Sally once says she's starring in a play - confusing names if I recall. Here's how she got duped into it, then made a scary story much funnier with no scary or gross stuff; though Linus thinks her use of the Great Pumpkin is almost as bad

A/N: It could be argued this didn't happen – Sally saying she's starring in "Hansel and Gretel" for a school play. After all, as I say in "Imaginary Friends 2," there's only so much you can use making a chronology of their lives. Plus, how would she get picked to star knowing her penchant for malapropos, including messing up the names if I recall. (Handful and Grateful or something)

Given the story, which I find too gross, the following could explain it. And, don't worry - gross stuff is never mentioned – though Sally obviously becomes quite perturbed when she gets the script. And of course, when she thinks of… no, that would be spoiling it.

Sally's Night at the Improv

"Sally…" Charlie Brown appeared uncomfortable as he tried to think of what to say to his sister. "Are you sure you want to star in that play?"

Sally glared at her big brother. "Are you saying I can't? Just because I said 'hockey stick' instead of 'hark' doesn't mean I'll mess up lines forever."

"I know, but… I never liked Hansel and Gretel."

"Don't worry; it'll be a chocolate chip cookie." Charlie Brown looked strangely at her. "Cookies take less time to bake. So if something easy is a piece of cake, something easier can be a cookie."

"I suppose." Sally's logic was quite the boy. "But, back to the script, have you looked at it? I mean …"

"What's to look at? So a woodsman has to come and rescue Granny. I don't know why Anne seemed so freaked out when she asked me if I'd like to take her part. I said, 'Sure, I'd love the chance to star.' I said I knew the story inside out, so the teacher said it was okay. Who knows, maybe I'll be in show business someday. Starring with Lawrence and Olivia," she said proudly as she skipped toward her room.

Charlie Brown knew she meant Sir Lawrence Olivier, and that she was thinking of "Little Red Riding Hood." He pondered these things, and the fact her classmate must have been freaked for a reason – therefore, it was likely he had heard correctly that they were doing "Hansel and Gretel." Soon, his best friend Linus Van Pelt entered the Brown home.

"What is it, Charlie Brown?" Linus asked as his friend gazed in the direction Sally had gone.

Charlie Brown sighed as they walked outside. "Sometimes I don't know where to begin explaining things to Sally. Her spring play this year is 'Hansel and Gretel.' One of her classmates gave her part to Sally without telling her what the script was about."

"What does Sally think it's about?"

"Little Red Riding Hood."

"With anyone else, that would sound strange," Linus said as they leaned against a wall.

Charlie Brown looked at Snoopy, who was busy at his typewriter. The dog wrote, "Dear Congressman: It has come to my attention that wolves, members of the dog family, are featured prominently as antagonists in fairy tales, but far more members of the cat family – tigers, lions, and so on - have mauled people throughout history, while we see almost no mention of wolves doing so. What can be done about this blight on wolves' honor?"

Turning back to Linus, Charlie Brown said, "The play is Friday night. There's no time to ask them to plan a different play. That girl probably tried hard, but she just couldn't stand thinking about that after a while."

"I can see where it would give some kids nightmares, or at least gross them out," Linus said as Lucy came up to them. He told them what they were discussing.

Lucy had a different view. "The girl is the hero for a change in a fairy tale. Let them give me the part. I don't mind," she proclaimed. "I'll be the star!"

Linus agreed it did have that redeeming quality. "But, would the teachers let her?"

"I don't think so. Our class is already doing a different play," Charlie Brown said.

"In that case, you better hope she doesn't read the script. Because if she does…" Lucy warned. Suddenly, Sally's loud "Aaugh!" rose from the Brown house. "Oh, well, good luck. You'll need it." She walked away, not wanting to have to deal with what seemed like a no-win situation, considering that she always wanted to win. If only she could have gotten the part, she mused.

"Where's my agent!" Sally screamed as Charlie Brown and Linus ran into the house and toward her room. "I demand to get out of this contract!" She turned to her big brother as the boys entered her room. "Why didn't you tell me I was thinking of 'The Three Little Pigs'?"

"You mean 'Little Red Riding Hood,'" Charlie Brown said.

"Whatever. So, there were two big bad wolves!" Sally fumed. "Who wrote this nonsense?"

Linus pointed out, "The Brothers Grimm wrote a lot of allegories from the Middle Ages. Perhaps that one came from the Great Famine of 1315-17, when there was no food growing in much of Northern Europe."

