Three Rivers, 9.1

Ninth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

9. Big Blue “Like” Button

The world is full of clowns, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a happy place. On the weekend that the clown convention was in town, Malcolm Mignon was facing his own sadness. It was the anniversary of the night his wife left him, five years ago, with two babies under the age of three.


“Too soft,” she said. “It’s like living with a marshmallow. I need an edge.”

And she was gone.


His mom, Esmeralda, took them in, and a few years later, his newly divorced sister Mariana joined them with her two kids. Now they all lived together in the big red corner house, four kids, three adults, plus Malcolm’s younger sister, Gloriana, wild and ornery at sixteen.

Malcolm liked his kid sister, even if she was snarling most of the time. He could cut her some slack–it wasn’t easy finding the privacy a teen girl needed with siblings and nieces and nephews in every corner of the house.


Still, there was a lot to like about the arrangement, for Malcolm, at least. Mariana, for one thing, had always been his main champion, as he’d been hers, and being able to keep her smiling every day gave him a reason not to sink too low when the blues paid a visit.


It was hard not to like living in a house full of kids, even if that meant he had to wait until they were all at school or in bed at night to get the bathroom to himself.


Sometimes, even Gloriana would manage to shelve her attitude, and then watching her show her nieces what it meant to be an intelligent young woman made it all worthwhile.


On that anniversary weekend, Malcolm needed to get away for a while. He left the kids with his mom, and headed out to the Blue Velvet.

It couldn’t be a good omen to find one of the convention clowns shuffling his sorry feet out of the bar as he arrived.


Another off-duty clown frowned behind the bartender.

“Thought you dudes were supposed to bring happiness,” Malcolm muttered.

“Happiness is over-rated,” said the clown. “We’re trading in the pathos commodities.”


The afternoon slid into the evening, and, with the departure of the clown, the night began to look up.

Alec Dolan, taking a break from the campaign trail, was there with his buddy and chief political rival Huntington.


“I like this,” Malcolm said, “Guys’ night out. We don’t need the women for a good time, eh?”

Alec looked at him and muttered something noncommittal in French.

“I’m just saying,” Malcolm said.


The next morning, the kids were already up when Malcolm came downstairs.

This was the hardest time for him, when Beau and Sasha were cuter than potatoes and it looked on the outside like a happy family. It stabbed him to think that she was missing out on this, that she chose to miss out on this. Who would leave these two kiddos of their own accord?

He hated thinking it, but sometimes, he thought it would be easier if he was a widower. At least then, it would’ve been something that couldn’t have been prevented. Now, on mornings like this, he buttered his toast with “What ifs.”


In the other room, his mom was telling Gloriana and his niece Sarah some story with a moral. He could always tell when it was one of his mom’s Lesson Stories–they all began with “When a person wants…” and ended with “so that’s why.”


He liked her stories, though, even the ones he knew by heart. And he shouldn’t complain about having a storyteller for a mother, not since she’d been the inspiration for his own career as an assistant editor.

And Sasha! She came by all her gifts as a storyteller naturally. Now her stories never carried a hidden moral or a lesson. He liked that.

“Young pirate Bobson climbed up into the crow’s nest,” she continued, “and what should he see? Not one but five whales, each one bigger than the last! But that wasn’t all, the whole Spanish Armada was surfing in their wake!”


She kept him chuckling for a good long time, that daughter of his did.


Esmeralda always told him, “Son, not to worry. Do you know what makes a child grow happy and strong? It’s love. It’s not having both parents there. It’s being surrounded by love.”

When he stepped outside that Sunday morning, with the trees shining down their pink petals, and the air smelling like fresh rain on the pavement, Malcolm thought maybe his mom was right.

And if he could find someone else to make a little love with, then there’d be that much more love around his children’s home.


It took a clown to bring his hopes crashing back down headfirst into the sidewalk.

He liked her first joke just fine: “Sartre was sitting in a cafe when a waitress approached. ‘Can I get you something to drink, Monsieur Sartre?’ He replied, ‘Yes, I’d like a cup of coffee with sugar, but no cream.’ With a nod the waitress walked off to fill the order. A few minutes later, however, the waitress returned and said, ‘I’m sorry, Monsieur Sartre, we are all out of cream–how about with no milk?'”

