Molly McIntire’s favorite part of the school day was current events. Miss Appleton, their fourth grade teacher, would talk about what was going on overseas. There were lots of brave people over in Europe working to fight evil. Molly’s father was in England taking care of wounded soldiers. General Patton was leading the Third Army across France. And Captain America was out there, somewhere, attacking the enemy’s top secret bases.
Captain America was so heroic. Molly wished Miss Appleton would talk more about what Captain America and the Howling Commandos were doing, but it was all very secret and hush-hush. Ricky’s Captain America comic books told about lots of their adventures, but Molly suspected that some of the stories were made up. But even if Captain America didn’t do every single thing the comics said he did, he was still very brave and daring.
“Who knows where Turin is?” Miss Appleton was saying.
Molly raised her hand, but Miss Appleton called on Alison in front of her.
“Turin is a city in northern Italy.” Alison always had the correct answer.
“There used to be a hidden enemy base there, but Captain America destroyed it,” Woody added without raising his hand. “I read all about it in a comic book.”
Miss Appleton didn’t seem to mind Woody’s interruption. “It’s fitting you should mention that, Woody,” she said. “Do you know why?”
Woody shook his head.
“Because Captain America is going to be visiting our town next week!” Miss Appleton looked very excited. “Senator Mitchell has invited him to tour the state and make some speeches, and Jefferson is one of the places he’ll be stopping!”
Everybody started talking at once. “Captain America is so dreamy!” Susan exclaimed. Molly thought so too.
“I want to be Captain America when I grow up!” said Bobby.
“You can’t be Captain America!” Howie shouted. “Only Captain America can be Captain America!”
“Do you think he’ll sign my trading cards?” Alison asked.
“All right, class, calm down,” said Miss Appleton, smiling. “I’m looking forward to seeing Captain America too. But he won’t be here for more than a week, and we have lots of work to do between then and now. Alison told us that Turin is a city in northern Italy. Can anybody name another city in Italy?”
After school, Molly’s friends Susan and Linda walked home with her as usual. Excitedly, they burst into the kitchen, still talking about Captain America. “Mrs. Gilford!” Molly greeted the housekeeper. “Did you know that Captain America is coming to town?”
Mrs. Gilford handed Molly a bran muffin. “Yes, your sister was just telling me.”
Molly pouted. “You already knew?”
“I only just found out,” Jill said. She was in high school and acted very grown up. “It’s awfully exciting, don’t you think?”
“I can’t wait,” said Molly. “Do you think he’ll look just like he is in the comics?”
“I don’t know,” said Jill. “I hope so.”
“You read the Captain America comics?” Linda asked. “Aren’t you a bit grown-up for that?”
“Sweetheart, I read the Captain America comics,” Mrs. Gilford said with a chuckle. “Nobody’s too old to appreciate a handsome super-hero.” She pulled another pan of muffins out of the oven. “Did you see the one where the Howling Commandos helped him take out that Nazi stronghold in Turin? I thought it was so clever how Cap used a decoy to make them think the assault would be coming from the opposite side than it actually was.”
“I read that one!” said Linda. “The Nazis didn’t even realize they were there until the Howling Commandos were already inside.”
“Do you think Cap will bring any of the Howling Commandos with him when he comes to town?” Molly asked.
“That would be nice,” Mrs. Gilford said. “Have another muffin?”
Molly thought things couldn’t get any better, but the next day at dance class, Miss LaVonda had an announcement.
“Listen up, girls!” Miss LaVonda said. “I’m sure you have all heard already that Captain America is coming to town this Saturday. He’s going to make a speech about buying bonds and supporting the war effort. But he is also going to do a skit and we get to help with that! You girls will do a short dance number as the introduction to his performance.”
“Is he going to be on stage at the same time?” Alison asked.
“Certainly,” said Miss LaVonda.
“We’re going to dance with Captain America!” Susan whispered reverently.
“Wow,” Molly said. She could almost see herself up on the auditorium stage, dancing only a few feet away from Captain America himself.
“Now, we have lots of work to do before then and less than a week to get it all done,” said Miss LaVonda. “We don’t have time to choreograph and learn a new routine, so we’ll be adapting the “God Bless America” dance that you already know. Everybody get in your places for the start of “God Bless America” and I’ll show you what the changes are.”
They were very busy that week. Everybody in dance class knew they needed to pay attention and make the most of their time so that they would be ready to perform with Captain America, but at the same time they were so excited that it was difficult to concentrate. Molly knew most of the “God Bless America” dance already, but she kept getting mixed up and going back to the old, longer version of the dance. The new version started out the same, but then all the girls danced to the sides so that Captain America could walk out between them, and then it cut quickly to the last verse so that they wouldn’t take up too much time. Miss LaVonda pretended to be Captain America when they practiced the entire number. Molly didn’t think she made a very good substitute for Captain America, though. Not only was Miss LaVonda not very dashing, but she wasn’t even wearing red, white, and blue! Just a boring brown dress and tap shoes.
