by Judith Allen
Our Millie had a happy heart and couldn't understand why other people had missin' smiles.
Our Millie used to say that smilin' can be just like eatin' cotton candy at the circus or seein' a kitten chasin' its tail. It can be something that starts in your heart and reaches all the way to your face, crinklin' up the eyes and turnin' up the mouth. There just ain't nothin' like it, especially on a rainy old day.
In which we meet Mr. Carl Lloyd and his brother, Mr. Frank, with the long sad faces, get a school picture take and go in search of the mysterious missin' smile.
Our Millie had a happy heart. It had always been that way and on this particular school pictured day it was bubblin' over with joy. She felt this feathery sensation strtin' deep in her body, and growin' and ticklin' as it made its way up lookin' for a way to get out. Pretty soon it would reach her mouth and her eyes and come out in a great big smile, and probably a laugh or a giggle to go with it. It made her want to capture all the colors of the rainbow and songs of the birds and hold them in her hands so she could carry them around and share them with everybody in the holler.
When she bounced into the kitchen for breakfast Billy Bug took one look at her face and shouted that everybody better head for cover 'cause Our Millie had been into the Mexican Jumpin' Beans again and they were goin' to just explode out of her mouth at any minute now. Our Millie knew that didn't make any sense. She had never been to Mexico, and if Big Mil saw anything jumpin' in the beans she would have thrown the whole pot out and not let nobody eat them.
It was just her joy inside and as she looked around she saw that other people were catchin' it too. She noticed that Billy Bug was laughin' and Big Mil and Pa were smilin' . It made her feel happier and the bubblin' got even stronger.
There were three things on Our Millie's mind that morning that made her extremely happy and ready to share her bubbly feelin' with everyone she met.
She had gone to the Ringling Brother's Circus when it came to the holler that week. The tent was set up in the big field the Carson Family used as a pasture, but they had moved the cows out and the let the elephants and tigers and lions take over. Grandpa said they probably made more money that one week with that crazy circus than they made all year with the cows anyway. He said he wished he had a big field to rent out. Our Millie was just happy to see them set up the tents, and Billy Bug got a job cleanin' up cow patties and brambles. He said if it had been elephants he could have charged more for his work.
Our Millie and Billy Bug went to the circus every night and ate cotton candy and dreamed about what they would do if they traveled with the Big Top. Billy Bug wanted to train the big cats, and Our Millie could see herself on the flyin' trapeze wearin' a leotard with sparkles and ferathers and bein' so free to move through the air. It wouuld be so excitin' to be caught by the handsome young man on the other trapeze and to get all the applause and cheers from the crowd. Of course, Big Mil wouldn't let her wear a leotard and do any flyin' but this particular morning as she was dressed in her blue and red checked dress with the starched white lace collar, her face scrubbed and hair braided tightly for the school picture, she could see herself in her glittery costume ready to perform for the crowd.
Another thing that made Our Millie happy that day was that she was makin' real progress on that country song she was writin'. She had gotten the chorus down good and just needed the verses. She could just see her Elvis singin' it and bringin' her up on the stage and givin' her a big hug for bein' such a great song writer. She might even go to the Grand Ole Opery Hall of Fame. She would have to think about the verses today, but she wold have plenty of time when everybody was waitin' for the pictures to be taken instead of doin' arithmetic.
The third reason she was bubblin' was that buried in her backpack under her lessons and other books was the latest and best Nancy Drew novel she got from the library. She knew she wasn't supposed to take it to school but Big Mil had beenso busy gettin' everything ready for picture day that she hadn't noticed Our Millie sneakin' it into the bottom of her bag. She might not get to read it, but it made her feel good to know it was there and she could reach into her bag and touch it once in awhile and imagine herself right there with Nancy solvin' all those mysteries.
By the time it was Our Millie's turn to get her picture taken the day had been goin' pretty well, but not quite as good as she had hoped. The lace collar kept scratchin' her neck and her hair was braided so tight that she was havin' a hard time keepin' the image of flyin' through the air in a leotard and glitter. She had been wrackin' her brain for just the right verse for her new country song and couldn't come up with anything except dogs bein' shot and pickup trucks bein' stolen and loves bein' lost, just like every country song she had ever heard. Andy she hadn't had time to even think about the Nancy Drew book and what the next mystery would be.
But there were a few bubbles left and just as Our Millie put on her best school picture smile and hoped it would be better than the one last year, she heard someone behind her say, "I wish I could smile like that." She turned to look, and got yelled at by the photographer for movin', but it was just in time to see Mr. Carl Lloyd speak to his brother Mr. Frank. They had both been teachers at the school for as long as Our Millie could remember,and way before that. It could have even gone back to Big Mil's time. Our Millie took a good look at them and got to thinkin' about all the time she had known them. It occurred to her that they always had long faces, and their smiles never looked like they bubbled at all. Our Millie just couldn't understand that. It was a mystery.
And then it all came together for her. The verse of lthe song kept wantin' to be written and she dasked out of the gym as soon as she could and grabbed some paper from her backpack. Mr. Carl and Mr. Frank's smiles could fit into a country song, which always made her want to cry. There would be so much burblin' over with sorrow in her song that a smile could get lost read easy. Her hand brushed the Nancy Drew book as she got the paper to write her verse and "The Mystery of the Missin" Smile" jumped into her mind. Her eyes widened as she realized she could solve her very own mystery without Nancy, or maybe she would let her help a bit. Then it occurred to her, as her heart began bubblin' again, that if she and Billy Bug invited Mr. Frank Lloyd and his brother Mr. Carl to the last performance of the circus tonight and had them eat cotton candy and told them how she was goin' to be the girl on the flyin' trapeze and Billy Bug was goin' to a big cat tames, they might just get a bubblin' smile, too, and maybe a luaght or a giggle waht would go rught up and crinkle their eyes.