Theirs had always been a forbidden love – the puppets were strictly forbidden from fraternizing between the shows, despite the fact that they were jammed on top of each other in such a way that it was inevitable that two would eventually be attracted to one another. Felipe Puppet had an indisputable pedigree – handmade in Italy, intricately beaded, woven and dyed. Zara Puppet (nee Pupita) was from a puppet factory in Mexico where she and thousands of others just like her were forced through various machine until they emerged, exactly alike and indistinguishable, into toy stores around the world.
Felipe and Zara were paired in only one number, a risqué samba that the puppeteer did in homage to his dead mother, a famous beauty back in his native Spain. It had taken him years to choreograph the puppet dance, drawing inspiration from his mother’s hair feathers and boas, and it never failed to entrance the audiences of adults and children alike who gathered around his stage at night. People always extended their hands, wanting to touch Zara’s black curls, Felipe’s dangling tuxedo tails.
It was this inclination that caused the terrible accident. A young American child reached out one summer evening with a lit and illegally strong sparkler, shoving the volatile tip into Zara’s hair and igniting her skull. The puppeteer could only hear the audience’s shrieks through the silk curtain and he mistook them for sounds of utter joy – after all, the dance devoted to his mother had evoked them before. By the time he felt his hand burning and shucked Zara off, she was mangled and melted beyond recognition. As he reached with one hand to grab his bottle of water, his other hand curiously jerked forward to try to beat the flames devouring Zara down – it was Felipe, attempting self-immolation for his beloved.
The puppeteer left Felipe on top of Zara as the audience drifted away, watching them ignite and burn, together for the final time. The smell of plastic (Zara) and real human hair (Felipe) co-mingled, creating what the puppeteer believed to be the most accurate sensory experience of his own parents’ relationship that he had ever been a part of.