Candle Sales and Puppet Tales
Chantal Schaul, 2005
Vick Candeloni was travelling alone these days. He came from far away, but he’d been here before, with his grandmother. He remembered the undulating hills covered with forests, and the swelling fields, now an array of greys and browns. It was winter and he was heading for the Christmas market.
For generations, his family had been itinerant salesmen, and women. True, in the older days they’d been called gipsies, but Vick proved this designation wrong: he had blond hair (left to grow abundantly) and blue eyes. In addition to that, he was tall and broad-shouldered, and, if he hadn’t been so shy, he would have had bundles of girls around the world holding their breath and feverishly awaiting his return. Sadly, as it was, they hardly noticed him and his dashing good looks.
Vick’s family name, and, indeed, his first name, had been inspired by the family trade: candles. The Candelonis had made their living out of candles since the dark ages. One man had nearly killed them all off: Edison, with his infernal light bulb. Fortunately Vick’s ancestors had adapted well to the new situation and changed their product slightly, from meaningless but useful candles to useless but meaningful ones. They had added one tiny little thing: fragrance. And that made all the difference.
Especially for Christmas, people would demand candles that made their houses smell of pine trees, cinnamon, oranges, mulled wine, peppermint, gingerbread, holly berries, general yuletide aromas, roasting horse chestnuts and turkey, Brussels sprouts, walnuts, cranberries and open fires. But even in summer, when the long daylight hours make candles mostly redundant, people could see the sense in smells. The most practical of summer fragrances was the fly repellent odour, though not very pleasant to humans, either. But the Candelonis mixed in other scents, which ultimately convinced people: cherries, apples, peaches, flowers of all kinds, honey, buds and blossoms, barbecue fumes, cocktails, iced tea, early morning mist, rippling brooks, juicy meadows, summer showers and steaming thunder storms.
Vick had a full winter array of jar candles in the back of his van. Jar candles sold well in winter; they burned for hours on end, and they could easily be left unattended. “I like jar candles a lot”, he thought to himself. Already he could see the spires of the cathedral in the distance. He weaved his way into the centre of town. It had changed little since he’d been here with his grandmother. She had died since, of a lung infection, and left him without any relatives. He was the last of the line. “Vick”, she whispered on her deathbed, “find a nice young lady and continue the family business.” He nodded, and then she closed her eyes forever.
Twelve years later, Vick had still not been able to keep his promise. He was so absorbed by making and selling candles that he hardly had time to look around him. Sometimes he remembered his duty with a pang in his heart, and made an effort to scrutinize the women in his vicinity. But that didn’t go down well. He had been accused of staring, and that had made him withdraw even more.
As he was parking his van and comparing the plan of the stand arrangements to the actual site, trying to find the one assigned to him, a female head suddenly appeared at his open window and fired the following words at him: “You’re not allowed to park here. You should have asked before doing so!” Vick was taken aback and stuttered a few apologies. The fierce female saw the plan he was holding and grabbed it from his hand. “Ah. You’ve reserved a stand here. Fine. It’s that one over there.” She seemed to point at a random stand. Vick protested feebly: “I don’t think that’s the same as on the-” – “The order has been changed since we printed that plan. My official title is the Local Co-ordinator of the Christmas Market, or, in short, LOCOCHRIM. My name is Maxima Payne. And yours?” – “Vick Candeloni,” Vick replied, slightly shaken.
Maxima marched off as Vick tried to collect himself. He had little experience with authoritarian females. He tentatively walked over to his assigned stand, still unsure whether claiming it as his own would result in more trouble. But it seemed fine. No one else was competing over the land. As fast as he could, he unloaded the van and filled the wooden shed with his candles. Wonderful scents soon emanated from its confines.
Only when the van was parked in its rightful place, and Vick was safely installed in his little shed, he allowed himself to gaze around him and relax. The place was the same he’d been to ten years ago, but the stands had been upgraded. They were all similar, like little wooden houses with gable roofs, and had a Swiss touch to them. There was only one stand that didn’t look like all the others, and he only saw the back of it from his position. It was an old-fashioned circus caravan, higher than the sheds, and painted in green, blue and red. It seemed a special feature of the market.
