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.



“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.”

The Thank You War

Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Smith were leaving the grocery store at the same time one day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing. Everything seemed wonderful. The two neighbors smiled widely at each other. “It’s so good to see you,” Mrs. Jones said.

“It’s been such a long time since we last talked,” Mrs. Smith said. “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing well. I just harvested the last of my pears,” Mrs. Jones said. “How have you been?”

“Oh, I do love pears,” Mrs. Smith said. “I’ve been fine. I started singing in the community choir. You should come.”

“I don’t sing, but let me know when your next performance is, and I’ll come cheer you on,” Mrs. Jones said.

And then, the handle of her grocery bag broke, and a cabbage, three carrots, and a can of beans fell out and started to roll away.   Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Jones chased after the escaping groceries.

The carrots hadn’t gone far. Mrs. Jones scooped them up and put them in another bag.   She crouched to fish the cabbage out from under a car. When she straightened up and put the cabbage securely away, Mrs. Smith was returning with the can of beans.

“They almost went into the storm drain,” Mrs. Smith said. “I caught them just in time.”

“Thank you so much,” Mrs. Jones said.

“Don’t mention it,” Mrs. Smith said.

“I’d better get my groceries home before something else happens,” Mrs. Jones said.

“Of course. I’ll see you later,” Mrs. Smith said.

And the ladies went home and put their groceries away.   That evening, Mrs. Jones brought Mrs. Smith a pear cobbler. “It’s to thank you for helping me with my groceries,” she said.

“Thank you so much,” Mrs. Smith said.

“You’re welcome,” Mrs. Jones said.

A few days later, Mrs. Smith returned Mrs. Jones’s pan.   She put some cookies inside the pan.   “I made you some cookies to thank you for the cobbler,” she said.

“Thank you so much,” Mrs. Jones said.

“You’re welcome,” Mrs. Smith said.

A few days later, Mrs. Jones stopped by to visit Mrs. Smith. She brought a bag of peppermints. “Thank you for the cookies,” she said. “They were delightful.”

“Thank you for the peppermints,” Mrs. Smith said.   “They’re my favorite kind.”

A few days later, Mrs. Smith visited Mrs. Jones.   “No more sweets, please,” Mrs. Jones said. “I’ve eaten far too much sugar this week.”

Mrs. Smith laughed. “Me, too. I don’t have any sweets. Just a flyer for my choir concert. I hope you can come.”

Mrs. Jones smiled. “I’d love to! Thank you.”

“I’m so glad,” Mrs. Smith said. She handed Mrs. Jones the flyer. “Oh, and a thank you card,” she said. She handed Mrs. Jones a card. “For the peppermints. Well, I’ll see you later.” She left, feeling certain she had won.

Three days later, Mrs. Smith was retrieving her mail from the mailbox. She sorted through the bills and advertisements. “Oh, look, this one’s from Mrs. Jones.” She opened it. It was a lovely handmade card. “Thank you for the thank you card,” it said.


They had just finished eating dinner at the fancy, candle-lit restaurant and were waiting for dessert. It couldn’t be put off any longer. Dale took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders.   “Angela, we need to talk.”

Angela smiled. “Okay. Talk.”

Dale frowned. “I really hate to say this, because I like you a lot. But I think we should break up.”

Angela looked confused. “But things are going so well. Why break up?”

“You know that my career is really important to me,” Dale said.

Angela nodded. “You’re an amazing song writer. That doesn’t explain why you want to break up with me.”

“Your name doesn’t rhyme with anything.”


Dale waved his hand in the air. “Angela. It doesn’t rhyme. I’ve tried and tried. I can’t handle not being able to write a song about what’s most important to me. I feel like I’m not being true to myself.”

“Can’t you use a nickname like brown-eyed lady or something?   People do that all the time,” Angela said.

“It’s not the same,” Dale said. “There are lots of people with brown eyes. It’s not a song just about you.”

“But you’d know it was about me. And lots more people would be able to identify with the song if it could be about more than one person,” Angela said.

“It’s not the same,” Dale said.

“Has this been a problem for you before?” Angela asked.

