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The Essay
Show #517
Pinocchio's Nose Job
David Gunn

The story of Pinocchio with which most of us are familiar has a fairly gloomy ending. To recap, a gambler named Giuseppe "Gypsy" Geppetto is swiftly dispatching all of his competition at the International Pinochle Tournament in Las Vegas, until only one equally adept player named Blue "Cheese" Fairy stands in his way of a world championship. The score is tied going into the final round, and the atmosphere in the gaming room is electric. This helps Geppetto employ the shady "matching impedance" gambit, whereby an ancillary deck of cards materializes out of a cloud of alternating current. Geppetto draws from this deck six Aces of Spades, trumping all of Blue Fairy's tricks, and he wins the game. His prize? Pinocchio the Puppet. Well, a marionette, really, but a very good one, with all the latest animatronic features, including speech recognition circuitry, sophisticated retinal sensors, advanced synthetic mobility, a bionic nose and a horn. Geppetto discovers that a glitch in Pinocchio's sniffing software causes his nose to intermittently expand to thirty times its normal length, so he gets the marionette a job with an escort service. Given the otherwise family-oriented nature of this program, the fewer details provided here, the better. Suffice it to say that Pinocchio is "on the job" for only two days before he acquires termitis, a sexually transmitted disease. Today, of course, a healthy anteater is all that is needed to effectively counteract the malady. But in those days, marionetical medical science was still in its infancy. Geppetto summons Fortunato Fox, the local mountebank, who prescribes a whole medicine ball worth of nostrums, available only from Katrina K. Cat Enterprises, with whom he is in cahoots. But KKC is itself in Dutch with the authorities and has relocated to the belly of a whale moored just beyond the kingdom's three-mile limit. Unwilling to kiss off his potential meal ticket just yet, the gambler rows out to sea to fetch the medications. He pays an unseemly high price for them, but justice prevails when the whale chokes on a hocker of ambergris and drowns, taking KKC Enterprises down with it.

Geppetto is eager to get back to Pinocchio, however a freak storm blows his little boat way off course. Subsequently, he suffers a series of remarkable adventures, culminating in his sharing the inside of a grand piano with five large, inflatable fingers that are strumming a tarantella on the strings as a water buffalo, to whose back the piano is lashed, manages to clamber up Niagara Falls, assisted only by a pair of lighter-than-air water wings. By the time Geppetto returns home, Pinocchio is, alas, dead, his body riddled with holes.

The folk tale traditionally ends with an equivocal moral to avoid offshore whale businesses, however the infrequently recounted afterword is of particular interest today.

Although the late marionette's body was holier than Saint Hubert, his famous nose survived intact. Geppetto observed one day of mourning, then contracted with a New Jersey auction house called e-Bayonne to sell it. Which they promptly did to a violinmaker from southwesternmost Lincolnshire who thought it would make the perfect tailpiece for his latest creation. Oh, he had to do a little tweaking of both nose and saddle to get it to fit, but eventually it did. And he was right. It looked great. The violin was a special order for Ernst von Haknabn, the flashiest fiddler of his day.

Von Haknabn, who coincidentally was a distant relative of the flimflamming Fortunato Fox, liked the instrument at first sight. At the first down-bow, he fell in love. The sound was as rich and sweet as the finest large pearl tapioca pudding!

Six weeks later, von Haknabn was performing Viego Vermicelli's ostentatious Etude Bruté at a private concert for Lord Ethelwulf, the Earl of Nosalbury. A successful performance would likely win the fiddler a prestigious position with the Probate Court Orchestra. He was double-stopping with abandon and even executing the formidable bowing 747 with aplomb. A clearly impressed Lord Ethelwulf was halfway into a "thumbs up" gesture regarding that orchestral plum when the violin suffered a sudden bout of tunitis. It fell so far out of tune that it fractured the very foundation of Nosalbury Manor. A bewildered von Haknabn stared at the instrument as the tailpiece slowly lengthened. One inch, two inches, three, five, eight--it grew to a span of twenty-six inches! And, of course, the attached strings dutifully followed, until the B string stretched so taut that, like an overwrought postal worker, it snapped, lashed out, and relieved the Earl of his prized nose.

Von Haknabn soon found himself in a different court, one that prosecuted criminal offenses. An unsympathetic judge was examining Exhibit A, an abused nasal septum, and Exhibit B, the violin, when the latter's tailpiece experienced another sudden attack of extendiosis. The judge ducked, but not quickly enough, and the end of the Exhibit nailed him flush between the eyes. Von Haknabn grabbed the felonious fiddle and frantically looked for an exit. A burly bailiff with a bastinado blocked one door, a stern stenographer with a stiletto the other. The open window beckoned. He ran for it and leapt out. Having continued to grow like gangbusters, the tailpiece now reached all the way to the ground, a distance of some thirty feet, allowing von Haknabn to pole-vault to freedom.

Freedom is a relative term. While von Haknabn was free from incarceration, he was no longer free to play his violin in front of thousands of adoring spectators. So he made his way back to southwesternmost Lincolnshire where he confronted--and, indeed, impaled--the violinmaker. From the violinmaker, he retraced the quirky tailpiece's path to Bayonne and, eventually, to "Gypsy" Geppetto. He had come for vengeance, but as he prepared to deal a mortal skewering to the gambler, the Blue "Cheese" Fairy, with whom Geppetto now shared his chalet, suddenly appeared and snapped her fingers. At once, the tailpiece shrank back to its normal size.

Well, von Haknabn calmed down, but not until Fairy had put a spell on the tailpiece that inhibited any future expansion. Then she called a friend in the Witness Protection Program who reinvented von Haknabn as a violinist in a distant land. And once Lord Ethelwulf was fitted with a biomorphic prosthesis that proved to be a hit with all the kingdom courtesans, a happy ending was enjoyed by all!

A happy ending to this 517th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is a cinch, given the violinist and composer who will perforce appear on the other end of this microphone after the usual introductory adverbs from Kalvos.