"Well, I'm not acting in a play that could give kids nightmares!" Sally said, throwing down the script. "No wonder I was tricked into the part."

"Look, maybe there's a way to do it so there's not, well…" Charlie Brown didn't know where to start altering it, so he just said, "Maybe you could ask Lucy." He noticed Linus' look. "I know we just said she probably couldn't, but I don't know what else to say."

Sally and Linus were used to his wishy-washiness, so they ignored that. Instead, Sally said, "I don't mind the part where we eat all that candy. It would be payback for the Halloween a certain someone," she said with a glare at Linus, "had me spend in his backyard pumpkin patch."

"I don't know if you'll actually be eating on stage," Charlie Brown hedged.

"Great Pumpkin, indeed," Sally continued. "This woman should turn him into a pumpkin pie."

Linus was aghast. His hair stood up. "You wouldn't do that to the Great Pumpkin, would you?"

"Who says I wouldn't? I can… wait." She looked at the script again, picked it up, and pulled a marker off her nightstand. "That's it!" she cried as she began to write on her script.

"What's it?" Charlie Brown asked.

"Never mind," Sally said. "I'll just have to tell them we're doing it different. Now, get out and don't bother me while I'm vaporizing my lines."

"Memorizing. Or maybe improvising." When Charlie Brown got a disinterested "whatever" from her, he and Linus walked out of her room.

"This could actually work well, Charlie Brown," Linus said. "As long as she doesn't try to mention… well., you know."

"It could also be a colossal disaster. Just because she comes up with ideas now doesn't mean she'll remember them Friday night," he said worriedly.

The night of the play, Sally marched proudly into the gym, which was connected via a corridor to the backstage area. She turned to the boy, Tim, who would star with her. "I hope you don't mind, I changed a few of your lines, too," she said.

"Are you sure you'll remember your lines?' Tim asked worriedly.

"She should; she told me she knew the story by heart," Anne said.

"That was when I thought it was a different story. But, don't worry. I didn't have time to give you each a new script. But, I gave you your new lines and you know my plans. So, just go along with what I say and there won't be any problem," Sally said.

Tim chuckled anxiously. "There will be if I don't know what you're going to say."

"I've just taken out all the stuff that could scare little kids. Well, except for getting lost in the woods, but I couldn't avoid that," Sally reassured him. "It's just like getting lost in the supermarket, except there's lots of trees."

"Just in case, read my lips if you need help. Once Anne told me she gave you the script, I thought I'd better be ready," Tim said.

As Charlie Brown and his friends sat in the audience, he noticed that Sally was looking at Tim a lot. However, the boy was keeping the audience from seeing that he was mouthing her words when she forgot. "He's doing well and helping Sally."

"What do you think will happen next?" Schroeder muttered.

"I'm not sure; she wouldn't let me see the script," Charlie Brown remarked.

Sally knew this was where Tiffany, the girl who played the antagonist, said something very sinister. So, she interrupted. "All right; I've figured you out," Sally said before Tiffany could say anything. "You took a lot of Gingerbread men to make this house. And now, you're going to make a giant pie out of the Great Pumpkin." Quite a few audience members chuckled. They'd heard of Linus' story. "Well, we're not going to let you do that!"

"Hansel" glanced awkwardly at her, and then nodded. "That's right, we won't; but how?" I wish I knew what to do next, he thought to himself.

Sally had told Tiffany, almost a head taller, she would interrupt any attempt to tell her plans. Sally had ignored one important thing, however. Tiffany was supposed to get Tim into a cage. But, wouldn't Sally's revelation require getting both of them in? She hoped the audience ignored the fact she was only pushing the boy. Thankfully, as she did so, Sally squirmed out of the way.

As the lights dimmed on stage, Charlie Brown heard a voice he dreaded – one asking him to come backstage. Linus went, too; he knew his best friend might get a little flustered.

When they arrived backstage, a teacher was trying to explain to Sally, "I know you got this on short notice, and I understand that you think it's a little too scary for some kids…"

"You mean a lot! And it's gross, too!"

"You said it!" Anne shouted, backing her up.