“Well, I dated a girl named Iris. She dumped me for comparing her to a virus. I thought the song was really complimentary,” Dale said.

“I’ve heard that one. My virus Iris, I’ve caught you, and I don’t want to be cured, right?   That was yours? It was great,” Angela said.

“Thanks,” Dale said. “Oh, and I dated a girl named Mary. She dumped me after I wrote Scary Mary.”

“But if you knew that you needed to be able the rhyme my name, why did you ask me out in the first place?” Angela asked.

“My other relationships ended because they hated the songs I wrote about them. So, I thought I’d date someone that I couldn’t write about. I was trying to fix the problem, but I can’t do it. I just can’t,” Dale said. “I’m sorry.”

“What if you used my middle name?” Angela asked.

“You have a middle name?”

“I’m Angela Lynn.”

Angela Lynn, you get under my skin. Angela Lynn, with you I could win…” Dale smiled. “I like it. I like it a lot. Wow.”

Just then their desserts came. The waiter gave Dale a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Then he served Angela a slice of chocolate cake.

Angela ate a bite of her cake. “Wow! This is amazing. Dale, you need to try it.”   She pushed the plate of cake towards him.

“No thanks,” Dale said. “I don’t like chocolate.”

Angela frowned. “Dale, we need to talk. Chocolate is important to me. If you reject chocolate, you’re rejecting me.”

Dale looked shocked. “But, chocolate? Really?”

“No. But I do think you’re weird. I like you anyways.” Angela laughed and ate another bite of her cake.

Angela Lynn, I hate your grin,” Dale said.   “But I like you, too.”


I Forgot

Lara first realized she’d forgotten something when she was walking to school.   She couldn’t quite remember what it was. But she knew that she was going to do something before she left the house, and she was pretty sure that she hadn’t done whatever it was.

She started thinking over her morning. She’d fed the cat and gotten dressed. She ate breakfast and brushed her teeth. She’d packed her lunch and made her bed. Had she forgotten to change out of her slippers?

Lara looked down. Nope.   She was wearing shoes. That was a relief. It would be awful to be stuck wearing slippers all day. Everyone would laugh.

Lara thought and thought all the way to school. But, she couldn’t remember what it was. She double-checked her lunch bag. There was her sandwich and apple and granola bar. She ducked into the bathroom and checked the mirror.   Her hair looked fine.

When school started, Lara still hadn’t remembered what she forgot. She worried about it during the math quiz and got an easy problem wrong. She worried about it during the spelling test and wrote remember instead of remnant.   She worried about it during silent reading and ended up reading the same page over and over.

During lunch, Lara ate slowly and tried to remember what she’d forgotten.   Her friend Emmy gently bumped their shoulders together. “What’s wrong?” Emmy asked.

“I think I forgot something,” Lara said.

“What did you forget?” Emmy asked. “Did you leave something at home?”

“I can’t remember,” Lara said. “I just know I forgot something.”

“Forget that you forgot,” Emmy said. “If it’s important, you’ll remember it later. For now, just don’t worry about it.”

“You’re right,” Lara said.

Lara quickly finished her lunch followed Emmy outside. They got in line for the slide and then climbed on the jungle gym and swung their feet. The sun was shining, and the sky was blue. It was a beautiful day.

After lunch, things went much better. For science, they watched how yeast could inflate a balloon. Then they wrote poems about fall leaves. Mr. Arden read Lara’s poem out loud.


The leaves are red, orange, yellow, and brown.

            They grew up green,

            But now they all fall down.


They did leaf rubbings to illustrate their poems.   Lara managed to press the crayons into the paper just enough to have a perfect image of her leaves come through.   “Wow Lara,” Emmy whispered. “That looks great.”

After school, Lara and Emmy walked slowly.   They picked long pieces of grass and braided them together and tried to make them into bracelets. The ends wouldn’t tie together and kept breaking.

“Oops,” Emmy said. “This one didn’t work either. I’ll try again.”

“Oh, here’s my house,” Lara said. “I guess I’m done. Bye.”

“See you tomorrow.” Emmy waved and kept walking.

