"Short Circus" by Stephen V. Masse is the story of twelve-year-old Jem Lockwood and what he and his highly adventurous friends did one year. When Jem's mother feels like Jem might be having problems with life, she decides to get Jem a Big Brother. Thankfully for her, she gets what she bargained for - and more. At first Jem was afraid of what kind of Big Brother he would get. Luckily, Jesse Standish was not the drill sergeant that Jem was expecting but was a really awesome guy. The book is Jem's retelling (for a school project) of his wild escapades with his Big Brother Jesse and a gang of friends. But throughout their wild adventures, they are plagued by a mystery: who has been sabotaging the swimming pond?
It all started when Jem and his friends were having a crashing derby one afternoon and Jem almost completely destroyed his bike and a little of himself. However, there was also the matter of several fist fights and a few other events that involved Jem getting hurt. Since Jem's father wasn't around, Jem's mother thought that he might need a little additional help and signed him up for a Big Brother. Finally, when Jem's mother got him a big brother she was very happy because she thought that Jem would now have a good role model. And what a role model Jesse was! Jesse knew how to do everything and was willing to teach Jem. Together Jesse and Jem have many interesting and fun adventures like going to an aquarium, going to the circus, and shooting off fireworks on the Fourth of July and more.
One day when Jem, his brother Chris, and some of their friends were walking past the local swimming pond, they saw two kids one of whom had been badly cut by glass and was bleeding all over the ground. Jem told the kid to hold on for another minute and that he would get help. He ran into to two joggers who called an ambulance. Later Jem and Jesse went back and looked at the pond. They saw glass and barbed wire all over the bottom of the pond. As a project, Jem and Jesse decided to clean up the pond. But just when they started, some local police came over and told them to stop because it was too dangerous. They said that the city would take care of it. But as the days and weeks passed, Jem wondered if the pond would ever get cleaned. The day after it was cleaned they awoke to more glass and barbed wire in the pond. They then made it their mission to find out who was putting glass and barbed wire in the pond.