Read Aloud Daily eBook.
185 to Go: The School Countdown Starts on the First Day.
• Read aloud for quiet work times like art.
• Quick scenes for easy start and stops.
• Daily eBook as a springboard into writing prompts.
• Teamwork & Inclusiveness
If you could live anywhere in America, Sandport might be your town. It is a place with no stoplights, cool afternoon breezes, and a sheep dog with a plan. The students are intelligent, comical, and have the same spunky spirit that got the pioneers across the West. These kids work well together and treat everyone with respect, the way their parents taught them. You would definitely invite all these kids to your next birthday party.
Seven of the kids hang-out after school at the tide pools, doing homework and playing on the beach. They even have their own club, where they discuss school topics and work on surf techniques. The Tide Pool Club thrives on inventing creative ways to solve problems, especially a big one for a new friend.
Logan Lincoln will guide you through the school year countdown, including golf cart dads, a spry grandma, and their town joke no one knows about. Shh... it's a secret.
Read on to find the meaning of life, a talent show to remember, and how to give a class speech. Welcome to Sandport Beach, CA!
As I walked onto campus our teacher, Mr. Greene, was wearing an exquisite white pearl necklace, with a matching emerald brooch. If you were new to school, this may seem peculiar. For everyone else, Mr. Greene wearing his wife’s jewelry is an all too common sight at Sandport Elementary.
Mr. Greene is the only guy I know who factors luck into his decision making process. For example, take his interest in fantasy football. He is an avid sports fan and believes he can overwhelmingly predict the winners each week. His open bragging even leads to occasional bets with his wife, Sweetie Peetie.
Her name isn’t actually Sweetie Peetie. She used to play rugby in a local men’s league. Her male teammates changed her name to Pete, so the other team would feel less embarrassed when the openside flanker plowed into them, flattening them like a steamroller. After all, no athlete wants to be mowed down by a girl named Rose. To remember her rugby days, she named her bakery Sweetie Peetie’s, with the motto: “For Heaven’s Sake, Eat Some Cake!”
The kind-hearted Sweetie Peetie, with the magical baking touch, doesn’t back down from a challenge and likes to show Mr. Greene, and the whole school, who’s the real sports fan in their house.
Today, Mr. Greene’s school attire was the result of a blocked kicked in the opening drive of a preseason football game, giving Sweetie Peetie the win, and Mr. Greene the consequences.
“If the kicker just moved an inch to his left, the wind would have…” pleaded Mr. Greene, trying to explain to any teacher who would listen in the hallway.
“Mmm-hmm, his ‘guaranteed win’ was in need of a ‘no-hassle return,’” joked a mocking Mrs. Ford.
“Good one, Linda!” chimed Mr. Clinton, wondering if his wife would like similar jewelry for her next birthday.
“We just adore the pearls, Mr. Greene,” smiled Mrs. Madison. “May we borrow them sometime?” Bahaha! Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Madison’s merriment was heard well around the corner, as they headed back to their classrooms, wiping laughter tears from their eyes.
Over the years, Mr. Greene has sported a plethora of fashionable ladies’ accessories. There was the pink handbag, a pair of fake eyelashes, miniature Christmas tree earrings, and everyone’s personal favorite: those lavender stiletto heels. There’s always next time Mr. Greene… there’s always next time.
At the end of the day, Mr. Greene gave a homework assignment that was quite vague: “When called upon tomorrow, be ready to present about ‘language.’”
Needless to say, there were many questions about what he meant, how many sentences he wanted, and in what format. All questions were redirected to his initial instruction.
On the way home from school, several of us debated the meaning of his words. Harper thought he was just giving an assignment to get us back into the habit of homework, and Ella surmised it had more to do with how we presented to our classmates. I figured it was about finding a creative answer to an opened-ended question. In any case, we all decided we would impress Mr. Greene with unique answers.
After a power-breakfast of green and red cereal, I waved bye to mom, who was still convinced the cereal was trying to communicate with her in the form of celebrity faces. Images of Snoopy and My Little Pony were the texting topics to her friends.
