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Just Three, 1957
by KJ Hannah Greenberg



There were three of us. Jamie had curly hair. Roxanne had freckles. I had no remarkable looks, but I was tough.


We built a treehouse in the vacant lot near our elementary school. Our hideaway was fashioned from boards we found and nails we bought by not using our ice cream money for ice cream. Fortunately, all of our moms gave out ice cream money.


“Race ya down.”


“Not yet. I want to look at the clouds.”


“Leave her be. Brainiac’s brain is engaged. Did you get straight A’s again, Elissa?”


“Nope. But Mom says it’s nearly expected for fat girls to get C’s in gym. Do you want to diet with me? Mom says all protein is a good idea.”


“Thanks. Not. I can wear a two piece.”


“Come on, no one wants to race down?”


“Roxanne, No.”


“No in my house, too.”


“See ya later-the Frozen Chosen man’s truck is coming and I need a Popsicle.”






“Jamie, keep a secret?”




“I think Sam likes me. He waved when I rode by his driveway on my bike. He also asked me if I wanted to go to Brook Park with him!”


“Elissa and Sam sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes…”


“Maddie? Where did you come from?”


“It’s your turn to walk Princess. Mom says.”


“Bye Jamie.”


“Elissa, don’t leave. bring Princess up.”




“I’ll help.”


“…could try.”


Princess, all the same, was a fat dachshund. She couldn’t be pushed or pulled past the second branch. Fat dogs fail gym, too.


I tied our pup to the trunk, instead, and then wandered with Maddie and Jamie to the blackberry patch. The vacant lot was a treasure place.


Roxanne joined shortly after with an orange Push-Up. The Frozen Chosen man had run out of Popsicles.


a line, (a short blue one)


Weeks later, Jamie brought a brightly colored flyer to our treetop getaway. She had picked up that handbill at the local McDonalds. The paper’s bright colors announced a Muscular Dystrophy Carnival.


“Let’s go.”






“Let’s make our own. It says it doesn’t matter how old you are. It just matters that you want to help crippled kids.”


“We could ask Sam and Marvin to help.”


“We could.”


“Where would we get prizes? How would pay for things? Can I be the chairperson?”


“No, I’m organizing since it was my idea.”


“We could sell bubble flowers and hotdogs.”


“Your mom will make the hotdogs?”


“I’ll have to ask.”


“Ask Maddie to help, too? She’ll be hard to live with if she’s left out.”


“Only if Sam can be on my team. He’s almost equals a little sister’s annoyances.”


“Let’s take a month to make this work. The first week of August would be swell for a carnival.”


a line, (a short blue one)


For five weeks, Jamie, Roxanne, and I argued about who would be chairperson, ran from store to store soliciting donations of goods and services for prizes, and asked shop owners to put our signs in their windows. Most of our signs were made with crayon. I was worried that they might melt.


“Good afternoon, Mr. Brown.”


“Hi Elissa. You’ve grown. I remember when your mom brought you in weekly. She got prescriptions filled and you got candy. You were a chubby little girl.”


“Could you donate to our carnival?”


“Would you like a lolly?”


“I’d like a prize. You can write it off since the carnival’s for charity. Also, if we make enough to go on TV, we can name your business in our thank-yous.”


“I don’t know. Business is slow in the summer.”


“So, surely, you have things that aren’t selling. Prizes can be anything.”


a line, (a short blue one)


“Hi Mrs. McCrotsky.”


“Hi Jamie. Do you want that cleaned bulk rate or regular?”


“It’s my good sweater. I’m wearing it draped for effect. Snazzy?”


“Could be.”


“Want to donate to our carnival?”


“I’m sorry, but we have a no donations policy. Otherwise, all of our services would go to charity and we’d have to close the store. There are so many worthy organizations.”


“I’m a girl, not an organization. Besides, I wasn’t going to ask you for free dry cleaning, but for a few of those bags on that roll. That’d be a great prize.”


a line, (a short blue one)


“Why does it always rain at the wrong time? Sam was right in saying things’ll go wrong.”


“Stop fretting. The forecast is only seventy per for cent rain. That’s a thirty per cent possibility that it will be sunny. Did you hear me? Catch! Those are for the paper flags. Blow up the rest of the balloons, too. We’re going to have a great carnival!”


“Did your mom make the popcorn yet?”


“Where’s the money can?”


“Where did you come from?”




“Like the clown suit?”


“Love it! Take those two, over there, a bunch of balloons, and the sign. Walk around a few blocks. Let people know our carnival is going to start in two hours.”




“Look for yourself-there’s no one here.”




a line, (a short blue one)


“I just sent Marvin away.”


“Should have been me. I’m tired of hanging flags. In fact, I quit.”




“Why not?”


“We need you to staff the water target booth.”


“Too bad.”






“Send your friends home. It’s raining. You girls can’t stand around in the backyard and get soaked.”


a line, (a short blue one)


Despite the rain, our youth, the small number of carnival goers and our strange prizes, we collected more than $500 dollars for the muscular dystrophy research. We never got to appear on TV, though, even after we were invited, since our principal wouldn’t let us miss school.


Later that year, Roxanne moved to New York. Jamie transferred to a private school. I was left with carnival memories and the feeling, not of being a threesome, but of being lonesome. At least, Maddie got double dog walking duty and Sam never tried to kiss me.



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