Share Button

The Magic Racing Car

It was more than two weeks since Chuck broke his leg. What a summer! He couldn't go swimming. He couldn't go out and play ball. All he could do was hobble around the house on crutches, or sit outside on the front porch and watch the other kids having fun.

It wasn't too bad at first. His mother fixed special treats for him and played games with him during the day. In the evenings his father always had something interesting to do. But then his father went away on a business trip, and his mother was too busy to spend much time with Chuck any more. Watching TV and reading all day got boring after a while.

Chuck's father was coming home at last, that afternoon. When he came in the door, he was loaded with packages. "Look what I've brought you," he said.

There were puzzles and games and books. But what Chuck liked best was a set of little model racing cars hardly bigger than a matchbox. They had tiny motors that could be charged up.

There were things for Chuck's mother, too -- a robe and some scarves made of real silk from China. "Oh, what a shame!" she exclaimed suddenly. "One of the scarves has a tear in it." She held up a purple scarf to the light, and a jagged rip could be seen, streaking across one end.

"Could I have that one, Mom?" Chuck asked.

"Of course," his mother replied. So Chuck took all his new toys and the purple scarf to his room. The afternoon sun was shining in through the window. Chuck spread the scarf out in front of the window. Everything in the room was covered with a strange purple glow.

"Hey, that looks neat," Chuck thought. So he got out some thumbtacks and tacked the scarf up in place over the window.

Chuck had a great time all that evening, playing with his new toys -- especially the racing cars. As he watched them zoom across the floor, he could imagine that he was riding in one of them, speeding to the finish line. It would be great to be able to go racing along, instead of hobbling around on crutches.

That night, just on the dot of midnight, Chuck awoke suddenly. Moonlight was shining in through the scarf over the window, and the room was filled with purple light. In a pool of light on the floor was one of the racing cars. Something was moving beside it. It was a large cricket, tapping the hood of the car with its feelers.

Chuck slid out of bed as quietly as he could and moved closer. The purple moonlight beamed down on him. Suddenly Chuck cried out. He felt as though he was falling. Then -- he blinked in surprise. The racing car was beside him, and it was just the right size for him to ride in. And the cricket -- it was a monster! How had they grown so big?

Chuck looked up at the roam around him and stumbled backward with a startled yelp. The bed and the chest of drawers were like cliffs, towering above him. The window looked a mile away. The car and the cricket hadn't grown at all. It was Chuck who had shrunk!

The cricket tapped chuck lightly on the arm with one if its feelers. Then it tapped the seat of the car and nodded at Chuck.

Chuck climbed into the car and reached over to flip on the switch. Zoom! The car shot out along the floor. The cricket leaped along beside it - it wanted to race! Air rushed past Chuck's face. He felt as if he was going a hundred miles an hour!

Watch out! Chuck spun the wheel just in time to steer around the chair leg. Now the wall was looming up ahead. Chuck turned the wheel hard, and the car swung around, missing the wall with just a quarter of an inch to spare. Now the car zoomed back across the floor.

Chuck was pulling ahead now. And when he reached the end of the bed and switched off the motor, he had beaten the cricket by a full two lengths.

The cricket stopped by the car to rest. Then, after a few minutes, he tapped Chuck on the shoulder with his feelers and chirped.

"You want another race?" Chuck asked. "Look," he pointed. "Let's start over there by the door and go all the way around the room by the walls."

The cricket nodded, and hopped over to take his position at the starting point. Chuck drove over to join him. Then he yelled, "GO!" and started up his motor again. On they went around the room. First Chuck was in the lead. Then the cricket put on a burst of speed and leaped over Chuck's head.

Suddenly the cricket stopped short. He chirped in alarm. A mouse had popped out of a crack in the woodwork. It was towering over Chuck and the cricket. It opened its mouth, and moonlight glittered on its teeth. It was going to eat the cricket!

"Hey!" yelled Chuck. He zoomed ahead and crashed straight into the mouse. The mouse squeaked and leaped into the air. Then it dove down into its hole and disappeared.

The cricket looked at Chuck for a moment and touched him gently with both its feelers. Then it turned, and with a nod that seemed to say. "Come on!" it bounded off again.

Chuck and the cricket raced on. Sometimes the cricket won, and sometimes Chuck won. But then the room began to grow dark. The moon was setting. Suddenly the seat of the car seemed tight to Chuck. He climbed out and bent over to look at it. He blinked in surprise. The car looked so tiny. Chuck was big again. And the cricket was gone. Rubbing his eyes, Chuck stumbled back to his bed. In a minute he was asleep.

The next day Chuck was sure it was all a dream. But that night, he awoke again, just as the moon was rising. Sure enough, the cricket was waiting for him. In an instant, Chuck was just the right size for the racing car. They had an exciting time, but again it ended when the moon went down.

Each night for the next three weeks, Chuck was careful to charge up the motor of his racing car before he went to bed and leave it on the floor. And each night he met the cricket in the moonlight. Sometimes they raced. Sometimes they slipped under the door and explored the rest of the house. It was like a new world for Chuck.

But then one evening, when Chuck went up to his room, he noticed that the purple scarf was gone from the window. "Hey, Mom," he called. "What happened to the scarf?"

"Oh, it was filthy!" his mother replied. "I washed it this afternoon. But I'm afraid the dye ran a bit."

She handed Chuck the clean scarf. It was faded and dull. He tacked it up over the window again. But when he woke in the moonlight that night, the strange purple glow was gone. And though he waited and waited, the cricket never came to meet him.

The next morning Chuck woke up with the midmorning sun streaming in the window. "Wake up, sleepyhead," his mother was calling. "Have you forgotten? Today Dr. Peters is going to take the cast off your leg!"


©1973, 2013 The Silversteins