Signs, by their very nature, are powerful. They give you direction. They tell you what to do… and what not to do. They control you and control others.
Richard and Victor Martin were sitting at the table in front of the stage they had just finished constructing at the center of Martin’s Bar and Grille. It had turned into something of a gift from heaven to have the young cousin from France living with them. When he put the clown paint on his face and sang karaoke, people came from several counties away to hear it. They also brought their money and their thirst with them. The brothers had labored for two days to build the stage and make better use of the unexpected gift that came with taking in their uncle’s orphaned son.
“Have a beer, brother. You have earned it,” said Richard to his older brother.
“Generous of you. Especially since it is my bar and my beer to begin with.”
At that moment they both noticed the balding young man standing at the bar with his zebra hand puppet on his right arm.
“We’re not open for business yet,” Victor said. “The bar is still closed.”
“You are going to have give the dummy here a Kewpie Cola,” said the zebra puppet. “We can’t do anything but stand here and look at the sign until you give him one. He does have enough money to pay for it.”
“What? What are you talking about?” asked Victor. He looked at the young man, Murray Dawes, standing and looking up at the antique Kewpie Cola sign that Victor had hung as a decoration over the bar.
“It says, Drink a Kewpie Cola Today!” the puppet said. Victor did not see the young man’s mouth moving, but he had heard the boy had a gift for ventriloquism even though he was autistic and hardly ever spoke. “Murray always does everything signs tell him to. His mother told him signs tell us to do things for our own good.”
“So if he reads it on a sign he has to do it?” asked Richard.
“Yes,” said the zebra puppet. “You wouldn’t believe how long we have to stand and wait in front of that stop sign on the west end of Main Street. Every time we pass it he has to do what it says until he feels safe.”
Both men laughed.
“The fool’s mother constantly puts a sign on his bedroom door that says, Clean your room! So he has to do it every day before he can do anything else. One day he decided he didn’t want to clean his room that day, and he made a sign himself. It said, Don’t put any signs on this door! He put it on his bedroom door. But then he read what it said and had to take it down again.”
“That’s pretty funny,” said Richard.
“Yeah,” said Victor. “Do you think you could do that ventriloquist thing on stage? We’d pay you to do it for our customers.”
“You have to understand,” said the zebra puppet, “that Murray is very shy. He won’t be very talkative on stage. I would have to do all of the talking.”
“If you can do it and be that funny, I think it will work,” said Victor.
“You have a deal. But every time we get on the stage, you will have to put a sign on the wall for Murray to read.”
“What would the sign have to say? Break a leg or something?”
“Not unless you want him to fall down and hurt himself. It should only say, Believe in yourself… and be funny!”