As Vick was making these observations, he saw Maxima Payne run around wildly, barking orders at new arrivals, pointing in this direction and that, dashing through here, darting out of there, and never coming to a standstill. She was in her early thirties, or so it seemed, and if you were to stumble across her while she was peacefully asleep, you might even consider her good-looking. Granted, she did have a wart by her nostril, subdued as yet, although it would probably mature with age.
Vick felt faint as Maxima suddenly changed direction and stormed towards his shed. She held a stack of letters in her hand and flung one of them over his counter, shouting: “From the COCOCHRIM.” The acronym was explained in the letter: Country-wide Co-ordinator of Christmas Markets. Vick concluded that this letter was from Maxima’s superior. It ran thus:
Dear Christmas market sales people,
I hereby decree a re-arrangement for the stands to be executed by tomorrow morning. The plan is enclosed in this letter.
Also enclosed with this letter you will find a small number of forms to be filled in by tomorrow morning, and handed over to the LOCOCHRIM.
As far as the Christmas choir is concerned, it will be performing every day between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., as well as between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., on the bandstand in the middle of the market. The following songs must be performed at least 3 times a day each: “Frosty the Snowman”, “Do they know it’s Christmas?”, “Sprouting Mistletoe”, “Snow happens to be White”, “Turkey in my Belly”, “All my Presents have been Stolen”, “I like Gingerbread” and “Christmas, bloody Christmas.”
Every salesman or woman on the market is obliged to wear an identical T-Shirt, red in colour, and sporting the words: “Christmas markets are wonderful.” This T-Shirt must be purchased from me, at the reduced cost of 20 Euros.
For all other major and minor decisions, my inferior, the LOCOCHRIM, Ms Maxima Payne, will be available at all times. She will function as your cultural and Yuletide retail consultant.
I wish everyone a merry Christmas and don’t forget to pay for the rental of the stand straight away, or you will be expelled.
Vick sighed. So many obligations. He leafed through the attached new plan and forms. There were 23 of them, ranging from “Form to find out if you like Christmas” to “Medical form to find out if you carry dangerous viruses” and “Form to test your mathematical abilities.” Vick sighed again and put pen to page. He had hardly made the first imprint, when Maxima’s voice interrupted: “Have you filled in your forms yet? You must move to stand OXP306 in just about a minute. Have you packed your things?” Vick checked the plan and noticed a discrepancy. “But here it says my stand will be XOP663.” Maxima huffed and puffed. “I’ve decided that the COCOCHRIM’s plan has a few flaws in it, so I’ve made some minor changes. Not for you to criticise. Get your things together and move!”
Three hours later, and after much hustle and bustle, the entire market had been re-arranged. It was already dark and Vick still had to fill in twenty-two and a half forms. He had settled down with a nice cup of tea and was wrapped in a thick patterned throw that his grandmother had knitted for him not long before her death. As he went through the questions, and while the choir was chanting “Turkey in my Belly”, he gazed straight ahead, lost in thought. He was pondering a tricky question on whether he preferred to do a PhD in Bible Studies or to clean old people’s ears as a career, when he suddenly realized what he was looking at.
The circus caravan was straight ahead of him, with the counter open, and the inside lit up with multicoloured light chains and stars. That the brightly illuminated wares on the counter and on the back wall were, in fact, puppets on strings, only entered his consciousness much later. What instantly caught his eye was the figure standing in the middle of the wagon, which was strangely dimmer than the surrounding areas. It was as if the light was avoiding her. But even though she was shrouded in shadows, Vick could not overlook her extreme beauty and loveliness. He gasped.
She moved with exceptional elegance and smoothness, as if she was floating above the ground, as she was dressing puppets in clothes and hanging them up from the ceiling. Her hair was cascading down her back in thick ringlets, the colour of flames, and delicately framed her face. Her features were fine and fragile, and graced with such heavenliness that Vick rubbed his eyes several times, afraid that his vision was playing tricks on him. But she remained as alluring as before, although his eyes started to hurt, from the rubbing or the excess of beauty, he could not say.
