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.”

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.

Chess, Sort Of

Adam dropped a box on the table. Something inside rattled. “Do you want to play chess?” he asked.

Carol looked up. “How do you play?”

Adam lifted the lid and started looking at the pieces. “I don’t know. I think it’s some sort of war game like battleship or checkers. I bet we could figure it out.”

Carol pushed her colored pencils out of the way. “That sounds fun. Do you have the rules?”

Adam lifted the game board out of the box and unfolded it. He looked at the bottom of the board. “Nothing here,” he said.

“There’s nothing on the box, either,” Carol said, putting it back on the table. “There is a picture of the game all set up on the front of the box, though. So, I guess we could start there.”

“Do you want the black pieces or the white pieces?” Adam asked.

“The black pieces,” Carol said. They looked at the picture on the box and started to set up their pieces.

“This looks like the board for playing checkers,” Adam said. “Maybe we’re trying to get our pieces to the other side.”

Carol nodded. She straightened her row of small pieces. “That makes sense. And if the pieces meet, they can have a battle.”

“Rock, paper, scissors?” Adam asked. He picked up a horse-shaped piece and examined it.

“Sounds good,” Carol said. “And you get more points for taking out the bigger pieces.”

“And double for getting to the other side.” Adam started placing his row of small pieces. “These look like bowling pins.”

“I think they’re the soldiers,” Carol said. “Or maybe they’re the ordinary citizens.”

“Or penguins. Mine are penguins. What do you think the horses are?” Adam asked. “Centaurs?”

“Centaurs have people heads. Maybe these are soldiers who ride horses, like knights,” Carol said. “Or I guess they could just be fighting horses, but that’s a little weird.”

“I think they’re fighting horses that can talk. And these ones are aliens. Look, they only have one eye and big mouths. That’s kind of cool,” Adam said.

“And these ones look like buildings. I guess if they have fighting buildings and aliens, then they can have fighting horses. The ones with crowns must be the kings and queens.” Carol looked at the box and started to place the pieces on the back row.

“My penguins are all lined up now,” Adam said. “Where do the aliens go?”

Carol handed him the box. “Can the pieces move sideways and diagonal and backwards?” she asked.

“Do we need to decide that now?” Adam asked.

“Of course we do,” Carol said. “And we should probably decide how many points everything is worth. Games are more fun when everyone is playing by the same set of rules. It’s more fair that way too.”

“Fine, fine. I’ll get a paper and pen. I hope it doesn’t take too long,” Adam said.

“That depends on how much we argue,” Carol said. “So, can the pieces move in any direction?”

“Why not?” Adam said. “But only one square at a time, and we take turns.”

“That’ll take forever,” Carol said. “How about five squares?”

“That’s too many,” Adam said. “Three squares.”

“Deal,” Carol said. “One point for the citizens…”


“…and two for the rest?” Carol asked.

“Three for the king and queen,” Adam said.

“Great.” Carol put her last pieces in place. “So, who goes first?”

Adam looked at the box again and switched a few of his pieces around.   “Just a minute.   Okay, I’m ready. You got to pick the color you wanted, so I’ll go first.”

“That’s not fair. I’ll give you my pieces, and then I can go first,” Carol said.

“I don’t want your pieces. Besides, everything is already set up,” Adam said.

Carol frowned. “We could always trade chairs. I want to go first.”

Adam leaned back in his chair. “We should settle this like adults. Paper, rock, scissors?”

Carol held out a fist over a flat palm. “You’re on. Best two out of three?”

Time Flies

“I’m going to the grocery store,” Mother said. “I made a list, so I won’t be gone long. Use your time wisely. Past is in charge.” And then, she left.

Present and Future looked across the table at their sister. “Why are you always in charge?” Present asked.

“Because I’m the oldest and most responsible,” Past said.

“You haven’t done anything responsible lately,” Present said.

“I did my homework an hour ago,” Past said.

“Like I said,” Present said.

“Did you do your homework?” Past asked.

“I’m working on it,” Present said. “Future hasn’t even started hers.”

“I’ll do it later. It’ll be fine,” Future said.

“I still say it’s not fair,” Present said. “Oh hey, look at that squirrel!” Present jumped up and ran to the window. “Let’s build a squirrel feeder so we can see cute squirrels all the time. Let’s build a giant squirrel feeder and feed all the squirrels in the city. Or the world.”

“I can see it now,” Future said. “We’ll be invaded by rats carrying a resistant strain of the bubonic plague. It will take twenty years to find the cure, but the world will be so devastated that we’ll have five years of peace.” Future had a dreamy look on her face. “World peace, doesn’t it sound marvelous? I’m sure it would be worth two decades of pain and suffering.”

Present made a face. “I don’t want a squirrel feeder after all.”

“Look what you’ve done,” Past whispered to Future. “That’s the same face she made when you told her that if she took ballet class she’d fall off the stage during her first performance.   Now she’s going to sing sad pop songs at the top of her voice.”

Present took a deep breath. “Unbreak my heart…” she sang loudly.

“Hey, maybe we could make cookies later,” Future said.

“See, I just drew a dog in a funny hat,” Past said. “What was I thinking?”

Present stopped singing. “Cookies?   A funny dog?” She held out a hand for the scrap of paper that Past had scribbled on. She turned the paper sideways and upside down. “Are you sure this is a dog in a hat? I think that maybe it’s a flamingo on a motorcycle. Hey, let’s go ride bikes!”

“Pass. Last time you forgot you had brakes and ran into me. It hurt,” Past said.

“Why do you always remember the bad stuff?” Present asked. “The glass is half full.”

Past frowned. “If it’s half full, it’s probably because you drank half. Wait a moment. You did!   Drink your own orange juice and leave mine alone.”

“I like orange juice,” Present said. She held up her spoon and let milk dribble back into her cereal bowl.   “But I don’t like when the cereal gets mushy. Do you want it?”

“You’ll get hungry later if you don’t eat it,” Future said.

“But I don’t want it,” Present said.

“I ate all my cereal, and that’s all the cereal I wanted,” Past said. “I wanted all my juice, too.” She picked up her cup when Present reached for it and drank it quickly.

“We’re all done! Let’s ride bikes,” Present said.

“You didn’t finish your homework,” Past said. “Plus Mother said we’re not supposed to go out while she’s gone.”

“You’re boring,” Present said. She smacked her spoon into her bowl, and milk splattered on the table.

“You should clean that up,” Future said. “Mom will be here soon.”

“Cleaning up is boring,” Present said.

Future reached a hand across the table to Past. “I’ll put the bowls in the sink if you will help me with my homework.”

Past stacked her dishes and put them into the waiting hand. “I finished mine so I have time to help,” she said.

“Help me, too,” Present said.

Just then, Mother came in. “I’m home.   Did you use your time wisely?” she asked. “What did you do?”

“We sat at the table and talked,” Past said.

“Past is going to help me with my homework,” Future said.

“I’m bored and I hate mushy cereal,” Present said.

“That’s great girls,” Mother said. “Why don’t you pause and help me put away the groceries. Present, you need to wipe up the milk first.”

“Hey! Let’s go buy a self-cleaning table instead. Right now.   I’ll drive,” Present said.

“You don’t know how to drive. Clean up the mess you made, it will teach you patience,” Mother said.

“Patience is boring,” Present said. But she cleaned up the mess while her sisters put the groceries away.