On Wednesday, Molly, Linda, and Susan were heading home after dance class as usual when Alison ran up behind them. “Do you think we’ll really get to dance with Captain America?” Alison asked.
“Of course we’re going to get to dance with him,” said Linda. “That’s why we’ve been practicing every day this week, after all.”
“Yes, I know,” said Alison, “but what if it doesn’t happen? It seems too good to be true. And Miss LaVonda was whispering a lot with the accompanist today about something.”
“Stop worrying,” Molly said. “It will be fine.”
“It had better be,” said Alison. “I want to get Captain America to autograph my trading cards. I’m going to ask him when we’re all backstage before the performance.”
“Oh my goodness,” said Susan. “Can you imagine walking up to him and asking him to sign something? Captain America! I don’t know if I could. I’d probably open my mouth and realize I’d forgotten how to talk.”
Alison frowned. “Oh dear. I hope that doesn’t happen.”
“Don’t worry,” Linda said. “He probably gets requests for autographs all the time. If you hand him a pen and your trading cards, he’ll probably know what you want without you having to say a word.”
By Thursday, all the girls were so excited that they could barely think about dancing. Normally, Miss LaVonda was there when they arrived at dance class and told them to start stretching right away, but she was late. So instead, the girls stood in clumps on the dance floor, talking about their favorite topic: Captain America and how how heroic he was.
“Nobody else would dare take on the Red Skull singlehanded!” Susan said.
“Do you think he’ll be as tall and handsome as he is in his trading cards?” Alison said.
“Maybe taller,” Linda said.
Molly looked around. Miss LaVonda was still nowhere to be seen. “Where do you think Miss LaVonda is?”
Before anybody could answer, there was a bustle of noise from the doorway and Miss LaVonda finally hurried into the room.
“I have bad news, girls,” she said. “We aren’t going to get to dance with Captain America after all.”
“Noooo!” several girls gasped at once.
“Why not?” Molly asked.
“I’m not sure exactly what happened, but Senator Mitchell, who has been arranging all of Captain America’s appearances, made some last minute changes. Apparently he arranged a second appearance for Captain America in the same evening, so there won't be time to do a full production. Instead he’ll just be making a quick speech, then leaving to go on to Salem.”
“But...then we won’t get to be backstage with him!” said Alison.
“We won’t get to be on stage with him!” added Susan.
“I’m sorry,” said Miss LaVonda. “I’m as disappointed as you are.” She ran her hands over her face. “All right, we still have a lot to do today even if we aren’t performing this weekend. Let’s start with a quick warmup.”
Molly didn’t want to warm up for dancing. What was the point now? This was unbelievable. They’d been working so hard this week, and all for nothing? It wasn’t fair! She stormed out of the room and stomped over to the drinking fountain.
Alison came out of the room behind her. She looked about to cry. “At least he’s still coming to town,” she said. “So we’ll get to see him.”
Molly was frustrated. If Alison was trying to look at the bright side of the situation, then Molly would look bad if she complained loudly. Or if she threw her tap shoes across the room, which she also wanted to do. So instead, Molly tried to think about the bright side too, and patted Alison on the shoulder. “Make sure to bring your trading cards, and maybe you’ll still be able to get them autographed.”
Saturday was sunny and breezy—a perfect autumn day. Molly, Susan, and Linda walked over to the auditorium at noon even though Captain America’s speech wouldn’t be for a couple hours. If they had been dancing, they would have had seats saved for them, but since they weren’t, they wanted to be sure to get good seats. The auditorium wasn’t unlocked yet, so they sat on the sidewalk next to the loading gate in the back. Molly pulled out a bag of oatmeal cookies that Mrs. Gilford had sent with her and passed them around.
Alison walked up to them a few minutes later. “Hi,” she said. “I brought my trading cards. But he’ll just leave right afterwards and I won’t get to talk to him or get his autograph or anything!” She sat down on the curb despondently. “I was so looking forward to getting to talk to Captain America backstage!”
Molly had the glimmerings of an idea. “We’re almost backstage right now,” she pointed out.
“You’re right!” Linda agreed. “Do you think we could get backstage anyway?”
“I don’t think backstage is even open,” Susan said. She walked over to the door and stood on tiptoe to peep in. “Yes, it’s all dark inside. And the door’s locked.”
The other girls joined her and tried the door handle for themselves. It was definitely locked.
