I can almost taste the cotton candy on my tongue, fluffy and sticky and slightly grainy.

Under the felt sombrero, sweat is trickling down the sides of my face, as if I just took a bath and haven’t fully dried off yet. The sombrero is heavy, and makes my body feel off-balance, like my head knows it doesn’t belong up there. But I keep it on. It’s a real sombrero. My mother told me she ordered it special on the computer from a Mexican store. She said it’s hand-made, someone even sewed on the yellow sequins, which dance along the edges like fireflies and match the yellow vest I’m wearing.

I’m getting really hot, like when Mommy comes in to my room at night in the winter and places another blanket on top of me, even though the house is as hot as it is in the summer. Under my vest is a special white shirt, that also came from the computer, buttoned up to the neck. That’s how they wear it in Mexico, my mother said.

This hat is heavy, and for once, I’m happy I live in boring Brooklyn instead of an exotic country where they speak a different language. It means I don’t live in Mexico, and don’t have to wear this all day. I want to take the sombrero and the vest off, but I’m worried if I do, the judges won’t see my entire outfit, and then I won’t win the award for Best Costume. I hope I win this year.

They’re not real judges, just eighth-graders who sometimes look like adults. They get to run the Purim carnival every year, each one standing at a booth, barking orders, telling us to behave, suddenly all formal like this is their job for life.

I’m standing on line, with the littler kids who are jittery, and the bigger kids running the show like they’re ringmasters at a circus. It’s only half the school at a time, so right now, it’s grades one, two — my grade — three, and four… and obviously, grade eight.

I make sure the other kids aren’t blocking my outfit, pivoting this way and that, so everyone has a full view of the costume. I hope the makeup Mommy put on my face this morning to make me look like a “senora” is still on. She told me to be careful not to rub at my eyes, and I didn’t, not even once.

The school carnival pass is damp and crumpled in my palm. We’re allowed to do each booth once and only once, and after each one, the eighth grader takes out a hole puncher, wielding it like a scepter, to mark which activity we already did.

I crane my head to see how many more girls there are until it’s my turn for cotton candy, counting three. The booth’s owner stands high on her upside-down crate. She’s moving her arms like pieces of cooked spaghetti, as if she’s a dancer on a stage, twirling the paper cone around and around. She thinks everyone is looking at her, and I guess she’s trying to perform. I want to tell her she just looks silly, and we’d all prefer if she’d hurry up.

Bored, I glance down at the pass, fingering the edge. And then, I realize a stupid eighth-grader from a different booth punched the wrong section. I know I already did the inflatable bouncer because I was showing off how to jump backward into a somersault. But it’s not punched. There is no empty moon in the right-hand corner, where the picture of a bouncer is, that lets me look straight to the shellacked floor. Instead, the left-hand corner is punched, so it looks as if someone took a bite straight out of the cotton candy image.

Suddenly, it is my turn, and the eighth-grader is looming large above me like a giant.

“Show me your pass.” She’s brimming with authority, inflated as a helium balloon. I stutter, the words stuck in my throat like marbles. “I… I just… I realized… it’s an accident… it got punched by someone else….” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 579)