Neighborhood Circus

Susan threw the front door open. “We’re going to have a neighborhood circus.”

Mom picked up the book she dropped. “Close the door, dear.”

“I’m going to be the ringmaster, because it was my idea.”   Susan grinned and slammed the door shut. “You’re coming, right?   Everyone has to come watch.”

“Where did you get the idea? You’ve never been to a circus,” Mom said. She flipped through her book, trying to find her lost place.

“Grandpa told us all about them,” Susan said.

Mom lowered the book. “Who’s us? And what did Grandpa tell you?”

“Just the kids in the neighborhood. You know. And Grandpa told us all about how there’s lots of acts and animals and stuff.   It’ll be a surprise.” Susan opened the closet door. “Can I borrow your red coat?”

“When is your performance?” Mom asked.

“Tonight at seven.” Susan took the long red coat off the hanger. “Hmmm. It drags on the ground a bit. Maybe if I wore a belt over it and kind of tucked it up?”

“Where?” Mom asked.

Susan opened the front door. “Here. In the backyard.” Then she darted out the front door and slammed it shut.

“Susan!” Mom said. But Susan was gone.

Mom called Grandpa right away, of course. As usual, he convinced her that this was a great idea. “I’ll even find enough lawn furniture for everyone,” he said.

“How many people is everyone?” Mom asked.

“Not all that many,” Grandpa said. “Definitely less than fifty. I think. Well, I’d better go ask around for furniture. Could you be in charge of the refreshments? Popcorn and circus peanuts, right?”

“Those marshmallow things? Do they even sell those anymore?”

Grandpa laughed. “Of course they do.”

“I’m not buying them,” Mom said. “But I will make popcorn.”

And so, the stage was set. A few neighborhood families gathered and sat in Susan’s backyard on borrowed lawn furniture and ate popcorn packaged in sandwich bags. It was time for the neighborhood circus to begin.

The children rode in on tricycles in a straight line. They went around the yard once.   The audience applauded. At that point, Alex, who was in the middle, refused to peddle anymore and everyone had to go around him to leave the stage.   Alex stood up and pushed his tricycle to the side.

Susan nearly tripped over her mom’s coat. She stepped on it. “No grass stains,” Mom said. Susan ignored her.

“Welcome to the greatest show ever,” Susan said.   “First we have firewalking.”

“No you won’t,” Mom said.

“But…”

“No.”

“Well then, are you ready Alex?” Susan yelled.

Alex waved from an upstairs window.

“Alex is going to dangle from the edge of the roof with no net,” Susan said.

“No he’s not,” Mom said. “Alex, close the window and come down the stairs.”

Alex closed the window.

“Fine. Next we have the cat tamers,” Susan said.

Three little girls stepped through the gate, trailing yarn behind them. Two cats followed.

The girls started running in loops as the cats followed.

“Where’s Mipsy?” Susan whispered. The girls shrugged. When one of the cats darted off to chase a squirrel, the girls bowed.   The audience cheered.

“And now, the clowns,” Susan said.

Two very scary clowns came in through the gate.   A small child shrieked. “Nope,” Mom said. She shooed the clowns back out.

Susan sighed. “Now David is going to juggle kitchen knives,” she said.

“I don’t think so,” Mom said. “Let’s have the parade again. I think the circus is done.”

And that was the end of the neighborhood circus.

Grandpa looked in through the gate. “It’s over all ready? What about my act?”

“I’ll help you gather up the lawn furniture when everyone is done chatting,” Mom said. “I think next time you need to check into what the acts are. Some of them were much too dangerous.”

“But I was going to shoot arrows at a target blindfolded,” Grandpa said. “I’d been looking forward to it. I think it would have gone great.”

“All right,” Mom said. “Next time I am checking into the acts.”

A New Cassandra

“I quit,” Henry said.

“You can’t quit,” Tom said. “You’re the boss.”

