a wide-eyed Timothy said in disbelief, “look at yourself.”

Slowly, Legno picked himself up off the ground, and just as he did, he understood Timothy’s request. His hands, his feet, his whole body…he had gotten his wish.

Joints were now golden colored hinges.

Pale skin now a light brown oak.

The pimple on his nose now a tiny leaf.

His gray eyes now orbs of glass.

He was finally a wooden boy.

And with that came a price.

“HOLY MOLEY!” screamed Legno. “I take it all back! Everything I said about you, that stupid rock, the professor, all of it! It worked! I…I can’t believe it, it worked! I feel like this isn’t real! I feel like I may wake up at any moment now!”

Legno’s grin spread from wooden ear to wooden ear. He could barely contain his joy.

“Come on, Tim! Hop back on!” he cheered, while patting his shoulder. “We can still make it before the Geminies leave! I just heard them sing something about a rooster inserting itself in to a kitten, whatever the hell that means.”

“Oh,” Timothy began, “pay no mind to the inappropriate spew of those gypsies. As of now, they and this whole ‘Marion’ business are no longer of any concern.”

Legno stood there, dumbfounded. A look of utter confusion was painted on his face as he furrowed his brow to try to understand what Timothy meant.

“Um, do you mean you don’t think we’ll get there in time? I know, so if we leave now, we’ll…”

For the second time that night, Legno let out a loud, shrieking howl.

A hot, searing pain shot through his right ankle. Looking down, he immediately noticed a large chunk had gone missing, sawdust now littering the ground before him.
Clutching his wounded ankle with both hands to lessen the unbearable throbbing while tears of agony flowed down from his eyes, he saw Timothy in front of him with a wicked smile draped across his face, specks of wood littered on his lips.

Legno tried to form a rational thought, but his head was spinning. So much had happened in so little time. He could barely process what was happening. “What are you…! Why would you…! I thought we were friends!”

“Oh, Legno,” Timothy said looking at him. “Oh, poor, pathetic Legno. If you only knew. Recticulitermes lucifugus, or ‘rectal fungus,’ as you so lovingly put it, is a breed of termite. Or, in other words…”

He then jumped onto to Legno’s left ankle, taking a large bite out of that one as well. Legno, no longer being able to support his weight, now collapsed to the ground.

“…wood eaters,” he finished as he jumped back on to the ground.

“Tim…” Legno began in utter disbelief, the tears in his eyes no longer just ones of pain, but also of sadness and heartbreak, “…you did all this just to eat me?”

“Mm, well, originally, my plan was to hide in the case of your would-be girlfriend and feast on her, but then I saw you, overheard your plight, and I thought, ‘A real live wooden boy? I should save my appetite.’ I just couldn’t resist, you see.”

In the distance, unheard by either party, there was galloping.

“Oh, and I hate to be melodramatic, and moreover, there’s nothing I want less than to put up with your incessant whining and free-flowing stream of imbecilic thoughts any longer. So before I go right for your head and put you out of your misery, are there any last words? And please, let’s make them coherent for once.”

Just then, a figure slowly came from behind the insect, doing his best to not be overheard. Seeing this, Legno let out a broad smile that encompassed his entire face.

He began to laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“It…” Legno choked out, trying to hold back his laughter, “it just that looks like I wasn’t the only one with a little crush, Timothy.”

“What are you…”

At that moment, Timothy was interrupt by a booming voice. Loud, angry, and determined.

“Hey, bug!”

Turning around to see who it was, Timothy was only able to catch a mere glimpse of his face.

His boot, however, he got more than enough of a view.

“Oh, dear,” Timothy murmured to himself.

And with a disgusting mix of *stomp*, *crunch*, *squish* filling the air, Stefano Saggezza brought down his foot upon Timothy. As the bottom of his boot met the ground, he violently moved it from right to left a dozen times, ensuring that Timothy didn’t survive the experience.

