Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 39
Winter Solstice, 2020

New Works

Dale Stromberg

Lies Breathed through Silver

It's better to be wrong than to learn you are wrong.

Poor old Geppetto was at his wits' end.
From the window, he could see the boy throwing his knife into the chestnut tree. Practicing his throw. Geppetto sighed deeply. "What pains this one has given me!" Not a day went by that they didn't argue.
There was the thieving. The fighting. The unsavory acquaintances.
There were the immoral girls hanging about—but who did Geppetto think he was fooling? Not one of them had been 'immoral' before Pinocchio had got to them!
There were the insults. Worst of all, the insults! From his own boy! "Baldy! Faggot! Butterfingers!"
Geppetto sucked back tears. "To be called a butterfingers by the boy I carved. Carved from wood with these fingers!"
The boy hadn't seen the inside of a school in years. He slunk around billiard halls, card parlors, opium dens—God knew where else.
As for work? Helping around the house? Oh, excuse me! Geppetto buried his head in his hands.
It seemed no father had ever been as miserable as he.
But the boy? Shall we ask him for his story?
Well, his schoolmates were cruel, naturally. There was the boy who patted a wooden playground bench and quipped, "Pinocchio's mom, so supportive." Soft cheeks burning with shame, Pinocchio would come home hoping to unburden himself, only to find Papa sunk to his knees. Always praying.
The time came when, if Pinocchio stuck his knife into a tree and some ass made a "matricide" crack, it would earn him a broken arm. Pinocchio stopped interrupting Geppetto's prayers with questions, never asking the one that burned deepest: "How come you never whittled me a mom?"
But the old man was whittling something or other. Sequestered in his work shed, windows shuttered. Pinocchio peeked inside once when Papa was sleeping. Once and never again.
So what if he yelled at the old fart? "You are the strings that hold me down." It felt good to let it out. "I liked you better when you could see I was lying." This was the closest Pinocchio ever got to saying what he felt—if he even knew what he felt.
Do we really want to ask Pinocchio all this? What would he tell us of disappointment in others? Of disillusionment at moral weakness? The constant praying. The melodramatic sighing—the old man sounded like an affronted primo uomo. The maudlin need to be loved, loved, loved.
And the work shed. Pinocchio hated it. He could never unsee what he saw the one time he peeked inside: row upon row of new wooden boy dolls. Each looking just like Pinocchio before his miraculous transformation.
Maybe Geppetto never stopped whittling little boys, hoping for another good fairy to animate them.... Or hoping the good fairy would not animate them.... Maybe it wasn't God he was praying to night and day....
So, let's not ask Pinocchio. I think we'd rather not know.

Dale Stromberg grew up not far from Sacramento before moving to Tokyo, where he had a brief music career. Now he lives near Kuala Lumpur and makes his living as an editor and translator. His work has been published here and there.