When school resumed after lunch recess, it was back to the question of “language.” The student responses were surprisingly interesting. They were all different, and everyone was learning, adding value to the discussion.
Harper started by telling the class about the longest word in English. Some may think it is Mary Poppins’ Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, which actually means something to say when you have nothing to say. Sounds funny; we all have heard it.
But there is an even more impressive word. Sadly, it describes an awful lung disease, caused by the build-up of inhaling small particles over time. It’s called “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.”
“Okay, people,” commanded Harper in an authoritatively pleasant tone, “Let’s try it yourself. Break it down into phonetic syllables, like new-mono-ultra-micro-scoptic-silico-volcano-con-noy-sis. The word was invented in 1937 and is officially recognized by the Oxford Dictionary. It also goes by its shorter name: silicosis.” By the end of her presentation, Harper had the whole class pronouncing it correctly, although memorizing it was something else.
Mr. Greene’s socks were knocked off on that presentation! Actually, they really were knocked off. His left sock caught the sharp edge on his teacher’s chair, and began unraveling the green and gray argyles, much to his dismay, or should I say “consternation,” keeping with the language theme.
Mr. Greene was quite pleased with the first presentation and responded by saying, “So far this assignment is proving to be non-floccinaucinihilipilification! (flock-sa-nah-sah-nye-hilla-pill-liffa-cay-shun).”
To lighten the mood in a whimsical way, Ella began her presentation with a “yes” or “no” quiz. She started with words no one knew, or had even heard, but sounded like they were everyday words. Here were some of the humorous results.
Grant decided he was definitely not a batrachophagous (one who eats frogs). We all agreed with him.
With half the class still undecided, Carter was semi-considered the class agelast (one who never laughs.)
Mr. Greene quickly pointed out to all that he was certainly an agerastist (looking younger than one actually is.) Luckily, the class all agreed that Mr. Greene was not a dipoldist (one who beats or whips school children!)
Ella certainly opened everyone’s eyes to new words and their odd meanings.
Zach was up next and began with a foreign greeting: “Bonan matenon!” (good morning!)
An enthusiastic Zach continued with his new found language. “How useful would it be if there was one language in the world which everyone spoke? There is – Esperanto! Although less than 200,000 people in the world actually speak it, Esperanto was invented in Europe during the late 1870’s by L.L. Zamenhof, in hope that Europe’s multiple languages would become just one.”
Here’s the 28-letter alphabet:
a b c ĉ d e f g ĝ h ĥ i j ĵ k l m n o p r s ŝ t u ŭ v z
“Mia nomo estas Zach Yamoto (My name is Zach Yamoto),” cheerfully announced Zach Yamoto, as he got the class to say the phrase with their own name.
“Language is more than just words. It encompasses culture, food, lifestyle and tradition – all reasons why Esperanto hasn’t really caught on around the world,” with Zach now instructing the class more like a university professor. “In fact, English, with its economic importance, and current use around the world, is becoming more of the universal language. But Esperanto was a noble effort!”
Zach ended his last words with a little humor.
“Mia kusenveturilo estas angiloplena. (My hovercraft is full of eels!) Hey, you never know.”
“Dankon” (thank you), as Zach folded his homemade poster of useful phrases and took his seat.
Madeline was now moving her way to the front of the classroom, with its walls decorated in bright, colorful posters and unfaded butcher paper.
She also started her topic with an interrogative. “What are the oldest words, and how do you look for them?”
A very good question; one you don’t often ponder, yet is part of your everyday communication.
This one even stumped Mr. Greene, although his guess made sense. “I would say that the oldest words might be related to the first sounds a human is capable of saying – word sounds like ‘mama’ and ‘papa.’ Am I getting close?” asked an inquisitive Mr. Greene.
“You’re on the right track,” replied Madeline. “Some linguists believe the oldest words to be around 20,000 years old. They believe the oldest words are possibly who, two, three, I, and five. What makes these words so old is that they have a simple meaning that each new generation can easily understand; whereas, words with multiple means could eventually become extinct, being replaced by a synonym. Some linguists think the following words are candidates for disappearing in the future: bad, because, dirty, guts and wipe.