Then, slowly lifting his leg so it was parallel to the ground, he inspected his foot to make sure of Timothy’s demise. Tilting his head, he saw Timothy’s flattened, lifeless body. And with an unforgiving flick of his forefinger, he sent the bug off in to the distance, ending the story of Timothy the termite.

“Should’ve wished for a harder shell, you bastard.”

Turning to his son, Saggezza had a look of sorrow in his eyes. There Legno was, a boy completely made out of wood. His heart broke seeing his like that way. He slowly made his way towards the boy.

“Legno, are you okay?”

“Well, other than, you know, missing huge chunks of my ankles, not as bad as you’d think, all things considered.”

“Oh, Legno. It can’t believe it was true. You did this for a doll?”

“Crap! Marion, is she…” he then popped up and limped forward, despite the pain in his ankles making it feel as if he were stepping on knives.

He stood in silence for a moment, desperately hoping to still here the song of the Geminies.

Nothing.

“They’re gone,” he muttered, downcasted. “She’s gone. All of this was for nothing.”

Putting his hand on Legno’s shoulder, Saggezza said, “Legno, I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry for all of this. If I had been a better…”

Legno looked up at him woefully.

“If I could’ve guided you better or just been there for you…but, it wasn’t for nothing. You’ve learned a lesson today, son.”

“Plastics are the wave of the future?”

“Failure is a part of life,” Saggezza corrected. “There’s no way around that. You can either let it help you…”

Saggezza looked at the ground.

“…or halt you.”

“But I didn’t get the girl.”

Picking his head back up, Saggezza responded, “Most relationships fail, Legno, even before they begin. But you tried; you need to see that that’s the important part. If you hadn’t, you would have failed regardless. She might be gone, but there’s still something to be learned here. And the sad fact is…”

Pausing to take a deep breath and momentarily reflect on his own shortcomings, Saggezza continued, “The sad fact is sometimes we lose. There are just some things we’ll fail at no matter what. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that. When you know what you can’t do, it helps you discover what you can do. Every failure helps us to learn a little more about ourselves; every failure gives us a clue about what we’re doing wrong, and we’re that much wiser next time.”

“But what did I do wrong? I changed everything to be with her.”

“Legno, regardless of all of what happened, you can’t be with an inanimate object. I mean, that’s…that’s just fact. How would you even…”

Saggezza then began miming with his hands Legno and Marion’s possible interactions.

“You know what? Forget that part. The real point is that you went through all this trouble to change yourself for someone. And if you need to completely overhaul who you are and what it is about you that makes you special to get someone to like you, then they’re really not liking you, Legno. They’re liking this fictional character you created. Life’s too short to pretend to be something you’re not. Let’s say it worked. Let’s say you were able to win Marion or any other girl over by being someone who isn’t Legno. How long could you expect to be happy? Eventually, it’d begin to eat you up inside.”

Looking at his ankles, Legno responded, “Or outside.”

Saggezza let out a sad smile. “Come here, son,” he said. Picking up Legno from underneath the armpits, he carried him over to Maggie’s steed and gently lowered him in to the saddle.

“Where’d this come from?”

“An old friend.”

The comment marinated in Legno’s mind for a few moments before it clicked with him. He hadn’t even thought to ask how or why Saggezza knew to save him until now.

“Maggie’s a swell lady.”

Saggezza was quiet for a second, and then smiled and said, “The swellest. Let’s go home, son.”

“Sounds good, pop,” was Legno’s response, turning Saggezza’s smile even wider.

There was a calm, welcomed silence as the two rode off towards the sunset, Legno firmly mounted on the horse while Saggezza followed closely to its right, reigns held safely in hand. Saggezza silently thanked God for letting him save Legno…and for letting Legno save him.

“So when we get home, do you think I should polish myself off before bed?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elsewhere.

Two brothers were stowing away their props for the night. One put a wooden marionette in her case as the other made quick work disassembling their stage.

“It’s a shame,” Giuseppe remarked, “I really was hoping Legno would come to see the show. You know, see ‘Marion’ one last time.”

“Beppe, we both know that that wasn’t his path.”