“Do you think we could sneak in somehow?” Molly suggested. “Maybe there’s another door that’s unlocked.”
“I don’t know about this,” Alison said tentatively. “Captain America might not like us sneaking around and breaking in.”
“We’re not breaking in,” Molly said. “We’re just looking for another entrance.” She turned to Linda. “Here, give me a boost.” With Linda’s help, she climbed onto the sill of the closest window and jiggled the catch.
The purr of a motorcycle engine was the first indication they had that they were not the only people around. “Quick, get down!” Susan gasped.
Molly jumped down and smoothed her skirt, which had caught on the windowsill. All the girls tried to look innocent as the motorcyclist pulled up next to them. He was wearing a leather jacket over a drab brown shirt. “Is this the Jefferson Municipal Hall?” he asked.
“Yes, but it’s closed right now,” Molly said. “Did you need something?”
“Uh, sort of,” the man said. He got off the motorcycle. “Hi, I’m Steve. I’m supposed to be giving a speech here or something. Are you sure it’s closed?”
“Well, it’s all dark—wait a minute—you’re not…” Molly babbled. She looked closely at him. “Are you…”
The man smiled. “Yes. I suppose I should introduce myself properly. I’m Captain Steve Rogers. And you are?”
It was really him! Molly stuck out her hand. “Molly McIntire. It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” Now that she knew who he was, she was pretty sure she recognized him from the comics. He didn’t wear red, white, and blue in all the comics; sometimes he needed to be incognito, like now.
Linda came up next to them. “I’m Linda Rinaldi,” she said. “But if you’re Captain America, then where’s your shield?”
“Oh, I stowed it for the ride,” he said, waving his hand toward his motorcycle. Sure enough, there was a shield-shaped bag that they hadn't noticed on the back of the motorcycle. “Do you want to see it?”
“Oh, yes, please!” Molly exclaimed with the other girls. They stared as Captain Rogers went back to the motorcycle and pulled out his shield.
“Oooh,” Molly whispered. The shield was red, white, and blue, and looked almost exactly as it did in the comics. “May I touch it?”
“You can hold it if you like,” he said, and handed it over.
“Wow!” Molly said. She hefted the shield. It was a lot lighter than it looked. “Thanks!” she said and gave it right back so she wouldn’t break it or anything. Although it didn’t look very breakable.
Cap turned to Susan. “Would you like to hold it?”
Susan made a high-pitched sound that sounded like “eep” but she took the shield. Her eyes were very wide.
“Um…” Alison said. Captain Rogers turned towards her with a smile. “I…” she tried again. “Um...NicetomeetyouI’mAlisoncanyousignmycards?”
“It’s nice to meet you too, Alison,” he said. “Certainly I can sign them.”
“I’m sorry they’re not in better condition,” she said. “I keep them in my bookbag so they’ll stay nice but the edges still got kind of crunched.”
“I don’t mind,” Cap said. He pulled out a pen and signed his name.
“So why are you only giving a speech?” Molly asked. “We were practicing to dance on stage with you.”
“You were? I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I’ve been going wherever Senator Mitchell arranges for me to go. He probably rearranged the schedule because he found an opportunity to squeeze two appearances in one day. Here, why don’t I take that.” He retrieved his shield from the still speechless Susan and put it back in the case on his motorcycle. “You see, the senator and I are making a sort of trade. There’s an enemy base I’m trying to get access to, and the senator can assist with that but he wants a favor in exchange. So I flew in last Wednesday and now he has me rushing from town to town making speeches about buying bonds—and coincidentally making him look good right before the election.”
A limousine drove up across the street. “Is that him now?” Molly asked, pointing.
“Yes, it is. I guess it’s time for me to get moving then. It was nice to meet you ladies. I’m sorry you didn’t get to dance in the program.”
“It was nice to meet you,” Molly and Linda said. Alison and Susan were still too busy staring wide-eyed to say anything.
“You children shouldn’t be loitering out here,” Senator Mitchell said sternly as he strode up to them. “This building is not open.”
I know, that’s why we aren’t inside, Molly thought sarcastically, but she decided not to say anything.
“These young ladies got here early so they could get good seats, Senator,” Captain Rogers said. “Can you make sure they get seats in the front row? As a favor for me.”
“I suppose so,” the senator said. Molly thought that he couldn’t very well disagree with Captain America in public. Captain America probably knew that, too.
Senator Mitchell instructed one of his aides to find seats for the girls. They followed the aide towards the front of the building as Senator Mitchell and Captain America headed in the back door. Just before they ducked out of sight, Molly waved, and Captain America waved back at her. This had been the best day ever. She didn’t mind now that she hadn’t gotten to dance on stage. She had gotten to meet Captain America and hold his shield. Not many girls could say that.