“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.