by, Becky Ross Michael
“Tickets 10 cents!” reads a banner that snaps in the breeze and leads to playing fields beyond the school.
“Here’s a good spot,” says Dad, and they slide into warm, wooden seats. In a red waistcoat and black top hat, a ringmaster begins the show.
Sparkling trapeze artists fly overhead, earning cheers from the crowd. On unicycles, long-legged monkeys circle the ring, juggling bright balls and clubs. Applause bounces from tent walls like ping-pong balls.
Becca fans her face, as five elephants in fancy headdresses lumber into the ring. To the beat of a tune, animal trainers direct their dance.
Music still blares, but the elephants decide to play ‘Statues.’ They plop down onto wrinkled rumps and refuse to budge.
Too hot, thinks Becca.
A trainer pokes their papery ears with a hooked pole. When an elephant bellows in pain, Becca blinks to erase her tears.
“Let’s go,” Mom tugs Dad’s sleeve. “We’ve seen enough.”
Becca spots the monkeys now returning to cages outside the tent. She stops for a moment to stare into their sad eyes.
Back in their yard, Becca’s neighbor, Tommy, pedals toward them on his bike.
“Some elephants got away!” he yells. “The trainers took ‘em to the creek for drinks. Two kept walkin’ up the other side and escaped!”
“They’ll get them back,” assures Dad.
“Those men were mean, and wild animals should be free,” Becca says. “But the elephants are so big, I sure hope they watch where they’re stepping.”
“They’ve probably already found them,” suggests Mom.
Tommy and Becca spend the afternoon searching their small town for elephants. The sun starts to sink.
“What would you do if we came across one?” Tommy asks, stopping at a corner.
“Just get a better look, I suppose,” answers Becca.
Checking the sky, Tommy says, “It’s gettin’ late. We better go.”
“Grandma’s coming to my house for dinner,” Becca recalls.
In defeat, they turn toward home.
Before Grandma arrives, Becca tells her parents about the elephant search.
“The circus will be in town for one more day,” Dad mentions.
“They’ll find the runaways,” adds Mom.
Grandma appears with surprising news. “Guess what I found in my garden!”
“What?” replies Becca.
“Two elephants, dressed for the circus and munching my veggies!”
“What did you do?” Dad asks.
“Workers from the circus came and took them away.”
Becca rests her hand on the heavy, black phone in the hallway. “I have to call Tommy before dinner. We’ve got plans to make.”
As arranged, Becca and Tommy meet the next morning in his driveway. He opens the garage door to retrieve his bike.
“There’s no time for that. We have to do something that makes a difference!” Becca pleads.
Tommy shakes his head. “I don’t see how we can help the animals.”
“If people didn’t go to the circus, then animals wouldn’t be needed.”
“People always go, even you and your parents.”
“We didn’t know any better…” Becca begins, and her eyes rest on a discarded piece of furniture in Tommy’s garage.
“There’s an idea. I’ll be back with my wagon and cardboard before the circus starts. Bring markers!” she adds.
In front of the circus, a crowd gathers. “Look at that,” says a woman who owns the neighborhood grocery.
“They’ve given us something to think about,” suggests a man who works at the hardware store.
Adults halt to stare, children point, and two families turn back toward home. Others stop to talk among themselves. People with tickets who continue into the circus tent are sure to remember the scene at the entrance.
Hauled toward the playing fields on Becca’s wagon, a compact baby crib sets upside-down on the grass. Wooden slats on the sides look just like the bars of a cage.
Dressed in last year’s Halloween critter costume, Becca kneels inside, on all fours. With the help of Mom’s black eyebrow pencil, her face has sprouted whiskers.
Beaming with pride, Tommy stands nearby and displays a large sign, lettered in their own careful hands:
“WILD ANIMALS SHOULD BE FREE!”
Author’s Note: Through the years, many children and adults who think like Becca have worked toward ending the capture and use of wild animals to entertain us. Please join the fight and don’t support circuses that use animals in their acts.
About the Author
Becky is a former teacher who enjoys writing and helping others perfect their own books and stories as an editor. She also likes to spend time with family, cook healthy meals, read, and garden on her balcony in Texas. As a child, she attended a circus in her home state of Michigan, where several elephants got loose and tromped through her grandmother’s garden, giving her the idea for this story! Becky blogs at https://platformnumber4.com/ and welcomes visitors.