Wings Don’t Belong on Horses

(This is a work of fiction, a fantasy about rescuing a flying horse through the eyes of pre-teen girls. The author is our granddaughter Maya who wrote it last year when she was nine years old as a class project. Maya loves horses and is a voracious reader.)

“Stop!” Alex yells to her nine-year-old sister, Emily, who is trying to pull a horse out of its stall and into the barn aisle so she could tack him up and ride him, and, that wasn’t allowed. But Emily always seemed to be doing things she wasn’t supposed to be doing even slightly dangerous things like climbing the roof to rescue a stranded cat.

“Stop,” she says again. “You’re just going to get in trouble with Mom again.”

“Well, what would you do?” Emily swiftly counters, still moving the young horse. Now that she has moved Alex notices that his silver bridle tag says, King.

“I would stop yelling for once,” Alex says making Emily so mad that she drops the lead rope altogether.

“I am not yelling. YOU ARE,” Emily yells and (why am I not surprised) King gets spooked by the noise of the two girls yelling and bolts to the door.

King would have been long gone if Susan hadn’t been walking down to the barn to check on the horses. Susan neatly catches the gelding by his bridle and steers him back into his stall.

“I’m assuming that you have a long-detailed explanation for why King is out of his stall,” she says turning to the girls as if realizing that they were going to be in big trouble. Both girls start blurting excuses for what they were doing.

“Emily was just —,” Alex starts planning on telling the truth.

“Grooming King,” Emily butts in, making sure the excuse was believable.

“But he got loose,” Susan says, still skeptical.

“That’s right,” Alex says.

Susan regards them with a doubtful look, clearly not fooled by their excuses. After a little while, she sighs.

“Well, if you must be in the barn can you at least supervise the six-year-old’s trail ride?”

She turns around and before walking out pauses and says, “Just to be clear, both of you have to go, not just Alex.” With that, she walks out the wide red and white barn doors muttering a list of chores to herself.

After Susan leaves, the girls stare at each other for a long time, processing what just happened. Susan has that kind of effect on people she leaves before they figure out what happened.

“Sooo…..I guess we should go tack up the horses,” Alex says, already walking down the barn aisle to her mare.

“Wait,” Emily pants out of breath after running to her elder sister and says, “You cannot tell anyone that I helped you.”

“Helped me!” Alex snorts. “I helped you not the other way around.”

Emily’s cheeks are bright red in her rage.

“You were about to tell Susan exactly what I did,” she says.

“Because she needed to know!” Alex exclaims.

“You just want to get me in trouble,” Accuses Emily.

“Do not!”

“Do too.”

“Do not.”

“Do too.”

“Let’s just go to the horses,” Alex says.

Alex’s mare Aster was a competitive show horse with an entire wall dedicated to her medals most of them were the blue first place ribbons that the competitions gave out but nearly hidden by the azure and sapphire ribbons of second place and the golden yellow of the third place. Aster was a stunning dappled gray mare with a darker gray mane and tail. She had white stockings on all of her legs; however, Emily’s old pony Peanut was the polar opposite of Aster. Peanut was of a coppery brown color with a frizzy tan mane and tail. He had a wide blaze and short white stockings by his hooves overall he was a shockingly small seven hands.

After they finish tacking up, Alex leads them to the campsite which is a medium size gazebo located in the center of Rising Star’s riding center’s courtyard. The gazebo is painted all white with strands of fairy lights strung from the ceiling. Inside there is little furniture besides three large picnic tables lining the walls and a small brightly colored hand-weaved rug in the middle. Finding none of the pony scouts (what the six-year-old’s camp was called) Alex instead leads Emily to the trails where they found the pony scouts lined up on their ponies ready to ride along with an older girl Megan.

“Who’s excited for the trail ride?” Alex asks the pony scouts and a flurry of hands rise.

“First, before we get started, we’re going to review the three most important rules to follow when riding in the woods. Do any of you know them?” Megan interferes.

The reply was a jumble of answers, some yeses a couple of noes, and a lot of I’m not sure. I guess I need to review. Alex thinks This could cost us some time.

Out loud she says, “Well the first rule is to never shout even if you see a wild animal.” 

Nods from the pony scouts.

“And the second rule,” Alex continues. “Is to stay on the path all the time.”

More nods and a couple of Okays.

“Now does anyone know what the third rule is?” Alex asks and a girl with short curly orange-red hair that stuck out at every angle raises her hand.

“Yes, Carly?” Alex calls. “What do you think the third rule is?”

“To not stare at the Pegasus when you see it?” Carly answers.

Alex would have thought the little girl’s answer to be weird because of how she talked about the Pegasus as if Alex was going to meet one but didn’t as she was busy thinking about the ride and things like that.

