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My Dream Horse

T

racy wanted a horse. A big one – a gianty-gianty one – not one of those stupid little Thelwell ponies that made your legs stick out to the sides. So when this one turned up in the middle of the night, she kept it.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll look after you.”

In the morning, she tried to feed it crispies.

“More crispies, Mom! More crispies!”

Right next to her, as close as Tracy could arrange it, was a seat scraped clear of dollies, and a huge mixing bowl on the countertop. The bowl had plenty of nose room. Inside was a mound of Rice Crispies – so many, you couldn’t even add one more crispy without other crispies sliding off the sides and lots and lots of sugar (just the way Tracy liked it) but the horse refused to even dip in a nostril.

The sound of snap, crackle and pop was deafening.

Mom, who’d been fixing the washing machine, was brought up short in the doorway, wiping her hands. “Look at all this mess!”

Three family-sized cereal boxes lay like plucked, blue chickens; torn flaps of cardboard hanging from every side.

“Sooooooorry mum!”

Out in the hallway, there was an impatient thump of hooves.

“Can I go? Can I go? Can I go, go, go?” said Tracy, already sliding down her chair.

Mom sighed, and flicked crisped rice from her daughter’s hair. “Hmmm, I guess you’re excused… before you get executed…”

“Yay!”

Wellies on, horse aligned to the outside door.

“Wanna go out?”

Thumph, thumph.

“Okay, boy.”

Tracy had only just gotten a hand to the handle, as the horse sauntered past. She hadn’t even opened the door.

That was rather… impressive.

Outside, she hovered around in the rain waiting for the horse to do its business. It did so right in the middle of the lawn – one for Dad that one (after all, he’s the one out with the hair-scissors for each-and-every weed…).

Tracy eyed the horse. It was having an experimental chew on a garden gnome.

Now that she had a pet, she’d have to look up a book to find out what it ate. Not grass anyway – her fingers flat or curled – though some sharp-looking teeth had clacked once next to her knuckles. That was rather startling, and she had dropped the succulent strands she’d been offering straight down her wellies.

“Silly billy!”

Then they went back inside to watch telly.

The horse seemed unable to use the remote control, so they spent their time posting toast and coins into the old VCR. Or, at least, the horse stood in the sofa and Tracy asked it what they should post next. They even did stamps out of toilet paper and played Post Offices and everything.

“You’re the bestest horse, for ever and ever!”

The horse whickered and pawed a coffee table. Its stomach grumbled – a sound like a black dog growling.

Tracy frowned and felt like a Mom. “Horsy hungry!”

So they played ‘horsy restaurants’ for the next couple of hours – alphabet bricks, plastic fruit, and even a pillow stood in for horsey nom-noms.

“Who’s for lunch at McDonalds?” said Dad.

“Hooray!”

They were a bit late – mostly because Blackie couldn’t fit in the car, and Tracy had the ‘screaming ab-dabs’ (whatever they are) all the way there, but happily discovered the horse waiting.

“Look, look, look, it’s Blackie! It’s Blackie!”

“Let your father park, Sweatpea. Head down,” said Mom.

“What do they do for horses?” said Tracy with a frown, once they were inside. There was a huuuuuuge, long sign of everything McDonalds did, but not one picture of a horse eating a burger.

“Oh, I don’t know, a McHay or a McStable?” Said Dad with a chuckle.

“More likely to serve horse,” grunted the man ahead of them in the queue.

Tracy did not think that was funny and gave him a withering look.

Was there a Happy Horse Meal? A ‘horse box and fries’? Did they do horse toys? Or simply add a useful grooming product?

Explaining McDonald’s to the horse had barely raised an acquiescing snort. They waited and waited and finally got served.

At which point there had been more ‘ab-dabs’. But it didn’t kinda’ work.

“No way I’m paying these prices for a maxed-up super-meal for a horse!” said Dad.

Now they were sitting on plastic chairs at a plastic table – there were empty wrappers and boxes and extra large Sprites and straws and salt everywhere. Tracy sulked and zoomed a plastic egg around on a tiny plastic bike. There were in fact, no horse-friendly products on the menu. Apparently.

What a gloomy day.

“Arse,” said Dad, looking at his watch. Mum raised an eyebrow in Tracy’s general direction. “Uh, I mean, ah… ooops… we need to feed the meter. Don’t want the ‘Yellow Peril’ towing the car.” He pecked Mom on the cheek, and went down the stairs, two at a time, trailing a sleeve of his jacket.

The rest of them sat for awhile watching the rain run down the windows.  Blackie was looking doleful, if that’s possible for a horse.

“Blackie’s awfully hungry!”

Then mum stuck both hands on the table and said, a little too loudly, “Well, I’m off to the loo. Need?”

“No, Mum. I’m staying with Blackie.”

For a moment, Mum, looked like she’d disagree. But the place was crowded and a girl with a red top had just started slopping a mop next to the table. “‘Kay. I’ll be right back. You and… ah, Blackie, be good, Sweetpea. I’ll only be a moment. ‘Kay?”