“Well I quit web design. Let’s build our own website instead. No more clients constantly complaining or changing their minds over and over,” Henry said. “What do you think, Tracy?”

“I think that we should continue designing websites until your new website’s a sure thing,” Tracy said. “Let’s not get crazy.”

Tom nodded. “I don’t mind a side project. What do you have in mind?”

“Fortune telling,” Henry said. “It shouldn’t be too hard to write some vague, self-fulfilling prophecies. I have a bunch already written.”

“So, just randomly generated fortunes?” Tracey asked. “Like a fortune cookie without the cookie?”

“What if we made a robot fortune teller?” Tom asked.   “The fortune could come out of its mouth.”

Tracy started taking notes. “It could make cute robot sounds, like blurp beep bip beep.”

Henry smiled. “Thanks guys. I think this is going to be really great.”

A few weeks later, the website was ready to test.   Tracy called it The New Cassandra. Henry wasn’t thrilled with the name. “But no one listened to Cassandra,” he said.

“But she was a famous fortune teller,” Tracy said.

“I like it,” Tom said. “Can I go first? I want to see what the fortunes are like.”

“I think I did a pretty good job with them,” Henry said.   “Go ahead.”

Tom answered a few questions and clicked the button to get his fortune. Blurp beep bip beep. “You are starting to feel self-conscious, and rightly so,” he read.

“That’s his fortune?” Tracy asked.

“Pretty good, huh?” Henry said.

“I don’t know what to think,” Tom said. “Tracy, why don’t you try it out?”

Tracy sat down and answered the questions. Blup beep bip beep. “You’ll have a terrible day.”

“Try it again,” Tom said.

Blurp beep bip beep. “Everyone will forget you.”

“Again?” Tom said.

Blurp beep bip beep. “All your friends are imaginary,” Tracy read. She frowned. “Tom, this is terrible. Are all the fortunes like this?”

“Like what?” Henry asked.

“Mean-spirited and depressing,” Tracy said. “No one wants to hear stuff like this.”

“But aren’t fortunes supposed to sound like approaching doom? That’s what Cassandra did, isn’t it?” Henry asked.

“This is the New Cassandra,” Tracy said. “Make it upbeat.”

“But writing new fortunes will take forever,” Henry said.

“I think she’s right,” Tom said. “If people want to be depressed, they’ll watch the news.”

“Fine,” Henry said. “I’ll see what I can do.”

It took a few more weeks, but once again they sat down to test out the new website. “I’ll try it out first again,” Tom said. He answered the questions. Blurp beep bip beep. “You will have a great day.”

“Try it again,” Tracy said.

Blurp beep bip beep. “You have great potential.”

“Again?” Tracy said.

Blurp beep bip beep. “You are loved.”

“That’s much better,” Tracey said.

“I think this could be pretty popular if we advertise it right,” Tom said.

“You think so?” Henry asked.

“Yes,” Tracy said. “But don’t quit your day job.”

The Statue and the Painting

“Oh lovely girl in the background of the painting,” the statue said. “Please tell me your name so that I can write odes to your lovely eyes.”

The row of girls in the background of the painting looked at each other.   An older man, sitting on a park bench near the front of the painting frowned. “Which girl? Don’t you see how many there are?”

The statue looked confused. “The loveliest one, of course. The angel with the twinkling eyes and the mysterious smile.”

The old man looked over at the girls. “Nope, I still have no idea.”

The statue frowned. “I fear that your advanced age has affected your vision. My angel outshines the others like the sun outshines the stars.”

The old man rolled his eyes. “I may be old, but at least I know how to get dressed in the morning.”

“What?”

“You have rocks for ears,” the old man said. “I’m telling you that you forgot to wear trousers.” The girls in the background giggled.

“My ears are the finest marble,” the statue said. “And I’m not meant to wear trousers.”

“Nonsense,” the old man said. “If you are old enough to go courting, you are old enough to be able to dress yourself.”

