I was 21 years old and had never “featured” as a comic and ventriloquist until a booker found me online and finally gave me my big break.
It wasn’t about me being ready or my talent. The booker, an ardent chauvinist, informed me that he needed more female comedians -- the two he had both sucked. Plus he liked the ventriloquist thing I did with my puppet, May Wilson.
The whole weekend was a drunken blur. My plan was to stay stone cold sober, but a waitress told me an audience member wanted to buy me a beer. I ended up getting totally trashed on Skyline, a beer made and brewed in the Midwest, and Jack Daniels.
My final night there, a man approached me. He was creepy and looked like the distant cousin of Sling Blade. He wore suspenders and a red-and-black plaid shirt and his teeth were tobacco stained. Classy all the way around, he had a spit cup next to him that he periodically used. During one hock into the Dixie Cup, he opened his mouth wide enough to reveal he was missing three teeth on the right side of his mouth, and had one rotting out of the left side.
Anyway, Sling Blade said he read about May Wilson and myself on the club’s Web site and wanted to see us live. He mentioned he had grown up watching Jimmy Nelson and Farfel, another vent duo, and thought the idea of a woman ventriloquist was sexy. I mentioned Shari Lewis was cute, to which he said, “Yeah, but there are things guys imagine about you and your puppet that you could never imagine about Lamb Chop.”
I was taken aback. Lamb Chop and the “Song That Never Ends” were a part of my childhood. Attaching a sexual connotation to them was gross.
Sling Blade proceeded to buy me a Skyline Beer. I was thankful the club owner wasn’t there to break up the party with my new eccentric fan and myself. The owner had been telling me to cool my drinking that weekend and had given me the lecture about how, “I was a young woman traveling alone, easy prey and to never trust anyone I met on the road.”
We began talking and, for as creepy as Sling Blade was, I began to like him. This man made me feel beautiful, especially since my very recent ex-boyfriend did nothing but cheat and lie. Plus this man wanted to know all about me and my ventriloquism -- my one true love, more true than any man.
Sling Blade then asked how my money situation was. As a comedian, I am perpetually broke, which I made a joke about. Then Sling Blade proposed that he could assist me and said he lived two hours up the road. He said he would give me $200 to spend the night. There was one catch, though. He wanted a threesome.
I asked who the third woman would be.
Sling Blade then said, “Your puppet of course.”
“You’re kidding,” I said, disbelieving. After all, we had just come from a comedy show. I was all about the jokes.
“No, I think you are beautiful, and I think the puppet is a kinky touch,” he said. “I believe in helping a woman out.”
That’s when Sling Blade reached into his pocket and flashed two $100 bills. He was serious. Just to make sure I knew, he flashed them again. For as tipsy as the Skyline and Jack Daniels was making me, I suddenly began to sober up. I needed money to travel and had burnt some making this trip. Sure, it’s not the person my mother raised me to be, but this was easy money.
Still, I had some questions.
“How would this work?” I asked. “My puppet is not anatomically correct. May is made out of cloth. I don’t know if she would have the sensation you would be wanting.”
“Oh, that would be easy. You would go first. After I am done with you then I will start on your doll.” Sling Blade explained.
“What will you do with my doll?” I asked. There was a part of me that was still rather disturbed, but this whole thing was starting to pique my interest.
“Everything I am going to do with you,” he said, smiling. “Everything I would do with a real girl. You start from the top and work your way down.”
I stared at his tobacco-stained teeth, pictured his mouth on May. Didn’t he know what a pain in the ass it would be to wash her? I was having second thoughts.
“Would my hand be in May or not?” I blurted the question out.
“One hand would be in May controlling my pleasure on one end, and the other hand would be busy controlling my pleasure on another,” Sling Blade explained romantically. I had once heard there was a thing called “Muppet porn.” This however was starting to top it.
“My farmhouse is up the road. Come on.” Sling Blade said and flashed the money again.
Suddenly, I knew how this tale was going to end. It would start with a stupid, drunken 21-year-old aspiring ventriloquist on tour with her foul-mouthed puppet. Enter a creepy stranger with a farmhouse down the road. Climax, the 6 o’clock news when both were missing. Later, when our bodies were found there would be a Lifetime movie made where it was revealed this man, a Gepetto-phile, preyed on women, killed them and stuffed them, making them his own puppets of sadistic pleasure.
This story was good -- so good that if I went to the farmhouse up the road, I was not going to live to tell it. All I could picture was May Wilson lying in the middle of a crop circle with the stuffing torn out of her after this sicko had his way with her. As for me, the man might have been nice enough to make me into a chair or cushion.
I could hear my mother telling the world on national television about how her beautiful daughter was destined to do great things until Sling Blade murdered her. In between May without her stuffing, me as a chair and the echo of my mother’s tears from the future, I began to reconsider my trip to the farmhouse.
Sling Blade flashed his smile again along with the money.
Just then the booker approached. “I have to pay you. Come with me,” he commanded. I took this as the perfect escape and left.
As I collected my money, the booker informed me that he had heard the whole conversation and wanted to know why I had entertained Sling Blade as long as I had. I mentioned that the whole thing didn’t seem real. The booker laughed and said that it was clear it was time for me to go home. I expressed my fear that Sling Blade might not take no for an answer.
“Listen, you’re with me, and you’re my comic. When I say it’s time for you to go home, it’s time for you to go home. And as long as you have May, I don’t think this man is interested in you alone. I think he wanted the duo, sick fuck.”
The booker dropped me off, and I found myself thankful that I was asleep in my hotel and not in some farmhouse with Sling Blade.
Just then I heard May Wilson saying from her case, “Two hundred dollars. As in $100 for me and $100 for you? I don’t work cheap. Make it $500 for me. I am not only a classy lady, but did you not consider I might need dry cleaning after the experience? You are cheap and selfish, April. Don’t you ever think about my needs?”
That is when I definitely knew I did the right thing. Recently, May Wilson and I have been telling the story onstage and it has been killing. We definitely did the right thing.