Written from the 6-year-old's point of view, the story described her adventures that day including a captured alien creature in a cage who was a high ranking officer of another species... "Iss not bug!", an episode of the indigenous creatures of the planet (noords maybe) warning of a predatory cloud going over the fair and everyone had to empty their minds and think of nothing till the threat passed, and an attempted mugging of her Grandfather where it was revealed that he was a dangerous psi talented Telekinetic operative from an earlier war and not just her nice old Granddad. Creepy cheery tale and i cannot put it out of my mind.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Where and when did you read this?
    – DavidW
    Commented Nov 26, 2021 at 15:38
  • has be then...1981.... Commented Nov 26, 2021 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


This is "A Day at the Fair" (1981) by Neal Barrett Jr., first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1981.

The "predatory cloud" is quite distinctive:

Right about then, we had some excitement. The air got hot and still, and the sun turned the sky all rusty-green. All of a sudden, every Noord at the Fair stopped dead in their tracks, big feet flat against the ground, long noses tremblin' in the air. You don't have to be on Far very long to know what that means. I hit it out quick and found Grandpa and Mother and Lizbeth Jean, and we all sat real quiet on the ground, not thinking 'bout anything, like everybody else. All you could see was folks sitting, and waiting, and not looking anywhere close to the sky. What you're supposed to do is think about not even bein' there — kind of a little old piece of nothing. Noords do it real good, of course, seein' they been at it 'bout a million years. It comes kinda natural if you don't do a whole lot of thinking anyway.

After a while, the Noords got all unspooked, and everyone got up and stretched and started thinking again. Off to the south you could see 'em — two big Portugees floatin' high and slow, flat-looking bodies all pearly-blue in the sun. They weren't real hungry, or looking for anything special, they were just drifting along, trailing their stingers like long rags of rain 'gainst the ground.

The not-a-bug claims to be a Vice Admiral:

"I — am — not — BUG!" screamed the creature in the cage. He shook his bars so hard I hid behind Grandpa. "I am Vize Adm'ral Ch'rr of Procor Fleet! You lizzen to me — you help!"

And Grandpa does have some psychic talent:

Mink gave him a black look, spit on the ground, and started for Grandpa. Grandpa didn't move. He pushed Lizbeth Jean away and just stood where he was. Mink walked right up to him and drove his blade hard at Grandpa's belly.

Only he didn't. Or I guess he didn't. Right there's where it starts gettin' real hard to explain. All I know is Mink got sort of blurry a second and then he was just looking down at his knife, and laughing, and not even thinking about Grandpa. He laughed so hard the tears came to his eyes, and then he started slashin' and cutting' as hard as he could at his own belly, ripping and tearing away hard, and watching himself come apart. Everything inside came rolling out wet and shiny and spilling to the ground, and Mink kept laughing and slicing away like he hadn't ever seen anything funny as that.

Then, all of a sudden it wasn't even happenin' at all, and Mink was just standing there looking at his belly and screaming. There wasn't a scratch on him but Mink wouldn't stop. A couple of men took him up and carried him off to the tents somewhere, but he was still going strong. Like maybe now he'd got started he didn't know how to stop anymore.

  • 1
    many thanks. now i can fixate on the next bit of mania Commented Nov 26, 2021 at 19:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.