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Mister Cherry, carpenter, found a piece of wood that wept and cried

Mister Cherry gives the piece of wood to his friend Geppetto,
who takes it to make himself a Marionette that will dance,
fence, and turn somersaults

Chapter Two

As retold for Aaron

Mister Cherry gives the piece of wood to his friend Geppetto, who takes it to make himself a Marionette that will dance, fence, and turn somersaults.

Mister Cherry was still lying on the floor when there was a loud knock at his door. Had he taken a moment to think about it, Mister Cherry might not have wanted anyone else to come into his workshop when he was flat on the floor, thunderstruck by this mystery of what seemed to be a talking piece of wood. But as he was in no condition to think about two things at once, he automatically called out, "Come in!" He hadn't an atom's strength left with which to stand and open the door himself.
"Hello there, what're you doing on the floor," his visitor replied, entering.
Geppetto was a not-very-young man of whom the neighborhood boys liked to make fun. How did the neighborhood boys make fun of Geppetto? When he passed by they would yell at him, "Poledina!" which is Italian for cornmeal mush, which is something like grits. Cornmeal mush is the color of yellow corn, which was exactly the color of Geppetto's hair, and if you're wondering why it was such an insult to call Geppetto "Poledina!" then you apparently don't know how vain Geppetto was about his hair, which was one reason the boys teased and jeered at him. No one should have dared to call sour Geppetto Poledina, for Geppetto had a terrible temper, but those that did dare--well, woe to them! Geppetto would become as wild as a beast, and nothing and no one could soothe him, which sounds like it would be funny, but it wasn't. There's nothing in the least funny about a beastly temper if you're its target, and if you're not careful, a beastly temper can make you its target over just about anything it has a mind to.


"Mister Antonio," Geppetto demanded, "what are you doing down there on the floor? Is that any way to greet a customer?"
"I am teaching the ants their A B C's," Mister Cherry managed to retort.
"Good luck," Geppetto replied. "I'd ask how you're feeling but I'm here on business, not to socialize."
His brain still numb, but heartened by the appearance of a professing customer, Mister Cherry said, "What brings you here, friend Geppetto?"
"My legs!" Geppetto laughed at his own little joke, which struck him as witty.
The carpenter laughed as well since it is always wise to agree with a customer. "Yes, of course," he said, raising himself to his knees. "Now, tell me how I can be at your service."
"It may flatter you to know, Antonio, that I have come to you to beg a favor," Geppetto anwered. "This morning, a fine idea came into my head. Yes, a most incredible image popped into my mind, appeared out of the clear blue, and with it came the thought that of course I ought to do something with that image."
"What is that?" Mister Cherry asked.
"What I thought to do is make a beautiful wooden Marionette. Not just any Marionette. I mean the most wonderful Marionette that has ever been seen. I intend that it should dance, fence, perform a little of the Martial Arts, soliloquize, recite Hamlet, and even turn somersaults."
"That so?" Mister Cherry said.
"I bet," Geppetto replied, "you think it's not possible that old Geppetto could manage to ever perform such a miracle."
"Depends on your talent at pulling strings," Mister Cherry remarked.
"That's the beauty of my little creation," Geppetto answered. "There will be no strings for anyone to see! All my other little puppets have been fine and good, but this one will be exceptional. I'll hide robotics in his middle."
"Wonderful idea," Mister Cherry replied.
"Yes, of course people have seen robots before," Geppetto eagerly went on, "but if I use a little psychology, and anticipate the desires of my audience just so, everyone will think my Marionette can think for himself. He'll be a great little bread winner if he turns out exactly as the vision I have of him. I'll tour the world and finally make a name for myself. We'll have a class act, my little Marionette and I. If money will help ease the aches of old age, then as the much besought golden goose has yet to appear it must be invented. And everyone likes puppets, you know. Tell me, what do you think?"
"Bravo, I think it's a grand idea, you old pot of dried-up cornmeal mush!" cried the same tiny voice which Mister Cherry had heard.


