Chapter 1 – Everyone Wants a Pony?

On the day the kitchen caught fire, the fire fighters found Bob sitting on the sofa, watching TV.  “Your house is burning down,” said one fire fighter.

“Later,” said Bob.  “I have to see if Gilligan’s going to get off the island.”

On the day the power went out, Bob’s mom told him he should go outside and play, where it was light.

“Later,” said Bob.  “The TV might come back on while I’m gone, and I have to find out who wins in Final Jeopardy.”

On the day Bob’s parents planned to leave on their family vacation to the beach, Bob sat on the sofa watching TV.  “You need to pack, Bob,” his mom said.

“Later,” said Bob.  “I want to see how white Minto-dent with Special Formula K will get my teeth.”

His mom packed his bag for him.  His dad loaded the car.  His dad honked the horn.  His mom grabbed him and tried to pull him off the couch.

Bob held tight.  “Later,” he said.  “Martha Stewart’s about to show me how to make a bouquet of roses from things we have in our bathroom cupboard.”  His mom pulled.  Bob held on.  His dad helped pull.  Bob held on.

Finally they gave up and unloaded the car.

What to do.  What to do.  Bob’s parents were baffled, confounded, puzzled, stumped.  They had to get Bob off that couch.  They had to get him away from that TV.

And then, one day, they had an idea.

They bought Bob a pony.

“You can play cowboy!” said Bob’s dad.

“Later,” said Bob.

“We paid good money for that pony.  Now go outside and ride him right now!” said his mother.

“Later,” said Bob.

Bob’s parents brought the pony in the house.  They sat the pony down on the couch right next to Bob.

Bob ignored the pony and kept watching TV.

“Enough is enough,” said Bob’s Mom and Dad.

Bob’s mom threw the TV into the street where a truck ran over it.

And Bob’s dad tied one end of a rope around the pony, and one end around Bob’s leg, then hit the pony on the rear end.

The pony reared up and raced out the door, dragging Bob off the couch and out into the open air.

“Whoa!” said Bob.  “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!”

Bob’s dad grabbed hold of the pony, and brought him to a halt.  Then he untied the rope from the pony and from Bob, picked up his stunned son and set him on the pony.

“There you go, son!  Have fun.”

“I was having fun watching TV,” who had never ridden a pony before, and had never wanted to ride a pony.  In fact, he was afraid of ponies.  Couches he understood.  TVs he understood.  Ponies he didn’t understand.  Except for the ponies on TV.

Bob’s dad whacked the pony on the rear end.

Off galloped the pony, down the street, sharp right, and into the woods.  Bob held on tight and closed his eyes and screamed.  “Ahhhhhhhhh!  I’m going to die!  I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE!”

“Okay,” said the pony.  And Bob and the pony disappeared.

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Chapter 2 – Straight From the Pony’s Mouth

“Stop screaming!” said the pony.  “You’ll pop your lungs.”

Bob stopped screaming.  “What?”

“Thank you,” said the pony, who had stopped galloping and was standing still.  Bob still held on tight.

“Wait a minute,” said Bob.  “Did you talk to me?  DID YOU TALK TO ME?  I knew it!  I’m having a dream!  My mom didn’t throw out my TV.  My dad didn’t buy me a pony.  Because if he did, my pony wouldn’t be talking to me because ponies can’t talk.  Yeah, that’s it, I’m having a dream.  A bad dream.  And I’m going to wake up in front of the TV!  That’s right, I was watching a TV show about a talking horse, and I fell asleep, and I’m going to wake up right…now!”

“I’m not your pony.  My name is Louie and I belong to myself.  Although if you do what I say I’ll give you a lock of my mane.”

“I’m still dreaming!  WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!”

“Bob, let me show you that this is not a dream.”  Louie kicked up his hind legs, throwing Bob up and over his head.

Bob landed flat on the ground.  “OUCH!”

“Hurt, didn’t it,” said Louie.

“Yes it did.”

“If it were a dream it wouldn’t hurt.”

“Maybe I’m just dreaming that I’m hurt.”  He sat up and rubbed his back.

Louie reached down, grabbed a hunk of Bob’s hair in his mouth, and pulled.