Eventually, the goddess opposite Vick closed down her counter. It was late, and he could not have said how much time had passed while he was gazing at her across his bunch of forms. And although the forms were still blank, he felt like some kind of inner emotional achievement had been made in the hours he had wasted. He was in love for the first time in his life. His heart was racing; he was utterly excited and filled with zeal and desire.
Vick’s train of thought was cut short by a nagging voice. “Can I have the forms now?” He gestured apologetically and showed Maxima the empty forms. “What? What have you been doing idling away all these hours? I want the forms in half an hour. Get to work immediately!” Vick nodded and half-heartedly threw a few ticks and crosses here and there, and occasionally added a line or two. He didn’t follow his convictions any more and put down half-truths and lies without much care. This way, he finished his work on time and handed the lot to Maxima, who arrived in front of his shed on the dot. She grabbed the forms and threw a T-Shirt wrapped in plastic on his counter. “This has to be paid by tomorrow morning 4 a.m. 30 Euros. And the rent has to be transferred into the same account by 3 a.m. Otherwise your wares will be confiscated.” – “Do you accept cheques?” Vick asked, realising that the early morning transferral deadline was impossible to fulfil, but unwilling to argue with the despotic lady. She ruffled her nose, but conceded: “Not normally, but I’ll make an exception just this once.”
After Maxima had left, Vick unwrapped his T-Shirt. Not only had the price gone up and the colour changed, but even the slogan was no longer “Christmas markets are wonderful”, but “Enjoy Christmas and Read the Bible!” To make things worse, Vick had received an extra small size, which, however hard he tried, would not accommodate his broad shoulders. Several threads had ripped by the time he got the top over his head. In the end, he managed to forcefully pull it halfway down his torso, unable to prevent one of the sleeve seams from tearing. The slogan was so stretched that it was completely illegible, which he didn’t mind.
The next morning, Vick got up before daybreak. He didn’t want to miss a minute admiring the heavenly creature opposite. But the ravishing girl rose late. Most stands had opened for the first business day already, when at last the counter of the circus caravan was lowered. And there she was, charming, delightful and exquisite, fresh like a dew drop on a spring morning. But somehow her shape was less clear-cut than it had been on the previous night, and Vick soon realised the cause. She was wearing the same T-Shirt as himself, but in an extra large size.
Vick saw the opportunity. He would go over and talk to her, suggesting that they swap tops. The excellence of his idea and the heat of the moment gave him wings. Only fractions of a second later, he found himself facing the delicious lady. He opened his mouth, but then it struck him that he had prepared no words. He froze.
She had noticed his presence and filled the silence: “Hello. Can I help?” He unfurled his heavy tongue and managed to croak: “Oh, erm, yes, I was wondering if you’d like to swap tops with me.” He instantly realised his foolishness for uttering these ambiguous words. In an attempt to remedy what he had said, he added: “I mean, I saw you have a large size in your T-Shirt, and mine is too small, so maybe we could swap. Unless, of course, you like wearing baggy clothes . . .” She smiled and blushed to such a minute degree that it was almost impossible to perceive. “Oh, yes, I would like that. I feel rather encumbered by the heavy folds of this garment.” Vick was delighted with her quaint manner of speaking, felt spurred on and, in an instant, stripped bare of the constriction of his T-Shirt and handed it to her.
What Vick didn’t know was that the lady was equally inexperienced with young men, and had never come very close to one. She blushed more intensely as she breathed in the musty male scent that emanated from his top. It set off a whole array of emotions within her that she had never felt before. Combined with the view that offered itself to her, a strapping, handsome, half-naked young man, the signalling in her brain went haywire and she was overcome by tingling emotions, culminating in the only possible outcome: she fell head over heels in love with Vick.
Vick noticed nothing of her internal transformation, but instead felt embarrassed for her sake. He could hardly expect her to strip naked in her turn. “I’ll come back later to collect your T-Shirt,” he mumbled, and ran back to his stand. He found a horde of customers sniffing his candles. “Do you do these walnut ones in a larger size?” asked one of them. “I’m looking for a Santa who’s been through a chimney scented candle. Do you do those?” another requested. For half an hour, Vick was so occupied with customer demands that he didn’t have a second to glance over at the lady of his heart. And he didn’t even know her name yet!
