Largo Piernas was an unusual animal trainer. Not that he trained unusual animals, but, rather, that he trained usual animals to do unusual things.
[quoteright]He trained a turtle to roll over.
He trained a 'possum to play live.
He trained a pelican to blow
"My Country Tis of Thee" on bicycle horns.
He even trained a lion to be bigamous.
And, though he toured the country (Bones Creek, Valley Heights, County Corners, Deep Knee Bend, and Heart Crossing, to name a few of the cities in which he starred), he was advised that his act was neither different enough, nor exciting enough, to make Vegas.
"What do I have to do?" Largo asked of Sidney Sylvia (you know, the famous booking agent), "Teach a centipede to give paw?"
"That should do it," said Sid.
And thus began the novel experiment.
Largo went to the centipede store, adopted a centipede (the government forbids their outright sale, as you know), named it Corto Piernas, and tried, and failed, for thirty years to teach it to give paw.
It learned to fetch (toothpick tips), it learned to grasp its own caboose and roll about the house like a fuzzy hoop, and it even learned to make outside (not that that mattered much), but it could not learn to give paw.
Finally, one day, a light went on in a word cloud over Largo's head, and, and Lo!, he had the answer; Corto didn't give paw because, simplicity of simplicities, he didn't know which paw to give.
Largo bought a tiny paint brush (the government forbids their outright adoption, as you know), and some white paint, and he numbered Corto's paws, one to one hundred.
From then on, it was easy. "Give paw forty-four," and up came 44.
Then, the refinements:
"Independence Day is July....," and up came 4.
"How many men play in a professional baseball game?" and up came 9. (Unless, of course, the American League was specified, in which case, in view of the designated hitter rule, up would come 10.)
"What do men and women like to engage in more than anything else?" and up came 6. (Close enough for a centipede.)
Thirty-one years to the day from that fateful meeting with Sidney Sylvia, Old Sid booked the team of Largo & Corto into the Beach Hotel in Las V egas, at $20,000 per week.
Just before the opening night performance, the girls from the chorus were ooh-ing and ah-ing Corto, looking down at him in his wood-slatted cage, when Betsy LaBoop said, "Isn't he cute?!!" and fluttered her eyelash, which fell off of her eye and into the cage.
Corto, not having known, or even seen, a female centipede for thirty-one years, was overcome by a surge of denial build-up, and attacked the splendidly-odored accessory with intent to sixual conquest, the viewing of which prompted Betsy LaBoop to crush cage, Corto, and eyelash, with her shoe.
Largo, of course, seeing his dreams (not to mention his Corto) smashed was taken away with his hands firmly strapped behind his back.
Betsy LaBoop, regretting deeply her raging reflex action, attempted to make amends with one of the most dramatic and beautiful gestures ever recorded in the history of show business — she wore the now dead Corto Piernas on her right eyelid, that night, in the "Waterfall" number, so that he could say, for time everlasting, with truth, in Centipede Heaven, that he had performed in the big-time, in the Beach Hotel, Las V egas.
(As for Largo, he is presently residing in Skuth, Indiana, in the Charenton Home for the Unsure, where he is training a spider to weave gold from straw...Oh, and he's changed his name... I won't tell you what his new name is, but if you can guess it, you may keep your first-born child.)
Off-the-wall storyteller NORMAN FINSON is also a professional auctioneer, playwright, composer, singer... you name, he's done it.
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