There once was a puppet named Timmy. Timmy looked and felt like a real boy, you would hardly even notice he was a puppet at all, except for four small white strings extending from the top of his head and the back of his wrists. The strings were small in size and rose all the way up into the sky- seemingly endlessly into the day or night sky. You might see these strings and doubt their influence over Timmy, but they dictated all of his actions, truly. Timmy reached for nothing- mentally or physically- without the influence of these strings. Maybe it was god, maybe the Universe, who controlled the strings really doesn’t matter. It was not Timmy.
So his whole life Timmy “made” decisions. Timmy followed rules. Timmy played his cards right. Each day he was awakened from his slumber by an alarm clock, which his strings had made him set the night before, even though he was still tired and could have used some extra resting time. Timmy woke up, made a drink with a special chemical in it that would keep him awake throughout his work day, and Timmy went to school. Timmy sat in classrooms. Any time Timmy would gaze out of the window, the strings would pull his head back to face his teacher. Any time Timmy nearly fell asleep, the strings jerked him awake. The strings made Timmy take notes. He would have to study for an exam on the material spoken to him in these classes, and the strings made sure he was paying attention, even if what was being taught was of no real importance. It was school or endless vacant time, and the strings chose school.
After about 15 years of schooling, Timmy began to feel restless. Timmy had forgotten nearly everything he had learned, and never seemed to need any of the information the strings forced him to study all those long nights. Timmy began to look up and wonder where the strings led, who was controlling him. It wasn’t fair.
I forgot to tell you that Timmy loved sailboats. He decorated his living spaces with sailboats of every size and shape. There was nothing Timmy wanted more than to be the captain of his own ship, to feel the swell of the waves beneath him and the sun beating down on him. To spend his days reading and writing (when Timmy had done his homework and finished all else, his strings permitted him enough time to do the things he wanted, so long as they weren’t that out of the ordinary- so as not to attract negative attention- and writing stories, drawing pictures, and reading Beat poetry was what he did when he had nothing else to attend to.) which he was actually quite good at. For years his teachers had urged him to nourish his talent in writing stories and describing his life under strings, but there was not a career in words, and his strings seemed to know that.
So here was Timmy, growing increasingly disenchanted with his strings and dreaming more each day about the blue liquid horizon he wished to sail into. He began to try to disobey his strings. Subtly at first. One morning he hit the snooze button instead of the off button on his alarm clock. When he reached for the snooze button again, the string on his head jerked him awake. He would be late if he slept any more. He began writing prose in his notebooks instead of notes on Chemistry and his wrist strings would tug and tug- allowing him to squeeze out only a few sentences each class. But Timmy was determined. And for the first time, Timmy looked around and noticed too that everyone around him had strings, except for a few. The people with strings were all happy, for the most part, although they all shared the same tired look in their faces and had trouble knowing what they would want if they could want anything.
The people with no strings seemed to be in various states of disarray. Some of them seemed content. There were very few stringless people in his classes. When Timmy was walking home he would see more people with no strings. In bookstores, laying in grass, attending lectures, talking on park benches. All dressed differently- oddly and poor, according to Timmy’s head strings (they always made him shake his head when he saw them and feel bad for their listless lives). People with no strings seemed always to be planning something, talking about something exciting. They seemed happy. Maybe happy wasn’t the right word for it. They didn’t, actually, seem very “happy”… but they did seem free. And that was enough for Timmy.
It was a Friday morning, at about 6:30am that Timmy decided to cut his strings. Or try to. He woke up that morning with no alarm clock, and he felt the tug of his strings more than ever today as they pulled him to shower and get dressed. As they pulled him through his morning jog. As they pulled him back to his books, which needed to be looked over, lest he forget everything he learned in class before Monday. Timmy slipped a pair of scissors in his pocket and walked to the beach that evening (to his favorite spot on a pier where he could watch the sailboats disappear into the distance). He didn’t know what would happen when he cut his strings off. Would they put up a fight? Would a new string appear in it’s place? How would he make his decisions without their influence? Would he be the same person? All these doubts were whizzing through his head and he began to have second thoughts.