Finally, at lunch, when the visitors were assailing the food and mulled wine stands, Vick went over to the puppet stand again. He found its mistress in his smaller T-Shirt, its torn seam already nicely sewn up. As soon as she saw him, she passed him her large one. “Thank you,” he said. “My name is Vick Candeloni.” He offered her his hand. She shook it and, in the sweetest voice, introduced herself in return. “I’m Pinocchia Stringer. My family has made puppets for generations. Hence my name.”
Vick told Pinocchia about his candle-making roots, and they soon found themselves engaged in a lively conversation. He explained how he made smelly candles, and she gave an account of puppet construction. “It’s my father who makes them, up there.” She pointed to a spot above her head. Vick looked up, but it was dark, and a thick velvet curtain that overhung the shop front prevented him from seeing very far. He was puzzled. “You mean he is actually up there now?” he asked. “Yes, he stays on the top floor most of the time, making puppets. He rarely comes down. He . . .” she paused for a moment “he keeps an eye on me.” Vick would have investigated further into this singular statement, but a loud voice recalled him to his duties. “Where’s the bloody candle maker?” it shouted. A cluster of impatient customers were waiting by his stand.
An afternoon passed, taken up by heavy retail activities. “Turkey in my Belly” was sung for the third time that day, and it started to annoy Vick. When he finally got a moment to look up and across to Pinocchia’s wagon, to his dismay he saw the man from the ‘Greasy Sausage’ shed overtly flirting with the divine object of his desire. The sausage man was fat-bellied and twice her age. He had black greasy hair that extended in frizzy curls over his entire body. His ruddy cheeks wobbled as he came out with phrases like: “I bet you like sausages,” and “would you like to taste one?” He would wink suggestively while saying these things, which made Vick feel uneasy. Pinocchia evidently felt the same. She had receded into the background of the wagon and was barely visible.
Vick decided that he must intervene. He strode over to the caravan and sided with the sausage man. “Sorry mate, but could you leave the lady alone?” The sausage man burst into vile and guttural laughter, exposing his rotting teeth that still had bits of meat stuck between them. “Want a fight?” he laughed, and clenched his fists. “My daughter will have neither of you, scoundrels!” a deep voice thundered from inside the caravan. “I am her father and if you two don’t get lost at once, I’ll report you to the police!” He was a short stocky man with long ginger hair and a beard of the same colour, and with none of the charm of his daughter. He was wearing a gigantic green velvet dressing gown with a tussled cord around his belly. Vick didn’t dare to oppose him, and neither did the sausage man, who was trudging back to his meat shed already. Mr Stringer’s eyes glared at Vick threateningly, making him recoil in fear, when suddenly Maxima’s voice broke the tense moment.
“Stringer, you haven’t paid yet! And you’re not wearing the obligatory T-Shirt!” Pinocchia’s father wasn’t intimidated by Maxima. “I’ve paid you double in advance. Don’t come bloodsucking to me, you know the deal I made with the COCOCHRIM.” Maxima grumbled, but swallowed her anger. She turned towards Vick and gave him a piece of paper. “Here, new stand arrangements. Stick to them!” Vick grew faint when he read that his stand was relegated to the peripheral area behind the bandstand. What had he done to deserve this?
However sad he felt to leave his optimal position just opposite the delightful Pinocchia, Vick obeyed the rules and regulations. The next morning, he set up behind the bandstand, turning his back to the entire market and facing a desolate smoked mackerel shed, the pungent stench of which mercilessly overpowered the delicate scent from his candles. Not one customer ventured near his stand all day. Although his business suffered, Vick was free to roam around the market and get closer to Pinocchia’s wagon than was, perhaps, safe.
During “Christmas, bloody Christmas” Vick thought he could get away with carefully creeping towards Pinocchia and softly knocking against the wagon to draw her attention. And sure enough, soon afterwards, her face appeared through the small crack of the opening side door. Her features lit up when she saw him. “Pinocchia,” he started, but she shushed him immediately, gesturing towards the upper floor. He could not hold himself back completely, and stole a kiss from her lips. She almost swooned. Then her father’s roaring voice broke out from above: “Pinocchia, back here!” Pinocchia snapped backwards, as if drawn by a superior force, and came to a jerky standstill in the middle of the caravan.
