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“Well it looks like that’s a mystery solved!” Joy runs her calloused fingers along the hem of her neon pink dress and pinches the corners of the fabric, bending her knees to dip into a curtsey as children scream their approval in the studio audience.

The lights beat down on her face, cooking her eyeballs like boiling eggs, her lids like sandpaper shells as she blinks and turns to place a victory kiss on the giant dog puppet to her left. His gleeful arf arf echoes through the speakers, Miriam’s nasal cartoonish bark from inside the layers of acrylic and polyester, her hair probably matted to her head as she struggles not to drip sweat all over the built-in microphone.

Joy puts a hand on her hip and brings her hand over her head in a massive, exaggerated wave—paint the moon, Mark used to say—and bellows, “Goooooodbye, friends!” She holds up one finger, spine snapping up into a straight pole, one vertebrae on top of the other. “And remember! Be kind, be caring, and be…” She cups her sparkly-gloved hand to her ear, exacerbating the high-pitched reeeeeeeee of her tinnitus, and the children shriek,


“Don’t take any of that off, there’s a VIP kid today.” Eddie trots after Joy like a schnauzer, and she can almost picture him on all fours in the middle of a showing arena, puffing his chest out and letting some rancid old woman in a skirt suit cup his nutsack.

She lets this mental image bring a smile to her face, and carries it all the way into the Daisy dressing room, just another set that looks like somebody dropped acid and spewed rainbow guts all over a little girl’s bedroom.

Her amusement grows into a full-blown grin when she sets eyes on the tiny human standing there, little fists clutching a man’s too-clean jeans. Joy immediately squats down, planting herself cross-legged on the floor a few feet from the girl.

“Hi, nice to meet ya.” She extends her hand, or at least, her glove, the sparkly finger-fatteners clammy from the sweaty sausages inside of them. “What’s your name?”

The girl flushes fiercely and buries her face into the denim that’s become her shield.

“Sorry,” the man, presumably her father, says. “I swear she was so excited to be here. Her name is Maria.”

Joy takes in the gentleman with the deep-set eyes wearing far too much beige, and a little twinkle beneath the waistband of his jacket catches her eye. She plants her bulky gloves on her leotard-covered knees and relaxes her posture, as if practicing being non-threatening to a scared dog.

“There’s no shame in being shy, Maria.” She smiles so big her nose wrinkles. “You know, I used to be shy, once upon a time. Do you know what I did?”

Maria shakes her head, peeking out with one eye over her father’s crumpled pants.

“I did a lot of listening.” Joy taps her earlobe with one of her ridiculous fingers. “I soaked up what everrryone had to say and I learned so much.” She exaggerates her cadence, mouth movements, annunciation, all things appealing to keep children interested in what she has to say. “I learned how people feel, what they like. And you know what? It made it a lot easier to feel comfortable when I knew that others have their own fears too. Right?”

Marie nods, her death grip loosening the tiniest bit.

“It’s okay to be scared sometimes.” Joy shrugs. Facts of life. These are normal things. Fears are normal. “What matters is how you use it and grow.” She wiggles her fingers up behind her head and her arms rise, unfurling and stretching like a maturing fern. “What’s your favourite flower?”

“Daisy,” Marie blurts immediately, face turning near-purple when she realizes she’s spoken aloud.

The adults share a chuckle and Eddie slides in behind Joy with a black marker and a foam daisy—the only flower they have, because every kid says daisies. She cups one of the oversized white petals in her hand and scrawls across it,

To Marie, the bravest girl I’ve ever met

Love, Joy Daisy

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