This story takes place near the end of tenth grade, late May to early June 1998.

Panicking and Prize Winning
A Carlson Septuplets Story

"Yep, I'm going to Redcove Middle School's band concert at the Westfield Recreation Center tonight," Monica's friend Elizabeth answered after Monica asked her about it. "I have to. My brother's in it."

Monica was slightly upset. "I was all set to bake my pie this afternoon for the Cooking Contest this evening until they had to postpone it for the band concert," she complained. The Cooking Contest which Monica was entering had been scheduled at the Rec Center until the school bands had suddenly taken first priority. The sixth, seventh, and eighth grade bands were too large to fit in little Redcove's gym. The Redcove administrators had initially planned to have the concert outside, but it was supposed to rain that night.

"When we were in eighth grade, we had the concert inside 'cause it rained that year too, remember?" Elizabeth reminded her. "And they did tell you that there was a possibility of this happening."

"It rained every year," Monica remembered. "It always rains for the End-of-the-Year concert. I don't know why I didn't expect it! But our band was small enough to fit inside Redcove! Only in the last two years have they had to kick people out of the Rec Center on such short notice. What's annoying, though, is that they still haven't let us know which day the contest will be. All we know is that it's going to be next weekend. The Rec Department and the Cooking Contest officials haven't told us yet whether it's going to be on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday."

"Don't worry, you'll probably get a flyer in the mail this week about it," Elizabeth said.


The next Monday was Memorial Day, so there was no mail. On Tuesday, Monica got her flyer in the mail just as Elizabeth had predicted.

"Oh no!" Monica cried when she got it. "I was afraid this would happen. Look what day it's on!" She showed the flyer to Megan and Meredith who were standing around nearby.

"Saturday, June 6th," Megan read. "What's wrong with that?"

"The Story Club meeting is that day!" Monica explained.

"Oh. Yeah," Megan remembered. Besides Monica, she was also in the Story Club along with Mary and Meredith and many of their friends. Most of them were just regular members, but Monica was the vice president.

"I have to run that meeting! I'm in charge that day!" Monica panicked.

"Calm down, Monica," Meredith said. "Why doesn't Zoe just run the meetings as usual? She's the president!"

"That's just it," Monica said. "Zoe can't run the meeting that day 'cause her parents scheduled them to go visit their grandparents that weekend. So I have to be there that day!"

"Since Zoe's the president, why don't her parents just let her run the meeting and then they can go visit their grandparents some other weekend? Like maybe after summer vacation starts in a few weeks?" Meredith suggested.

"Don't think she hasn't tried to get them to do that," Monica said. "But her parents are being unreasonable."

Meredith shrugged. "Well, someone else can run the meeting if you're not going to be there. The secretary or someone like that. It's not a huge deal."

"It wouldn't normally be, but don't you remember what this meeting is?"

"No...." Meredith didn't remember.

"Oh, I know," Megan said. "It's picking the 'Best Story' winners and selecting stories to send to that magazine."

"Yeah," Monica said. "And it's also the preparation and organizing for the Club's End-of-the-Year Party!"

"Oh...." Meredith said. "Yes, that does sound like an important meeting. Well, I'm sure you'll work something out. I won't be able to be there that day, 'cause I have to go to a CAL meeting, but Megan will, right, Megan?" Megan nodded and Meredith continued. "Or Mary, I think she'll be there too. And you never really answered about the secretary; couldn't we have that person run it?"

"We don't have a secretary," Monica pointed out.

"Oh." Meredith shrugged a third time.

"I am in too many activities!" Monica said. "What am I going to do?"


Monica had already decided before the band concert what she would make for the cooking concert: her own special Cinnamon Spice Pie. It was an apple pie but it had lots and lots of cinnamon and other spices and it was always a hit when Monica made it for family or friends. On the Friday evening before the Cooking Contest, she prepared and baked her pie. The whole house smelled like cinnamon. Molly smelled it as she came in from the back porch, where she had been putting together a Science Fair project.

"Hey, is that Cinnamon Spice Pie?" Molly asked. "I want some when it's done!"

"Sorry, Molly, it's for the Cooking Contest tomorrow."

Molly glanced at her. She had forgotten about Monica's contest. "That's tomorrow?"