“Who was that?” Vick heard her father growl. “The COCOCHRIM,” she lied. “He wants us to move the wagon again.” – “What? Hasn’t he ordered us around enough already? Did he say anything about the wedding?” – “No.” She added, hesitantly: “You know that the only man I like is the candle maker. I don’t want to marry the COCOCHRIM, father.” Mr Stringer laughed horribly. “I tell you who you marry and you stick to it. You need a rich man so you can keep up the puppet business. Either that, or a skilled man. A candle maker won’t do. He can’t make puppets.” Pinocchia shed a few bitter tears, but she knew they were to no avail. Her father was heartless and inflexible.
With his newly gained information, Vick walked off pensively. The only way to conquer Pinocchia seemed to be by either becoming rich, which was unlikely, or by learning how to make puppets. But he felt a pang in his heart when he remembered his grandmother’s last wish. He had to continue the family candle business. If he changed over to puppets now, his ancestors would turn in their graves.
He arrived at his shed, and as the waft of smoked mackerel fumes made him retch, he turned back to meander between the sheds. He felt hungry and headed for the food stalls. The sizzling and splattering of grease could be heard from a distance, and Vick smelt the fried meat and potato cakes as their vapour materialised into clouds in the cold darkness of the night. The sweeter flavours of gingerbread, pancakes and chocolate intermingled with acrid gusts of Sauerkraut and mulled wine.
Vick bought a stack of potato cakes and found some peace in a nook between two adjacent sheds. He’d eaten half of his cakes when he became aware of someone else’s presence not far from him. He could make out a few snippets of conversation: “ . . . mine for coffee?” said a female voice. Some lascivious male laughter followed: “. . . long time, eh? . . . lots of fun! . . . Help me . . . fire . . . revenge . . . Stringer. ” He laughed gruffly. Then, there was a pause. “Fire?” said the female voice, slightly disturbed, “. . . better idea.”
Vick, worried by the mention of Stringer, inched himself along the shed to find out who was speaking, and soon he could discern two figures huddled together in the back entrance of one of the sheds. He recognized Maxima, but a split second later she had disappeared. Which shed was this, Vick wondered, and went round the corner to find out. He was rather surprised when he saw the ‘Greasy Sausage’ sign. What could Maxima and the sausage man be up to?
Vick ran back to the Stringers’ circus caravan. He had to warn Pinocchia, although he wasn’t sure what the danger was. The stand was still open for business and Pinocchia was serving a couple of frail old ladies. “Oh, isn’t that nativity marionette set lovely? Perfect for my grandchildren! Can I have that, please?” The other lady watched and eventually picked the puppet of a sailor in old-fashioned uniform. “My first love was a seaman, but he never returned,” she confided to Pinocchia.
Once the ladies had left, Vick sidled up to the counter and whispered: “My dearest Pinocchia, I think someone is making an evil plot against you and your father. You might not be safe here.” Pinocchia clasped her face in anguish. “I need to tell my father,” she said. Vick took his courage in both hands: “Would you come out with me tonight for some mulled wine? We could watch the snowflakes fall?” His motivation behind this quest was partly to make sure Pinocchia was safe, but mostly, he had to admit to himself, he selfishly wanted to be with her.
Pinocchia took a while to answer. Evidently some inner conflict was ravaging her heart. In the end, she whispered, shedding bitter tears: “Oh Vick, I would love to come. If only I could, I would run off with you now and never return. But it’s impossible.” After these sorry words, she swivelled round and sought refuge in the dark by the side door, shaking with sobs. Vick wanted to jump over the counter and console her, but her father’s voice held him back, roaring from above: “See what you’ve done, you fool. Will you leave her alone now?” Vick still didn’t want to give up: “Sir, can I warn you of some evil scheme against you? Someone wants to ruin you!” – “I’ve heard your monstrous allegations already. Be gone and never return! If I see you with my daughter again, I will twist your neck!”
