Plenty of folks think Stephanie is the saner of the two of us. 93.3% of the time, this is true. Stephanie puts up with my special kind of crazy with a smile and a shake of her head, and bless her for it.

But that remaining 7% 6.7% of the time, look out.

Such a scenario played out in public last weekend. Stephanie and I were shopping for her niece’s second birthday present, and after she shot down my (practical) suggestion of a shoe repair kit, we looked for toys at Schuler Books & Music (a great place for gifts in general, not just birthday presents).

I’m all for reasonably priced, practical gifts, for Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Mother’s Day/Snowman Melting Day/birthday presents, like the time I gave Stephanie a new cutting board. But, things really went off the birthday present shopping rails when Stephanie found the hand puppets, and proceeded to try them out, with voices.

alpaca puppet

Put your hand inside me. Image via Amazon.

To be fair, I’m a fan of puppets too, and most of the time I would have either a) joined in or b) started such a performance myself. That afternoon, however, the overcast weather zapped all my energy,¹ and left me as animated as a snail in wet cement.

Stephanie grinned, and pulled an alpaca puppet off the rack. It was a full body alpaca puppet with a movable mouth. Stephanie giggled as she worked the mouth.

“Hi Dan! I’m Allie the Alpaca!” she made no attempt to whisper in the crowded store. I squeezed Allie’s mouth shut, hoping Stephanie would take the hint.


The show continued, with Stephanie using her best cartoony voice. “I bet Matilda would LOVE getting me for a birthday present!”

“If you buy her that puppet, be ready to say ‘It’s an alpaca not a LLAMA’ over and over,” I said.² Stephanie ignored me and continued to play. “How much is it?”

“Forty dollars.”

I grabbed Allie by her nose and gently pulled the puppet off Stephanie’s hand, and whispered, “Let’s keep looking for a birthday present.”

A second later, Stephanie had a different alpaca puppet on her hand.³ This alpaca puppet, however, was just the neck and head.

alpaca head puppet

“Simba…I mean…Hamlet…I mean…Luke…I mean Allie…” Image via Amazon.

“Allie…” Stephanie said with a ghostly version of the same puppet voice. “I’m the disembodied head of your faaaather…”

“Oh boy,” I said.

Stephanie’s dime store Mufasa continued, “Allllie! I returned from beyond the grave with an important message!”

I looked at the watch I wasn’t wearing, “Don’t we have to be at the birthday party in like 20 minutes?”

Stephanie and the disembodied head of Allie the Alpaca’s father frowned as one. Despite the puppet’s lack of moving eyes, Stephanie managed the alpaca equivalent of The Stink Eye. “It’s cute!” Stephanie said.

“More like terrifying,” I answered. “What kid wants a talking alpaca head for a second birthday present?”

“Says the guy who gave his nephew copies of The Art of War and The Prince as a first birthday present!”

“Practical knowledge every child should study and learn,” I said. “Besides, it was hilarious.”

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¹. Like Prince says, “Overcast days never turned me on.”

². There is a big difference between alpacas and llamas. Like several hundred pounds of difference.

³. I had no idea alpaca puppets were in such high demand. In my day, all we had was Lambchop and we were THANKFUL.

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Daniel J. Hogan is a geek living in Michigan.
Follow him on Twitter, @danieljhogan. Follow Clattertron on Facebook too.