"Where is it?"

"It'll be at the Rec Center," Monica explained.

"What!? That's where the Science Fair is!" Monica wasn't the only Sept entering a contest. Molly was entering the annual Science Fair that would be held the same day, at the same place.

"What do you mean? They told me that's where the Cooking Contest was!!"

"They couldn't both be there at the same time," Molly reasoned. "Or could they? I don't think there's enough room!"

"Well, maybe one of us has the date wrong. But I got a flyer that specifically said Saturday, June 6th."

"Let's call the Rec Center and see," Molly suggested. She pulled the Westfield Community Directory out of one of the kitchen drawers, found the number, picked up the phone and called. "Hello," she said to the receiver after a moment, "I was just calling to check on the dates for some upcoming events. Could you tell me when the Science Fair will be?" She paused to listen and write something down on a piece of scrap paper. "Oh, okay. And when will the Cooking Contest be?" Another pause and more writing. "But that's at the same time...." More listening. "Oh, okay. Right. Thank you. Bye."

"What did they say?" Monica asked.

"The Science Fair is tomorrow, Saturday the sixth. It's in the Rec Center gym, from 12 PM through 6 PM. The Cooking Contest is tomorrow too, and it's also in the gym, from 3 PM through 8 PM."

"They're both in the gym from 3 'till 6! How are they going to fit everyone?"

"They told me that they had to put both of them in the gym because the only other room is the multi-purpose room, which isn't big enough for either contest, and besides that there's a parenting class in that room all morning and dance and art classes in there all afternoon and evening. They think they can fit both groups in the gym, but it will be crowded. We also have to share the basement room with the sinks and the stoves and microwaves for getting things set up."

"Why couldn't they just schedule one of them for some other weekend?" Monica wondered.

"They explained that too. They said that this is the last weekend for their Spring Program and they have to fit everything in before the the summer session starts. There're special programs next weekend and the weekend after that there's a craft show. So they had to have both of them on Saturday. This Sunday is all full too."

"Oh, great," Monica said. "No offense, Molly, but I don't think I want to eat stuff that is in the same room as some of your chemical stuff."

"No offense taken," Molly said. "I don't really want to be in the same room as your messy cooking stuff either, especially with the larger crowd it draws. Too bad it rained the night of the band concert! Otherwise this wouldn't have happened."

Monica nodded. Then the timer on the oven went off and Monica took her golden brown pie out of the oven.

"Hey, are you sure I can't have some of that?" Molly asked.

"You can have some tomorrow. I mean, you'll be right there."


Monica still had no idea what she was going to do about the Story Club and the Cooking Contest overlapping. All Friday evening (after she had baked her pie) and all Saturday morning she spent frantically calling Story Club members and seeing if anyone knew what was going on and if anyone could take over the meeting for her.

Michelle noticed how frantic she was; she was mildly amused by it. "Hey, Monica," she said, hanging up as if she had just been talking to someone. "Aren't you in some sort of art club contest coming up too?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Well, the person in charge of it just called and said that it was rescheduled for Saturday evening," Michelle said, trying to keep a straight face.

"WHAT?! You have got to be kidding!"

"Actually, I am." Michelle laughed. "No one called. Don't worry about it." She grinned.

Monica frowned. "Ha ha. Very funny."

Megan walked into the room just as Monica had finished calling just about everyone else in the Story Club. She was really getting desperate for someone to take over the Club for today; she had to be at the Cooking Contest in half an hour to set up. "Megan!" Monica cried. "You're not doing anything today, are you?"

"No, I wasn't planning on it. Except maybe dropping by the Story Club meeting for a while, even though I don't have a story being considered for publication or any awards or anything. Why do you ask?"

"'Cause I just appointed you secretary of the Story Club. You get to lead the meeting!"

"Me?!" Megan cried. "No way! Not me! I don't wanna be in charge! I'm not the in-charge type! Can't you get someone else to do it? Can't you call anyone else?"

"I just called everyone else. No one can do it, or else they just refused."

"Well, I'm just refusing too. What about Meredith?"

"She's at her drama club right now."

"Well, the Child Actors' League meets at the theater in town. It's sorta near the Rec Center. Why don't you go down there and force her to do it?" Megan suggested. Monica shook her head. "Well, what about Mary? She's going, isn't she? She's better at being in charge of things than I am!"

