WRITER MARY GRANNAN AND ILLUSTRATOR OSCAR CAHEN PRESENT A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS STORY FOR PARENTS TO READ TO CHILDREN It’s about a circus girl called Karen who is scared Santa Claus won’t know she can’t be home for Christmas

December 22 1956


WRITER MARY GRANNAN AND ILLUSTRATOR OSCAR CAHEN PRESENT A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS STORY FOR PARENTS TO READ TO CHILDREN It’s about a circus girl called Karen who is scared Santa Claus won’t know she can’t be home for Christmas

December 22 1956



WRITER MARY GRANNAN AND ILLUSTRATOR OSCAR CAHEN PRESENT A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS STORY FOR PARENTS TO READ TO CHILDREN It’s about a circus girl called Karen who is scared Santa Claus won’t know she can’t be home for Christmas

THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIMMED. The chatter and the rustle died down. The great audience at Pirandello’s Circus sensed that the parade was about to begin. The trumpets blared and a dozen clowns tumbled to the sawdust. Ten thousand voices cheered as the dazzling spectacle unwound itself from the dark recesses of the stadium. Pirandello had surpassed himself.

The cowboys waved scarlet ten-gallon hats from the backs of their prancing palominos. The brightly colored denwagons of the leopards were wreathed in holly. The camel, who walked haughtily on pancake feet, carried Christmas candles on his hump. Tinker, master clown of the show, cavorted behind the dignified animal, a pigeon fluttering on every finger. 'Ehe people laughed at his comical antics but the applause was thunderous when the elephants lumbered into view. Upright in the trunk of each was a small Christmas tree dripping with tinsel and tiny toys.

The little girl who sat alone at the rail, ringside centre, smiled happily at the passing parade. She was Karen Cardoni, small daughter of The Flying Cardonis, the stars of the show. Although Karen had seen the parade hundreds of times, it was not until tonight that she had seen it in its new Christmas splendor. She bounced up and down in delight. With each fresh burst of approval from the audience, little Karen beamed with pride. These were her

people who were being cheered. The cowboys, acrobats, equestriennes, wirewalkers, animal trainers, bandsmen and clowns were her friends. Tinker was her favorite, of course. Tinker knew how to talk to a little circus girl who was often lonely for playmates of her own age. She helped Tinker to clean his pigeon cotes, and sometimes he allowed her to handle the birds. 'Linker said she had a way with pigeons.

The old clown was approaching now. He was very elegant in his oversized pantaloons of ruby satin. His cone-shaped matching cap had a sprig of mistletoe on its point. The grin on his chalk-white face widened when he saw his little friend at the rail. He flicked his forefinger, and the pigeon who perched there spread her wings and flew to Karen. The bird sank her red-booted feet into the little girl’s golden curls and settled down on the child's head like a feathered bonnet.

Karen laughed. "Hello, Winnie May,” she said, bending forward a little and rolling her eyes upward, in an effort to see her lovely visitor. "Are you happy tonight, Winnie May? I am. Do you know' Something? The showcloses tonight, and w'e’re going home.”

"Ooah cooo-cooo-coo,” said Winnie May in protest.

"Oh, but we are,” said Karen. "We’re going home to the farm, and I’ll see my Grandmother Cardoni, and she’ll kiss me on the nose to make me laugh, Winnie May, and she’ll have cookies in her pantry and real strawberry jam in her cellar, but best of all, she’ll have a Christmas tree in the corner for me. And I’ll hang my stocking over the fireplace on Christmas Eve and Santa Claus will come and fill it. And there’ll be presents, too, under the tree. And there’ll be turkey for dinner. And we ll go to the little church at the crossroads and sing Christmas hymns. I could sing one for you now, Winnie May, but the band is so loud, you d miss the lovely words about the Babe in the manger, and besides you’d better go back to Tinker. He’ll be needing you in a little while. The parade is over. The show’s going to begin.”

Winf innie May left the now breathless little Karen to join the clown. She w'ished in her pigeon heart that she could tell Karen that she w-as w'rong. Karen w'as not going home for Christmas. Karen w'as not going to hang her stocking over the fireplace, or go to the little church at the crossroads. Didn’t she realize that Pirandello would never dress the entire circus in Christmas colors for a one-night stand? The show was being held over. The artistry of The Flying Cardonis had been so highly praised that Pirandello felt he must satisfy the demands of the public by ex-

tending his stay in the city. Winnie May wondered why Karen had not been told.

The reason w'as a simple one. Lisa and Joe Cardoni risked their lives twice daily on the flying trapeze, yet they lacked the courage to tell their little daughter the disappointing news. Lisa was worried, as she stood with arms akimbo while her husband hooked the tight little bodice of her sparkling costume. "We’ll have to tell her tonight, Joe,” Lisa said. "We’ll just have to tell her tonight.” But it was already time for them to climb the rope ladder to the perch high above the centre ring.

The ringmaster, who stood in the spotlight, waited until they reached the top. "Ladies and gentlemen,” he called, "we give you The Flying Cardonis! Their highly hazardous feats on the flying trapeze are fantastic and fabulous. Tonight Lisa Cardoni will attempt a triple somersault from the bar of her flying trapeze to the hands of her partner and husband. The Flying Cardonis!”

