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The Fuzzy Line of Reality

27. The Fuzzy Line of Reality

Today I want to tell a story about my puppet Josa. When I participated in Clown Ministry I got this brown, sea otter, who I named Josa, and consequently I had numerous adventures with her. This is one of them:

A daycare five days a week was one of the social outreaches of the Washington Square United Methodist Church in Greenwich Village. I visited the pastor, Paul Abels, many times and on one occasion took Josa to meet him. In his delight he said excitedly, “Let’s take her to meet the children.”

We walked into the daycare, Josa perched on my shoulder and looking around with interest. A small little boy came up to me, eyes wide, and breathlessly said, “Is it real?” I knelt down on his level and said, “Well, her name is Josa and I think she likes you.” Josa moved her head to look at the little boy. He reached to pat her. She ducked her head to hide in my neck and I explained to him “She’s a little shy at first.”

A bigger boy ran over to excitedly announce “She’s just a puppet!” The little guy looked dashed as the teacher appeared, followed by the other children. She gathered them around as I settled on the floor, moving Josa’s head to look at the twelve or so children.

The teacher asked “What do you think children? Look at her.” I told all of them, “Her name is Josa and she’s a sea otter.” They clustered around. The bigger children started to chant “She’s a puppet—she’s a puppet.” The original little boy looked more and more distressed.

The teacher settled them on the floor and said “Let’s see what everybody thinks. How many believe that Josa is real?” Many of the little children raised their hands, but some of them hesitantly, swayed by the stronger voices of the older boys. The teacher continued, “And how many think that Josa is a puppet?” The bigger children’s hands shot into the air and took up the chant again “She’s a puppet—she’s a puppet.”

The teacher quieted them and turned to me. I continued to move her slowly on my shoulder and I said “Well she goes lots of places with me and she’s gentle and easy. She is a puppet and this is how I help her move.” I raised my hand so that they could see her situated on my arm and how my fingers inside of her head made her head bobb and sway. “And,” I continued, “I really love her.”

The children scattered to other activities with a few coming by to pet Josa, who was once again settled on my shoulder. I started to leave and noticed the first little boy, still standing near me and pulling on my blouse. I bent down again to look in his eyes and he whispered to me “Is she just a little bit real?” I smiled. Josa turned to look at him and give him a kiss on his cheek. I whispered back “She definitely is a little bit real. I believe it and I think you do too.” He nodded enthusiastically and broke into a knowing smile.

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