When he chuckled, she dug in, and what followed was a barrage of the saddest stories he’d ever heard, and the one the broke him down was a report she’d read in the news that morning predicting the extinction of the monarch butterfly.

“They all leave,” she said. “One way or another, every thing of beauty will leave.”


He felt foolish, being moved by a clown’s sad stories. He’d read this was the convention’s challenge–see how many folks they could break down. It was sort of the opposite of a laugh-in. “The real challenge,” read the convention brochure, “for the sons and daughters of Pulcinello is to stir all of the emotions.”

He ran into Alec, who was scheduled to give a speech at the park later that morning.


Malcolm tried out the joke about Sartre.

“Ah! Out of cream! Yes! I get it. Wait. This is funny? And what other jokes did you hear?”


When Malcolm explained about the monarchs,  Alec grew serious.

“This, I know,” he said. “I have spoken with the researchers. Yes! You did not know I was with the Greens, did you? I am the candidate!” Alec explained their plan to protect the green spaces throughout the Three Rivers region. “It is the milkweed. That is what these monarchs rely on. My friend Huntington, he does not care about the milkweed! But you trust us! Vote Green and you will see! We will put extinction on the extinction list! That, mon ami, is a prediction!”

Malcolm smiled. He liked Alec and Alec’s passion for the environment.

“Look there,” Alec said, pointing at a happy blue clown walking down the sidewalk. “Not all clowns are sad! That particular clown! I know her! That is Arianna Fuchs, the wife of my campaign finance manager, Janet Fuchs! Oh, yes! We Greens are very progressive!”

Malcolm had to laugh. He liked this blue clown, the wife of the progressive campaign manager!


He liked, also, a beautiful woman in a baseball hat and purple go-go boots who was eating al fresco in the park picnic area.


He tried to think of a joke she might like. Retelling the Sartre joke seemed a little sorry. A funny pick-up line seemed a little too hasty. Fortunately, he was saved from having to come up with anything when she approached him, asking if he could explain what all these mopey clowns were doing around town.


They walked for a bit and talked a lot, until they found Mariana.

“Your brother’s been telling me all about the joys of single-parenting together,” the woman in the baseball hat and purple go-go boots said. “It takes all sorts of shapes to make a family,” she continued. “That’s what I always said.”


Mariana asked if she’d like to join them for supper, but the woman in the baseball cap and purple go-go boots had other things to do. “A date to get ready for,” she said, coyly.

As they watched her walk off, Malcolm sighed. “I kinda liked her,” he said.

“Did you really?” said his sister. “She looked like she kinda liked you back.”

“Just kinda,” said Malcolm. The sun was nearly setting. “Hey. I nearly got through the weekend. Another year.”

“You’re a good man, big brother,” Mariana said. “Be here for me when my weekend comes around, will you?”


And they walked together, across the street and into the big red corner house, where Esmeralda was dishing up big plates of spaghetti for each member of the family.

Three Rivers 4.1

Fourth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

4. The honeybee visits the clover flower


Sasha Mignon’s grandmother Esmeralda met her on the path when she came home from school.

“This is a big day!” said Esmeralda. “I just got a call from your daddy, and he got a big promotion at work. We’re going to celebrate!”

“Yay for Daddy!” said Sasha. “Will you make his favorite cake?”


“I would,” said Esmeralda, “but I’m completely out of currants. I thought I’d make brownies, instead.”

“But it won’t be a proper party without Dad’s favorite cake!” Sasha said, imaging the round sweet loaf that her grandma made, fragrant with cinnamon, nutmeg, and tiny Zante currants. “I’ll fetch some from the store for you!”


Esmeralda handed Sasha a few bills, and off Sasha ran, down the street and to the Mercantile.


Sasha felt the full import of the task. What an auspicious day! Her daddy had been working very hard, and every morning when he’d left, he’d say, “Maybe today will be the day!” and now, today was the day, and her daddy was now assistant editor! What an important daddy.


Sasha practiced what she would say to the lady at the cash register. “Half a pound of Zante currants, please.” And if she tried to sell her raisins instead, she would say, “No thank you. The recipe requires currants. Zante, please. Thank you.”


But when she said that, the lady said, “We’re all out of currants today, Sasha. We’re expecting them in the delivery tomorrow. Will raisins do?”