Since none of us were around that long ago, there will always be debate which words are the oldest. But you get the idea,” beamed Madeline, as she returned to her seat.
Mr. Greene was excited to hear all the responses today. He was really impressed with the quality effort and creativity. In fact, he actually had low expectations for this assignment, since it was the first one of the year. He was expecting such topics as things that start with “B” and rhyme with sugar. Instead, he was learning along with the class and even taking notes!
Today was Grant’s birthday, and being a new student, he brought cupcakes for the class, instantly becoming everyone’s new best friend. Singing “Happy Birthday” is a Sandport school tradition. In fact, Mr. Greene has an antique bugle he lets only the bravest kids blow. After all, it sits on the classroom wall all year and has been used by two decades of students, who may or may not have had cooties.
With a “Happy Birthday” bugle fanfare introduction, done by none other than Shrimpy, the class excitedly began singing, in anticipation of a future Sweetie Peetie’s lemon cupcake.
Happy Birthday to you (boom-bang-cha-cha-cha)
Happy Birthday tooo you (boom-bang-cha-cha-cha)
Singing “Happy Birthday” at Sandport Elementary is not only traditional, but can take on new versions at any time, especially after the last line.
… Haaappy Birthhh-DAY tooo youu… And many more, from Channel Four… Stay alive til 105… You’re our friend, since age 10…
Now this is the Sandport singing difference!
…You’ll be nifty, past age 50… Have good knees at 83…
Shrimpy, red-faced with eyes beginning to water, was still holding that final F-note on the bugle.
… Be an old lady at age 80… Looking fine at 59…
Most of the time, students stop singing when they realize they can’t sing and eat cupcakes at the same time, but there are always a few who can’t resist singing numbers.
…Free green beans at age 17 … Having fun at 31…
Out of breath, Shrimpy eventually collapsed on the floor, so technically the song ended.
The funny part is even adults now sing these silly rhymes at their birthday parties, and sometimes, while standing in line to buy a cake, they are caught humming new verses.
This was all new to Grant, but he got into the spirit, passed out cupcakes, and basked in his hero status. Knowing him for only a couple days, we figured Grant has had a significantly different life journey than the rest of us. We’re not sure why, but sometimes you can just tell.
Tonight is the monthly Sandport town council meeting, with the school board meeting immediately following. It’s a small town, so council members are also the school board. Here’s local government in action.
The main council item for tonight is law enforcement. In order to save money, the council will decide whether to rent a police car, instead of replacing the old one with broken shocks. (The good chief never could remember Pothole #1’s exact location.) But the town would authorize the rental only if there was a big chase or something. Since there is no crime… you get the idea.
In the meantime, the chief would use a bicycle rickshaw to shuttle people to the jail. (Next week, the council will vote whether to build a jail.) The council refers tonight’s vote as the softer side of law enforcement, designed to enhance the town’s tourist image.
Chief Pressy would be the laughing stock of police officers everywhere, and he knew it. While his brothers in blue have the latest technology, like coffee mug warmers and massage seats in their patrol cars, poor Chief Pressy would be shooing seagulls away from his rickshaw with a stick! He would definitely be on the cover of Officers Monthly, and they will surely want him to pose, smiling in his rickshaw.
Pressy looked frantically for Mrs. Greene and her secret weapon, but she was nowhere to be found. Even worse for the chief, his wife was on the town council, and she was the deciding vote. He smiled nervously at his wife and wished he had a genie in a bottle right about now.
She looked down at the budget, up at the chief, down at the budget … with glasses balancing on the edge of her nose. She gave a muffled hmmm, followed by an even softer, uh-huh. Quietly, Mrs. Pressy cast her vote.