“STOP THAT!” yelled Bob, reaching for Louie’s head.

Louie let go.  “Convinced?  Or do I need to bite something else?”

“NO! YES!  DON’T BITE ME!  WAKE UP WAKE UP!  I’M DREAMING ABOUT A TALKING HORSE THAT BITES!  I WANT MY TV!”  Bob ducked low to the ground and covered his head with his arms.

“Bob, you’re not dreaming, and I can talk.”

“I don’t understand,” said Bob, rubbing his head.

“I’ll explain later.  Right now climb back on.  We need to find our way out of these woods and into the next adventure on my list!”

“No,” said Bob.  “I don’t ride ponies.  And I don’t like adventures, unless they’re on TV.  I’m just going to sit here until my Mom and Dad get me and take me home to my sofa and my television.”

“Climb back on or I’ll bite you again,” said Louie.

Bob climbed back on.

Chapter 3 – The Ring is not so Rosy

“Take me home!” said Bob, for the fortieth time, as Louie carried him down the street of the small town they’d found at the edge of the woods.

“Nope,” said Louie, for the fortieth time.

“NOW!” said Bob.  “TAKE ME HOME!”

“Nope,” said Louie.  “Look, let’s save some time here.  Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.  That makes fifty nopes today.  That’s all you’re allowed to have.”

“Then stop and let me off.  I’ll walk home by myself.”

“You’d have a long walk,” said Louie.  “Your home is in another universe.”

“WHAT!”

“I travel between universes, Bob, looking for adventure,” said Louie.  “That’s what I do.  This universe was next on my list.  And when I travel I like to take someone with me.  It’s more fun that way.  I’m from another universe, one where ponies talk.  I visited your universe and hooked up with you.  And you need to stay with me until I’ve had my adventure, or you’ll never get home.”

“Why me?  Why did my parents do this?” Bob muttered.  “If they wanted me to go outside they could have got me a portable TV.  Why’d they have to choose a pony.”

“Your parents didn’t choose me.  I chose them,” said Louie, “and made them think they were buying me.  I could see they were desperate, and I wanted to meet the kid that could make them so desperate.  He’d be a challenge, and I like challenges!”

“I hate challenges,” said Bob.  “I want my sofa.  I want my TV.”  He sat and sulked as Louie clopped on.

“I hear something,” said Louie.  He stopped and held his ears straight up.  “Maybe it’s our adventure.”

“All I hear is a crazy pony that had better take me home,” said Bob.

“It’s this way,” said Louie, turning left and heading down an alley.

The alley opened into a large town square.  A crowd of people was watching something in the center of the square.  From time to time the crowd applauded and cheered.

Louie pushed his way through the crowd.

In the center a tall man was standing on one leg.  A short man was linking his thumbs together and flapping his hands like a bird.  A skinny lady was breaking thin sticks, then bowing.  A sign behind them read, “Irving’s Circus.”

“Some circus,” said Louie.  “I can do better than this in my sleep.”  And with an unhappy Bob on his back, Louie headed into the center.

Chapter 4 – Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

When Louie and Bob entered the performing area, the tall man put his foot down and stared.  The short man unlinked his thumbs and stared.  The skinny lady dropped her stick and stared.

And the people in the crowd opened their mouths wide and stared.

“Look, he’s riding a pony!”

“How does he keep from falling off?”

“How did he even get on?”

“That’s impossible!”

Louie walked to the center, then stopped.

“What are you doing?” said Bob.  “Let’s get out of here.”

“It’s SHOWTIME!” said Louie.

Louie did a little dance step, crossing his front legs back and forth in front of each other.

Then he spun around on his four legs, faster and faster and faster.  Bob was getting dizzy. “Louie, Stop!  I’m going to throw up!”

And then Louie raised his front legs high in the air, and began to dance on his hind legs.  And he sang:

 

 

“Oh, I’m a famous pony,

The famous pony Louie.

We don’t know any ponies

As fine as I am, do we?”

 

 

“What beautiful singing!” said a voice in the crowd.

“And that dancing.  I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“From a pony even!”

“And look at that green boy hold on!”

“He was probably born on that horse.”

When Louie finished singing, he put his front legs down, and lowered himself into a bow.  Bob lay flat on Louie’s back, feeling very sick.

