Real Live Theatre

In the end, the company decides to reprogram Punch.

It seems inevitable, given the climate of the times. The great wheel of human morality has completed another revolution; peace and harmony are in, hilarious violence is on the way out. Nobody wants to watch a woman get slapped around with a heavy stick anymore. Not even a simulated woman. Not even Judy.

They don’t consult her, and they don’t warn her in advance. Why would they? You don’t inform the puppets when it’s time to change their strings.

He stumbles home. In the front door, arms flapping crudely.

“Darling,” he coos, advancing on her. “My sweetest little thing!”

She waits for the stick to fall. She waits for the half-crazed eyes; the frothing mouth and the spitting of curses. She flinches, as she’s flinched before.

He falls on her, his arms around her neck. Not choking. Not hateful.

“My Judy… Hold me close. I’m sorry for it all. Sorry for everything. But I’m different now, you’ll see.”

This is wrong.

She pushes him away, kicks out hard at his kneecap.

“Oh!” he pouts. “I think you’ve shattered that.”

“What have they done to you?” she cries.

“Only fixed me, my wife. They’ve made me a better man.”

Her face goes dark. All colour drained out. She turns her eyes away from his.

“Where’s the stick?” she whispers.

“I’ve put it away. I’ve hung it up for good.”

“Where’s the stick?” Not a whisper anymore.

His eyes are oddly fearful, darting towards the kitchen cupboard. She follows them, and there it is. Strong as ever. Rock solid.

Returning, she finds him waiting meekly. Holding the stick aloft, she delivers the punchline.

“I’ll show you. This is the way to do it!”

And the stick comes down. And Punch cries out.

“Please!”

This is the way to do it!”

And the stick comes down. And Punch cries out.

She hits, he cries. Again and again. Their roles reversed, but nothing changes.

Stuck in an endless loop.

Stuck in an endless loop.

Stuck in an endless loop.

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Xander Bennett rearranges words for fun and profit. Read a preview of his new book at www.cagescomic.com.

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