“Yeah, but I’m a sucker for happy endings, Gio. We can’t all be as dour as you, brother.”

“His ending was happy in its own way. That’s the whole point.”

“Yeah, I know. But still,” Giuseppe remarked pensively. “Anyway, I’m all finished up. You good to go?”

Giving a nod of acknowledgement, Giovanni simply remarked, “Come then, brother. There are other worlds than these.”

The two brothers, going at their own pace, silently made their way north in to the Sicilian woodlands. With a *swoosh* and a bright flash of light, they were gone.


THE END

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BONUS FEATURES

Original Version (c. 2004)

Written in 12th grade for my Creative Writing course (the assignment being to put a spin on a classic fairy tale), this is the prototype for what would eventually become the story you read above. Some noticeable changes include Timothy being name Jiminy Termite (it seemed too on the nose to use now, plus I wanted the fact that he was a termite to be a surprise for those too lazy to look up what “Recticulitermes lucifugus” meant). Also, absent are Maggie, Professor Cannizzaro, and the twins; however, the spirit and themes of the story remains the same, although the ending is wildly different. See for yourself in the original version of Wood You Be Mine?

“She will be mine, but what would Mr. Saggezza say?”

“That’s she’s made out of wood and that it’s creepy,” Mr. Saggezza replied.

“How’d you know I said that?”

“I’m standing right next to you, Legno.”

“Oh. I thought I was having one of those moments like in a play where I say something out loud but I’m the only one who hears it. Y’know?”

“You could’ve just thought it instead.”

“I figured that this would be more dramatic.”

“I see.”

They continued on their walk for a few more minutes, and finally they returned home. Unbeknownst to them, they were being followed by a helpful insect known as Jiminy Termite. He had overheard young Legno’s problem and wanted to aid him the best that he could. He came into Legno’s room that night with intentions of introducing himself.

“Legno, wake up Legno,” Jiminy whispered, “I’m here to help you claim your love.”

Legno slowly woke up and saw Jiminy on his nose, staring at him.

“AAHH! AAHH! Termite! Someone kill it! Mr. Saggezza!”

“Shut up, Legno!”

“You can talk?”

“Yes, I’m a magical talking termite.”

“I see… AAHH! AAHH! Magical talking termite! Someone kill it! Mr. Saggezza!”

“Legno, be quiet! I’m here to help you!”

“Who… who are you?” Legno stuttered.

“The name’s Jiminy Termite, and I’m here to help you. See, I overheard your problem and am interested in helping you out.”

“Why?”

“Why not? I believe that every good deed goes noticed and I have taken it upon myself to personally ensure that you become a wooden boy.”

“That sure is nice of you, Timiny!”

“Jiminy.”

“Oh, right.”

“Yes well, anyway… get some rest, because tomorrow, the search to fulfill your dream will commence!”

Legno went straight to bed and dreamt about the future with his soon-to-be
lady. He imagined himself holding her, running with her, laying down with her and looking at the stars. Now sure, most people would say that you can’t do any of those things because you’re made out of wood, but Legno wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. He also began to think of all the other fun stuff you could do if you are made out of wood: Polishing yourself with tarnish, sanding down the rough edges, and making a bunch of knock-on-wood jokes whenever he wanted to. Life as a piece of wood sure did seem pretty sweet.

The next morning, Legno woke up to the sweet smell of Mr. Saggezza’s breakfast being cooked. He went downstairs, pulled up a seat, and began to tell Mr. Saggezza what happened.

“Are you sure you didn’t just dream all this up?” inquired the old man.

“No! An insect told me last night that I would became a real wooden boy soon so I can marry my love… my amor.”

“Which is the toy girl in the window?”

“Yes.”

“And this was told to you by a magical talking insect?”

“Yes.”

“Are you on drugs?”

“Not to my knowledge, but who knows what they were serving us at the orphanage.”

“Oh, God…”

“Mr. Saggezza, I don’t understand why you can’t be happy for me! How would you have felt if people told you that you couldn’t marry Mrs. Saggezza?”

