Millie Ann Rosenthal stood just off stage. She was only six years old, but that didn’t stop her from doubting herself, from building panic bridges in her mind that led to nowhere.
She hopped up and down. That didn’t calm her nerves at all.
She flung out her arms and twirled in circles. Mrs. Gerther told her to knock it off.
She paced. That made her nerves scream with anxiety. So, she stopped that too.
“Millie.” Mrs. Gerther scowled. ‘Settle down. Your part’s coming up soon.”
Her stomach clenched like it was full of angry fists. “I’m gonna sick everywhere.”
“You will do no such thing.”
“I have a fever.”
Mrs. Gerther did the fever test. “You’re no warmer than me.”
“I wanna cup of water.”
Mrs. Gerther handed her a readied cup.
Millie looked at the water, devastated with disappointment. All of her usual tactics weren’t working. “I hafta go bathroom.”
“No, you don’t.”
How did she even know that?
Timmy Gerther stomped around the stage, beating his chest with his fists. “But we SHALL not be deFEATed. We SHALL go ON to WIN the DAAAAAY!”
Millie’s oldest sister, Jenna, always said that Timmy was a ham. It was a puzzling statement. Millie sat down and contemplated it. What if he really was a ham instead of a ten year old boy? What would that mean? Was he in disguise? Was he ham from another planet? Most important question of all: Did Timmy Gerther ham even taste good?
Millie shook her head. She really didn’t want to be the person to find out that answer.
“But brotherdearbrotherthechildoracleapproaches.” That was Pete Moore. He didn’t like acting. So, he mumbled all of his lines.
“Brother, I do NOT see ANNNY such MAIDen.”
Mrs. Gerther made panicked gestures to Millie.
Millie folded her arms across her chest. They couldn’t very well force her to go out there.
“I don’ wanna.”
“It’s only one song. You know this song. You can sing the fillings out of its teeth.”
Why did grown-ups say such confusing things?
“Verilysheapproachesbrotherlookseebeyondthatwall.” He cleared his throat. “Thatwall. I said, beyond that wall.”
Millie relented. If she didn’t go out there, poor Pete would be stuck saying that line over and over till he died.
She hopped out of her seat and walked beyond the heavy red curtains.
“Take not the high road.
Take not the low road.”
Timmy didn’t look like ham. But she was not going to take any chances. She stayed in her spot and refused to go anywhere near him. She didn’t like ham or ham juice.
“Take the road in between.
And there your own heart shall be.”
If he were an alien ham, what was he planning to do? Was he a spy? Or was he some sort of general? A general spy?
“If you see the sea beyond the trees
There your own heart shall truly be.”
Or maybe the alien ham took over his mind and was controlling him. Maybe that’s why he spoke that way. Made sense.
“Shed not a tear for the ham that lies.
Weep not for the ham that dies.”
Wait. Ham? Was she really saying the word ham out loud? It must the ham inside Timmy trying to control her.
“Weep not for the ham that lies beyond the sea.”
What? More ham! This needed to stop.
And Millie could see only one way to stop it.
She approached Timmy all the while singing,
“For where your ham is there your heart shall be.
And if you find your heart your ham shall be free.”
She balled up her hand and offered up apology prayers to Mrs. Gerther.
Timmy stuck his hands on his hips and puffed out his chest. Somehow. Millie was convinced it was the ham trying to escape.
“InDEED. She is WISE, but NONE is AS wise AS I!”
It had to be done. Otherwise the ham would take over the world.
She punched him hard across the face. “Take that, you stinky ham!”
The audience erupted into applause.
Mrs. Gerther ran out to rescue her son.
Millie looked out on the crowd and wallowed in their approval.
Only they understood why she had to do it.