"I have no idea where Mary is. I think she went somewhere with Mindy. Pleeeeease, come on, Megan! I really really need someone else to do this!"

Megan frowned. "Oh, all right. But you can't hold me responsible if I mess everything up and nothing gets done; remember, I didn't want to do this. Now what exactly am I supposed to do?"

"You're supposed to lead the voting and all that sort of stuff. The Story Club folder's on the desk in the computer room. Take that with you, it's got all the stories and important papers and stuff like that. Plus there's a list of all the stuff you're supposed to do in there. Zoe wrote it down for me so you can just follow that. Don't worry, it'll be easy."

"Hmmm." Megan sighed. "Well, okay."

Monica glanced at the VCR's clock. "Uh-oh, look what time it is! I have to go! Bye!" She grabbed her backpack and ran out the front door. She rode her bike to the Rec Center; it was only about a mile. She didn't need to carry her pie because when Mr. Carlson drove Molly down there earlier that day, they had taken the pie along. All Monica needed to carry in her backpack were plates, napkins, and forks, plus her bike bottle. She raced down the sidewalk into downtown Westfield and reached the Rec Center in just under ten minutes.

The Rec Center was already crowded when she got there. Contestants and visitors to the Science Fair and to the Cooking Contest were milling around on the lawn in front of the building. Monica locked her bike to the rack and went inside. The gym was even more crowded. One side had people setting up their cooking projects in booths; the other side had tables with various science projects.

She saw Molly with her "Effects of Acid Rain" project near the front of the gym. "Hey Molly!" she greeted her. "Where'd you put my pie?"

"It's downstairs by the ovens, in a bag that says 'Monica Carlson'," Molly said. "Now can I have some?"

"Sure, after the judging," Monica said, running off in a hurry to get set up. She raced downstairs and found her pie, stuck it in a free oven to warm it up, and ran back upstairs to set up her booth.

Near Molly's project at the front of the gym, there was an information booth. "Hi, I'm here for the Cooking Contest. Where should I set up my stuff?" Monica asked the lady at the booth.

"What's your project?" the lady asked.

"A type of apple pie."

"Desserts are towards the back of the gym, in the middle." The lady looked at a floor plan of booths in the gym. She put a check mark in one with a red marker. "You can have booth number 17."

"Thanks," Monica said, running off to find booth 17. She found it at the very back of the gym, right in the middle. It was next to the line that divided the Science Fair from the Cooking Contest. Booth 18, across an small aisle from her, belonged to some boy with a chemistry project that Monica didn't really understand. The boy with the project looked about 13 years old, but there was another littler boy running around the booth too. He looked about 6 years old.

"Go away, Xander," the older boy said, "I told you not to touch anything. You'll mess it up."

"Mommy said you had to bring me!" the little kid, apparently named Xander, whined. "You can't make me go away!"

The older kid sighed. "Don't touch anything," he directed Xander. "I'll be right back. And I mean it, don't lay a finger on my project! It's dangerous!" Then he ran off somewhere.

I'm glad I don't have a little sibling, Monica thought, although six same-age sisters aren't always so great either, at least they usually aren't troublemakers and don't need baby-sitting. Then she stopped paying attention to other people's projects and started setting up her own. She went to get her pie out of the oven and brought it back to set up. She got her forks, plates, and napkins out of her bag. While she was emptying her backpack, something else fell out. It was a folder that she hadn't realized was in there.

"Oh NO! The Story Club folder! I thought I left this out for Megan! They can't do anything without it! I have to get it over there!" She exclaimed to no one in particular. The little kid, Xander, stared at her, but Monica didn't notice. She dashed out of the gym and took off on her bike, hoping to get back to her house with the folder before the Story Club meeting started. She pedaled as hard and fast as she could, but looking at her watch, it didn't look like she'd make it to her house in time for the meeting, or back to the Rec Center in time for the dessert judging.

"Hey, Monica!" a familiar voice called from behind her. It was Mindy Thorne. She and Mary had been riding their bikes around downtown Westfield and were now on their way to the Carlsons' house.

"Mary! Mindy! I'm so glad to find you!! Are you going home, by any chance?"