Karen gripped the railing as the band’s slow w'altz faded to a drum roll. Her eyes never left her parents as they made ready for their perilous performance. Lisa placed an extra perch above the landing platform. Joe dusted his hands with powdered resin, set his trapeze swinging and lowered himself into position, head downward, his knees behind the w'ooden bar, his legs wrapped around the supporting ropes. Karen strained to hear the one w'ord her mother would speak before leaping into space, but it was lost in the roll of the drums. But she did hear her father’s answering "Hup.” She saw' her mother grasp her trapeze and sw'ing out from the narrow' platform. There was an eerie quiet in the arena as Lisa Cardoni let go, turning over and over and over. Fen thousand cries of relief echoed to the rafters as hands met wrists in a double KriP-

Karen laughed aloud. They had done it again. They were safe, and now they were going home. The little girl got to her feet and started for the aisle beyond. Halfway there, the spotlight fell again on the ringmaster. "Ladies and gentlemen, a

special announcement,” he called. "Because of popular demand, Pirandello’s Circus will be held over for another week.”

Karen stopped short in her tracks. "No, no, no,” she cried. Pushing her way frantically through the milling crowd, she made her way to the dressing room. She burst in and ran to her mother, "It's not true, Mum, is it? It’s not true what the ringmaster said. We are going home, aren’t we? Aren’t we going home?”

Still taut from the excessive strain on

the trapeze, Lisa Cardoni looked with pleading eyes at her husband. He pulled Karen to him. "I’m afraid it is true, honey,” he said. "We’re sorry you heard it the way you did. We should have told you before this, but we didn’t have the heart.”

"Well have a good Christmas here, you’ll see," Karen’s mother said softly. "Be a good trouper, darling. You know the show must go on.”

Karen shook her head. "I’m not a good trouper,” she sobbed. "I’m not. I’m not. I don’t care about the show going on. If you’d only told me, it would have been all right. But now it’s too late.”

"Too late for what, darling?” asked her mother, puzzled.

"For Santa (.laus,” came Karen’s surprising answer. "I wrote him a letter. I told him I was going home. I told him I would hang my red stocking over the fireplace, and now he’ll not be able to find me. Another letter couldn’t reach him in time—even air mail.”

"But there must be some way to get word to him,” said Joe, pacing the floor. "There must be some way to contact Santa Claus.”

The door opened, and in walked Tinker. He had taken off his rubv suit and conical cap, but his face was still chalk-white. He had come to borrow some cold cream to remove the grease paint. As he cleansed his face of make-up, he heard the story of Karen’s predicament. For a moment he looked puzzled; then he cried triumphantly, "I have it! I know how to get a second letter to Santa Claus!”

"How?” asked the Cardonis, closing in on him.

"Winnie May, of course,” said the old clown. "She’s a carrier pigeon, and she’d do anything for Karen.”

"I couldn’t ask Winnie May to go so far, Tinker,” Karen said. "Something might happen to her, and besides, you need her in your act.”

Tinker snorted. "Humph,” he said, "I guess you don’t think much of me as an artist. 1 can work nine pigeons as well as ten. And as to something happening to Winnie May, another 'humph.’ Old Mother Nature outfitted the pigeon in a pretty special manner. She can fly from dawn to dark, going forty, fifty, sixty, and sometimes even seventy miles an hour. If we send her off in the morning, I’ll bet my new red satin pantaloons that she’ll be back in time for the matinée on Christmas Eve.”

Karen laughed. She knew how pleased I inker was with his new pantaloons. He wouldn’t risk losing them. "Oh, thank you linker,’’ she cried, "we’ll do it!”

H he next morning, long before the sun had thrown aside his golden blankets, Tinker and Karen were on the roof of the stadium with Winnie May. A capsulelike letter was tucked into the metal message holder on the pigeon’s leg. "Fly in a straight line, Winnie May,” Linker whispered. "Head due north all the way, until you come to the very top of the world. There you’ll find Santa Claus, in his castle of ice. Give him the message and wait for an answer.”

"Ooah cooo-cooo-coo,” said Winnie May, spreading her wings and taking flight. Karen and Linker watched her until she became a mere speck against the dark sky of early morning.

It was an anxious day for Karen, and a restless night. She dreamed that Winnie May was lost in a storm, and that she was racing across the ice floe, calling her name. After breakfast she went to look for Tinker. But she could not find him.

It was not until the afternoon matinée, when the old clown passed by her usual place by the rail, that she saw him. There was a pigeon fluttering on every finger. Winnie May had returned. With quickening heart, Karen ran to Clown Alle) to wait for Tinker. When he came in he winked at her, and reaching into the voluminous pockets of his pantaloons, he brought forth a tiny letter. "He’s coming,” Tinker said to the little girl. "Santa Claus is coming. It’s right down here in

black and white. Look for me tonight at the circus’ and it’s signed S.C.”

The news soon spread among the performers that Santa Claus was coming to fill Karen’s stocking. Pirandello, quick to take advantage of the unusual, called the troupe together. "We’ll ask him to lead the parade,” he said. "Never in the history of the circus has such a thing happened. Santa Claus and his reindeer in a circus parade !”

At eight o’clock Karen, who had been searching the sky since early evening, saw

a shadow crossing the moon—a clear-cut shadow of eight tiny reindeer, a sleigh and a driver. "He’s coming! He’s coming!” she announced joyfully.

The sound of tinkling silver bells could be heard coming closer and closer. Tinker threw wide the doors, and in drove Santa Claus.

The house lights dimmed. The trumpets blared. A dozen clowns tumbled to the sawdust. Ten thousand people stood to cheer Santa Claus and the child at his side wearing a pigeon for a bonnet. ★