“No Carly. The third rule is to always wear your helmet, but you guys know that.”

After five more minutes of discussion, they start towards the trails.

The forest was known for its beauty, but as Alex enters through the leafy branches, she thinks that the stories had not even closely depicted its magic. Huge, towering oaks cast a canopy over the layer of mahogany, maple, and spruce. There were thick vines coated with leaves sprouting tiny, glowing orange fruit hanging from the trees and the air seemed to be full of fireflies even though it was a day. A light mist blanketed the forest and left the entire place mysteriously hard to see in. Alex looks around in wonder. This is the coolest place I’ve ever seen! she exclaims.

“Told ya so,” Emily whispers under her breath.

“You never told me a thing! It was Susan who told us to go to the forest.” Alex argues.

“Yeah, but I wanted to take you ages ago doesn’t that count?” Emily defends.

“Then why didn’t you tell me?” Alex says.

“You were too busy on your phone, that’s why,” says Emily.

“Well–,” Alex starts before being interrupted by Carly.

“Whatcha’ doing?” she asks.

“AHH,” The sisters scream. “Where did you come from?”

By that time, they were in a grove open to the sky with a considerable amount of fog than before. Alex assumes Megan is still with the rest of the pony scouts so it was just Carly. Alex and Emily who saw the Pegasi as they galloped through the clouds were black except for one, who instead had a silky white wing and a mane and tail as white as snow. It faltered and nearly fell out of the sky before righting itself and flying on.

“What’s a Pegasus?” Megan whispers.

“Ahh! Where did you come from?” Emily exclaims.

“She knows.” Alex suddenly bursts out momentarily forgetting about Carly and Megan. Carly knows about the Pegasus. Don’t stare at the Pegasus when you see it. She had known all along.

“Indeed, I did.” Came a voice as slippery as slime with the occasional squeak to it from the top of a nearby bolder.

“I knew from the minute my Daddy found this little guy,” Carly gestures to the Pegasus with the white feathers stuck in some bushes on his estate. “Daddy plans to sell it for lots of money.”

With that, she turns her horse and trots back to the group.

———

That night in Alex’s room the two sisters along with Megan talk about what to do about the Pegasus. Lit by candlelight they dismiss idea after idea after idea but none appealed to all three girls.

“We could call the police,” Emily offers.

“But should we?” They would not believe us and there would be trouble. I say we take matters into our own hands,” Alex disagrees.

“Maybe not. It could be dangerous,” Megan says.

“Fine,” Alex says. “How about we call the police and when that doesn’t work, then I have an idea. Here’s what we do—.”

———

The next morning is Saturday, so after she did the usual chores instead of heading to the barn Alex goes around the house collecting seemingly random objects such as a brown coat, a low

hat, stilts, a camera, three pairs of walkie talkies, and a notepad before being pulled to the barn by Megan. There Megan says that they needed a group name and she suggests Potatoes.

“You can do all sorts of things with a potato. You can peel them, cut them, boil them, slice them—” starts Megan.

“Wait. Isn’t cutting and slicing potatoes kind of the same thing?” Alex asks.

“Yes, but ….” Megan trails off.

“The Potatoes can be our name,” Confirms Alex.

“Great!” Megan smiles.

While this is happening Emily is busy collecting information such as what the Pegasus’s buyer wore, what he ate, and what time he woke up. Emily also does a bit of calling the police. They don’t believe her. Megan also collects spare change (just in case) and by the end of the day, the Potatoes are ready.

“Okay, so just one more review, got it?” Says Alex.

“By the time you finish ‘reviewing’ we’ll miss our chance,” Emily complains.

The Potatoes are in Alex’s room with the coat, hat, stilts, camera, and notepad.

“This will be the last time,” Alex assures Emily. “First you find the buyer and stall him as a Jr. reporter until we can trade the real Pegasus with a fake Pegasus. Then I, still disguised as the Buyer, will fake buy the Pegasus. Hopefully, we have enough money. I mean twenty-five dollars would be enough, right?” Alex wonders.

“If you don’t have enough money then I have a birthday check I wouldn’t mind using,” Megan offers.

“Thanks, but our money should be enough,” Emily snaps still not happy that they had chosen a group name without her.

“Anyway, then I will leave the shop and go back to that clearing. Let’s hope the herd is still there while Megan swaps the real one with the fake.” Alex continues.

“I feel like most of this plan is based on wishing, are you sure it will work?” Megan asks.

“I’m completely sure. Again, while I get away from the shop and to the clearing Megan will carefully replace the Pegasus with our fake one. It’s foolproof.” Emily exclaims.

