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.
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…”
Wellies on, horse aligned to the outside door.
“Wanna go out?”
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.
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.
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…
August 9, 2011 16 Comments
helly walks the palomino down the estate at night, after the scratchy kids go to bed and the lights come flickering on. She likes to carry a silver pistol and Merrick – the palomino – wears matching silver harness.
Shelly thinks this is a dream she has each night, after she mumbles through her little ritual of tea, toast and then hot chocolate. If it wasn’t for these things, it would be so much weirder, she thinks. She doesn’t know the half of it.
Out in the gardens, and streets, around the monotonous, uniform pebbledash, she wanders like a shadow. She doesn’t know what she’s wearing. If she did, she’d blush.
The palomino is a consistent friend. Shelly’s not a girly-girl into pink and ponies – she’s never had a thing for horses – but Merrick waits by the gate every night, as dusk falls and the sodium lights fire up, pink and dull. He nickers softly as she hands him some peanuts. She’s not sure where the nuts came from or whether nuts are good for horses (at least they’re not salted), but he scoops them up appreciatively with his wide, rubbery lips; hairy lips that tickle her hand. Afterward, she wipes her hand on her hip, amazed once again, that all her fingers are intact. Clever horse.
They clip-clop along Waveatree road, the night smelling of laburnum blossom – the trees as enthusiastic as fireworks – warm plants, and humidity. It’s quiet. She never sees other people out here when she walks with Merrick – another reason she thinks this is a dream. “It’s not a very complex dream, is it,” she says, patting the horse. He snorts and rolls an eye in her direction. She snickers.
They clip-clop along a few more garden fences, pass a few more identikit cars and front lawns. I feel like a suburban Indian, she thinks. Then: a suburban Native American, don’t you know.
Out in the darkness a cuckoo or a unicorn calls – Shelly really has no idea about wildlife, apart from the fact that horses like nuts.
Two houses down, a flicker of moving pictures comes from an un-curtained window. Inside, there is no one watching the TV, but a cup of tea sits next to the big fat couch, a couch as bloated as a witchetty grub and as multi-layered as a chocolate pastry. Merrick shakes his head. Shelly cannot but agree – how many more episodes of Red Dwarf can they show on Dave, before everyone in the whole, wide world has seen it twice?
Down at the bus station, Shelly peruses the timetables. Strange – she has never done this during the day. Shelly has no illusions about leaving Crestwood and all the humdrum monotony of her life. I was born here and I’ll die here, she says. If it wasn’t for these flights of fancy, I’d just be like everyone else. That’s what she says; mostly in this dream.
But Merrick found her and now she carries this pistol. That too is an anachronism. Why the gun? It rather implies she has to shoot someone, something, or defend herself, but unless TV can attack in a dream, nothing moves. The gun maintains its mirror shine, Merrick’s harness sparkles, the moon smiles down.
During the day, she could get a return fare to Burton. But that’s just the same as Crestwood. She could take the horse. It occurs she’s never tried riding him, and to do so would be somewhat impolite. Another scratch around horse ears. She thinks Merrick agrees.
Outside the football ground, Shelly considers turnstiles and horses and can see a traffic jam before it happens. They pass on, with Shelly wondering if Merrick might like some of the wide, green lawn that is Crestwood FA. There does seem to be a somewhat resigned plod to his step when they turn away.
Outside the bead shop, Shelly plays with her hair, wondering about how long it would take to braid it and fill it with colourful beads. She also looks speculatively at Merrick and his lovely long mane which flows like ice. Merrick is obviously not impressed.
They return through the ‘big park’, and once more down Waveatree Road.
Shelly tries a few quick draws and ‘howdy partners’ with the gun. There are a few hysterical moments, but it’s not as much fun as doing it in front of the mirror with a hairbrush. She carefully retrieves the gun again from the bushes. It is thankfully undamaged.
A block later, Shelly unlatches the gate to her garden. Merrick has already gone ‘poof’. She leaves a small pile of peanuts on the brick post and smiles happily.
In moments she’s upstairs, asleep once more.
September 25, 2010 No Comments