Vick left reluctantly, downcast and crestfallen. Rather appropriately, the choir was singing “All my Presents have been Stolen.” No, he could not give up now. He needed to do something. As he was desperately trying to find a solution, he bumped into Maxima Payne. “Look where you’re going,” she hissed. She was holding a big sack and pulled a minute present out of it. “Here, have one, it’s from the COCOCHRIM. Merry Christmas.”
Back in his candle shed, where the mackerel fumes still pervaded, Vick opened the tiny present. To his disappointment, he found an old black button, accompanied by the words: “A button will get you far. The COCOCHRIM.” The present, albeit a miserly gift, gave Vick an idea. He would disguise himself and get into the Stringers’ wagon. No sooner thought than done. Vick went out again and raided all the bins in his path, pulling out oodles of old wrapping paper. He returned to his stand and wrapped himself up as a huge present, labelling himself thus: “From the COCOCHRIM to Mr Stringer. To be opened on Christmas day only. Merry Christmas!”
A couple of hours later, when all the stands had closed and the market was desolate and empty, Vick crept over to the caravan, inside his shiny package. He had left two flaps at the bottom where his feet could poke out when needed, and cut out a tiny hole just under the lavish curls of ribbon, so he could see where he was going. He deposited himself right in front of the side door, after having knocked on it heavily three times. Only instants later, Mr Stringer appeared and read the label. He lifted the gift up and carried it inside. Vick had succeeded!
Vick waited for a while before he peeked out from his package. It was quiet and dark, and all he could distinguish was the divine shape of his dearest Pinocchia, resting on the wooden floor, and covered by a thin blanket. He heard her regular breathing and, thus comforted, soon fell asleep himself.
Only minutes later he was re-awoken by a thump on the door. Pinocchia called for her father, who soon stomped down the ladder to tear the door open once more. He was grumbling under his breath, annoyed to have been woken up a second time. The visitor was no other than Maxima, whose voice Vick knew very well by now. “Hi Stringer,” she said. I’ve got a gift for you.” – “Another gift?” Mr Stringer bellowed. “Yes,” said Maxima, “it’s from the COCOCHRIM and he wants to know if you like it.” There was a snatching noise and tearing of paper. “Chocolates? I do like chocolates, tell him thank you. And for his other present.” Maxima sounded surprised: “Oh, he sent you that big thing?” There was a short silence. “You will have to actually eat one of the chocolates and then decide if you like them. COCOCHRIM’s orders.” – “Bloody COCOCHRIM!” Mr Stringer grumbled and made smacking and gulping sounds. “Yes, they’re nice. Bye. I need my sleep.” He banged the door.
Instants later, a big thump indicated that Mr Stringer had collapsed on the floor. Pinocchia shrieked. Vick glanced through his view hole and was about to burst from his wrappings, when the wagon door was forced from the outside, and in stormed Maxima and the sausage man. “Quick, Rindworth, grab him and let’s go. That’s my part of the deal done. I’ll come round tomorrow and we decide on the wedding date then.” Rindworth mumbled a few unintelligible words.
When the evil perpetrators had left the caravan, Vick erupted from the confines of his package at last, and found Pinocchia on the floor, huddled under her throw, and unconscious. “I’m here,” said Vick and kneeled by her, gently stroking her hair. She opened her eyes, crawled on to his lap and held him tight. “Vick,” she sobbed, “what are we going to do?” – “I think I know where they are taking him. We must follow them now. Perhaps we can still save your father.” Pinocchia shook her head. “You must follow them, Vick, I can’t.” – “But why ever not, my dearest?” – “There’s no time to explain. Go quickly!”
With a heavy heart, Vick left Pinocchia behind and ran to the ‘Greasy Sausage’ shed. He found the door at the back and put his ear to it. Raucous laughter emanated from the inside. They were here. And now it struck Vick: what could he possibly do, single-handedly? With these dismal thoughts running through his mind, he nervously rambled around the market place, trying to find a weapon of some sort. He stopped when he suddenly heard sobs.
He followed the snivelling to its source and found no other than Maxima crouching against one of the mulled wine stands. She became aware of his presence and barked: “Get lost, Candeloni.” Despite her aggressive choice of words, she sounded less severe than usual. Vick saw the tears glisten on her cheeks. He’d always thought she was incapable of emotions, and was almost relieved to find her in this state. “What’s the matter, Miss Payne?” he asked emphatically. Maxima was furious. “It’s all Rindworth’s fault. He promised to marry me. I am in my thirties, you know. Can’t afford to be picky any more. I hate men!”