“It is not. It’s unlikely that we’ll escape unnoticed, let alone rescue a flying horse,” Megan states.

“Who asked you?” Emily grumbles.

“We should get to bed before Mom comes to check on us,” Alex warns.

“Yeah, she might get suspicious,” Emily says.

“Who asked you?” Megan fires back.

“GO TO SLEEP both of you!” Alex interferes.

——–

The night was falling over the country like a giant blanket, and as the last embers of sun faded three figures not-so-gracefully sneak out from their room on the second floor of their house into the lawn below. One carrying a camera and notepad disappears into the forest. Another goes into the barn and carefully makes a paper Pegasus down to the last tiny detail. The third checks money and confirms that they, indeed, did not have enough and she adds an extra hundred dollars. (Hmmm….I wonder where that came from.)

———–

Sunday morning is when the Potatoes have decided to strike. Alex admires the clear cloudless sky from her window. It’s a perfect day for a risky mission she thinks. After a breakfast of sausage, pancakes, and orange juice Alex walks down to the barn with the coat, walkie-talkie, and hat while Emily brings the stilts and reporter gear.

“Are you sure this will work, Eh?” Alex asks.

“Of course, it will,” Emily replies, busy tinkering with some stuff.

“How do I look?” Emily stands up and reveals that she’s wearing a pair of jeans, with the camera around her neck, and a white T-shirt along with a loose red sweater. She has her blond hair in a braid held back with a glittering blue headband.

“I think you need more glitter,” Megan says.

“Well, I think it looks great,” Alex says defending her little sister. She herself is wearing the coat and hat and is strapping on the stilts.

“It’s Go time!” Megan announces.

———-

Alex, dressed as the buyer heads to the private mansion/estate that Carly’s father, the famous Alexander Drew lived in while Emily and Megan stay outside. There Alex is escorted by a guard through halls made of pure marble and corridors filled with marble columns, marble walls, marble floors, marble roofs and marble furniture that looked like it cost a fortune (Wait, marble furniture? This guy seriously likes marble), until they arrive in a room at least three times the size of Alex’s house with red velvet carpet and marble pillars that soared into the sky. In the center of the room is a man sitting on a throne made of pure gold with purple cushions and intricately carved designs spiraling all over the throne.

“Ahh….at last! My good friend, I know exactly what you want. The Pegasus, am I right?” Alexander Drew asks and without leaving any time for Alex to answer goes on, “It’s such a marvelous creature, isn’t it? The wings, the mane, the tail? And now it’s all yours!”

Just buy time Alex, time is what you need.

“So, where is the Pegasus, if it even is real?” Alex says using her deepest and most adult voice.

“Ahh, the Pegasus. Well, it currently lives in the luxury stables on the side of my mansion,” he says lightly as if everyone knew that.

“This is Distractor to Switch. The Pegasus is in the stables. I repeat, the Pegasus is in the stables.” Alex whispers into the walkie-talkie.

“This is Switch. We have received your message,” Megan whispers back.

“Uhhh. This is Stall. I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” Emily frantically whispers into the walkie-talkie.

“What are you doing?” Mr. Alexander asks, his tone suddenly sharp.

“Err…I was just talking to myself, that’s all,” Alex says making the first excuse she could think of. Luckily through a window, Alex sees Megan quickly leading the Pegasus out of the stables and in the direction of the farm, just as Emily yells through the walkie talkie “I couldn’t stall him! He’s loose.”

“Okay bye!”, Alex suddenly yells running from the mansion/estate to the farm leaving Mr. Alexander sitting on his chair in confusion, yelling to his guards to get her and the other evil-doers. Carly’s dad is so mad and so confused that Alex almost wants to go apologize. Almost.

———–

“We can’t just keep calling her Pegasus. She needs a name.” Emily says stroking the Pegasus’s mane.

“We could call her Eliza,” Megan offers.

“Where’d you get that idea?” Alex asks.

“I dunno. It just came to me,” Megan answers.

Just then the shadows start moving and a herd of black Pegasi emerges.

“Wow,” Alex says. Still wowed by the sight of the moving shadows.

“Go on, Ellie, go join your friends,” Megan says.

“We’ll miss you,” Alex adds.

Emily doesn’t say anything because she’s almost in tears. Ellie takes one step to her herd, then two, and then she whirls around and runs back to the girls.

“I think she wants to stay!” Emily exclaims.

“But wait. What do we tell Mom?” Alex asks.

“Doesn’t matter. We’ll figure something out,” Emily says cheerfully.

The Potatoes free up some space in the barn and make sure Ellie has enough to eat. They even have a stern conversation with Susan about crazy make-believe adventures and what’s real and what’s not (but even she couldn’t deny the Pegasus in her stables).

The not end