Lara went inside and hung up her backpack. “I’m home,” she said.

“You forgot something this morning,” her mom said.

“I forgot!” Lara said. “I forgot that I forgot something, just like Emmy said.”

“Do you remember what you forgot?” her mom asked.

“I don’t,” Lara said.

“You forgot to give me a hug before you left. So now I need two hugs,” her mom said.

Lara felt like someone had just switched a light on in her brain. “That’s what I forgot,” she said. “Now I remember.”

She gave her mom two hugs. “I’ll remember tomorrow,” she said.

“If you don’t, I’ll remind you,” her mom said.

How Louis Saved the World

Louis was home in the middle of the day, because he was sick. If it was up to him, he would have been at school.   Today they were going to make ice cream as a science experiment. That was much better than staying in bed and staring at the ceiling.

Unfortunately, Mom said that if you have a fever and a runny nose, and a terrible cough, and a sore throat and can’t stop sneezing, then you should stay home. Throwing up after breakfast hadn’t helped his argument at all, either. So, Louis blew his nose again and sneezed and looked at the ceiling.   Ceilings are boring.

“Mom, I’m bored,” Louis yelled. Then he coughed. Ouch.   His throat really hurt.

“Then take a nap,” his mom yelled back. “You need to rest so that you can heal.”

Louis scowled. He was much too old for naps, and he wasn’t at all sleepy. Well, he was maybe a little bit tired. But not really enough to fall asleep yet. He turned and watched the shadows on the wall move.   The wind must be blowing through the tree outside.

And then, the shadows started to fade, or maybe the room started to glow.   Louis wasn’t quite sure. It was all a little strange. Everything looked a little bit foggy. Louis blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he wasn’t in his bedroom any more.

He was in a strange metal room filled with blinking lights. Something was making a clicking sound. Three tall skinny beings with greenish skin and bright blue eyes looked at him. They were definitely aliens. Louis looked back. One of the aliens said something, but Louis didn’t know what he was saying. “I don’t speak your language,” Louis said.

The aliens approached and one of them looked closely into Louis’s face.   The aliens smelled like dust.   Lots of dust. Louis sneezed right into the alien’s face, and then he couldn’t stop sneezing.

The alien backed up, but the other two crowded closer. The sneezing hurt his throat and upset his stomach. Louis threw up on the other two aliens. The aliens backed up and bowed. One of the aliens pushed a button on the wall, and the room started to get brighter.   Everything looked foggy. Louis blinked.

And he was back in his room looking up at the ceiling. Had any of that really happened? Mom knocked on the doorframe and came in. “How are you feeling?” she asked. “Any better?”

“Mom, I was just captured by aliens,” Louis said. “I threw up all over them, so they let me go.”

“That sounds like a nice dream,” Mom said. “Is your stomach still upset?” She put her hand on his forehead. “Oh dear, you’re still quite warm. Would you like some ice cream?”

“For lunch?” Louis asked.

“Why not,” Mom said. “You’re feeling sick.”

Maybe being sick wasn’t so bad, except for the staring at the ceiling part.   Even being captured by aliens wasn’t terrible. It had been kind of interesting.   If it really happened at all, of course.

Two days later, Louis was back in class. He’d missed the ice cream experiment and a math quiz, but otherwise things had been pretty quiet at school. Susie said that Dan threw up on the slide just a day ago.

Louis decided that being sick probably happened to everybody at one time or another. He was glad that he felt better now and could move forward. He hoped he didn’t feel sick again anytime soon and that he never threw up on the slide.  That sounded embarrassing.

Hundreds of thousands of miles away, the crew of an alien space ship coughed and sneezed and stared at the ceiling and tried not to throw up. “I thought it was too eager to give us the samples we required. It was completely suspicious,” one said.

“I thought it believed we were peaceful scientists,” another replied.   “How was I to know it recognized us as a possible threat.” The alien sneezed and sneezed and sneezed.

“Well, I’m going to recommend we don’t try to colonize this world. The inhabitants are far too hostile. And they don’t fight fair, either,” the last one said. And then he threw up.