* * *
Later that night, townspeople gathered on the street curb, with their phone cameras held high, waiting for the chief’s pedal-powered police paddy wagon debut. It was quite a sight. The chief even did a few figure-eights for the crowd. Chief Pressy actually enjoyed the applause and even sang a few bars of Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock.” He wasn’t thrilled with the new “squad car,” but he was able to negotiate the removal of a spinning plastic sunflower and little colorful streamers from the handle bars. A partial victory was better than no victory.
Word on the playground was that Mrs. Pressy was getting revenge for always losing to the chief in Fantasy Football: Couples Division. Unlike Mr. Greene, the chief could pick winners against his wife. Mrs. Pressy also commented on the need for a new fit and trim police force.
At 10:30, the whole school embarked on a walk to Veterans Grove at the cemetery. We would place little American flags on veterans’ graves, say a few brief words, sing a little, and be back in time for lunch: tater tot shish kabob.
To keep classes focused and moving forward, 4th St. Five used their snare and bass drums to give us a marching beat.
Boom! … ba-bup bup Boom! … ba-bup bup Boom!
Chief Pressy pedaled into school on his rickshaw and picked up Captain Rick Washington, guest speaker and commander of local American Legion Post #21. The American Legion is a veterans’ organization for military personnel, who served in times of war. They have formed clubs all across America over the years and contribute to their local communities through such activities as ceremonies, student scholarships, and sporting events. You can always recognize them in a parade by their crisp-clean, dark blue uniforms with matching caps.
As the whole school snaked its way through town, many adults stopped what they were doing and joined our procession. Like Minutemen dropping their farm rakes to join the Battle of Concord, so too were store owners closing their shops and joining us with flags of their own. The whole school and town were marching respectfully down Main Street.
As his patriotic duty, Woofy even helped carry a couple of flags. Woofy usually avoids school. He feels it’s too much work to get a leftover sandwich. Kids always expect tricks and obedience, in return for a treat. Woofy is strictly a free spirit – he has his pride.
In fact, word on the playground says Woofy was once spotted at dog school. The Harrison family thought they would adopt the Woofster and teach him proper manners with a little charm. Woofy’s report card was all D’s, with the exception of an A+ in the category Lying Down. Eventually the family gave up and released Woofy back to the wild.
Our little parade entered the stone wall cemetery, walked past the World War II ceremonial cannon, and into Veterans Grove. The grove is an oval-shaped design, surrounded by tall sycamores. At one end, there is a small stage for a speaker, and the other end has a solid, 10-foot tall, granite monument. Inscribed on the monument are the names of all those from Sandport, who served in wars, but never came back. It is one small town’s very honorable tribute.
“Veterans are a lot of people. It takes a large effort to mobilize an army or navy, and not everyone ends up fighting with a weapon,” informed Mr. Greene, as he opened the box of flags. “Many veterans end up serving in supporting roles towards the overall effort.
All students grabbed a handful of flags and took a cemetery row, placing flags next to graves. Since first graders don’t read very well yet, they were paired with an older student.
In Madeline’s row there were several World War II veterans, like Sergeant Leon, a driver for a general; Corporal Martin, a crane operator in the south Pacific; Reverend Ernie, who led religious services for his unit, as they built prisoner camps in Europe.
And the names continued in Ella’s row. She planted flags for Chief Warrant Officer Hilmar, who kept accounting records for his army unit. Sometimes families buy cemetery plots to be used later, like Sergeant Richard, who kept communication lines open in the Korean War.
Even those who didn’t go to war still helped from the home front, like Paul, a lithographer, whose craft was printing documents that the military needed to keep the war effort going. An honor flag was placed next to his tombstone, too.
It was now exactly 11:00 on November 11, the time WWI ended. Captain Washington approached the podium and began his speech.
“This is our time to pause from the luxuries of life: cars, phones, and friends and reflect on those who paused their lives for our country. Too many never made it back, never seeing their cars, phones, or friends again. Twenty-four of those were from little Sandport. They did their duty, and made us all proud. On this day, let us honor and remember veterans all across America, who wore the uniform or helped at the home front.”
