I once was dragged to an outdoor flea market of some fame in southern New Jersey by a boyfriend who liked that sort of event. It was miles and miles of hot and dusty vendors, some in booths, some with wares spread on blankets, some with electronics still in boxes, you know the kind that fall off the back of trucks. You could find anything and everything.

For seven dollars and fifty cents, I talked this old guy into selling me the nightmare of my life, only I didn't know it then. It was a Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist's puppet, made over into a grey, fuzzy-headed, black face female wearing a flimsy blue dress that did not conceal her very real ping pong ball "breasts". (I almost wish I was making this up, but I'm not.) She also had rather garish make-up, by which I mean, blue nail polish eye shadow and red nail polish lipstick. Permanent, which I think affected her ability to open and close her eyes properly, as well as her mouth.

Friends at the time included a group of talented musicians, somewhat older than I was, who became quite popular locally. The kind of band that everyone dances to because they play covers really well, so the songs are familiar. The kind of band that has dreams of becoming famous and it never happens.

As a joke one night I brought the puppet, now named Egypt J. Sassafrass, to one of their gigs. By then I had broken up with the boyfriend-who-liked-flea-markets, although he was the one who insisted I name her. Two songs into the first set, the lead singer lost his voice, as in total laryngitis. No one thought much of it then. A pretty barmaid brought him hot buttered rum but it had no effect, well, not on his voice. I left early since I had school and two jobs the next day, placing Egypt on stage while the band played on.

Now this part is hearsay, but I was told that as they packed up that night, the drummer discovered Egypt, who had fallen off a speaker onto the floor, and threw her in his car. On the way home, going around a sharp corner, he lost control of the car and almost ended up in the river. For a while, the band members took turns with Egypt, each one hoping to tell a better story about the possessed puppet. After a few months, it stopped being funny and she was returned to me. I put her in a closet.

I went hiking one day with ex-boyfriend/flea-market-lover, as friends, and stepped off the path, right into a nest of yellow jackets. I was stung over forty times, went into anaphylactic shock and almost didn't live to tell this tale. This is true; I have the medical records. The very next week, I was hit head-on in my VW Beetle, while driving from college to get my yellow jacket desensitization shots. The car was totaled; I left the hospital on crutches. One of the guys in the band picked me up, got me home, and suggested I contact a priest to have Egypt exorcised.

I told him I had left the Catholic Church and didn't believe in demonic possession, especially in puppets. Although I also felt this whole thing had gone too far, too many coincidences, which I also didn't believe in, so I threw her out in the next garbage pick up.

Years later, the guy in the band who helped me home found me on the internet. He asked me what the J. stood for in Egypt's name. I said, Jazzpot, it was her Holy Communion name; she was a lapsed Catholic.

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