Jonathan Knight, Grade 6, submitted this winning entry in our recent Short Story Contest:
Duke loved going to the circus. He loved watching the acrobats, the fire-eaters, and the elephants, but the one thing he always looked forward to was the lion! It was his dream to be a lion trainer, but his mother would never let him. "It's too dangerous," she would say. "And you have to go to school." But that didn't stop Duke from sneaking backstage one Saturday to see the lions.
The show was over, and the circus performers were packing up. “Excuse me,” he timidly said to the leader.
“Whoa, you lost or something?” asked the surprised leader.
“Um,” paused Duke, choosing his words wisely, “No, I want to be a part of the circus… as a trainer.”
Musing, the leader replied, “Oh, I see. First can you tell me your name?”
“My name is Duke,” Duke, replied with triumph. “I want to train lions.”
“Ok,” replied the leader even more interested. “You can call me Mr. James. You are a very unique soul I do believe, and we are in need of lion trainers. For some reason, we go through them quickly, but I think you might last longer.” Duke’s heart leapt for joy!
“Thank you so much, Mr. James. I will not forget this any time soon!”
Mr. James led Duke into a back room, where several caged lions paced while staring at strips of meat hanging from the wall opposite of each cage. Nearby, stood a startled one-armed man.
“Daniel, how are you? Don’t be so surprised! I have hired a very special new trainer. Would you be willing to work with him?” questioned Mr. James.
“Sure thing, boss,” replied Daniel nervously. “Um…come here, Duke.”
The lions stopped their pacing to stare suspiciously at the newcomer.
Learning the basics of training a lion came pretty easily to Duke. Mainly, if the lion does what you want, give it a piece of meat, but always pull your hand away quickly. Everyone noticed that Duke seemed to have a gift for keeping the lions subdued.
That evening, Duke raced home. Barging inside, he immediately noted bananas on the table and his mother’s interrogation in his future.
“Why are you home so late?” She bellowed, “I thought you were trapped!”
“Look, Mom, you are not going to like this but, I got a job with the circus. I’m a lion trainer now.” He blurted it out quickly and even beat his chest with pride. That explanation didn’t seem to help his mother’s mood. She fainted right into the bananas. “Sorry,” he moaned.
The next day, Duke arrived early at Kitty’s cage. Kitty was a female lion that Duke was assigned to for training.
“How did it go?” Duke’s mother later questioned him. Duke relayed to her the whole story of the training process. She had made her peace with his new job.
The next few weeks were the best of Duke’s life. One day, Kitty was scheduled to perform against other lions for a grand prize of $500.00. Kitty did so well that the judges decided that Duke and Kitty were the winners! Duke, the talking gorilla, immediately became famous across the country.
~ Jonathan Knight, Grade 6 - Dubai, UAE
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