“I’m not married, Legno. Have you ever seen a woman in here, ever?”

“Huh… well I’ll be. But my point still stands… you can’t stop our love!”

“My boy, I believe that every person has to go their own path. If this is what you truly believe your destiny is, then by all means, go for it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Saggezza!” Legno yelled as he ran out the door.

“If you ask me, that boy’s already made of wood,” the old man muttered to himself.

Outside, Legno found Jiminy waiting for him by the house, just itching to get things started.

“Top of the morning, my dear boy. Ready to start your adventure?”

“You know it, Jiminy… but where do we start?”

“Well, all we really need is to find a shooting star. A shooting star will grant a young child any kind of wish that they desire.”

“That’s stupid. What else you got?”

“The shooting star is really the best thing you can go with.”

“That doesn’t make any sense… how can a hot ball of matter spiraling through the sky grant any sort of wish?”

“Yeah, you’re right that is stupid. Hey, did you hear about the one guy that wanted to be made out of hickory and talks to insects?”

“No. Sounds like a moron, though.”

Jiminy rubbed his brow in frustration and said, “Fine, no shooting stars. I know of some old lady in the forest that we can talk to, so let’s try her.”

“I love old ladies! They always have the most interesting aromas!”

The two partners ventured into the forest until they reached a house made completely out of candy. They looked at the nibbled-on dwelling for a few moments before knocking on the door.

“May I help you?” the sweet old lady asked.

“We’re looking for someone to grant my friend’s wish. He wants to turn into wood.”

Oh, I may be of some assistance, why don’t you just come in…”

At that time Legno noticed a boy boiling in a pot of water and his sister in the oven.

“Help us, for the love of God, help us!” they cried.

“Eh, it looks like you’re already getting ready turn to that boy into a ladle and that girl into a pan.” Legno commented. “We’ll go somewhere else.”

“Come back any time, child,” the decrepit woman relayed.

“Know any other places?” Legno queried Jiminy as they were leaving.

“Well, I know a guy who knows a guy that says he’s heard of a guy that has a magical lamp. Let’s try him.”

So the two then went all around town until they found the lamp, and finally they were able to track it down and release the all-powerful genie.

“I will grant you any three wishes that you desire!”

“You know, I thought ‘Good Will Hunting’ was magnificent,” Jiminy replied.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing.”

“Okay, so wait… I only get three wishes?” Legno asked.

“That’s correct.”

“Man, only three?”

Jiminy added, “But Legno, before you were happy with just one.”

“Yeah, but that was before I knew that there could be more. Just think of what I could get with four, or dare I say five, wishes! I wish that whole ‘three wishes only’ thing would change.”

“Fine!” the genie yelled, “It is granted! No wishes! That’s what you get for being greedy!”

The genie went back into his bottle, and Legno once again was left without someone to make his dream come true. It was getting pretty dark and Legno had felt like it was never going to be achieved.

“Look Legno,” Jiminy screamed, “a shooting star! Trust me, make a wish!”

“No!”

“I wish you weren’t so stupid!”

“Ha! See! It didn’t work!”

“Just do it or I won’t help you again!”

“Fine, if that’s the way you’re going to act… ‘Oh, spectacularly stupid shooting star, please make me into a wooden boy!’ ”

There was a splash of light and Legno was gloriously transformed into a wooden boy, just like Jiminy had promised. His wish had come true, and he had his friend Jiminy Termite to thank for it.

“Thank you Jiminy, you were right this whole time!”

“Yes, well, as long as things turned out well now, that’s all that matters.”

“How can I ever repay you?”

“Well… I haven’t had a real wooden boy in such a long time. I think I know how I’ll get repaid.”

“Wait, so you only helped me just so you could eat me?”

“Yeah, basically.”

Jiminy lunged and devoured poor unassuming Legno. The boy had wished for so much and it all had turned against him. Now he was just a pile of sawdust on the ground.

Moral: Plastics are the wave of the future.


THE END

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