It wasn’t that Timmy didn’t want to be free, he just didn’t know what he would do with all that responsibility. Suddenly, his decisions would be his own. His triumphs would be his own, but so would his failures. He could do anything he wanted. Skip class, stroll aimlessly through the park, hang out with his friends, read his books, write his stories, or sail. He could sail. But the strings had made his life so easy, and were creating a life of security for him. Predictability, but security. He would finish school, he would get a decent job, he would have a house and clothes and furniture and a piece of land he could feel was his own. Was it really worth it? To change all this now? He was 20 years old. This was the beginning of his life, if he was free. The end of it, if he decided to keep going with his strings on. And with that, Timmy knew.
He decided to cut his head strings first. He reached up with the scissors and moved quickly. Two snaps and his head was free. It sunk to his chest, as he felt the weight of it for the first time. Not liking the odd sensation of his too-heavy head he quickly cut one wrist string and then the other, hoping to be able to use his free arms to hold his head. But they too, felt heavy. His string disappeared back into the sky. Timmy hoped they weren’t upset with him- he didn’t want to cause harm or hurt feelings, he just needed to try this out. Finally free, Timmy fell to the ground under the weight of his own body. It was too heavy, and he had never supported it by himself before. His legs were weak. His neck.
Timmy laid there on the floor for days and days. Tears flowed from his eyes, in a mixture of sad and happy tears for the whole time he was down. This was the freedom he wanted. He was hungry, his body was sore and uncomfortable crumpled, and he was seemingly powerless to move. He wished for his strings again. They may have controlled him, but they made his life easy. At least he could move with them. It was hot on the third day of Timmy’s freedom, and he had managed to roll onto his back. Timmy turned his head toward the ocean, and could barely see through his tears. Eventually they became clear and Timmy saw a sailboat about 40 feet from him. He looked at a man and a woman on the front of the ship, and they were both looking at him. The woman was leaning into the man, she was crying and nodding her head in a weird sort of way that reminded Timmy of the look on his mother’s face when he first learned how to ride a bike. The man had one arm wrapped around the woman and his other hand in his pocket. He too had tears in his eyes but he was nodding his head and smiling. At Timmy. They were proud of him. Who were these people? Was someone behind him doing something worthy of these beautiful gazes? He was too weak to turn his head. Timmy called out, “what are you doing? What are you looking at? Can you help me, I need help.” He wasn’t sure if they heard him- his voice was oddly weak. They stopped looking at him and it seemed as though they were getting back to the business of sailing, though they both kept stealing glances at him. It was when the woman was raising the sails that Timmy noticed. She had no strings. He looked at the man. The man was also string-less. They were moving and walking and Timmy realized that they too had felt this. At some point they cut their strings, fell to the floor, and struggled to rise up. But look at them! They were sailing! Exactly as Timmy wanted. And they were together. He remembered all the stringless people he saw at the park, in the coffee shops, at bus stops and airports. All moving, all with that tired determined discontent look on their faces.
Timmy took every ounce of strength and determination he could muster and sat up. He lifted his big heavy arms and was able to prop himself there. He felt the blow of the ocean breeze against his face and felt the sun on his skin. This was the life he had chosen, and he could stay on the floor and die or he could lift himself up and join the other free people he had seen. What good was the ability to make your own decisions if you didn’t make any? Timmy looked at the couple on the boat. They had seen him pull himself up, and were smiling. Smiling so hard they laughed. But they weren’t laughing at him and Timmy knew that. Timmy laughed too, despite his exhaustion, as he finally understood. They waved at him as the boat sailed away into the sunset. Timmy wanted a boat, he wanted that maritime freedom. He decided. It was the first free decision he made.
Even though it took a considerable amount of time and effort, Timmy raised his hand to wave back at them. And as he waved he looked up at his hand. It was hurting, but it was free.
And so was Timmy.
Created: Jul 05, 2010Document Media