| Breakthrough |

Cold Bucket of Water   

“Ladies and Gentleman, children of all ages — it is my pleasure to welcome you tonight to the circus!”


"I’m really gonna miss you boys over Pesach vacation,” said Rebbi. “Just to make sure you keep your heads in the sugya, we’re going to arrange chavrusas over the break and have a little quiz when we return…”

“You’re gonna be my chavrusa, Seffie, right?” I turned to the desk behind me and tried to snag Yosef Shwartz — one of the best learners in my class, as my vacation chavrusa.

“Huh?” Seffie looked away from rebbi and looked at me. I also noticed Rebbi giving me a look. I have this little problem — I sometimes interrupt people.

“I asked,” I repeated, turning to Seffie again, now that Rebbi had stopped talking, “if you could be my chavrusa over Pesach vacation?”

“Sure. I’d love to. If you could just tell me which material the quiz is going to be on,” Seffie said with a note of irritation in his voice. “Someone was talking to me when Rebbi said what it would be.”

Oh, I guess that would be me. We found out which material the test was going to be on from another boy in our class and agreed to learn every day right after Shacharis.

When I got home, Ima and Abba were sitting at the kitchen table discussing something that looked very important, because they were leaning forward and talking quietly. I bet they’re discussing our Chol Hamoed surprise trip, I thought to myself.

Every year we spend Chol Hamoed visiting relatives, but my parents always choose one day to take us on a trip. To add to the fun, they never tell us which day, or where we’re going.

I walked up to my parents. “I know the Chol Hamoed trip is usually a surprise, but I have a chavrusa every day with Seffie Shwartz, so I need to tell him which day we can’t learn.”

Both my parents looked up at me, surprised. “Oh, we didn’t notice you come home, Eli. We were just in the middle of discussing something,” Ima said.

She didn’t say anything else, but I could tell she was disappointed I’d interrupted again. Honestly, it’s a little embarrassing. I’m not a little kid anymore. I know it’s rude. I don’t mean to interrupt; I just somehow end up doing it over and over again.

My parents assured me I would still have time for my chavrusa before we needed to leave on the day of our surprise trip. Wednesday of Chol Hamoed we found ourselves pulling up in front of a big circus tent!

After we found our seats, the ringmaster — a man in a sparkly black tuxedo and tall black hat — walked out in front of the audience holding a microphone in one hand and a baton in the other.

“Ladies and Gentleman, children of all ages — it is my pleasure to welcome you tonight to the circus!”

He began telling us about the elephants that were about to perform the first act. He told of the brave men in the jungles of Asia, selecting the smartest, most talented elephants. Suddenly, a clown appeared out of nowhere and dumped a bucket of water on the ringmaster’s head. Everyone burst out laughing. The ringmaster threw the mic into the air and chased after the clown, waving his baton, as the elephants walked in. The first elephant was holding the mic in his trunk! We all laughed again. The elephants were wearing giant pink tutus and danced to ballet music. It was hysterical!

After the elephants came tigers and their trainer. He made the tigers roar and do tricks like jumping through hoops, and he even stuck his head inside their mouths! I was so scared, I didn’t want to look, but I also couldn’t stop looking! Then there were jugglers and acrobats. I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage. When the lights went down after the magician, I leaned over to Ima and told her this was one of the best trips we’ve had and thanked her. She kissed me and told me she was glad I was enjoying it.

When the lights went back on, there was a tightrope stretched across the circus ring very high up near the top of the tent. The ringmaster had the mic again (he must’ve gotten it back from the elephant).

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is a very dangerous act. Our tightrope walkers need complete concentration to balance on the thin rope. I ask you all to remain completely silent.”

The men on the rope did handstands and put chairs on their chins as they walked across. I realized that I was holding my breath. I wonder how scared the men up on the rope were.

The lights went off again and the ringmaster started talking very quietly and seriously.

“Again, ladies and gentlemen, our tightrope walkers are about to perform some very delicate maneuvers. Please be especially careful not to startle them.”