“And what would I wear?” the statue asked. “There is nothing here for me but the base I stand on.”

“They have all sorts of things in the gift shop,” the old man said. “Get dressed, and maybe we can talk again.”

“Oh, I see,” the statue said. “This is a quest. I will find the gift shop and win the name of my angel.”

“Yes, yes,” the old man said. “I’m sure you’re very brave.”

So the statue started out on his quest. “I should begin writing my ode now,” he said. “My love is like a lovely…Bear!” he said, as he turned the corner and almost ran into the stuffed bear lying next to the fountain in the atrium.

“Your love is a bear?” the bear growled. “There aren’t many here. What’s her name?”

“She’s not a bear,” the statue said.

“You just said that she is,” the bear said.

“I didn’t mean to say that,” the statue said.

“Then be more careful,” the bear said.

“I will,” the statue said. He looked around. “Which way is the gift shop?”

“Over there,” the bear said. “Through the door.”

“Which one?” the statue asked.

“The door to the lobby,” the bear said.

“I don’t know which one that is,” the statue said. And then he paused. “Perhaps what is obvious to one person is not obvious to another.”

“Obviously,” the bear said.

“I have learned something new. I must apologize to the old man. I didn’t realize I was being rude.” The statue paused to pull down some curtains and wrap them around himself. “That will have to do for now,” he said.

He hurried back to his pedestal. “I’m sorry I was rude before,” he said. “I now realize that I wasn’t speaking very clearly. Look, I got dressed. Please introduce me to the lovely girl holding a pitcher of water and standing in a fountain.”

The girls and old man turned to look. “The statue?” the old man asked. “The one with wings?”

“Yes,” the statue said. “My angel.”

“Oh,” the old man said. “We just call her Angel.”

“My Angel, may I write a poem to your eyes?” the statue said.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Angel said. “Of course you can.”

 

Fairy Tale Lost and Found

“Oh dear,” Mother Hubbard said. “Has someone lost something else?”

“I’m afraid so,” Robin said. He opened the door a little wider. A flock of sheep flooded the little office.

“Sheep?” Mother Hubbard asked. “Wherever did you find them?”

“They were just wandering around,” Robin said. “Do you think you could watch them until their owner comes for them?”

“Of course.” Mother Hubbard looked around at all the sheep. A few were starting to nibble on the drapes. “Maybe they should stay outside in the yard. I’ll just bring my dog in so that he doesn’t bother them.”

“I brought your poor dog a bone,” Robin said, pulling a large soup bone out of his pocket.

“You are so kind,” Mother Hubbard said. “I’m so grateful you found me this job. I don’t know what I would have done.”

“We needed a lost and found,” Robin said. “You are doing a great service to our community.   You’ve been very busy, haven’t you?”

“Well, those kittens were so happy to see their mittens,” Mother Hubbard said. “And I really don’t know how those pigs managed to lose the hair off their chinny-chin-chins. Or how they reattached it.”

“Those bears and the little blonde girl seemed so happy to see their porridge again,” Robin said. “I do wonder how they lost it.”

One of the sheep bit the edge of Robin’s coat and started chewing. Mother Hubbard shooed the sheep away with her apron. “I’d better go bring Spot in so the sheep can go out.”

“I’ll start to herd them back outside,” Robin said.

Once the sheep were all outside in the fenced yard, Spot curled up on the armchair and chewed on his soup bone. “He’s such a good dog,” Robin said.

Mother Hubbard smiled. Just then, someone knocked on the door. Mother Hubbard answered it, and a girl wearing a red hooded cloak stepped inside. “Is this the lost and found?” she asked.

“It is,” Mother Hubbard said. “Did you lose something or find something?”

”I lost my basket of treats,” the girl said.   “I’m on my way to Grandma’s house.”

“Were they in small basket?” Mother Hubbard asked.

“Yes, and the cookies were chocolate chip and pickle, Grandma’s favorite.”

Robin made a face. “Really?”