Mr. Sanchez read aloud the 24-names engraved on the monument. The audience nodded in quiet agreement and kept their heads held high. A light wind kept all the little flags flapping.
Mrs. Jefferson’s second grade class silently assembled in front of the legion commander. Mrs. Jefferson hummed the opening note, and the class enthusiastically began singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” waving their flags. A flurry of camera flashes went off, documenting the song, with the town newspaper in the front row. The cheerful students liked the crowd’s applause so much, they felt like singing some more. They all simultaneously burst right into “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” causing a startled Mrs. Jefferson to turn back around and continue directing, like a second song was part of the program.
As the second song wound down, and before the class of front tooth-missing second graders erupted into a third song, a huge – and I mean huge – burst came out of the ceremonial cannon at the grove’s entrance.
If you were wearing a hat, it would have been blown it off your head. Everyone was now standing two-feet away from where they were standing just two-seconds earlier. Not only that, but the front half of the audience was instantly covered in garbage!
After everyone realized they were still alive, and the universe didn’t implode, as was first thought, the crowd looked towards the cannoneer.
“Sorry!” came the meek response from the tall, thin man wearing a denim jacket, quite embarrassed, and shrugging his shoulders apologetically. The man, who just about killed a whole school with fright, was none other than Shrimpy’s other uncle, Franklin Roosevelt “Crab Legs” Pepperkorn III.
Crab Legs was supposed to fire the cannon – which was the first time anyone in Sandport has even heard it fired – after the ceremony. It is becoming apparent that timing is a genetic weakness in the Pepperkorn family tree. He was so excited to be chosen to fire the cannon that he already had lit the long, slow burning match. But when the second graders went into their encore song, the match kept burning. As the match got smaller and smaller, Crab Legs panicked and accidentally lit the cannon fuse. Five seconds later: Ka-boomie!
The launching of garbage had to do with years and years of people putting their candy wrappers, stale colas, and used gum down the cannon barrel. As Crab Legs added the gun powder, and the subsequent packing down of the powder with a long ramrod, he was also inadvertently packing layers upon layers of trash for maximum explosive potential.
The large surplus cannon was one of thousands donated by the army to towns all across America after WWII. In fact, this cannon was the army’s largest field artillery piece. The mighty 240-mm Howitzer M1, nicknamed the “Black Dragon,” is powerful enough to fire six of Mrs. Jefferson’s students 13 miles through the air!
Ella was quick to make scientific observations, walking among the crud-covered crowd. She inspected sticky wrappers stuck to people’s foreheads, and the chewed gum being picked out of various ears.
She reported to Mr. Greene her findings, “From the candy, I conclude people have been stuffing their trash in there since the late 1980’s, when Milk Duds and Junior Mints were more popular among kids. I also noticed the gum was the old-school brands of Hubba-Bubba and Bubblicious, watermelon flavor to be precise.” Mr. Greene, who still orders his old-school gum online, confirmed Ella’s conclusion with a thumbs-up.
Shrimpy walked over to greet his uncle with a high-five, and check if he had any sense of hearing left. The front half of the audience was still wiping candy goop off their clothes, while the back half now thought it was more amusing, creating another flurry of camera flashes.
“Everyone, it’s time for us all to head back to school,” directed Principal Sanchez.
There was nothing else to say after the cannon incident, so the school lined up by grades, assembled a mostly straight line, and marched home, with second grade singing “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land”… at least a dozen times.
Occasionally, Mr. Greene likes to challenge students with coded puzzles. There is no extra credit or reward; students do it for intrinsic value, namely, to make your life more interesting. Mr. Greene doesn’t give you the answer because he wants students to discover and discuss it on their own. He calls it “Enlightenment.” He’s a sharp guy, and today’s category is American geography. Mr. Greene decided he would give the clues in the style of Ursula, a German flight attendant.
“Guten Tag, Meine Damen und Herrn.” (Foreign words are always italicized in writing.)
He continued, while showcasing the left bulletin board like a flight attendant, “Today on das levt vall, vee vil schee zree klues about zee kountry of intervest.
