Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | June 11, 2009

Hop’s Horses

New Boston, NH. September 7, 2007.

P9070070

Hop knows all the horses’ names. He crouches behind the rusty pole near the center of the Merry-go-round and listens as streams of kids come and go. Shouting and pushing, they choose their favorites and give them names.

This is prancer! Mine’s called Red. My horse is the fastest! Oh yeah? Red can run a million miles an hour. Oh look! That one has a purple mane. She’s a princess-horse. Is there a unicorn? I want to ride Black Beauty!

So many different voices, but to Hop they are one–A voice of dashing through meadows and down racetracks. A voice of free. A voice that brings the plastic horses to life.

His mother sees him crouching behind the pole and drags him out. “Them kids pays a dollar each to ride. You got a dollar?”

It’s pointless to argue, even though Mom’s the one who collects those dollars and tucks them away in a hidden belt night after night.

“Get over to the hot dog stand. I told Oscar you’d take the late shift.”

Hop drags his tiny feet across the fair grounds. He’s tall for his age, but for some reason his feet stayed small. Like horse’s hooves.

He also has a mane. Bushy dark hair that’s never been properly cut — just snapped at with cheap scissors. But then it grows back practically overnight.

“Hey kiddo. Five dogs, one chili.” Oscar patted his shoulder. He was so huge he barely fit in his hot dog stand. Hop never could figure out how he managed to juggle so many orders without knocking anything over. Oscar had to step out of the booth so Hop could squeeze in.

As hot dogs and sausages sizzled and popped, Hop kept glancing through the tiny window toward the Merry-go-round. It was getting toward closing.

The magic time.

Finally, the fair began to close. Like a giant machine settling down to sleep, tent flaps closed, lights winked out, rides shuddered to a halt.

Hop went obediently to the sleeping bag back of his mother’s van. Someday, they were going to get a mobile home. A nice one, like Oscar’s.

Mom wasn’t there. Hop grinned. This meant he didn’t have to wait for her to fall asleep. He rumpled up his sleeping bag for a while — just in case she was nearby — then jumped out onto the summer-warmed grass.

The horses were waiting. One by one, he greeted them by name.

“Hello Red! Prancer, how’s the chipped leg? Aww, Princess, you have gum on your mane!”

They whinnied and rubbed his cheek and warmed him with their breath. Always, their anwer was the same.

When? When can we go free?

“Soon.” Hop stood up on the plain carriage-seat. “We’ll go together.”

As moonlight glittered off the horses shiny plastic coats, Hop could see them dance with excitement.


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Responses

  1. very nice…it had a nice Neil Gaiman quality to it


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