"Yeah, actually, we were," Mary replied. "Aren't you supposed to be at that cook-off right now?"

"Yes! But I have to get this to Megan. It's for the Story Club meeting which starts in five minutes! Can you take it with you?"

"Sure," Mary offered. She stuffed the folder in the basket on the back of Mindy's bike. "C'mon, Mindy, let's go!"

"Bye Monica!" Mindy called as the they all rode off. Monica hurried back to the Rec Center, feeling extremely relieved. Since she hadn't had to ride very far, she was in plenty of time for the judging. She was just riding up Main Street and was almost to the Rec Center when she heard an explosion. It wasn't extremely loud, but it was loud enough to startle her. It was coming from the gym.

She raced down the street to see what was going on. As she got closer she could hear the loud, harsh sound of the fire alarm going off. Lots of people were talking and sounding confused, and they were pouring out of the Rec Center. From the other side of the gym, she could see smoke rising into the air!

Molly came out of the Rec Center and saw Monica standing with her bike. "There you are! What were you doing?"

"What just happened?!" Monica asked, ignoring her sister's question.

"Someone's project blew up!! It started a fire in the back of the gym!!" Molly explained in a hyper voice.

"What?! Something blew up?!" Monica repeated. They saw the fire engine pull out of the fire department garage, which was right next door, and drive a few yards, stopping in front of the Rec Center. They turned on a nearby fire hydrant ran in with their hoses.

Monica, Molly, and the rest of the crowd watched anxiously as the fire fighters worked to put out the fire inside the building. No one was quite sure what was going on, except a few people who knew that someone's project had somehow exploded.

It only was a few minutes before they came back out. Smoke was still coming from the back of the building but it was slowing down considerably. Monica noticed the lady who had been assigning booths and one of the fire fighters talking to the kid who had been next to Monica and his little brother Xander. Neither she nor Molly could hear what they were saying.

"Uh oh, look who's here," Molly said, pointing at a familiar van. It was the local news crew, that Mr. Sanders (Molly's friend's dad) was a part of. They got out their cameras and started filming. The reporter was saying something but they couldn't hear that either.

Mr. Sanders and his crew then picked up their equipment and headed into the building. The fire chief had given the news people permission to enter. Other people who tried to get back in were being stopped at the door. After a few more minutes, they came back out.

"Hi, Mr. Sanders," Monica said when the news people walked by.

Molly elbowed her; she didn't want the attention. But she didn't have to worry.

"Hi, Melissa. Hi, Molly," he greeted them.

"I'm Monica," she corrected him, but she didn't sound annoyed.

"Oh, right. Melissa usually has one ponytail, you have two. What a surprise seeing you two here. Whenever there's news in Westfield, there's a Carlson Septuplet or two somewhere nearby!"

"That's because you always follow us around," Molly mumbled.

This time it was Monica's turn to elbow Molly, who was always overly paranoid about the special attention they got for being the world's only septuplets. Mr. Sanders hadn't heard her anyway. "What happened in there, anyway?" Monica asked.

"Well, we talked to the fire chief and the contest's staff, and looked around in there, and apparently what happened is that some kid left his little brother unattended with his science project. The kid spilled some stuff that reacted with some other stuff—"

"That sounds very scientific: stuff, stuff, and more stuff," Molly joked.

"—and anyway, the reaction made some sort of gas that was explosive that was supposed to be controlled in a small container, but obviously it wasn't. Then someone from the cooking contest struck a match and it exploded."

"Wow," Monica said. "That's not exactly safe."

"No, it's not," Molly agreed. "Is anyone hurt?"

"Luckily, no," Mr. Sanders said. "Except that kid who lit the match, she's got a few burns so they took her to the hospital just to be safe, to check her up. But nothing serious. In fact, nothing really got broken or burned up in the fire except that girl's table and her project, and the other boy's project that started it all, and two other ones that were nearby. Everything else is fine, there are lots of doors in the gym so everyone could get out easily. They're even going to continue the contest in a little while, though the safety inspectors are here checking everything out to see if something should have been done to prevent this accident."

"Oh no," Monica cried, "my table was right next to one where a little boy was left alone with some dangerous chemicals...."

"Let's go in and check," Molly suggested. They ran into the building. The officials were now letting contestants and staff back inside.