On hearing himself called an old pot of dried-up cornmeal mush, Geppetto, turning the color of a fiery red pepper, glanced quickly about for any neighborhood boy to thrash. But there were no neighborhood boys about, which could mean only one thing. Glaring down at Mister Cherry, Geppetto shouted, "When did you take up insulting customers?!?!"
"Wasn't me who spoke," Mister Cherry replied weakly.
"You trying to tell me I'm only imagining things?! Just like I have imagined an impossibly fantastic Marionette? You believe I don't have the wits to build him?"
"Geppetto, in all seriousness," Mister Cherry answered, "I didn't call you an old pot of dried-up cornmeal mush."
"There! You did it again!" Geppetto raged, then did something he ought not to have. He slapped Mister Cherry.
There are a lot of shoulds that happen in this world, which means there are a lot of things that happen that shouldn't have, and a number of things that don't happen that people think should have.
Mister Cherry should have shown Geppetto the door, but instead Mister Cherry slapped Geppetto back. Geppetto then hit Mister Cherry, and Mister Cherry hit him back again. Next moment, the two men (who should have known better) were biting and scratching and even pulling hair so that when they both collapsed from sheer exhaustion, Mister Cherry held in his hand a hank of Geppetto's cornmeal locks, and what do you know if Geppetto didn't seem to have all of Mister Cherry's hair in his own fist.
"Give me my hair back," Mister Cherry demanded.
"I'll give you yours if you give me mine," Geppetto growled.
Mister Cherry handed Geppetto his wig, whereupon Geppetto tossed Mister Cherry back his own.
"Friends again?" Geppetto asked.
The two men agreed it was better to be life-long friends than enemies, and so made up.
Furthermore, to show Geppetto that he bore him no ill will, the carpenter said, "Now, about this favor you wanted me to do for you. What is it you want?"
"Oh, yes, I wanted a piece of wood to make the Marionette with," Geppetto answered. "Will you give it to me? I haven't got any money right now but I promise to pay you back handsomly as soon as my Marionette and I are famous."


"Certainly! Say no more!" Mister Cherry was more than glad to give Geppetto what he desired, and can't you guess why. "You can take this fine piece of wood here," he went on, walking straight over and, a bit timdly, picking up the log that had frightened him so much earlier. "It's quite a prized piece of wood," he said. "Good you stopped by when you did because it was well on its way to becoming a table leg. But what kind of a friend would I be to let you walk away empty handed?"
With a violent jerk, the wood was suddenly free of Mister Cherry's hands, and, thwack, if it didn't strike itself against Geppetto's thin legs!
Geppetto yelled, "OW!"
"Pleased to make your acquaintance!" the wee little voice cried out. " Isn't that the way things are done around here? Now it's your turn. Hit me back. Fight! Fight! Then you tickle me and we'll be friends. Ha, ha!"
"What in the blazes? Is this the gentle way you make your gifts?" Geppetto yelled at the carpenter. "You have made me almost lame!"
"I swear to you I didn't do it!" the carpenter exclaimed.
"And I did, of course!" Geppetto retorted.
"It's the fault of this piece of wood!" the carpenter answered.
"The wood may have struck me, but you're the one who threw it at my legs!"
"I didn't do it!" the carpenter pleaded.
"Geppetto, you insult my good name and reputaion. Take it back now, or, or..."
"Or what?" Geppetto licked his lips and narrowed his eyes. "Or what? Will you call me an old dried-up pot of cornmeal mush again?"
"Exactly," Mister Cherry replied, "you old dried-up pot of cornmeal mush!"
"Cornmeal mush!" Mister Cherry yelled back.
"Donkey!" Geppetto yelled, which I guess he took to be a worse insult than "idiot."
"Cornmeal mush!" Mister Cherry yelled back.
"Monkey!" Geppetto yelled, which I guess he took to be a worse insult even than "donkey", and, his head lost in a rage, promptly threw himself on the carpenter, whereupon they went at each other with as much vim and vigor as their bruised bodies could muster.
When they were finished, Geppetto, took stock of his injuries. "Look at this, I come to you in fine condition and now I'm missing two buttons from my coat."
"Look at the two fine scratches you gave my nose," Mister Cherry observed.


"Then, we should consider the account settled? How about it?" Geppetto held out his hand to shake that of Mister Cherry's.
"Sure, why not?" Mister Cherry sighed.
"I thought so," Geppetto smiled, clapping the carpenter on the back. "Fast and good friends for the rest of our lives, that's us two. Swear it on the eyes of our mothers, that they may be struck blind if we should break this oath and betray our friendship to one another."
"Both our mothers are long since dead," the carpenter said.
"A mere technicality," Geppetto replied. "It's the thought that counts."
Then, thanking Mister Antonio Cherry for such a fine piece of wood, Geppetto limped away home.

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Rewritten by J. Kearns (in some places considerably, in other places not so considerably, and in others not much at all) from the translation by Carol Della Chiesa of C. Collodi's original story
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