Vick needed to know more. “So has he gone back on his promise?” he asked. “The bastard was stringing me along,” Maxima moaned, “he used me to get Stringer out of the way, so he can marry that young doll of his. I hate him!” – “What does he want Stringer for?” Vick asked. She brushed him off. “What do I know, fetter and gag him until they’re married, I assume.” Vic wasn’t so sure, but he needed her help to find out. “Let’s overthrow him together,” he suggested.” This proposal put the fire back into Maxima’s heart. “Yes, let’s! I shall not be crushed by any man!” she shouted, ran towards the ‘Greasy Sausage’ shed and threw herself against the door, breaking the lock with one single thrust.
Maxima had been taking the LOCOCHRIM job quite seriously, so she had, amongst other things, a truncheon in her possession, which she now hurled at Rindworth’s neck. He was far too stupefied by the sudden intrusion, and had no chance to defend himself. Once he was knocked out on the floor, the full extent of his evil deed became apparent. They found themselves in a small niche at the back of the shed. There was a sausage maker, switched on, and a puddle of blood on the floor. There were also tons of fresh sausages. The state of things led to only one conclusion. Maxima, hardy as she was, fainted and collapsed on the floor, only inches away from the puddle.
Vick felt his stomach heave and ran outdoors. He called the police from a phone box and hastened to his beloved Pinocchia, as fast as his shaking legs would carry him. She was still where he had left her only twenty minutes ago. “Pinocchia, I’m the bearer of bad news,” he said in a doleful voice. “Your father is nowhere to be found. I think I might have come too late. But the police are on their way.” Not mentioning the sausages just yet, he felt, was fully justified, considering Pinocchia’s already fragile state of mind. To distract her from her father, he asked gingerly: “Would you tell me the reason why you couldn’t come with me?”
Pinocchia sighed. “I don’t think you will like it very much. My father was always afraid that it might put off prospective husbands.” – “But you have lots of suitors,” Vick interrupted. “Yes, but none of them know my secret. My father helped me pretend all my life.” Vick was puzzled. “Which secret?” he quizzed. Pinocchia stared into the ground. “My lower legs have been paralysed from birth. My father devised a string system whereby he could hold me up and move me around, pulling the strings from above.” Vick looked up and saw a hole in the ceiling, and a few strings hanging through. “I can’t stand up without him up there.” She looked at Vick. “He wanted me to find a husband who could do the same.” – “Maybe I can do better,” Vick whispered, struck by an idea.
Inevitably, the sausage murder came to light the next day. Maxima was partially held responsible for the deed and lost her job as a LOCOCHRIM. Even the COCOCHRIM, elusive so far, made his appearance on the market. He was a small old man with a long white beard, and all he had to say to Maxima was: “You’re sacked.” He designated the owner of the chocolate horseshoe stand as her successor, and left. Things returned to normal, with one less sausage stand, which was soon replaced by that of an angel wing vendor.
Weeks later, when Pinocchia had overcome her grief for the loss of her father, Vick married her. He had come up with a solution to her legs, which was far superior to her father’s. She was actually able to leave the caravan now. He had made waxen boots for her, up to the knee, which gave her legs support and allowed her to stand up and walk around. The wax boots even smelled nice. She had a whole cupboard of different ones, in different colours and different scents: red roses, pink fuchsias, lilac lavender, white lilies, brown gingerbread, black treacle, purple blackcurrants. The only disadvantage was that she could not get close to a fire. Even the hot summer sun could be detrimental at times.
Vick and Pinocchia combined their candle and puppet trades and sold both in their new, bigger caravan. The boots even became marketable to people who needed support to their legs for other reasons than mere paralysis, and Vick’s skill with wax was in increasing demand. Pinocchia, on the other hand, became one of the most sought-after puppeteers in the world. Her puppets were so life-like that people almost mistook them for real people. An abundance of children was born to the couple, and everyone in the Candeloni family was happy. Not one of them ever ate a single sausage in their entire lives.