Mrs. Appel held up her hands. "I understand. But… thanks for coming," she told Charlie Brown. "This isn't something where we should have to get parents involved, but Sally doesn't seem to understand that it's going to be hard to do the rest of this play the way she wrote it." When Sally asked "why" in a much calmer voice, Mrs. Appel said, "Thank you for using your calm voice, Sally, I'm really pleased." Sally had never gotten in the biggest trouble, as she was generally very well-behaved and polite, but they all knew she got way too emotional and needed to calm down sometimes. "But, we don't have someone to play the Great Pumpkin."

"Linus could do that. He knows all about him; or so he claims," Sally said, not using her nickname for him since she was a bit upset thinking about last Halloween.

Linus mumbled, "He'd be looking for the most sincere pumpkin patch, not a gingerbread house."

"So, why couldn't it be the Great Gingerbread Man?" Anne inquired.

"That's another of our problems. We don't have a costume for the Great Pumpkin or the Great Gingerbread Man," Mrs. Appel said.

"Maybe he goes around in disguise. Like Superman," Sally suggested.

Tim said there was a problem with that. "Nobody knows Clark Kent is Superman. So, how would Tiffany's character know the person who walks in is the Great Pumpkin?"

"Maybe he burps it out," Sally offered.

"Blurts," Charlie Brown said. "Although, burping would definitely turn it into a comedy."

"I don't think I could drink enough soda pop for that this fast," Tim said.

"Don't worry; we wouldn't want you to," the teacher promised. "But, back to our problem, I don't want random people coming on stage like it's Saturday Night at the Improv; we want some sort of a script. I mean, it does teach a lesson, as I was explaining to Sally, and it's a story that's supposed to help you learn about how plays with scripts work, not how to do improvisation.."

Tiffany smiled warmly at Sally. Sally didn't seem like the kind who would scare easily, but she knew you couldn't always tell how scared a person got. "If you don't want me to, I won't say anything about my character's plans. That way you can be the heroine and that's it. We could do the rest of the play without saying why we're doing what we're doing."

"What if we had a noise, like sleigh bells, and one of you said it was the Great Pumpkin?" Charlie Brown suggested, taking minds off what had been a good solution.

"Why would the Great Pumpkin be riding a sleigh?" Linus asked adamantly.

"Maybe you're confusing him with Santa Claus?" Anne speculated.

Tim piped up, "He'd have to have something to carry his goodies. Why not a sleigh?"

Linus explained. "That's something you can only find out if you see him."

"We can manage bells. But, let's do what Tiffany said; thanks for helping," Mrs. Appel said.

The lights had dimmed to indicate the play was about to start, and everyone ran to their places. They were all happy. That was, until they realized something. Like most kids that age, the children hadn't noticed that this left big plot holes. And, the teacher was too distracted to notice.

Just before the curtain went up, Tiffany said, "Oh, no; we could use the bells for why I'm keeping him in that cage, but why am I keeping you out?"

"Leave it to me," Sally said. The curtain rose to show her sweeping the floor. In character, she said, "That woman thinks I'm just a dumb girl, so she didn't lock me up, too. But, I'll show her; I'll save the Great Pumpkin all by myself. It's time to show what a girl can do."

"So much for subtlety," Charlie Brown mumbled.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Lucy whispered back. "I'd have said the same thing."

"Maybe that's his point. You're not subtle," Schroeder suggested.

"But, how?" Tim asked. "We don't even know what he'll be coming in."

Sally walked over to him and explained, "We don't have a pumpkin patch, either. But she's got some way to lure the Great Pumpkin here."

"Like what?" Tim panicked for a second; he knew Sally had changed things, but now she seemed to have forgotten what it was. "Some kind of disguise?" he asked hopefully.

Sally held a finger up and nearly shouted "That's it!" However, she realized, just in time, that she had to stay in character, so she held it to her lips and whispered. "Yes, now be quiet."

Further into the scene, Tiffany had another problem. She was supposed to ask Sally to check a cardboard box with an opening. But, that didn't go with what she'd promised Sally, even with the Great Pumpkin as the target, since the Great Pumpkin was not yet there. She tried to broadcast what she needed Sally to come up with by looking at the audience and rubbing her hands, so as to make it appear she was thinking out loud. "They'll never figure out how to get rid of me before the Great Pumpkin appears."

Sally wasn't sure what to do, either; thankfully Tim had a suggestion. He motioned her over. Once she came, he whispered so nobody else could hear, "That box; it's a computer with a control panel."

"Good thinking." Sally realized she was supposed to be in character. "I mean, about how to get at that fake computer." Tim winced slightly, though the audience failed to notice. It had become a real computer for purposes of the play, one which looked like something else.