Just as Monica had guessed, her project was one that was destroyed. "I put a lot of effort into that," she said sadly. "I really wanted to win. I think I had a really good chance, too." She was very upset.

"Aw, I'm sorry about that, Monica," Molly said. "Maybe you can make it again one day, for another contest."

"Yeah, maybe," Monica agreed sadly. "Oh well. I guess I'll go home now. I might as well see what's going on with the Story Club."

"Okay. My project's not going to be judged for another hour, so I'm going to stay. See you later."

"Bye," Monica said. She got on her bike and rode home.


"Hi Monica!" Megan and the other Story Club members greeted her at the door. "What're you doing home? Aren't you supposed to be at the Cooking Contest?"

"It's a long story. My project got wrecked. You'll hear about it on the news tonight."

"On the news??" everyone was interested now. "Monica, what happened?"

"Someone's project blew up. Mine was nearby and it burnt up."

"Oh, that's too bad! You would've won!" Megan said.

"Speaking of winning, who won for Best Story?" Monica asked.

"Sarah won for the high school division and Ricky won for middle school," one of the other Story Club members explained.

"Congratulations, you guys," Monica said to them. "What about the End-of-the-Year Party—" she started to say, but Mary had just run into the room and cut her off.

"Hey, wait a second! Congratulations to you too, Monica!" Mary said, sounding excited.

"Why? Didn't you hear that my pie got destroyed?"

"No, no, no, you don't get it! Come see!" Mary continued, grinning. She and Mindy led them back to the computer room, where Mary had their family e-mail account open in Netscape Messenger.

"Look at this!" Mary directed, and Monica read the message while half the Story Club crowded around the monitor.

Here's what the message said:

Subject: Congratulations!
Date: Sat, 6 Jun 1998 10:25:57 PDT
From: "Stripes the Tiger" <>

Dear Monica,

The Beanie Baby Cyberfan Club is pleased to inform you that you have won our Original Beanie Story Contest! Your story, "The Beanie Babies' Bash," was chosen from our over 600 entries based on it's creativity, entertainment value, and Beanie content.

Your story will appear in our next on-line issue of the Beanie Baby Cyberfan Digest on June 19, 1998.

We'll send the Grand Prize, a mint condition Princess bear, to the address you sent with your entry. Thanks for entering and congratulations!

—Stripes the Tiger
Beanie Baby Cyberfan Club Secretary


"Wow, one of those super-rare Princess Diana bears? That is cool, Monica! You're so lucky!" one of the Story Club members said.

"I can't believe it I can't believe it I can't believe it!" Monica was bouncing up in down in her chair and staring at the screen.

"What's that?" Michelle asked, coming into the computer room. "You won one of those Princess Beanies? That's ridiculous that those things are so hard to find. I don't see why some people are so obsessed with them. They auctioned some on the local news and they went for about a thousand dollars, I think! I don't get what's the big deal with 'em. But congratulations anyway, Monica. That's pretty cool."

"Are you going to sell it for a thousand bucks?" one of the club members asked.

"No way! I'm keeping it forever!" Monica ran back out of the computer room and informed everyone in the house of her good luck by screaming, "I WON A PRINCESS BEAR, I WON A PRINCESS BEAR!"

Meredith, who had just got home from her acting club meeting, joined the others who were mostly still standing in the computer room. "Wow, this reminds me of a few months ago, when you won those tickets on-line and they called us. Remember that, Mary? Except I think you and me were even more hyper than Monica is now."

"Of course I remember," Mary said, still grinning but this time it was from remembering winning tickets to a Red Wings game from an Internet drawing.

"Whoa, from now on I enter every contest I see on the Internet. If one family can luck out like that twice, than I'd better be able to once!" another Story Club member said. Several others nodded in agreement.

Monica's Princess Beanie Baby came in the mail a few days later. She showed it to everyone she knew and took it everywhere with her for a while, but at the same time she made sure that not one speck of dirt got on it; this is a very difficult thing to accomplish, but Monica managed it. From the time she found out that she had won, she completely forgot about her pie being destroyed. Although having so many activities and interests sometimes wore her out completely, it certainly had its good points too!

"Panicking and Prize Winning" © 1998 by Jessie Mannisto.