The next day Stan borrowed Miss Julop’s truck and took Colonel Sweater into town. He went to see Mr. Potts, the old theater director. Between his younger days on vaudeville, his middle years on the theatre circuit, and twilight years running the old theater, he’d seen just about everything. “What kind of ‘miracle’ sheep is this?” Mr. Potts asked.
“Well,” Stan said. “He grew his wool out long and fine, and it just kept growing, even while I was shearing him.”
Mr. Potts looked at Colonel Sweater who’d returned to his grey and stringy look. He looked at Stan, long and hard, then back at the sheep.
“Well… It’s kinda hard to sell, growing wool to an audience… You sure he don’t spit fire or do complex arithmetic or levitate?”
“He levitated once, and another time I was hugging him and he did something so’s I fell right through him to the barn floor.”
“Go ahead, then. Let’s have a look.”
After a few minutes of coaxing, cajoling, bargaining, and threats, Colonel Sweater still stood in an ordinary way, in an ordinary place.
“Well he can’t do it on command,” Stan said. “He does it when he’s good and ready.”
“Hard to do a show with a temperamental sheep…”
Mr. Potts stared at Colonel Sweater for a long time. Stan stared at Mr. Potts.
Sweat poured down Stan’s back. He did not have a backup plan.
“We’d need costumes and sets and licenses and approvals and such…” Mr. Potts said.
“And with things being the way they is…”
Mr. Potts continued to look at Colonel Sweater.
“I’ve got some money I could put towards it,” Stan offered.
“A few hundred…”
“I don’t know…”
Mr. Potts looked at Colonel Sweater.
“I could maybe scrape together a thousand or so…” Stan said.
A smile played at the edge of Mr. Potts’ mouth, but he rubbed his chin and continued looking at Colonel Sweater.
“Well… it ain’t much,” he said in a slow draw, “but I think we’ll make it do.”
“You’ll put him in a show?” Stan asked.
“Yessir, I think we could even put him in his own show. He does well we can probably take him on the road.” Mr. Potts said. He stuck his thumbs in his pockets and looked down at Colonel Sweater. “He’s a mighty fine sheep… Or, I should say, he’s gonna be.”
Mr. Potts didn’t believe a lick in miracle sheep, levitating, intangible or otherwise. The theater, however, stood on the edge of a financial precipice and he needed to bring down the house. Whether that was literal or figurative, didn’t matter much to Mr. Potts. A scapegoat (or in this case a scape-sheep) seemed to be just what he needed.
Under Mr. Potts’ direction Colonel Sweater began training for his début performance. To Stan’s bewilderment this training included nothing miraculous but lots of obstacle courses, flying leaps, and photo poses.
Mr. Potts used Stan’s fleece money to buy costumes, stage props and pyrotechnics. Some of the money found its way to Mr. Pott’s own pocket as well, seeing as he’d done so much for the Colonel already.
“He’ll be the most famous sheep in the states,” Mr. Potts said when Stan came by a few days later to confront him about it. “Our slogan’ll be ‘What’s better than a sweater?’”
“I want people to see a miracle,” Stan said.
“You might impress some people with golden, endless wool or even a levitatin’ sheep, if you can have him do it on command. But you’d get hundreds, thousands more in the door with costumes and pyrotechnics and a good show.
“And if the levitation ain’t working’ that day, no problem. They’ll have plenty of other things to ooby-gooby over.
“I don’t think we need all that,” Stan said.
“You want people to believe dontcha?”
“How are people goin’ ta believe if they don’t see?”
“That’s why you came to me ain’t it?
“How are they gonna see if we don’ get ‘em in the door? By Jove, it’s our duty, our God-given duty to put him on stage and fix ‘im up right so’s all the world will see and believe.”
And with that he carried away Stan’s faith along with the last of his fleece money.
Advertising went up all over town. “See the amazing, golden fleeced Colonel Sweater. An event of mythological proportions. What’s better than a sweater? Presented by Potts and Wilkerson.” It featured a sheep in a helmet, a cape, and underpants jumping through a flaming hoop, smiling with shiny teeth, and saving school bus full of children while a volcano exploded in the background.
To Be Continued…