The crowd clapped and screamed.

“They love us, Bob!” said Louie.

“They love you,” groaned Bob.  “But I don’t.  Take me home.  I think I’m going to die.”

“No, they love you too,” said Louie.  “Listen!”

Bob raised his head just a bit and listened to the crowd.

“Hooray for the pony!  Hooray for the boy!”

Bob smiled, just a little.  No one had ever said hooray for him before.

“BRAVO! BRAVO!”

“Again! Again! Do it again!”

“Please, Louie,” said Bob.  “Don’t do it again.”

 

* * * * *

 

Not everyone clapped and screamed, though.  The tall man didn’t clap.  The short man didn’t clap.  The skinny lady didn’t clap.  They were standing with a lady in green, a man in blue, and a man in brown next to the “Irving’s Circus” sign.  They all had their arms crossed and were glaring at Bob and Louie.

Chapter 5 – To Join or Not to Join

“That was INCREDIBLE!  UNBELIEVABLE!” said a short round man with a long mustache who ran up and hugged Louie.

The man let go, backed up, and held out his hand.  “Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Irving R. Irving, greatest circusmaster in the universe.  I have never seen such art, such showmanship, such skill, such entertainment anywhere on this planet!  You WILL join my show.  No, you will BE my show!  We’ll make signs.  Millions of signs saying, ‘Irving’s Circus presents…’ uh, excuse me, I didn’t catch your names.”

“We didn’t throw them,” said Louie.  “This is Bob, and my name is Louie.”

“‘Irving’s Circus presents…BOB AND LOUIE!’  We’ll travel the whole world!  We’ll appear before kings and queens!  We’ll make millions!  Billions!  You’ll be the biggest stars ever!  How does that sound?”

“Sounds awful,” said Bob.  “Take me home and you can join a circus there.  Any circus there would want a talking horse.”

“Talking horse?” said Irving R. Irving.  “Who cares about a talking horse.  Nothing new about that.  But a horse that dances!  And a boy that rides!  Join me.”

“We’ll do it,” said Louie.

“NO WE WON’T!” said Bob.

“YES WE WILL!  Don’t be boring, Bob,” said Louie.  “If you knew how fun the universes are you’d never sit on your couch watching TV again.”

“I don’t want fun.  I want my sofa and my TV.  And I want to go home,” said Bob quietly.

Louie turned his head and looked at Bob.  “Okay Bob, I’ll take you home.”

Bob smiled.

“After we’ve had some fun here,” said Louie.  “Sign us up, Irving R. Irving, and let’s get this show on the road!”

“AAAAARRGGHH!” said Bob as he grabbed his head.

Chapter 6 – Every Crowd has a Silver Lining

Irving R. Irving was as good as his word.  Within hours there were posters all over town announcing:

“The most incredible!

Amazing!!

Wonderful!!!

Show on the Planet!!!!

You won’t believe your eyes!!!!!

A pony who dances!!!!!!

A boy who rides!!!!!!!

Come see it tonight or you’ll be sorry!!!!!!!!”

 

And that night in the town square there was a HUGE crowd.  People were hanging out of windows, and sitting on rooftops.  Hot air balloons floated overhead.

Irving R. Irving clapped his hands with glee.  “And all of them are paying to see you, Bob and Louie.  We’ll be rich!”

Bob just stared.  All these people wanted to see him and Louie?  Were they nuts?

When it was time for the show to begin, Irving R. Irving strode to the center of the square and shouted, “Welcome ladies and gentlemen!  You’ve heard about them.  You’ve dreamed about them.  And now you’ll see them with your very own eyes.  The incredible, the amazing, the unbelievable…BOB AND LOUIE!”

The town square exploded in applause and cheers.  Bob smiled.  He was surprised to find himself just a bit excited.  No one had ever wanted to watch him before.  He knew how the actors on TV must feel.

“It’s SHOWTIME!” said Louie, and he trotted to the center of the square, with Bob holding on tight.

Louie danced.  He sang.  He bowed.

Then he picked up three stones and juggled them.

The people in the crowd were in shock.

“Can you believe it!”

“Look what he’s doing!”

“It must be magic!”

“And look how that boy holds on!”