The class’ interest perked up with giggles after hearing Ursula’s voice.
“In your deschk zee vil fint your atlasch,” said the flight attendant with both arms moving parallel, up and down, with a canned smile.
The next instruction from the American teacher, who clearly has been working on his female German accents: “Open das pages unt fint zee country thirt klosescht zu zee United Schtates. Remember, Kanada unt Mexico are zee virst unt zecond klosescht.”
His fingers were held high, clearly showing the numbers one and two, for confused passengers on his imaginary flight.
Klue #1 – Zee kountry hast nine time zonesch.
Klue #2 – Zee kountry schtarted das Schpace Age, by launschink das virst zatellite kalled Sputnik.
Klue #3 – Khemist Dmitry Mendeleev invented das Periodic Table here.
Trying to understand Ursula’s accent was challenging enough. The class came to the conclusion he wanted us to find the next closest country to the United States, after Canada and Mexico. Good Luck!
I ran an errand for mom this afternoon, dropping off a bag of books at A&A Doggy Day Spa “Home of the Poodle Bouffant.” Mrs. Buchanan runs the daily operations of the family business, named after her two twin children, Aly and Aubrey.
When I walked through the door, Aubrey and Aly were busy helping two clients, Ms. Cleo and Cleveland. Mrs. Pierce had also brought Sir Alfred in for his monthly primping.
There is a lot of information to absorb when you walk into Doggy Day Spa. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which signs are for humans and which are for dogs.
Once a beautification plan has been chosen, it’s time for washing and styling.
To help dogs choose their hairstyle, Aubrey puts on various wigs, like the Rover, Lassie, or Clifford. For more adventurous dogs, there’s the Elvis “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog” (dyed black, slicked back with gel.) Aly carefully studies the tail wags, and the wig with the most wags wins.
While they are shampooed and shammied, the dogs can chose to watch relaxing videos. There is a video monitor for each customer, with such options as Snoopy, cars driving past houses, and the always humorous: cats taking baths.
“Hold still, Ms. Cleo. It’s time for your pet-i-cure,” smiled Aly, who always enjoys puns and working with the off-white Lhasa Apso. Fancy is the theme for house dogs.
“Hold still, Cleveland,” stated Aubrey who lost rock-paper-scissors to her sister. “Yo, Cleveland, over here. Cleveland, this way Cleveland, this way. Yoo-hoo Cleveland, Cleve-land!”
After clogging the drain at the dog spa, Cleveland is no longer offered the Pressure Wash option. Instead, Mrs. Buchanan gives him a voucher for the drive-thru car wash down the street.
Mrs. Buchanan once even tried extra extravagance, like the Hollywood dog spas. She offered customers cucumber slices for their eyes, as a way to relieve stress from chasing sticks and their tails. However, every veggie slice placed on a customer’s face was quickly eaten.
As a final exclamation point to the whole doggy spa experience, the patrons choose their own aromas.
Perfume for the ladies: tuna, chicken, or jasmine.
Cologne for the gentlemen: peppermint, bacon, or garbage.
Sir Alfred had just finished his bacon spritz behind the ears and one for his breath. Mrs. Pierce paid at the register, speaking out loud to Sir Alfred, “Why don’t you wait outside on the sidewalk, while mommy pays?” A well-heeled Sir Alfred knew exactly what to do after doggy spa – run across the street and roll in seaweed.
If there is one event everyone looks forward to each year, it is the annual school talent show – a time of humor, skills, and a stuffy cafeteria.
"Western Phone & Wireless Presents: A Night of Talent - Just like our Nationwide Voice Plan Starting at $29.99/month."
Now I’m a talent show purist and have to object to the corporate sponsoring of a wholesome public school event. I have school pride. When I registered my formal protest with Mr. Sanchez, he informed me that part of the sponsorship was to provide a free, catered barbecue for the whole school at the end of the year, and no students would be asked to clean up or do anything. Plus, there would be snow cones for everyone.
