New Years Puppet Master

As a writer of Romance I often times find myself day dreaming about human connection (no, not just physically “connecting”… emotionally too!  Sometimes).  Anyway, whether it’s envisioning about my favor Actor du jour, characters in a book, or the hottie at Target who can’t figure out the self-checkout (just kidding, that’s an instant turn off), I am of the belief that it’s healthy to take a quick break from reality and think of something pleasant.

For me, it’s not just about the fleeting fantasy of pinning Daniel Sharman on a beach towel.  I enjoy day dreaming because it’s an exercise in creativity.  What did Daniel say to provoke my reaction?  What were we talking about before that?  Boxers or man-thong? And so on.

After years of practice, I’m pretty proficient at this whole day dreaming up imaginary human connections.  Sometimes, in bars mostly, I tap into these powers and make a day dream manifest in real life (95% of the time I totally use my powers for good, but on the rare occasion I use them for my own entertainment, I make sure no one gets hurt in the process).

What the hell am I talking about?  My friends call it “Puppet-Mastering”.  I come up with an end goal and then I build out a scenario that would have to occur to make it happen.  Then I set it in motion.  I have an impressive success rate.

For example.  My extremely shy friend Kristen spotted a cute guy across the bar.  She wouldn’t go talk to him.  I noticed he was wearing a slim fit V-neck with some cool art screened on the front.  A trippy, dragon silhouette to be precise.  Then my opening line came to me.  So I waited.

It didn’t take long, Kristen’s really cute.  She’s also really polite.  Too polite.  When she went to the bar to order another pint, some old, greasy-haired dude twice her age swaggered up and put his grimy arm around her.  Now, normally I’d swoop in and save her.  Not when I’m Puppet-Mastering.

I turned and bolted through the crowd, squeezing in between the sweaty bodies as fast as I possibly could and emerged directly in front of Dragon-boy.  The way he and his three friends were eyeing me, I knew they must have seen at least some portion of my theatrical flight.  Good.  That was part of the plan.

“Good Sir,” I said, bowing towards Dragon-boy, “Art thou a knight?”

“What…?” he asked, eyebrow raised in curiosity.

“I seek a knight most brave,” I said, stepping towards him, “for the damsel doth despair!”  I pointed towards Kristen, trapped at the edge of the bar.

“The girl in the white dress?” he said.

“Aye, she be cornered by a dragon most foul,” at this point his friends were nodding enthusiastically, rapt by my tale.  “Whilst thou save her?”

His friends practically threw him across the room at that point, cheering him on.  Not that he needed their assistance.  I knew by the look of determination on his face that he would have been her knight in V-neck armor without his noble squires intervening.   The dragon was slain and Kristen got a phone number.  So much more fun, and possibly more effective, than just walking across the bar and saying, “my friend thinks you’re cute.”  Right?

Okay, I know.  Some of you are thinking: it was a cute girl in a short dress, how hard could that have been?  Fair enough.  That’s why it was the example (though I get undisputed points for creativity).  What if it was my slightly overweight, slightly balding, also extremely shy friend, Ryan, instead?

I give you: my finest hour (as a Puppet-Master and maybe in general).

It was New Year’s 2016.  My friend Ryan had been broken up with his long-term girlfriend for two years at that point.  He hadn’t dated since.  It was time.

We had a small get together at my house with a dozen or so close friends.  We had planned to keep it laid back and just stay at my place, but once we all had a couple beers in us, naturally we craved adventure.  Unfortunately, adventure in suburbia means the bowling alley.  Okay, so it’s a bowling alley with two bars, rave lights, a dance floor, and a DJ, but still, it’s more “cheap frat party” than “classy New Year’s destination”.

That in mind, the single girls in our group were having a blast with the surplus of “bros” at the venue, but Ryan simply leaned against the wall in defeat, blue and green lights strobing every few seconds illuminating his bored, lonely expression to anyone who dared glimpse through the shadows.  Even if a woman did happen to look his way, she’d likely quickly be discouraged.  Not exactly easy to break the ice with someone who’s pouting in the corner.

That’s okay.  I had an ice-shattering sledge hammer.  Puppet-Master activated!

I sipped my beer as I sat on a pool table, scanning the room.  It was nearing midnight.  I knew what I had to find.  A cluster.

A large group of unpaired gals.  Like the one by the second bar.  Perfect.

I took another sip, straightened my cat ears, and sauntered right up to the leader.  I could tell that was her role from afar.  The way she directed the others to pose for pictures, the way she’d shout something and they’d all turn and listen.  She even had the fanciest New Year’s hat, hers was made of sequins while her subjects wore cardboard.

The leader was the one I needed.

“Heeeey,” I shouted, stumbling up to her.  “I have a secret to tell you!”

All attention immediately fell on me.  Her subjects were watching.

“A secret?” she laughed, smiling.

“Yeah,” I said, patting her on the shoulder, “I know this is a long shot, because you’re like so gorgeous, but my friend over there can’t shut up about how pretty he thinks you are.”

All the others broke out into a giggling frenzy, trying to identify this mystery man.

“He’s over there,” I said, pointing to Ryan, “he’s so, so shy, but he really likes you… so if you’re looking for a New Year’s kiss…”

Her friends all squealed in delight, multiple voices shouting: “DO IT!”

Perfect.  Just like I anticipated.  A leader must be bold and rise to opportunity.

Or not.

“No, I can’t,” she said, patting me back.

What?  Had I failed?!

 “I’ve gotta celebrate with my girls,” she said.

“Okay,” I smiled, “Just thought I’d say something, just in case.  I knew it was a long shot.”

I turned and danced back over to my friends, skeptical looks plastered on their faces.  They knew I had been Puppet-Mastering, but they also knew I wouldn’t tell them what I’d set up until it unfolded.  But this time was different.  This time, my careful analysis and crafty dialogue were for not, my plot would never come to fruition and Ryan would continue to mourn what’s-her-face.

The countdown came and went.  When the ball dropped, the girl cluster collectively shrieked “woooo”, just like half the bar, and Ryan stood in the corner, sipping his beer.

He would have finished that beer too, if the leader-girl didn’t bolt over 30 seconds after the count down and smack it out of his hand.

“I’m going to make your New Years,” she said then she leapt on him and locked lips before he could even process what’d happened.  The girl-cluster went wild in the background.

For a few disoriented seconds, Ryan stood with his hands jutting out at his sides.  Then when he finally realized there was a pretty girl attached to his face, he wrapped his arms around her and did one of those romance-novel dips, tilting her backwards as he reciprocated her kiss.

My friends stood in stunned silence, jaws dropped as they kept shifting their gazes from Ryan, to me, and back to Ryan.

After an intense 10 seconds, Ryan and the girl finally broke apart.  She winked at him, then turned and strode up to me.  I extended my hand in a high-five, she slapped it, and that was that.   She left the bar with her gang and she left Ryan with the goofiest, sweetest smile on his face.

So no, this tale didn’t end with Ryan getting her number.  I suppose the powers of my imagination have their limitations.  I like to think (and not just for my ego’s sake) that what he got was much more valuable than a phone number.  With that spontaneous kiss, he got his confidence back.  He has a new girlfriend now.

See.  I told you.  Day dreaming is wonderful, the human connection is wonderful, and I (usually) use my powers for good.

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