When the lights came back on there were two men on either end of the rope and they were both holding swords. In the middle of the rope there was a small platform with a black tent standing on it. You could feel the suspense as the two men with the swords started walking toward each other, balancing the swords in all sorts of scary ways — like standing on one foot, while they held their other foot up behind them and balanced the swords on the soles of their feet. Then they each kicked their foot up and caught the sword in their hand. I was holding my breath when all of sudden, out of nowhere — the black tent flew off the rope, and standing there on the platform was the same clown from the beginning of the show! And he was holding a bucket.

While the ringmaster was standing under the rope, still imploring the audience to be completely silent, the clown dumped out the bucket right over his head!

The audience was roaring with laughter. It must have been planned, but that ringmaster must be a good actor because he looked like he was really angry! I guess the tightrope walkers were expecting it — they didn’t fall off.

Some other clowns appeared from the side of the tent carrying a giant trampoline which they put under the rope. The clown jumped down and landed on the trampoline. The ringmaster tried to swing at him with his baton, but the clown bounced up really high above where the ringmaster was swinging. Every time the ringmaster struck out at the clown, the clown bounced out of the way. Then he ran off the trampoline as the ringmaster chased him out of the tent.

I was so busy watching the clown and the ringmaster I forgot to watch how the tightrope walkers got down. Next thing I knew the two of them were standing on solid ground holding their swords and bowing as the crowd burst into applause.

While we were still applauding the tightrope walkers, five men in bright red and gold outfits marched in. Two of them held their hands together under the front edge of the trampoline while the others stepped onto them to do all kinds of fancy flips onto the trampoline. Then those two also ended up on the trampoline.

At first I tried to pay attention to what they were doing so I could try it out on our trampoline at home, but it was way too complicated. Arms and legs were flying in all directions. There were bars swinging above the trampoline on either side. Using more fancy flips, the men jumped up to the bars. While they were flying through the air between the two swinging bars, other men dressed in plain black moved the trampoline.

The trapeze artists (which is what those men flying back and forth on the swings are called) were my favorite.

When the ringmaster came out again he looked completely dry (I guess he has a few of the same tuxedos). I was disappointed to hear him say, “Thank you so much for coming this evening…” Aw. It was over already. I’d had so much fun; I didn’t want it to end. But then I noticed the same clown off to the side. And he was holding the same bucket… Even though I knew what was coming, I couldn’t help laughing. But I was wrong.

As the clown snuck up on the ringmaster from behind, the ringmaster reached out and in one swoop, dumped the water over the clown, leaving the bucket on the clown’s head! I was laughing so hard my sides hurt.

As we walked out to the car, I was surprised to see it had gotten dark while we were inside the circus tent. We were all talking at once, saying what our favorite parts were. I figured no one could make fun of me for interrupting, since everyone was interrupting everyone else.

“I’m so happy you all had such a nice time. But maybe you can take turns talking so Ima and I can actually hear what you’re saying,” Abba said as we all climbed into the car.

“Hey, Eli — did you notice it was always the clown who interrupted with his bucket of water? So, I guess that makes you a clown,” my older brother Shmuli said to me.

Well, silly me. Older brothers can always make fun of you. But I guess that’s what it’s like when I interrupt — kind of like dumping water on someone’s head. I don’t want people to think I’m a clown who always interrupts others. I was quiet the whole ride home.

I guess Ima noticed I got quiet because she sat down to talk to me in the kitchen while she sent the younger kids to get into pajamas.

“I’m not so sure your problem is interrupting, Eli.”

“It’s not?” I was a little confused. Everyone knows I interrupt.

“Eli, let’s imagine for a moment that instead of a bucket of water, the clown had a bucket filled with good quality wine. Do you think he would go around dumping it on people’s heads?”

“I guess not. It would be too expensive to waste like that.” I saw a smile light up Ima’s face as I spoke. I was still confused. But then I got it too, and I also smiled.

“If I think that I have something valuable to say — I won’t waste it interrupting?”

“Well,” said Ima, “you already know you sometimes miss important information — like what material is going to be on a test — when you interrupt, and you also know it’s not nice. But it’s not only that — if someone is in the middle of speaking, then they’re not really listening to you either. Maybe if you felt like you were saying something valuable, you would wait till someone was paying attention before you blurted out whatever is on your mind.”

I waited till Ima was finished speaking, since I had something very important to tell her. “Thanks for such a fun day. I love you,” I said, and I kissed her goodnight on my way to bed.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 854)

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