Stunned that our principal with such high values and dedication to the sanctity of education would sell-out to corporate advertising, all I could say in return was… was… “Let’s hear it for our friends at Western Phone and Wireless: Night of Talent and Unlimited Internet for Only $29.99!” Free hot dogs? Way to go, Mr. Sanchez!
The smell of this morning’s breakfast, pigs-in-a-tortilla, was still embedded in the cafeteria walls. Popcorn sold for fifty-cents to help pay for future field trips, and show programs were distributed by a couple of student ushers. The crowd was in a light-hearted mood, especially with a little kid running back and forth on stage, being chased by an embarrassed mother.
Sandport talent shows are a big event, especially since two-thirds (66%) of the school participates. The house band, 4th St. Five, usually plays prelude and intermission music for the crowd to keep the show flowing. They were starting “Route 66” right now.
If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best,
Get your kicks on Route Sixty-Six.
Chairs were quickly filling up with parents, grandparents, and townspeople. The cafeteria’s large screen was lowered and raised for practice. Mr. Sanchez gave us the nod, and the Tide Pool Club stood up, giving away their seats to others. Mr. Sanchez then nodded a “thank you” to us. The town newspaper was even here. The lights dimmed and the show began.
School president, Aubrey, walked on stage, asking the audience to rise and remove their hats.
... indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Mr. Sanchez followed, welcoming the audience, making introductions, and acknowledging the teachers and parent volunteers who made this night happen. His remarks were met with strong applause.
Mrs. Ford and Madison coordinate the show, and emcee Grandma Bertie introduces each act. Grammy doesn’t always phrase her words the way you might expect, which makes her the show’s comic relief. Likewise, she doesn’t always turn off the microphone, so her thoughts can become part of the show.
* * *
Mr. Greene was the opening act. He had been working on his comedy routine and decided to take a leap with ventriloquism. Surprisingly, he was actually telling good
jokes. People were laughing with him and not at him for once.
Mr. Greene: “Why did the scarecrow get a raise?”
Dummy Pete: “It was outstanding in his field.”
Maybe he has found his audience after all. However, the homemade dummy looked very familiar. There was something… if you shortened the hair… hmm … and removed the sideburns… Sweetie Peetie! After being married all those year, Mr. Greene had subliminally turned his wife into a dummy.
Mr. Greene: “I heard you called the psychic hotline today?”
Dummy Pete: “She asked who I was, so I hung up.”
A funny dummy, but still a dummy.
Mrs. Greene has a good sense of humor, laughing along with the audience, and having a good time. She also figured out who the dummy represented. I looked over and spied Sweetie Peetie on her phone, shopping online for women’s accessories. She was picking out Mr. Greene’s fantasy football fall fashion right now.
* * *
The lights dimmed as Grant walked onto the stage, front and center. The spotlight zeroed in, casting a long shadow behind him.
Grant’s act was a bit different. I can’t remember ever seeing one like this before. Grant explained that there wasn’t much to do at the rehabilitation hospital for three-months, where he lived following his amputation. His doctors would leave their various books behind for him to read. So he memorized tax codes!
With his proven friendly smile, Grant began. “Here’s how to request relief from the accuracy-related penalty under section 6662!"
Generally, the Revenue Service will not impose the section 6662(a) penalty against taxpayers who are eligible for the relief in this Notice…
At first it didn’t seem to have much appeal for kids, especially since taxes are dad’s problem, as mom says. But I thought about how much he spent memorizing large mundane words and dry text without pictures. He must have really concentrated. Memorizing is his talent – a clever act!
However, if a section 6662(a) penalty is proposed on examination on a liability resulting from the receipt of an incorrect or delayed Form 1095–A, the taxpayer should notify the examiner of his or her eligibility for this relief…
Since Tax Day was only two days away, the dads were on the edge of their seats, listening acutely. I even heard Mr. Arthur whispering to his wife for a pen and paper.
