‘Mr… Pinocchio, is it?’ said the woman. She wore a grey suit.
‘Just Pinocchio. Like Cher. Or God,’ said Pinocchio.
‘Right. Well, thank you for coming in today,’ said the man. He also wore a grey suit.
‘If I’m honest, and the alternative is sudden and unwanted cosmetic augmentation, I didn’t have much on.’
‘That’s actually what we wanted to talk to you about,’ said the woman. ‘The American government would like to buy your nose.’
They sat in an office. Pinocchio did not have a lot of experience with offices, there were not a lot of office jobs available to puppets, but it looked the way he’d imagined offices looked. The phone call had offered a ‘unique opportunity,’ no mention of government agencies. The building’s signage made no mention of government agencies either.
‘Excuse me?’ said Pinocchio.
‘We want to exchange a large sum of money for your nose. Or your entire head. We don’t really know how puppet anatomy works.’
Pinocchio furrowed his wooden brow. ‘Why?’
‘Isn’t it obvious?’ said the man.
‘Pretend it’s not.’
The woman spoke. They both became visibly excited. ‘Your nose is a piece of wood that grows when exposed to lies. Lies are the American government’s greatest resource, and the practical applications are endless.’
‘What sort of practical applications?’ said Pinocchio.
The man sat up straight. ‘First there’s the obvious ones. Sharpen the tip and you have a precision weapon. Lie you back, hold on tight, and it’s a free ride to the International Space Station. Or simply use it as an interrogation tool. Slap it on a terrorist’s face as a lie detector and there’s no need to torture him. Except for fun, obviously.’
The woman leaned forward. ‘But the applications go well beyond that. Imagine it as a power source. In simplest terms it’s an endless supply of wood to burn for power. But with the right generator, a turbine moved by the growth of your nose, we could transform lies directly into electricity. Complete energy independence. No more reliance on the Middle East means we’d only have to bomb them to prop up the military industrial complex. And the car industry.’
‘Plus it would be completely green,’ said Pinocchio.
‘We hadn’t even considered that.’
‘Did you have any other uses in mind?’
They considered this. ‘Well, I’m sure the furniture industry would love to get their hands on it. And the sex industry. And it would be great for practical jokes. Oh, I just thought of a really cool one! You could sneak little chips of it into the food of your unfaithful spouse, and then eventually it would burst out of their stomach like a wooden alien.’
‘That is a really cool one!’ said Pinocchio, warming to the idea.
‘Then you’ll sell us your nose?’
‘I’m open to the possibility. Now,’ said Pinocchio, a new glint in his eyes, ‘let’s talk price.’
Years passed. Rich, and finally able to lie, Pinocchio rose through the political establishment like his severed nose rose through the atmosphere on its way to the International Space Station. He wasn’t the first president to be a puppet, but he was the first immortal wooden boy pulling his own strings. Once elected he rewrote the constitution. His was a term that never ended, an age of nose powered tyranny the likes of which the world had never known.
His true power, like all true power, had never been his nose. It had been his lies.