Exercise – “write about something stolen”

I missed last week because my husband and I hiked Mount Monadnock with some college friends. It was brutal. In fairer season (read: cooler and drier) it would be tough but not this tough. I had a hard time, actually. Still, I managed to drag myself up, and was sore for about four days afterward. People stayed over the whole weekend, though, so I didn’t get around to sitting down to type anything up. I have a couple stories I might like to develop, though, so I may do that this week instead of starting from scratch.

This one’s a short one, first-person but not personal (obviously once the narrator reveals she’s a retired divorcee you’ll probably realize that). The prompt was “write about something stolen” and I thought about the stories of people nabbing someone’s lawn gnome (which was done, but not originated by, one of my husband’s cousins as a prank on my mother-in-law) and traveling with it, taking photos and sending them back to the person. It also made me think of one of my grandmother’s cousins, a woman who never married or had kids and has spent her life traveling, as well as my grandmother herself and her sister, who will go to Myrtle Beach together. I think it’d be cool if my sister and I someday, as old ladies, travel around together having adventures. You’re never too old to have adventures, right? :)

The Traveling Pony

I have this My Little Pony, a blue Pegasus with sparkly blue hair, a darker blue than its body, going all the way down to its hooves. It’s the only pony I had, plastic or otherwise. My sister, Linda, had a yellow unicorn. We had friends who had more of the ponies, and one girl had shelving lining her room, a single shelf but all along every wall, nailed up at a grown-up’s eye level, and that’s where she kept her ponies.

She wasn’t our friend, but she had to invite every girl in the class to her birthday party, which rich people could afford to do. She’d showed us her room, all of us, shuffling in like people on a guided museum tour, and told us she had every single one of them. I still remember how my stomach hurt, how my chest clenched in panic as my sister and I shot each other frantic looks. My sister and I had each bought her a pony with our saved-up allowances. There was nothing for it. We could take the presents out of the pile and pretend we hadn’t brought her anything, but that would be even worse. We just had to hope she realized we hadn’t known.

When she opened the presents, the girl gave us a regretful smile and informed us she already had these ones. “You can have my old ones, though,” she said. So we got her old ones. The cutie mark on mine had been scraped and Linda’s had cropped hair but we had fun with them all the same.

My sister lost, traded, or tossed her pony years ago, but I still have mine. I couldn’t tell you why I kept it, but it came with me when I moved into my first apartment, my first house after my marriage, and again into an apartment after my divorce. I never let my kids play with it. They could hold it, prance it around on my bed, but I wasn’t going to let them tramp it in the dirt or take it to school to get it taken away by their teacher or stolen by a bully.

Linda makes a lot of money at her job, and she never married, so when they force her to use her piled-up vacation time (“I’m so busy, and all they do is try and call with ‘emergencies’ while I’m out and bitch about being behind when I get back,” she’s told me) she travels. And the first thing and the last thing she does is visit me.

She used to ask me if I’d go with her, but back then I had the kids, and my husband at the time would never let me go without him – he’d pout and I’d come back to a messy house with nothing taken care of – plus I worked forty hours packing potato chips at the factory. Now I’m retired, but it’s been too many years. She sends me letters instead, and email once that got to be a thing.

Last time, after Linda left, I noticed the pony was gone. I looked all over, and wondered if one of the grandkids got a hold of it, maybe one of my kids gave it to them to play with (I’m more lax than I was) and it ended up going home with them.

Then I started getting the photos, sent to my email, with stories Linda wrote to me about how much fun the pony was having on its travels. Photos of it sunning itself on a beach, sipping a drink as bright blue as its hair. Perched on a pair of binoculars. Dipping its muzzle into a cappuccino. All the sights Linda saw and the things she did, she wrote to me as if the pony was writing to me, complete with, “I miss you, Mama, but Auntie Linda’s taking good care of me! I’ll be home soon!” I looked forward to the daily updates. They cheered me up, brought some color into my increasingly wash-worn life.

One day my email binged and the photo was of the pony about to ring my doorbell with one tiny hoof, the one that was always cocked mid-step. The caption read, “Home sweet home!” I welcomed Linda in and she gave me the pony back. She was a bit grimy and her mane and tail a bit tangled. I scolded my sister and she laughed.

“You’re not mad I took it, are you?” Linda asked.

My chest squeezed tight and tears stung my eyes. My sister’s face fell and she reached out for me. I took a shuddering breath and squeaked out, “No… I’m mad you didn’t take me!”

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~ by Amber on August 11, 2012.

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