Also, if a taxpayer receives a letter asserting the section 6662 penalty on a liability resulting from the receipt of an incorrect or delayed Form 1095–A, the taxpayer should submit a letter to the address listed in the letter that contains the statement…
A line of small kids was up front lying, sitting, and fidgeting on the floor. People were still trying to find seats, but the crowd was now spilling out all the doors.
For further information regarding this Notice, contact the Office of Associate Chief Counsel.
“Thank you,” bowed Grant.
The dads were definitely clapping the loudest, with some whistling and hooting. Mr. Garfield even gave a standing ovation, unaware that he was the only one.
Bertie: “Thank you Grant, dear. Now it is time for little Shelly and her – say, didn’t you wear that same dress last year?”
The nervousness was less about each kid’s act and more about how they could save their dignity after Bertie’s introduction. What was she going to say? What did she know about me?
* * *
Grandma Bertie: “I saw your mom buying underwear for you today. Say, Mikey, when they add comic characters to underwear, like your Batman, does it make you run faster?” The one sentence you never want to hear over a school microphone.
“Up next is Mikey, as ½ Francis Scott Key, ½ sports commentator.” Applause.
Half of Mikey was dressed as the distinguished American lawyer and beloved national anthem poet, Francis Scott Key. This half was wearing a bright blue wool frock coat, with pewter buttons over a ruffled, white linen shirt. His beige britches were two sizes too big, but you could still see the brass buckles on his early nineteenth-century, brown-leather gentleman shoes.
Sportscaster Mike’s half was dressed in a dark-blue monogrammed blazer, with a red-white-blue striped tie, and slicked back black hair, which was rather funny because Mr. Key’s side had curly reddish-brown hair.
He literally had a split personality.
Mike was going to interpret the Star Spangled Banner like a sportscaster. When Mr. Key spoke, he would turn sideways, so the audience only saw Key’s half. And when the sportscaster spoke, he would turn his profile to that half – very creative!
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen to a War of 1812 showdown between the over-powering offense of the British navy and the underdog American forces. Tonight the young Yankees will be playing a tough defense on their home turf: Fort McHenry. It should be a battle for the ages here in Baltimore Inner Harbor this evening.”
: Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
“The battle lasted through the night, even after many spectators returned home. It is now morning and the results are still being tallied.”
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
“Nineteen British ships launched over 1,500 cannonballs last night, lighting up the evening sky. One-thousand brave American soldiers stayed strong inside Ft. McHenry… more people squished together than a restroom at half-time.”
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
“Ft. McHenry’s small and tattered storm flag flew during the rainy September bombardment. Like a world-class sumo wrestler, these troops weren’t going anywhere fast.”
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
“The American, Mr. Key, was stuck watching the battle from a British ship, HMS Tonnant. He was negotiating the release of American prisoners. But he wasn’t allowed to leave the ship, since the battle was beginning, and he knew too many British navy battle positions. Like a fan looking for a hot dog vendor at a tennis match, he would have to wait until this match was over.”
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
“Twenty-seven hours of British Congreve rockets and mortar shells hitting Ft. McHenry – more endless than a Super Bowl pre-game show. Mr. Key watched in awe.”
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
“As the new day dawned, Mary Pickersgill’s oversize, 30’x42’, 15-star American flag flew above Ft. McHenry, proudly showing the Americans were still there. Mr. Key reported the sight to the American prisoners below deck and was inspired to write a poem titled ‘Defence [sic] of Ft. M’Henry.’”
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
“Mr. Key went on to write four stanzas in his poem, but most people only know the words of the first. In 1931 President Hoover and Congress made Key’s poem our official anthem.”
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
“There you have it folks. The defenders of Ft. McHenry put up a tremendous fight over the last two-days, giving Baltimore a chance to prepare their city defense. The British navy gave up and sailed off to the Battle of New Orleans, where General Andrew Jackson eagerly waited with his troops.”
Mike took a bow and toddled off stage, with the clunking of a wooden shoe on one foot, and a comfortable, modern leather loafer on the other. There was great applause from the audience, many with goose bumps of pride.
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