The girl scowled. “Really.”

“Here they are dear,” Mother Hubbard said. “Have a lovely visit with your Grandma.”

“Thank you,” the girl said. She took the basket and smiled at Mother Hubbard. She scowled at Robin again and left.

“I’d better go, too,” Robin said.

“I made you some cookies,” Mother Hubbard said. “Chocolate chip and no pickles.”

“My favorite,” Robin said. “Thank you, dear lady.”

Mother Hubbard laughed. “Robin Hood, you are such a charmer.”

As Robin left, a girl with a staff came in. “Is this the lost and found?” she asked. “My name is Bo Peep and I’ve lost my sheep.”

Robin whistled as he walked down the street. Perhaps he’d bring the cookies to the lady in the shoe. The kids would love them. He turned down a side street. Something shiny caught his eye.

A bugle sat next to a snoring haystack. “Hmmm. I’d better take that horn to the lost and found. To keep it safe, of course,” Robin said.

Fixing Slippers

Bert returned from his shopping trip clutching a shopping bag and grinning madly. Who knew that department stores could be so inspirational? He was going to recommend a visit to all his other mad scientist friends.

“John,” he said. “I know what we’re going to do today.”

John the intern came running in. “Are we finally going to take over the world?”

Bert rolled his eyes. “What have I told you about trying to take over the world?”

John’s shoulders slumped. “You don’t want to.”

“Of course not. Real mad scientists would always choose science over politics. That’s why you’re still an intern.” Bert set his shopping bags down. “Would you like to see what we’ll be doing instead?”

John leaned forward. “Mind control? Cloning? A zombie army?”

Bert pulled a pair of slippers out of his bag. “Nope. We’ll be fixing this faulty sports equipment.”

“That’s not sports equipment,” John said.

“Well, not when it doesn’t work right,” Bert said. “But I’ll fix that.”

“But there’s nothing wrong with them,” John said. “Slippers are supposed to be like that.”

Bert took his shoes off and tossed them over his shoulder. The shoe rack by the front door caught them and arranged them neatly side by side. Bert put the slippers on and shuffled across the floor. “Look,” he said. “They don’t slip at all.”

John laughed. “I think they’re called slippers because you slip them on.”

Bert shook his head. “John, John, John. You slip on many different kinds of shoes. Shoes are named for function. You loaf around in loafers and ice skate in ice skates and flip in flippers.”

“That’s not what flippers are for,” John said. “And loafers are for dressing up.”

“Now I understand why you are still so loud when you’re wearing sneakers,” Bert said. “But that’s all right, you’re an intern. You’re supposed to still be learning.”

“I’m not loud.”

“John said loudly,” Bert said.

John frowned. “But what sport would need slippery shoes?”

“Who knows what new sport the kids have thought up,” Bert said. “I saw kids throwing around plastic plates and calling it Frisbee.”

“That’s not new,” John said.

“You’re so contrary,” Bert said. He picked up his shopping bags. “Just for that, you get to fill out the paperwork today.” He marched off in his slippers.

John groaned. “That’s not fair. You always make me do the paperwork.”

He filled out paperwork all afternoon. Just before it was time to go home, Bert returned, carrying his new slippers in one hand and a stack of papers in the other.   He dumped the stack of papers into the inbox. John sighed.

“Here’s some more paperwork for you to fill out tomorrow,” Bert said. He held up the slippers. “Now guaranteed to slip,” he said.

“It worked?” John asked. “Wow. Maybe you could adapt the technology into some kind of ray that you could shoot at the ground. Your enemies would fall at your feet, literally.” John cackled evilly.

Bert shook his head. “I’m starting to worry about you,” he said.

“I’m just getting into the spirit of being a good mad scientist,” John said.

“Science first, John,” Bert said.

“Right, right. I keep forgetting that,” John said. “So if you made a slipper ray, could I borrow it?”

“I don’t think so,” Bert said.