Mason the Puppeteer is the story of a young man pursuing his dreams and finding the woman that he loves.
Mr. Bitt worked worked with drills, of which there are, of course, many types. The sort that Mr. Bitt worked with are the type used to make holes and to put screws in things, rather than the military sort which involves training and procedure. He felt that it was a nice, manly profession. Mr. Bitt was very pleased to be in it, and his mind rarely strayed from drills, unless it was to consider the screwdriver, to which the drill is related, and its many applications. Drills were Mr. Bitt’s life.
Mr. Bitt had a single son, whom Mr. Bitt had named Mason, after the masonry bit.
Mason was eighteen years old, and he was tall and rather narrow with a prominent Adam’s apple, and thin black hair that he liked to brush out of his eyes repeatedly. He was a shy, awkward fellow who could have been more popular if he’d thought more about society, or even if he were just a trifle less reticent. But the fact was that he rarely thought companionship, or friends, or anything other than puppets.
Mason was a budding puppeteer. He wanted nothing more in life than to make shows with his puppets. He had started his career early, with sock puppets, when he was a child. He’d drawn faces on them; he would put his hand up the socks, and he’d made the sock puppets talk, as young children sometimes do.
Mr. Bitt was amused, and he thought that this was a passing phase.
Mr. Bitt was wrong.
Mason progressed from sock puppets to paper mâché puppets.
Mr. Bitt frowned a little bit at this development. His son, at this time, was eight years old, and Mr. Bitt thought that he ought to be outside climbing trees.
Mr. Bitt bought Mason a screwdriver, a box of screws, and some wood. He showed Mason how to use them, and he encouraged the boy. It was Mr. Bitt’s plan to make Mason eventually learn to love drills.
Mr. Bitt was pleased when Mason returned with a small section of boards that had been screwed together.
Mr. Bitt was displeased when he learned that the section of boards was the background for Mason’s puppet show.
“Puppets,” Mr. Bitt kindly informed Mason, “Are for weaklings, cowards, and perverts. Do you want to be a weakling, coward, or pervert, son?”
Mr. Bitt frowned quite a lot at this, and he resolved to keep a close eye on his son. After all, he did not want the boy growing up wrong.
As Mason grew up, Mr. Bitt became more and more disturbed by what he saw.
Mason proved not to be interested in drills at all, or even in hammers, nails, or screws. Mason appeared to have few friends. The boy did, however, begin making marionettes.
These puppets-on-strings began to grow in the complexity by which Mason made them. At first, they were rude copies of a complicated, subtle marionette. Soon, however, magazines on puppetry began appearing in the Bitt household, and Mason’s marionettes advanced in sophistication.
Mr. Bitt, treating the puppetry magazines like they were smut, threw them out. Mason responded by procuring more puppetry magazines. These, like dirty magazines, he hid beneath his mattress.
One day, upon discovering that Mason was still reading puppetry magazines and still making marionettes, Mr. Bitt confronted his son.
Mason was sixteen at the time. He was at the age when he could drive.
“Do you want a car, son?” asked Mr. Bitt.
“Not particularly,” said Mason.
“Well how in the world will you get a date?” asked Mr. Bitt. He peered closely at his son. His son had hit his growth spurt, and he was already six feet tall, an inch taller than his father’s five feet, eleven inches.
“I don’t want a date, Dad.”
Mr. Bitt was staggered.
“Well what do you want?”
“More puppets. To be a puppeteer.”
At this response, Mr. Bitt drew himself up to his full height. He stalked from the room. His face was as red as a beet. He entered his son’s room, and he began tearing up all the puppets that Mason had made, one after another after another after another. He tore them all to pieces, shouting and yelling that he would not have a pervert or a weakling or a coward for a son.
Mason watched in horror from the doorway.
The next morning, when Mason got up to school, there was a brand new cordless drill standing on the kitchen table in the place where Mason liked to sit. Mason pulled the trigger on the drill. The drill whined. Mason took the battery out of the drill. He pulled the trigger again. The drill did nothing.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” asked Mason.
“Well, first you put the battery back in,” said his father.
“No, thanks,” said Mason.
When Mason turned eighteen, he was still playing with puppets, and his father, who could think of nothing better to do with him, sent him to the military.
“I’d like to speak with the drill sergeant,” said Mr. Bitt.
A drill sergeant was procured.
“Drill my son,” said Mr. Bitt. “His name’s Mason. Drill him and drill him and drill him! That’s what the boy needs! A good drill sergeant!”
“Yes sir,” shouted the drill sergeant. “I will!”
The drill sergeant drilled Mason and the rest of the troops mercilessly.
There are many things that a military is well known for, but puppetry is not one of them. There were very few opportunities to practice puppetry while Mason was in the military. Two years later, however, he was honorably discharged.
And it so happened that when he got out, Mason was still very much interested in puppetry.
He moved to San Francisco.
He bought a few puppets, and he began to play shows.
As it happened, children loved his shows.
He did a puppet show of a tiger, a witch, and a polar bear. In these shows, the witch had enchanted the polar bear and turned the bear into a tiger. But all that the polar bear wanted was a life without stripes.