Blackie and Tracy watched Mom go, Blackie standing half in the table and half out. Shreds of ghost fire licked around the edges of his bony maw, and his eyes were as red as blood.

A little spot of drool plipped and sizzled on the Formica.

Those teeth were as long and sharp as a dog’s, and for the very first time Tracy began to wonder if Nightmares liked to eat little girls…

16 comments

1 Icy Sedgwick { 08.10.11 at 1:02 pm }

Some freaky stuff here. I’ve seen some weird things (like the man who tried to take his pony on the train) but never a Nightmare in McDonald’s. Rather McDonald’s IS the nightmare. 😉

2 Stephen Hewitt { 08.20.11 at 3:33 am }

@Icy — I agree, I think McDonald’s is the nightmare. Don’t feed the clown. St.

@Anne — thanks Anne. I think the phrase ‘No, bad pony!’ is going to crop up soon. 🙂

@Harry — thanks Harry. Sometimes I just have to go for the crazy.

@Helen — that nightmare popped into my head so I decided to give it to Tracy. I was rubbish with the sugar cubes.

@Sonia — you can take horses to McD, but only once.

@Aidan — thanks Aidan. The nightmare may have a small moped for getting around, while that guy eventually got a Summer Chorizo Supreme and was short-changed by 3p.

3 Anne Michaud { 08.10.11 at 2:06 pm }

So creepy and cute and fun, Stephen!! I love how you portrayed the little girl, very sweet:)

4 Harry B. Sanderford { 08.10.11 at 5:11 pm }

Here I had Blackie figured for a colt, turns out to be a night-mare. :)Cute, silly, good fun!

5 Helen { 08.12.11 at 10:54 am }

I thought Blackie was an imaginary friend, but no he was a nightmare, ha ha very cute. I loved the portrayal of the little girl. Very well done. Very enjoyable read.

6 Sonia Lal { 08.12.11 at 11:21 pm }

You can talk horses to McD? LOL creepy, but in a cute way

7 Aidan Fritz { 08.13.11 at 3:55 am }

Loved the playfulness and ingenuity of taking the horse into McD’s especially the man standing in front of them. Blackie showing up after not fitting in the car becomes macabre when we discover Blackie’s a nightmare. Beautiful!

8 John Wiswell { 08.13.11 at 5:38 am }

I wondered if the parents were going to lose it simply from the rigmarole of an overactive and needy child. But a hungry nightmare will do!

9 Stephen Hewitt { 08.20.11 at 3:47 am }

@John — they may now have lost the overactive and needy child. 🙂 Thanks for popping on a comment. St.

@Chuck — thanks Chuck. Yeah, that guy’s shoes started to smoulder. No to the stuffed. Yay, for a nightmare.

@Steve — lol. McNosebag, hold the gerkins? Everybody knows Nightmares don’t like pickle, right? And yeah, kids and VCRs. That toast episode happened to some friends of ours…

@Joan — good point with the mum/mom wording swap-arounds. I’d probably fix that on the next outing (of the story, not the horse). I was keen to have mom fixing that machine — my first thought was having her doing the washing, my second was, ‘that’s kind of rubbish, this mom (like lots of moms) fixes stuff’.

10 Chuck Allen { 08.13.11 at 3:47 pm }

I thought the horse was going to be her stuffed animal, but a night-mare is so much better. I love the glare she gave the man over his “serving horse” comment. I could so picture that. Great writing, Stephen!

11 Steve Green { 08.13.11 at 3:47 pm }

Posting stuff into the VCR? Yup, that’s kids for you, the little darlings. 🙂

I think she needn’t worry too much about the Nightmare eating her, I’m sure McD’s do a McNosebag. 😀

12 Joan { 08.14.11 at 2:49 pm }

Love the way the horse just turns up in the night, no questions asked.
I like the way Mom was fixing the washing machine – makes her a more-rounded and up-to-date figure than if she’d just been doing the washing.
‘Mom’, and then ‘Mum’ – in the middle, and there’s one ‘Mum’ earlier – okay by me, but maybe some readers would prefer a uniformity – in a way, if it isn’t, it takes the attention away from the story itself.
Love the way Blackie stands ‘half in the table’ and ‘half out’ – ah, but then things begin to change …

13 John Xero { 08.22.11 at 7:56 am }

Really great blend of character observation and the supernatural, I thought the horse might turn out to have a taste for little girls…

14 Stephen Hewitt { 08.23.11 at 3:54 pm }

@John — thanks John. ‘Mr Bitey’ likes them on Rye with a little mustard and cress. 😉

15 Jenny Dreadful { 08.24.11 at 1:29 am }

I’d love to see this go further – but the story would possibly end up explaining itself – and I love the tension and shrouded wonder the reader leaves with anyway.

16 Stephen Hewitt { 08.27.11 at 1:24 am }

@Jenny — yeah, sometimes stories can go on a little too long. I enjoy implying a lot of what’s going on, so when I get to more or less stating what is happening, or has happened, I stop. Otherwise, I think it’d start to feel like telling rather than showing. 🙂

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