Winnie Thomson

Show Stopper

Eight-year-old Sue Simon had vivid memories of last year’s Spring Show and could hardly contain her excitement as the family got ready g. There was to be a talent contest at 3p.m., and Sue, her heart set on being an actress, was determined not only to participate, but to win. Her parents were anxious- she had a slight limp. “She shouldn’t get her hopes up too high,” her father had said.

“But darling, she’s been practising for days.”

“Well, let’s just wait and see.”

Once at the fair grounds, John and Rose left the children at the swings and “rides” with enough money for them to have a few rides each.  Sue and James would meet their parents at the tent where the talent contest was to be held at half-past two “at the latest,” said Rose. “You’ll need to calm down after all the rides.”

“’Bye Mom, ’bye Dad’,” they said and ran off to ride on flying swings and the wonderful roller coaster.

The fair ground was busy and there was a lot of noise: the crowds calling, children squealing on the more daring rides, the music from several booths and over all this noise, there were the mixed smells of candy-floss, hot-dogs and pop-corn. Surprisingly too, there was the rather “wild” smell of a group of animals in a far corner of the fair-grounds. This year, a small “zoo” – perhaps some retired circus animals in cages, – had been allowed at the fair and for a small fee, several people were looking curiously at the lion: this was a sad-sack of an animal, not regal at all. Pressed against the bars of its cage; an elephant stood under a tree and accepted  the buns and bananas thrown to it, and  four ponies with faded finery in their harnesses stood meekly under another  tree- a safe distance from the elephant.  Particularly thrilled, was a group of orphans- about twenty of them- looking in wide-eyed amazement at these beasts. Suddenly there was a loud cry and the orphans were squealing and crying; as well as running in all directions and shouting “Lion! Lion’s out!” Somehow, perhaps through the action of one of the children themselves, the lion’s cage was open and the sad-sack of a creature was standing bewildered in the centre of the field. The two teachers supposedly in charge of the orphans were nowhere to be seen (in fact they had gone in  search of the trainer) but the orphan children presented a real problem – as much as the “ escaped “lion did.

“Quiet!” Sue Simon stood between the lion and the orphans. “This lion can’t hurt you. Now listen to me! ‘Said the shark…’”

The children did go quiet and in a short while, they were cheering Sue while the animal trainer had coaxed the lion back into its cage.

From another corner of the fair-ground, there was an announcement over the loud-speaker that the talent contest was to begin in fifteen minutes and that no more competitors would be allowed into the tent.

Sue grabbed James’s hand and they ran through the crowds towards the tent in the opposite corner to the “zoo”.

Crumpled, her hair awry and her face red and shiny, Sue went and sat next to her father. A tall, confident blonde girl was reciting a poem which amused the audience.  “Am I too late, Daddy?” Sue whispered.

“‘Fraid so, darling.”

“But the lion got out and…”

“Sh… sh…”

Then one of the judges stood up. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls…” he began. “I think we’ve heard everyone. …”

“Just a minute!” There was a loud voice at the back of the tent. “Where’s the little lion girl? The one who saved the orphans? We need to hear her! She has just done an amazing thing.” And briefly he told the audience about Sue’s action of a few minutes earlier.

Sue didn’t feel very confident about her appearance, but she’d read enough stories about the show going on, so, in spite of  her crumpled dress and dusty shoes, she stood  up on the little raised stage and recited her poem ;
“ Said the shark to the flying-fish…”

She knew the poem so well, put the right expression into all the words that the audience cheered and Sue the Lion-Tamer won first prize!

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