Somersaulting for Martha

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Maybe you’re craving a Halloween story and an escape to simpler times. If so, you’ll enjoy these excerpts from Tales of a Rollercoaster Operator, my book of twenty-six stories about growing up in Missouri in the 1960s and 1970s.

“I had to perform tricks for my Halloween treats. At least, Martha told me I did. No doubt she was our sweetest neighbor from my early childhood years. With her southern drawl and folksy hospitality, Martha oozed a syrupy affection. When she stepped onto her front porch, wearing a floral-print blouse and matching pedal pushers, brightly-painted rosy toenails and bodacious beaded sandals, Martha proudly displayed a basket full of her homemade goodie bags–rounded popcorn balls lovingly laced with peanuts and caramel. They were a frightfully appropriate ensemble to her good-and-plenty personality …

My sister was a gypsy and I was a clown. At least we were dressed that way in our store-bought costumes. When we arrived at Martha’s door, she cooed and gave us each a warm hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a delectable goodie-bag. But Martha insisted on one more favor from me in exchange for her hallowed treats … Specifically, Martha requested I execute a few somersaults in my clown costume and take a tumble across her floor.

Somehow my sister got off the hook without any gypsy magic. But of course–being a four-year-old people pleaser in training, fake circus clown and aspiring extrovert to boot–I was up for Martha’s challenge. Without hesitating, I peeled off my clown mask, hunkered down in a tight squat, tucked in my chin, and rolled across Martha’s sculpted living room carpet. In turn, she let our a piercing southern squeal and clapped her hands with her faux-bejeweled bracelets jangling a tune as accompaniment …

Fortunately, none of the additional treats I accumulated that night required an encore performance of my acrobatic acumen. I was done with all that cavorting for candy. In the end, no harm was done in October 1961. I got my hard-earned sweets, Martha got her somersaults, and I was fully inoculated for the next Halloween night on the town. It made me as happy as a clown should be.”



2 thoughts on “Somersaulting for Martha

  1. This was one of your most fun reminiscences in Tales From a Roller Coaster Operator. When trick-or-treaters come to our door, should we ask them to do somersaults on the lawn?


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