The play proved very popular. It proved so popular that a local television station asked Mason to audition for a half hour slot.
Mason appeared at the audition, and he was awkward and shy until he began to play with his puppets. Then his more confident side came out. For each of the different characters, he spoke in a different strong but authoritative voice. The pace of his play moved swiftly. His characters he imbued with qualities of humor, laughter, and love, and the plot entangled them in circumstances tragic and dire.
“My heavens,” said the local T.V. manager. “What is this? What do we have here?”
He was frowning in surprise. Mason’s play was not just good, it was great.
At the end of the audition, goosebumps rose on everyone’s skin. It was an extraordinary surprise. The performance was auspiciously good.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said the TV manager. “Can you do that again?”
“I can,” said Mason. When he put the puppets away, he looked shy and timid. He glanced down at his feet. He was six feet four inches tall by this time, and he towered over everyone in the room. Still, he was as thin as a scarecrow, and his time in the military had made him more diffident rather than less so.
“Well,” said the manager. “Somebody sign this guy up.”
Just like that, Mason thought, his dreams had come true. People were going to pay him—pay him!—to do puppetry. It was like getting paid to play a game.
He marveled at his good fortune.
In addition to puppets, Mason liked french pastries. It so happened that, as he left the audition, he was walking down the road, reveling in his good fortune, when he passed a French pastry shop.
It’s a common thread among humans that, when they’re celebrating a stroke of good fortune, they often go for something to eat or drink, and Mason was no different. He pushed open the door of the pastry shop.
Inside the pastry shop, it was like another world. The sweet smell of croissants, the savory scent of fresh baked bread, and the creamy fragrance of a thick bisque wafted through the room. Mason felt that he was in heaven.
Behind the counter was a young woman with sparkling eyes. Her name tag said Eloise. She had long black hair and delicate hands, and she and Mason were the only two people in the entire pastry shop.
“May I help you?” she asked. She had an extraordinarily pretty smile.
“Yes,” said Mason. And just like that, he felt himself, for the very first time, anxious to try to impress. He felt, for a moment, his timidity wash away. “I have just gotten a job,” he said boldly. “As a puppeteer for a TV station.”
“Oh,” she said. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” said Mason. “Would you like to be married?”
“Married?” she said. Her face turned pink. “I mean, I don’t know. I suppose so. I mean, maybe one day. Would you like a…” She lost her train of thought, then she regained it. “Would you like a soup?” Then she added very hurriedly, “Or would you like some bread? We have excellent bread.”
“Would you like to go on a date with me?” asked Mason. He smiled at her.
“I… I don’t even know your name,” the girl said.
“I’m Mason,” he said. “You must be Eloise.”
“How did you know that?” asked the girl. Then she blushed. “Oh, it must be on my name tag.”
“Would you like to go out with me?” said Mason.
Then the girl appraised him.
Mason smiled again at her. He smiled in what he believed was his most winning and hopeful way.
Eloise smiled back.
“You can pick me up at seven,” she said. “On the corner of Fillmore and Pine.”
“Okay,” he said happily. “I will. We can go where ever you want.”
He got a bread and a bisque, and while he ate they spoke. It was a quiet day, and only one other customer came in to interrupt them. The customer got his food to go. When Mason finished his bread and bisque, he ordered a crème brûlée and a coffee. As he ate, his spoon sometimes tapped against the white ceramic. Their voices warmed the air. He felt heavenly. By the time that Mason was ready to go, both he and Eloise thought that they might be talking to a person whom they could fall in love with.
He picked up Eloise that night at seven o’clock sharp. She was wearing a white wool coat and pink shoes. She wanted to go to a seafood restaurant, so he took her to one. He’d never eaten at a seafood restaurant before, and, still riding his wave of courage, he ordered a fish whose name he’d never heard of. He watched in fascination as Eloise cracked open her lobster and ate it. The lobster cracking seemed so complicated.
They spoke for the entire time, and he was relieved to discover that she did not view puppetry as a career exclusively for weaklings, cowards, or perverts.
She wanted to become a pastry chef when she was older and own a restaurant of her own.
At the end of the night, she said she’d like to see him again. He was thrilled.
Four years later, Mason married Eloise. He invited his father to the wedding, but Mr. Bitt declined to attend.
Within the year, Eloise took a job in Paris at the Ladureée Paris Champs Elysées. Mason joined her. They packed their belongings. They bought a plane ticket. Mason saw the Eiffel Tower, and he learned to speak French. They got a small room on the outskirts of Paris, and Eloise worked long hours while Mason looked around for a puppeteering job. When he finally found one, his work was treated as a unqualified success. It became more popular than Belle and Sebastian. Mason became very wealthy, and children from all over the world wrote him letters. He responded to as many as he could. Over the years, Mason and Eloise grew warmer and closer to one another. One day Mason got a telephone call from America saying that his father died, and Mason wept. He went to the funeral, and he left drill bits on his grave, a gift that he thought his father would like. More years passed, and Eloise retired, then Mason did too. They were an extraordinary couple, people often remarked. Simply extraordinary. People looked at them, at Mason and Eloise, and they would say that they’d never, in all their lives, seen two people who could look any happier together.