Bob was impressed.  “That’s pretty good, Louie.”

“You bet it’s pretty good,” said Louie.  “You try juggling without fingers.”

When the show was over everyone rushed to pat Louie’s head and shake Bob’s hand.  Bob had never had so much attention paid to him.  He kind of liked it.

Chapter 7 – A Star is Born

News spread quickly.  At each town where Bob and Louie performed, thousands came to watch and cheer.

The first few shows were a lot alike.  Louie would come out with Bob on his back.  Louie would dance and sing a bit, and then he’d do a little trick.  Sometimes he’d juggle.  Sometimes he’d pull a coin out of a child’s ear.  Sometimes he’d make birdcalls.  And all the while Bob just held on.

But soon Bob wanted more.  “Let me do something, Louie,” said Bob.

Louie was quiet for a moment, then he said, “Okay, Bob.  I’m going to make you a star.”

And from then on Bob did more than just sit and hold on.

At first he just smiled and waved his arms while Louie carried him around the square.

The next show he knelt on Louie’s back as Louie walked around the square.

And then he grew brave.  He stood up on Louie’s back.  He wobbled a bit, but Louie walked very carefully.

The crowd went wild.  It was one thing for a boy to ride a horse.  But for a boy to stand on a horse!  He might as well have grown wings and flown around the square.

Bob jumped off Louie and took a bow.  Then another.  Everyone clapped and cheered.  “Thank you, thank you,” said Bob to his fans.  “Thank you very much.  You are oh, too kind.  Thank you, thank you.  I thank my family, I think you, my adoring public, I thank the academy, I thank all the little people who made this possible, I thank…”

Louie dragged him off.  “That’s enough thanking, Bob.  I think I’ve created a monster.”

And this was just the beginning.  In the next show Bob and Louie sang a duet:

“Oh, we’re a boy and pony,

Our names are Bob and Louie.

We don’t know anybody

As fine as we are, do we.”

 

And the show after that they sang the song while Bob danced on Louie’s back.

The whole planet was suffering from BOB AND LOUIE MANIA!  There were Bob and Louie stuffed animals.  There were Bob and Louie cereals.  There were even fake Bob and Louie shows, where boys calling themselves Bob tried to ride talking ponies.  But the boys kept falling off.  And the ponies couldn’t dance and were awful singers.

There were Bob and Louie fan clubs.  And all the nations had got together and declared a planet-wide “Bob and Louie Year!”

Bob suggested that they have their own television show.  But Irving R. Irving had just said, “TV? What’s that?”

Bob was stunned.  No TV?  For a moment he once again missed his TV and his sofa.

But only for a moment, because he and Louie were treated like kings in every city they visited.  And Bob liked that.

But not everyone was happy.

Chapter 8 – Someone’s Getting Pushy

It started with the posters.  Someone was drawing on them.  Moustaches on Bob.  Ugly teeth on Louie.

And then there was the writing on the town walls.  “Bob is a slob!” and “Louie? Phooey!”

“OOOH!  OOOH!” said Bob.  “Who would DO that!  We’re just simple stars, trying to eek a living out of our exceptional talent.  Oh why!  Why!”

“Who knows,” said Louie.  “Just ignore it.  It’s the price of fame.”

Bob tried to ignore it.  But he began seeing it more and more.  And it bugged him more and more.

And then other little things began happening.  As the people would crowd around them after their shows it wasn’t just pats and handshakes anymore.  People started stepping on Bob’s feet.  And pulling his hair.  And poking him in the ribs.  Twice he was pushed so hard that he would have fallen over if the people weren’t packed in so tight.

“I’m afraid,” said Bob.  “Someone doesn’t like us and is trying to hurt us.  I think it’s time to go home.  We can be famous there.  We can even be on TV!”

“You’re blowing this out of proportion,” said Louie.  “Everyone loves us.  When you’re in a crowd people will step on your feet and poke you on accident.”

“And pull your hair?  And push you over?” said Bob.

“Could happen.”

“It’s not an accident,” said Bob.  “We’re in danger.  We should get while the getting’s good, go back to my universe, and we can be even more famous there.  Mister Ed was a talking horse, and he couldn’t even dance.  And he got his own TV show.”