Tiffany wasn't sure if she meant the cardboard box, but she felt she had no choice, so she blurted, "Now, to work on my computer." Of course, she had to check it herself not, but this would at least flow into what Sally should do. "Now," Tiffany declared, "to change the form of this house so it looks like the world's greatest pumpkin patch." She pretended to turn some dials.

"Most sincere," Linus groused with clenched teeth.

"Oh, no you don't," Sally said. Suddenly, backstage Anne loudly rang bells. "Oh, no!"

"It's Santa Claus," a preschooler declared from the audience. Given the comedy improvisation, the shout made sense, in a way.

"No, it's not. It's the Great Pumpkin," Sally shot back.

Charlie Brown slouched in his seat. "And to make matters worse, to go with the plot holes there's now a big hole in the fourth wall," he said dejectedly as the bells got louder. He knew the term for the wall between the audience and the fantasy world of the performers from something he'd read earlier.

Tim whispered. "Psst, push her into the computer," but Sally wasn't listening so didn't hear.

"I have to disarm this computer," Sally said. She crawled below Tiffany, who heroically pretended to play with the dials and made up things on the fly.

"They'll never stop me; I just have to… change the frequency of the doodad to match the…" Oh, well, Tiffany thought, she might as well make up words. She'd heard they did that on some science fiction shows, anyway. "Then to blork the sensors with a monoplasmic interrubian flopsicle and bip the baps and…" She decided she'd better stop before she started giggling.

Sally pretended to mess up wires in the box's opening. "Take that, Hal5000! It's time to turn your wires into a big bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs and garlic bread and root beer and… and… help me out here!"

"You'll never stop me now," Tiffany said while trying to control her giggles.

Tim was too into the scene. "Get me out of here and I'll help."

Tiffany whispered for only Sally to hear, "Now that all those wires are out, push me in."

"All right, I'm going to replace all those wires with you; let's see how you run a computer." Sally pushed her into the cardboard box, which was connected to a part behind the back curtain. Once she closed the door to the fake computer, Sally ran over to free Tim. "That computer will hold quite a bit."

The audience cheered, though a few also groaned a little at the computer pun; computers weren't nearly as common as they would be, though, so most didn't get that it was a pun. It seemed as though they were home free.

Then, Sally began to think out loud. "Wait a minute. She can just get out and try again unless we warn the Great Pumpkin."

"Who is the Great Pumpkin?" Tim asked.

As they were talking, Linus nudged Charlie Brown. "Do you think I should go? I'm the only one here who believes in the Great Pumpkin. But, I'm not sure if I can do him justice."

"I'm not sure; I'd like to see her get out of this without that. They've restored some sanity to the play - and the fourth wall," Charlie Brown said

He no sooner got done saying that than Sally looked at them and shouted, "Hey, Great Pumpkin, come here, I have to tell you something!"

"Get up there," Lucy whispered as she pushed him out of his seat.

"Why not? She didn't just vaporize her lines; now she vaporized the entire fourth wall," Charlie Brown muttered.

"I…I'm not sure. The teacher said she didn't want people just running up on stage…"

Lucy interrupted, still in a whisper, "Get up there, people already think you're crazy with all that Great Pumpkin talk."

"Well… what if I accidentally blaspheme the Great Pumpkin?" Linus said too loudly; the audience laughed.

The same teacher who asked them backstage earlier came and whispered, "Go up there. It's already a major comedy."

Linus jumped up on stage and said, "Uh, it is I… The Great Pumpkin."

"Are you really? Or are you one of his elves," Sally said sarcastically, hands on her hips.

"That's Santa that has elves," Linus insisted. He forced himself to remember that he was in a play - one which at the beginning of the week had been Hansel and Gretel. Now, nobody knew what it was.

"And what's this about blasphemy?" Sally scolded him. "If you - or whoever the Great Pumpkin is – is so great, they'd be forgiving!"

"But, the Great Pumpkin is so powerful; he gives…I mean, I fly around and give goodies to all the kids of the world…"

"Then where were you last Halloween?" Sally asked pointedly.

"Well, I can only visit the most sincere pumpkin patch and I guess when he came by," Linus fretted; he knew Sally was talking about the night she stayed with him in his family pumpkin patch. And yet, he was confused; he had to play the Great Pumpkin now. "…I mean I came and he saw… I mean, you…" Linus finally just proclaimed, "Insincerity has terrible consequences!"