“No,” Sasha replied.


“Well, can we think of any place else that might have them?” the lady asked.

Sasha thought.

“Yes!” she said, remembering where else she’d had currants. “That’s perfect! There is someplace else!”


And off she ran.

“Thank you!” she said as she left the store.

Just as she reached the corner, she hopped onto the streetcar. She had a token left over from the weekend when her family had ridden the streetcar to the park. She had to ride all the way to the end of the line, and when she hopped out, there it was! Johnny’s Café!


Every time she came here, Moira, that’s the barrista, gave her a special Zante currant muffin. It was perfect, every time, with the tiny sweet currants distributed through the whole muffin so each bite had bursts of sweetness.

“Only Zante currants will do!” Moira said, every time, so Sasha knew that Moira understood about currants and raisins.


“What brings you here by yourself so late at night?” Moira said.

“Currants,” said Sasha, and she explained all about how it was her dad’s special day because of the long-awaited promotion and about how the Mercantile was out of Zante currants and how she took the streetcar all the way to the end of the line and so now, here she was!

“But we don’t have them for selling,” Moira said. “Only for baking.”

“Well, we’re baking,” said Sasha.


At last they struck a deal. Moira’s shift had long been over and she was eager to leave, but Marcus, who was to take over the next shift, was still at the gym. If Sasha would fetch Marcus and bring him back, so Moira could leave for the evening, she would sneak her a cupful of currants from the supply room.

That would work!

So Sasha headed across the street and down the corner to the big square building with glass windows on the edge of the water to find Marcus.


He sauntered in as if he had all the time in the world.

“You’re supposed to be at work!” said Sasha.


“Are you my mama?” Marcus said.


And Sasha explained all about the Mercantile being sold out of Zante currants and not expecting them until tomorrow and raisins not doing it, and her daddy’s big promotion and no celebration for her daddy is a party without Zante currant cake and the deal she worked out with Moira whereby if Marcus goes to work, like he’s supposed to, then she’ll get the cupful of currants for Gram’s famous Zante currant cake.


It was a deal, and Marcus and Sasha walked back together.

“I got him!” Sasha said.


Moira strolled back to the supply room to fetch the Zante currants.

Mission accomplished! Sasha thought about how happy Gram would be to pour the currants into the batter, stirring them so that each bite would have five currants or more! She thought about her daddy’s big smile as he sat down to a plate of Zante currant cake. That would help him know just how proud they all were of him!


“How are you getting home?” Moira asked Sasha as she handed her the white paper bag full of Zante currants.

“The streetcar,” said Sasha.

“But the last streetcar left half an hour ago! I’ll drive you. Come on!”


When they pulled up to her street, Sasha saw with worry that all the streetlights were on. Gram and her daddy had a rule that she and all the kids had to be inside or in the yard, at the very least, when the street lights came on. And here she was, just getting home now!

Maybe they hadn’t noticed. She was sure that they would be so busy with Daddy’s party that they wouldn’t even notice that she was gone. That was a sure thing, for there’d be balloons to blow up and paper decorations to cut and hang, and special party dance music records to select, and tables to set, and then fancy clothes to put on. For sure, no one will have noticed that she wasn’t back yet.


“Where have you been, child?” her aunt Gloriana yelled when she walked up to the house. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you! We’ve been worried sick!”

And even her brother Beau scowled.


“You’re here! You’re home safe!” said her aunt Mariana, pulling her into a big hug. “Oh, baby! Don’t worry us like that again!”

“Told you she’d be OK,” said her cousin Steward.


Sasha explained all about her errand and how she had found the Zante currants, after all, so now they could have the party, just like they planned.

“That’s great, honeybee,” said Aunt Mariana. “But you need to know that you’re way more important than any cake or any currants! If you ever are in a situation where you think you need to take off on your own like that, you stop and think again. What’s most important is you being safe and making smart decisions, OK?”


“There’s my little Sasha bee!” said Esmeralda, as she came around the corner and wrapped her granddaughter into a big hug.

“Did I do something wrong, Gram?” asked Sasha.

“Well,” said Esmeralda, “Let’s just say you had a learning experience and you put us through a world of worry while you did so. We’ll talk about it more in the morning, ok? For now, let’s get those cakes made!”