Polly Shoots Laser Beams


By Joshua A. Johnston

Reading Time: 5 minutes

(You can read a bit of the history behind the story here.)

Daaad! Do I have to?”

“Yes, Polly,” Dad said, his face dominating her phone’s screen. “You only have about ten minutes.”

She looked at him with a blank expression. “Is that a whole movie?”

“It’s less than half of a cartoon.”

“Oh, okay.”

Polly walked—or rather, skipped—over to her pink-and-white polka dotted bike, which was parked outside the local library. She dropped the phone in the faded pink basket on the front of the handle, then pulled a bright purple bike helmet over her head. She fumbled briefly with the clasp before mounting the bike, pushing the kickstand up with her heel, and pedaling across the parking lot toward the sidewalk.

Dad looked up at her through the phone screen. “Do you know how to get here?”

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to talk while biking.” Her face scrunched in thought. “Where am I going again?”

“Burling Park, near County Road 1450.”

She pulled up a map on her phone, biting the inside of her cheek. “Is that the one by the train tracks?”

“Yep, that’s the one, sweetie.”

Polly pedaled down the sidewalk, her back perpendicular to the ground. She rang the small bell on her left handlebar as she rounded the corner.

An ice cream truck rolled by, the cadence of music echoing down the street. It stopped and a man leaned out. “Good morning!”

She slowed a little. “Hi!”

“Would you like a Popsicle?”

“Not right now, Polly,” Dad said through the phone.

“Aww, Daaad!”

“Not right now,” Dad repeated.

Polly continued down the street and around the corner, where she nearly careened into a man and his Labrador.

“Doggie!” Polly squealed.

“Hi, little princess,” the man said in a deep voice. “Hercules says hello also.”

Polly pulled off into the grass. “Can I pet him?”

“Not right now, Polly,” Dad said through the phone.


“You’re going to be late.”

“Listen to your father,” the man said with a smile. “We’ll be out again later this afternoon, okay?”

“Okay!” Polly said with a smirk. She remounted her bike and pedaled off down the sidewalk again until she reached the intersection. She toed over to the light and pressed the crosswalk button.

“Is anyone coming?” dad asked through the phone.

Polly looked left. Then right. Then left again. Then right again. Then left again.

“Polly,” Dad said, a little more sternly, “is anyone coming?”

“Nope,” she said.

After a few seconds elapsed, Dad said, “Why aren’t you going?”

“I’m waiting for the orange hand to go away.”

“You said no one was coming.”

“But you always told me to wait for the white stick person,” said Polly.

Dad sighed. “If the street is clear, you can go.”

Polly tentatively biked across the street, looking back and forth four more times for good measure. Her bike popped up the slanted curb and onto the far sidewalk, which ran past a strip mall.

“I smell hot dogs!” Polly said.

“Keep pedaling,” Dad said.

“Oooh! Bunnies!” Polly said, looking at the pet store.

“Keep pedaling,” Dad said.

“I need to blow my nose,” Polly said.

“In a minute,” Dad said.

Polly kept pedaling, past the strip mall, across a side street – Polly looked both ways three times – and onto a narrow road with a small brown sign that said BURLING PARK.

Between Polly and the park were the railroad tracks. Polly came to a stop in front of the tracks, as the red-and-white closing gates had lowered.

“Polly?” Dad said. His voice was not coming through the phone; it was coming from the tracks.

Polly looked down at her dad, who was lying across the railroad ties. “Daaad,” she said, turning her handles absently, “what are you doing there?”

“Ran into a little trouble at work today,” Dad said, his bright blue spandex outfit glistening in the sun. “Can you get me out?”

“Was it that Mister Flashpants again?”

“It’s Master Flashpoint, sweetie,” Dad said as a train horn blared not far away, “and no, it wasn’t him this time. Can you get me out of here?”

She pinched her lips together. “But you said never to cross the railroad tracks when the—”

“I know what I said, Polly,” Dad said through clenched teeth. “Now can you please. Just. Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.”

“Fine,” Polly said, flicking her head in a way that made her pigtails dance over her shoulders. She propped the kickstand, ducked under the railroad gate, knocking her helmet against it, padded over the gravel, and stepped across the tie, where her dad was firmly chained to the tracks, his phone hovering next to him. A horn blared more loudly now; Polly glanced up and saw the light of the train not far down the way.

“Down here, Polly,” Dad said. “Now, please.”

Polly huffed. “Fine.”

“And try not to—oww!”

Polly’s eyes blazed red and two laser beams lanced out against the chains at his arms, turning the chains briefly orange before shattering them. Another shot and the chains at his feet shattered.

Dad, cringing with pain, shoved the chains aside, scrambled to his feet, grabbed Polly by the arm, and yanked her off the tracks just as the train came barreling by. His cape whipped against the breeze from the train and his hair blew over his mask.

With a deep sigh, Dad sank to the ground next to the bike. Rubbing his wrists gingerly, he said, “Thanks, sweetie.”

Polly adjusted her helmet, picked her nose, and said, “I need to use the bathroom.”

© 2016 Joshua A. Johnston. All rights reserved.

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