“Bob, don’t worry,” said Louie.  “We’re not in danger.  And if we are ever really in danger I can get us out of here immediately.”

“Then do it now,” said Bob.  “This has been fun, but it’s time to go home.”

“No it’s not,” said Louie.  “We’re not in danger, and I’m having too much fun.  I’ve been to lots of places and done lots of things, but I’ve never been this famous.  And I want to keep being famous for awhile.”

“But Louie, I keep telling you.  Back at my place you can be even more famous.” said Bob.  “Besides, my parents probably think I’m lost and never coming home.”

“No, they don’t,” said Louie.  “When we go home we’ll get back at the exact time we left.”

“We will?  Good,” said Bob.  “I’ll be able to find out if Bob is going to get back with Marsha, and whether Marsha really is her evil twin Edith in disguise, and…”

Louie bit Bob on the leg.

“Ouch!  Why’d you do that?”

“Because you were boring me.  Now relax.  You’re famous.  You’re having fun.  Enjoy yourself.  Smile.  No one’s out to get you.”

But Bob wasn’t so sure.

Chapter 9 – What Do You Do With a Boy and Pony

Meanwhile, in an old barn, six people were gathered.  None of them were smiling.  Not the tall man.  Not the short man.  Not the skinny lady.  Not the lady in green.  Not the man in blue.  Not the man in brown.  No one was smiling.

The two ponies in the barn weren’t smiling either.  They weren’t used to having people on their backs.  Every time one of the people in the barn had climbed on, the pony had bucked them right off.

The people in the barn had a serious problem.  Someone had taken their jobs, and they wanted revenge.

“We could take them to the other side of the world and make them walk back,” said the tall man.

“When they got back they’d just take our jobs again,” said the short man.

They all thought some more.

“We could paint the pony with black and white stripes, then everyone would think he’s a zebra,” said the short man, “and wouldn’t want to watch him.”

“I like zebras,” said the skinny lady.  “I would watch him.”

They all thought some more.

“We could kidnap them,” said the skinny lady, “and hide them until everyone forgot about them.”

“Where would we keep them?” said the lady in green.

“How about right here, in the barn!” said the man in blue.

“We could surround the barn with lions so they couldn’t escape!” said the man in brown.

“We don’t have any lions,” said the lady in green.

“Oh,” said the man in brown.

“Besides, the lions would probably just eat us instead,” said the lady in green.

“Oh,” said the man in brown.

“But we could still keep them in the barn,” said the man in blue.

“All in favor of kidnapping them, say ‘aye’,” said the skinny lady.

“Aye!” said all the people.

“Nay!” said the ponies.

“So it’s decided, we’re going to kidnap them,” said the tall man.  “I think I can pick up the boy.  I will kidnap him.  Who will kidnap the pony?”

“Not I,” said the short man.  “He’s too heavy for me to lift.”

“Not I,” said the skinny lady.  “I don’t like how ponies smell.”

“Hey!” said the ponies.

“Not I,” said the lady in green.  “I’m afraid of ponies.”

“Not I,” said the man in blue.  “Ponies like to kick me.”

“Not I,” said the man in brown, “because, well, because I just don’t want to.”

“Then it’s decided,” said the tall man.  “No one wants to kidnap the pony.”

“Yay!” said the ponies.

“That’s okay,” said the skinny lady.  “We don’t need to kidnap the pony.  If we kidnap the boy the pony will have no one to ride him.  And if no one rides him, he won’t be as interesting.”

“And if the pony isn’t interesting,” said the short man, “then people will stop watching him!”

“And if people stop watching him,” said the lady in green, “we’ll all get our jobs back!”

“So it’s decided,” said the tall man.  “We’re going to kidnap the boy!”

* * * * *

 

Kidnapping Bob turned out to be very easy.  The lady in green simply walked up to Louie after a show and began fussing over him.

“Oh, you’re such a cute pony!” said the lady in green as she kissed Louie on the nose and pinched his cheek.  “And so talented.  I’d like to just take you home with me.”

Louie smiled.  He loved attention.  Even kisses on the nose.

“And you sing so well!” said the lady.  “How did you ever learn to sing?”

“My mother taught me,” said Louie.  “She sang like a nightingale.”

