The Marionette

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She had always been in good physical shape. She had always loved attention. She had grown up in New Orleans around street performers. She knew Perri the Hobo, Ruthie the Duck, Pops, Chicken Man, and many others. Divorced and single again at thirty-two with no real marketable skills, Teresa knew that she didn't want to wait tables, work at McDonalds, or some minimum wage office job. She also didn't want to return to New Orleans because of family, memories, and some unresolved legal issues.

In New Orleans the low end average for a street performer in Jackson Square is around $10 per hour. Teresa had two assets that earned her a better average than most street performers. Although she loved the kids, and her shows catered to them mainly, she always wore outfits tight enough that Dad wouldn't mind hanging around and feeding his kids dollars to give her. From time to time, she'd have a few drunk college kids try to handle the merchandise and be a nuisance in general. Her solution was just to move closer to a family group and start playing to the kids. Even drunken college assholes don't try to feel up pretty mimes in front of mom, dad, and the kids.

Her biggest problem was with the cops, followed by problems with other street performers. The cops would hassle anybody who had a hat or open guitar case out for donations. It didn't matter that we were offering entertainment in exchange for donations, versus the winos that just stood there stinking and begging. One cop who was in a particularly bad mood decided her outfit was a sexual advertisement for prostitution services. Teresa did spend the night in jail, but the next morning the judge took one look at her mime make-up and costume and threw the case out of court. The second and sometimes more dangerous part of street performing is dealing with other street performers. You would be amazed at how territorial they can get. It is not that they have any legal right to a particular corner or storefront, but possession is nine tenths of the law, and they made sure they possessed it every single day.

In the silence of her movements, she had lots of time to think about things. Sometimes she would be deeply interacting with her audience and other times running on autopilot. Her biological clock was starting to ring loudly as her thirty-two years would give way soon to thirty-five. That age seemed to be the last of the safe years. Beyond that the chance of a child with down's syndrome increased as well as other health problems for the child. Being a street mime, was no way to provide for a child. Even though many, many people at minimum wage or below brought child after child into this world, Teresa knew that she couldn't.

As much as she loved her pseudo mom Ruthie, and her pseudo dads like Perry and Chicken man, the things her real parents went through, and put her through are things she promised never to put a child through. So many times well intentioned tourist would get family services involved and more than once each year, they had to change cities to avoid her becoming part of "the system." She was lucky enough to have both parents, and even then the fear of being taken away made her life hell. How would it be for a child that only had a mother? It seemed single moms spent their lives fighting an uphill battle, and became worn out ghost of themselves far younger than most women.

Teresa broke her train of thought as she saw the father of the enthralled little girl on the bench, starting to let his eyes wander as he got bored. She quickly change positions, making her assets shake as gravity settled their movement and smiled with a wink in such a way, the father couldn't be sure if it was for him or his daughter. His attention back on the mime, he gave his daughter another dollar to put into the hat. She squealed with glee as she ran up to the hat to put in her dollar and receive a deep and grateful bow from Teresa.



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