When I was 9 years old I had a favorite TV series. It had human actors and actors in animal suits and funny and educational clips in between. I don’t want to name it because it was a really good show and this story is not at all a fault of the show. I will just call it “The M Show”.
The M Show was running for years and I had been watching it for as long as I can remember. I always sat down, straight after school with my older sister Scarlett and my best friend Brandi, who lived next door.
It was our ritual, every day the three of us sat together – with sweets, if our moms allowed it, or else with apples or grapes – and in the breaks of the show we talked and gossiped about all those important issues in our lives.
Then, I remember it was a warm summer Friday, Scarlett found a prize competition in one of her girl magazines. It asked questions about the show and first prize was a travel with your parents to Disney World. But even better, everybody who sent in the correct answers would become a member of The M Show Club, a fan club for the show. The same day, after watching the M Show, the three of us huddled together on the couch to answer the quiz.
The questions were very hard; they asked details about old episodes of the show. Without Scarlett, Brandi and I would never have managed to answer all the questions.
Scarlett begged our mom for stamps and envelopes and we filled the three envelopes each with a paper with our names and contact details and the answers to the questions. Scarlett even told us to vary our answers slightly so that we wouldn’t be called out for cheating.
The letters were sent off and every day we all rushed to the mailbox to get our The M Show Club badges. When the first snow began to fall we stopped checking the mailbox. Brandi was still passionate about the show and watched it every day, but Scarlett lost interest. When Scarlett stopped watching I too began to skip the show. Brandi still came over, but she was the only one watching. I sat next to her while working my way through Scarlett’s old girl magazines.
It was early spring. I remember there were tulips in our garden and my mom reprimanded me for plucking two to decorate the kitchen table. But right after her lecture she handed me a small square letter with my name printed on it. The back said “Welcome to The M Show Fan Club.”
There was not much in the envelope – only a short leaflet that welcomed me to the club and a small ID card with my name on it, a big logo of the show and in black letters “The M Show Fan Club,” and in the line below, in big black letters, the word “Member.”
Brandi got her envelope the same day. She was glowing with happiness. Scarlett was jealous at first, but two days later she got her envelope too.
From then on, every Friday, each of us received a leaflet about the show with photos and anecdotes and background information on the characters. Occasionally the leaflets also called on the club members to promote the show and to watch out for “The M Show Tour.”
Either way, it worked: We loved the show afterwards. I think from that day on, after I proudly stuffed the membership card in my bag, I didn’t miss a single episode.
Then, in mid-June, we all got two leaflets. The first was the usual one with facts and photos. But the second was an ad:
“The tour bus is in town – this is your chance to become an ‘Elite Member’!”
The bus was coming the next Sunday to our town. We were all allowed to go. We were beyond excited.
The leaflet didn’t have much information and that was before we had a computer at home. The tour bus would arrive at 1pm and the main characters of the show would be there to welcome everybody and play games with us. Those that participated in at least four games would be upgraded to “Elite Member”-status and receive a new, golden membership card.
Those nine days of waiting for “The M Show Tour” were some of the longest in my life. Brandi and Scarlett and I planned every day how we would take photos with each of the characters and then play games with them. I secretly dreamed of beating Scarlett at the “knowledge game”, where our knowledge about the show would be tested.
On Saturday Scarlett went to a birthday-sleepover at one of her friends’ houses. The parents were supposed to bring Scarlett back by 12 on Sunday.
Around 12:30 Brandi came running to our house. She knocked on the back door, like she always did, and I let her in. Brandi was beyond excited; her mom had volunteered to accompany the three of us and she wanted to go early so that we wouldn’t miss anything.
My mom called the house of Scarlett’s friend, but they didn’t pick up their phone. She said that Scarlett would be home soon – early enough to go on time.
At 12:45 Brandi’s mother came over to ask for us. She said that we would have to leave so that the queues wouldn’t be too long. My mom said we should wait for Scarlett, but Brandi threw a tantrum; she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to hug all the characters if we came late.
Brandi’s mom decided to drive. I wanted to come along – but my mother said that she would drive Scarlett and me. I felt like I was being punished for Scarlett’s being late. I begged. I cried.
Nothing helped; Brandi went alone.
Her friends’ parents dropped Scarlett off at 13:40. I was mad at her, but my mom said if I made a scene we wouldn’t go at all. I relented.
We arrived around twenty minutes later at the big parking lot where the bus was scheduled to stop. We saw the crowds from the distance, parked the car and walked over.
I asked my mom where the characters of the show were; she said that they were just behind the crowd.
They all held the “The M Show Tour” flyers, but it looked as if the crowd were mostly parents. They stood in a half-circle towards the edge of the parking lot. Some of them looked concerned, but most of them were laughing and talking.
My mom spotted Brandi’s mother at the other end of the half-circle; we walked over to her. Brandi’s mother was one of the worried ones.
She told us that the bus had been there, together with all the animal figures from “The M Show.” They had a large bus with the “The M Show” logo and they handed out sweets.
One of the animal figures had explained to the parents that they had built a set outside of town where we all could make our own short film with the characters of the show. They said they would drive everybody there.
They took the children first. They were all so excited that few parents objected. Still, three or four parents came along and that calmed the rest. The next bus was supposed to arrive within a few minutes, to bring everyone to the set.
When I heard that I was excited like never before.
I ran to the street to look around so I could be the first on the bus. Scarlett followed me.
I didn’t see the worried expression when Brandi’s mother talked to mine.
I didn’t understand why the police came not even an hour later.
In Monday’s episode of “The M Show” one of the characters came on stage and told us to call our parents to watch the show. Our mom was already sitting with Scarlett and me.
The character said that “The M Show” didn’t have a fan club.
That week Brandi’s parents cried a lot. I was still sure that Brandi was okay, I thought she just had so much fun that she didn’t want to come back.
She must have had a lot of fun; she never came back.
Brandi’s mother cried even more, that Friday, when the small parcel arrived.
There was a new “The M Show Fan Club” membership card for Brandi. It was golden and said “Elite Member” in big, bold letters.
The parcel also contained a video. It was only a minute long; a minute of Brandi at the set of “The M Show.” She was wearing the same dress as when she came over to our house that Sunday morning.
On the video Brandi was smiling; an actor in a big animal suit stood next to her, silently.
“Hi mom, I really like it here,” said Brandi. “I really wish you could be here.”
Then she laughed. “I’m sorry the others were late. I’m sure they would have loved it too.”