“Oh, tell me about your mother,” said the lady in green.

Louie’s eyes teared up as he began to talk about his dear, sweet mother.

And as Louie talked, the tall man stepped up quietly behind Bob, slapped his hand over Bob’s mouth, picked him up, and carried him off.

Chapter 10 – A Star is Barned

“What are you doing with me?” demanded Bob.  “Let me go.  Right now!”  He was sitting on straw in an old barn.  His arms were wrapped around a pole behind him, and his hands were tied so he couldn’t escape.  He was surrounded by strange people.  In the corner of the barn stood two ponies, watching.

“LET ME GO!” Bob ordered.

“We’ll let you go,” said the short man, “after no one likes Louie any more and we have our jobs back.”

“And after you promise us,” said the tall man, “that you’ll never ride Louie again.”

“That’s not me who rides Louie,” said Bob.  “That’s my evil twin.”

“Oh!” said the skinny lady.  “We’re very sorry.”  And she reached to untie Bob.

The short man grabbed her and pulled her back.  “He’s lying to you.  You know this is Bob.”

“Oh, right,” said the skinny lady.

“So, promise us that you’ll never ride Louie again,” the tall man said again.

“I promise,” said Bob.

“Then it’s decided,” said the tall man.  “We can let him go now.  He’s promised.”

“No we can’t,” said the short man.  “We don’t know he’ll keep his promise.  We have to wait until the pony’s gone and we get our jobs back.”

“Let me go,” said Bob, “right now.  I’ll make sure Louie goes away.  In fact, I want Louie to go away and take me with him.”

“And then we can have our jobs back!” said the skinny lady.

“What jobs were they?” Bob asked.

“What jobs were they?  WHAT JOBS WERE THEY!” said the man in brown.  “You should know what jobs they were.  You STOLE them from us.”

“I did NOT steal your jobs!” said Bob.  Then he looked more closely at the people who held him captive.  The tall man.  The short man.  The skinny lady.  And the others.  Then he remembered where he’d seen them before.

“The circus,” said Bob.  “And the pushing!  It was YOU stepping on my feet and pushing me over.  You were trying to HURT me!”  Bob struggled at his ropes.  “Just wait til I get out of here.  I’m going to…I’m going to…”

“We were not trying to hurt you,” said the skinny lady.  “We just wanted to scare you away.”

“Well it didn’t work,” said Bob, who didn’t want to admit that they had frightened him.  “And it was mean.”

“You deserved it,” said the man in brown.  “It’s YOUR fault that we don’t have jobs and we have to live in this barn.”

Bob thought about that for a minute.  Then he grew angry.  “It is NOT my fault!” he said.  “You all lost your jobs because you are awful circus performers.”

“We are not!” said the man in blue.  “We are wonderful performers.  Everywhere we went we drew crowds.  The people loved us.”

“Until they saw Louie perform,” said Bob.  He wished Louie were there now.  “They liked Louie a lot more than they liked you.”

“No way!” said the man in blue.

“Way!” said the ponies.

“Face it,” said Bob.  “You guys lost your jobs because you can’t really do anything.”

“I can stand on one leg!” said the tall man.

“My grandma can stand on one leg,” said Bob.

“I can make my hands look like a bird,” said the short man.

“My grandpa does that all the time,” said Bob.

“Well I can break sticks with my bare hands,” said the skinny lady.

“My two-year-old neighbor can too,” said Bob.

“Really?” said the skinny lady.  “I’d like to see that.”

“Anyway,” said Bob.  “Even if Louie and I go away no one’s going to want to watch you do those things anymore.  You’ll still be out of work.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment.

Then the skinny lady spoke up.  “Maybe he’s right.  Maybe we don’t know how to do anything interesting.  Maybe we won’t ever be able to work again.  Our families will starve!”  She began to cry.

The man in blue sniffled and wiped his nose.  “It’s true,” he said.  “We just aren’t cut out for the circus.”  And HE began to cry.

“Then it’s decided,” said the tall man.  “We have no talent and we’ll never be able to work in the circus again.”

And then everyone started to cry.  Everyone except for Bob and the ponies.

“Oh come on,” said Bob.  “It’s not the end of the world.  You can get other jobs.”

