A Strange Request at a Piano Bar

For this story, the following words had to be used: carnival, apple, sprained, juvenile, mask, controversy, oxidation, twirl, awkward, sassafras


The carnival mask had been there for centuries. Nobody was quite certain of its origins as much of its original colors suffered from oxidation, which made time and region placement impossible. Everyone knew colors were strictly limited based on wealth, status, regional location, and age. How else could anyone be distinguished from anyone else? How else would controversy be avoided? And no one wanted to stir up controversy these days. Color mixing led to mixups. Mixups lead to dustups. And dustups lead to prisondeath.

For many lifetimes, the mask was the subject of much speculation and discussion. Where did it come from? What was its purpose? How did anyone really know it was a carnival mask, anyway? Had anyone ever really been to one? The last carnival of record closed nearly 400 years ago, so it was quite curious when a man wearing a juvenile-colored suit with a long billowy cape and too-tall hat shuffled into the bar, limping as though he had sprained something, ordered an “apple sassafras with moonshine,” and sat down at the piano. The bartender watched him as he lifted the cover and ran his fingers over the keys that no one bothered to play anymore. Not only because music was also restricted.

The strange man’s face twisted into a snarl and he barked his order again. “Don’t just stand there looking awkward! Get me my drink! OH, and you can bring me my mask while you’re at it.”

“I’m sorry. Did you say…. mask?”

The strange man stared for a good long minute, then twirled what looked like a cane in the air. Sparks shot around the bar like fireworks. Letters of all colors, sizes, and fonts twirled over people’s heads until they formed words.

MR MARVEL’S MAGNIFICENT CARNIVAL OF MIRACLES RETURNS

FOR ONE MARVELOUS MONTH

“And yer all invited!” he announced to the stunned crowd. “Now, unless you’ve a sprained wrist –” he turned to the bartender.

“I’m not sure what it is, sir,” he stammered. The man waved his cane again, and a battered copy of The Drinkmaker’s Bible flew to the bar, opened to the precise recipe.

“Coming right up.”

A young girl dressed in pauper’s blue tugged at the man’s sleeve. She held the mask in her scrub-damaged hands. “Please, sir,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “Are you from a real carnival?”

Mr Marvel looked at her with a smile as bright as the galaxy. “Why don’t you see for yourself.” His eyes twinkled and danced as he took the mask from her hands and put it on her face.

She gasped.

And that’s when it all started to change.

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