"Don't give me that 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Gourd' talk," Sally shouted. She paused a moment – the audience had erupted in laughter at the reference to the famous sermon by Jonathan Edwards – in the ensuing days nobody ever asked if she'd meant to say that or not.

Charlie Brown sighed and sank further into his seat. "At least before when she broke the fourth wall, we could feel like we were in their world. Now? I don't know where we are."

Sally continued. "Didn't you learn about grace and mercy in Sunday School, Mis-ter Great Pump-kin!" She grabbed a candy cane, a decoration left over from Christmas which had been used for the play. "Have you ever heard the story of the candy cane?"

"Well, uh…" Nobody had any idea where she was going with this. For her part, Sally was upset enough at Linus as she thought back to that Halloween and to his worries now that she had forgotten she was even in a play. However, thankfully, she was sometimes better when she didn't have time to try and think of the right word or memorize something. Then, she'd worry so much about messing up that she did. She was running on emotion now, however.

"It's pure white to show Jesus never sinned. He was God in flesh. It's a shepherd's staff because Jesus is the Good Shepherd, He wants us to follow Him because He is the way to eternal life. And all we like sheep have gone astray. We need His salvation, He's our only hope to go to that perfect place someday where there won't be any pain or suffering or bad stuff happening. Let's see, what else?" she asked as she looked at it. "Oh, yeah, the red is for the blood Jesus shed for us when He died on the cross and rose again. You might be some mediocre pumpkin; but this represents what's really great - unconditional love."

"That's right…" Linus began, hoping Sally would interrupt him. He knew there was no way all this was in the revised script.

Thankfully, she did interrupt. "I mess up plenty. I get too hyper and worried and excited and all sorts of things. I don't like even being here, and I know I should. Let's face it, I'm a sinner. I don't deserve His perfect Heaven, and if He didn't forgive me I would face separation from Him forever in a horrible place. But, I called on Him to save me from my sins, and now He lives in me and tries to help me to behave and calm down and stuff, and I know I'm going to Heaven. He hates sin, but he loves sinners. He didn't tell me to just be the most sincere; He came for me like I was. Any if that pumpkin of yours was really great, he wouldn't force you to obey to be accepted. He'd accept you no matter what, and you'd follow him because of that. Because he'd would forgive you the same way Jesus forgives me!"

The audience cheered loudly, which snapped Sally out of it. She looked around and slowly broke into a grin as Tim whispered to her to get back in character.

Linus could tell she was back to thinking too much, so it was again hard for her to say her lines well. So, he patted her on the shoulder and said, "You're right. This place doesn't look safe. I'll take you two home and we'll make sure it's all better at your house." He thought for a moment, and decided that Sally was right. Who cared if he was right or not about the Great Pumpkin's transportation? The important part was, it was fun. "I'll take you in my sleigh."

Days later, Charlie Brown and Linus were leaning against the wall. "That sure was peculiar last Friday night, Charlie Brown," Linus said.

"'Peculiar' doesn't begin to describe it. Although, to give Sally credit, she really tried hard to put a good play together. The teachers understood how some kids felt the play was too much for that age; so, they rolled with the punches, once they made sure everything was being done in an orderly manner. Or, at least semi-orderly. Or maybe just coherently." Charlie Brown finished by adding, "It was mostly coherent."

Linus nodded as Sally walked up to them. "Mostly. And here's the star of the show. What did they say when you asked them about doing it that way next year?"

"They said it wouldn't work. It was just too special the way it happened," Sally said, not quite getting that this was their way of saying they appreciated her effort but didn't want such a confused mess next time.

Charlie Brown lovingly put an arm around his sister. "Your heart was in the right place; you didn't want anyone to be scared."

"Thanks. They said they won't have that class do that play anymore. They said nobody could top what I did." Sally thought for a moment. "I guess I vaporized things better than I thought."

Linus couldn't help but chuckle. Sally drove him crazy at times calling him her "Sweet Babboo" and such. But, he really did enjoy her; especially when she said things that, in an odd way, made sense. "You vaporized quite a bit last Friday night." Including the fourth wall, he said to himself.

"I still wish we could have gotten them to change the play so it was always the way I did it. But, my teacher told me that means I'm one of a kind," Sally related.

Charlie Brown couldn't help but agree. "That's true. You are definitely one of a kind," he said lovingly.