“We don’t want other jobs,” the short man, between sobs.

“We LIKE performing,” said the lady in green.

“It’s in our blood,” said the man in brown.

Bob sat quietly and listened to the weeping.  He was sorry he’d been so mean to them.  And he thought he knew how they felt.  At least a little.  He had enjoyed performing.  He enjoyed the crowds all cheering for him.  He could see how these people would want that.

And then it came to him.  He knew how to make them happy.  And how to get out of there.  And how to get back to Louie.  And how to get home.

Chapter 11 – Call Out the Troops!

The entire planet was in an uproar.  Bob was missing!  Kidnapped!  But who would kidnap the most popular kid on the planet?  Everyone loved him.

The BOB AND LOUIE tour had to be put on hold, of course.  Louie was a good performer by himself, but people had come to see Louie AND Bob.  Just Louie wasn’t enough.

Besides, Louie was worried.  True, at first Bob had just been annoying and boring.  True, Louie had just brought Bob along to make the trip more interesting.  And because he liked the challenge of making Bob more interesting.

But Louie now realized something.  He LIKED Bob.  Sure, Bob whined a lot about going home.  But Louie couldn’t blame him.  Louie himself sometimes felt like going home.  And someday he would.

And even though he whined, Bob was a trooper.  He’d stuck with Louie on the tour, and Louie could see Bob becoming more interested, and more interesting.

Louie had grown used to Bob.

And now Bob was gone.

So Louie quit performing, and joined in the search for Bob.

And the search was huge.

Every country on the planet called out their army.

Every plane on the planet was in the air, flying over the countryside, looking for Bob.  (They were soon told, though, that they would have to take turns.  There were so many planes in the air that they were almost crashing into each other.)

Every kid on the planet had become a Bob detective, looking under floorboards, behind woodpiles, in holes, trying to find Bob.

And it was one of those kids, an eight-year-old named Norman R. Norman, who noticed something just a little funny was going on in an old barn outside of his town.  A barn is where animals live.  But he never saw animals coming and going from the barn.  He only saw people.

He told his mother.

Chapter 12 – You Can Do It!

“That’s it,” said Bob.  “Steady…steady…you can do it!”

The tall man was standing in the middle of the barn.

On his shoulders stood the short man.  The short man wobbled a bit, but he didn’t fall.  And on his face was a big smile.  “I’m doing it!  I’m doing it!”

All the other performers were standing around, amazed.  They had never seen anything like this before.  One person standing on another’s shoulders!  The world would be in awe.

And not just because of this act.  For days Bob had been teaching the circus folk new acts.

He had shown the short man that if he made his handbird in front of a light, the bird would show up, huge, on the wall.

He had taught the lady in green to juggle two balls.  (Bob tried to teach her to do three, but he didn’t know how to do it himself.)

He had taught the man in blue and the man in brown to stand on their heads and to do somersaults.

And he had taught the skinny lady to throw a stick high in the air and catch it.

“Great!” said Bob, and the short man jumped off the tall man’s shoulders onto the ground.

The short man ran up and gave Bob a big hug.  “Thank you! Thank you!” he said.

And then BAM!, the barn doors were thrown open.  In rushed dozens of police.  They grabbed the performers and pushed them to the floor.  One police officer grabbed Bob as another pulled the short man away.  “You’re all under arrest,” boomed one of the officers, “for the kidnapping of Bob!”

Chapter 13 – Louie to the Rescue

“Hello, Bob,” said Louie.  He stood in the open barn door.  He had waited until all the commotion was over before coming in.  “I’ve come to rescue you.”

“Oh Louie!” said Bob, and he ran up and gave him a big hug around the neck.  He was surprised to realize how much he had missed Louie.

“Are you okay?” said Louie.  “Did they hurt you?  If they hurt you I’ll take them to a universe I know where it never gets above freezing and I’ll leave them there.  I should have listened to you when you said we were in danger.”

“I’m okay, Louie.”  Bob let go of Louie’s neck and turned to look at the rest of the barn.  Everywhere were police officers sitting on circus performers.  The performers were not smiling.  They did not look angry, just sad and afraid.

“Louie, what’s going to happen to them?”

“Who, Bob?”

“The circus performers,” said Bob.

“Is that who they are?  They’ll probably be put in jail for the rest of their lives,” said Louie.  “Kidnapping’s a serious crime, you know.”

“But I don’t want them arrested,” said Bob.

“WHAT!” said Louie.

“WHAT!” said the police officers.

It took a bit of talking for Bob to explain to Louie why he didn’t want his new friends arrested.

Then it took even longer to explain to the police officers.  Bob never did convince the police officers.  They thought the performers needed to be arrested.  But they did admit that they couldn’t make any arrests if Bob didn’t press charges.

The officers got up off the performers, brushed the hay off their uniforms, and marched out of the barn.

Soon the only ones left in the barn were Bob and Louie, the circus performers, and the two ponies.

“And now, Louie, I have something I need you to do,” and Bob whispered in Louie’s ear.

Chapter 14 – The Show Must Go On

The night Irving R. Irving’s circus resumed its tour was a big night.

Everyone in the world had heard that Bob had been found, though there was some confusion about whether he’d really been kidnapped or not.

But everyone wanted to see Bob and Louie perform again.

Irving R. Irving had rented an entire valley.  He placed a stage in the middle of the valley, and people covered the valley floor and the surrounding hillsides.  There must have been millions.  Some had brought binoculars so they could see, they were so far away.  Some even brought telescopes.

Then the show began.

Bob rode Louie onto the stage.  Louie danced while Bob held on.  People cheered.  Then…hey, wait a minute!  Another Bob and Louie riding onto the stage?

People began pointing, and scratching their heads.  There were two Louies and two Bobs!  Two ponies and riders!

Then the people looked more closely.  The second pony wasn’t Louie, and the second rider wasn’t Bob.  And for that matter, the first pony wasn’t Louie either.  And the first boy wasn’t Bob!  In fact, the riders weren’t even boys.  They were ladies.  One skinny lady, and a lady in green.

People began to boo, and to chant “Hooey! Hooey! We want Louie!  We’ve been robbed!  We want Bob!”

The ponies and riders began to dance.  Both ponies did the same dance, next to each other, lifting their legs with exact timing.

The chants quieted.

Then the two ladies stood, on the ponies’ backs.  And as the ponies danced, the ladies danced.

The audience was silent.

And then the ponies and ladies began singing as they danced.  They sang much better than Bob and Louie ever had.

The crowd erupted in cheers.

When the ponies and ladies were done they bowed and left the stage.

Louie had trained them well.

The tall man walked on stage, stopped, and stood still in the middle.

The short man then ran out, climbed right up the tall man’s back, and stood on his shoulders.  A huge “OOH!” came from the crowd.

Then the short man reached down, put his hands on the tall man’s shoulders, and pushed his feet up into the air.

“HE’S STANDING ON HIS HANDS!” yelled someone from the crowd, amazed.

“AND ON THE OTHER MAN’S SHOULDERS!” yelled someone else.

People began clapping and screaming.

And as the short man did a handstand on the tall man’s shoulders, only slightly wobbling, the man in blue and the man in green tumbled out onto the stage.  All around the tall man they somersaulted, and walked on their hands, and did flips.

The crowd went wild.  They stomped.  They cheered.  They screamed.  They clapped.  They would have chanted the performers names, but they didn’t know who these strange, wonderful performers were.

Way up on top of a distant hill, Louie took his eye away from his telescope and said, “Looks like they’ve forgotten us, Bob.”

“Good,” said Bob.  “Let’s go home now.”

“Yes,” said Louie.  “Let’s go home.  It was fun, though, wasn’t it.”

Bob was quiet for a moment, then said, “Yeah.  It was fun.  Thanks for bringing me.”

And in an instant, the crowd disappeared.

Chapter 15 – End of the Trail

“Back already?” said Bob’s dad.  “You haven’t even given your pony a chance.”

“I suppose you want to watch TV,” said Bob’s Mom, who had forgotten that the TV was in the street in pieces.

“Later,” said Bob.  “Right now I think I’ll go out back and have Louie teach me to juggle.  Giddap Louie.”

“Who’s Louie?” said Bob’s parents.

“Me,” said Louie.

“WHAT!” said Bob’s parents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE END