The Last Pony.

 

Somewhere deep in the heart of the city was a street. In the street was a shop. It was an old toy shop, dusty, dark and abandoned. Many years ago it had been bright and full of children, but the children were long gone now and the owner had retired. The two rooms of the shop were full of boxes, empty display cabinets and faded pictures. At the back of the shop was a small paved yard and at the bottom of the yard was a shed. This shed had once been a store room and a workshop where toys were made and, like the toy shop, was full of old boxes and the junk of ages.

In the shed, high on a shelf behind an old Huntley and Palmer biscuit tin, was a small cardboard box. The box was tatty and had gone mouldy on one corner where the damp had got in. Inside the box was a toy pony.

The pony’s name was Max, he knew this because when he had been made the lady who painted him had said as she worked,“ This one has to have two white socks and a blaze so he looks just like this photograph of Max.” From that he had assumed that he was a smaller version of Max the real pony and so he was very proud that he looked just like a real live horse. When he had been made, Max had a chocolate coloured coat, a black mane and tail and two white socks and a blaze(of which he was justifiably very proud). He listened very carefully to the lady who was putting in his mane and tail-which didn’t hurt, it just tickled a bit- and he found out why he was being made.

“This pony is for a girl called Patricia Harding,” the lady said to someone who was working with her. “He is going to be collected in a few days time, just in time for Christmas.” Max was very excited, he was to be a Christmas present, he was going to go and live with a girl called Patricia and he looked exactly like a real horse.

When he was finished, Max was carefully packed in a box. He waited. He waited a long time. He could hear people working in the workshop, he could hear other ponies like himself being made. There was a tiny hole in the box that Max could look through. Every so often someone came into the workshop and he saw the other ponies being carried away. In the distance he could hear voices in the shop, the clink of money, the ring of the cash register. Other ponies were being bought and taken to new homes. Max felt a bit sad about this sometimes but he cheered himself up by thinking about how his two white socks and his blaze made him look exactly like the real Max.

Max waited. Days went past, the shop was busy with people buying presents for their families.

Max waited.The shop went quiet as everyone went home for Christmas, Max heard the Christmas bells ringing all over the city. Where was Patricia? Why hadn’t he been collected and taken to her?

Max waited.He heard the Midnight chimes and the cheering of people in the houses nearby on New Year’s eve.

Max waited.Weeks went by, it grew cold and damp, Patricia did not come.

Months went by, it grew warm and the city was busy with tourists,

Seasons went by and Max heard the Christmas bells again.

The lady in the workshop made more ponies, they quickly went to the toy shop and found new homes.

Max waited in his box for Patricia, for the time when he would have a new home.

Max waited a long time.

Someone put a big tin in front of Max’s box and he was forgotten about.

Max waited and slept.

The shop grew old and faded, the lady who ran it grew old and retired. The shop was emptied of all the old toys and the children did not come any more.

In the shed the last pony waited for his little girl.

One winter’s day a mouse chewed his way into Max’s box and woke him up.

“Ere, wot are you doin’ ere?” demanded the mouse who was most surprised to see a toy pony in what he thought was an empty box.

“I’m waiting to be collected”, said Max “I am a Christmas present. I am going to go and live with a girl called Patricia. I look just like a real horse because I have been painted with two white socks and a blaze, just like the real Max.” he said.

“I don’t fink so mate,” said the mouse, “No one’s bin ‘ere for years.”

“But I am Patricia’s Christmas present,” persisted Max. The mouse looked at him carefully,

“‘Ow long ‘ave you bin waitin’?”

“I don’t know replied Max dreamily, a long time.”

“You need to get out more mate,” said the mouse. “I don’t fink your Patricia is comin’, she ‘as probably grown up by now. Why don’t you go and find a little girl of your own?”

“Go out?” said Max somewhat stunned. “Outside the box? I can’t do that, I’m a toy pony!”

“An’ I’m a talkin’ mouse wiv a cockney accent!” said the mouse “You can do it, I’ll ‘elp you.” And with that the mouse chewed a big hole in the box and pulled Max out.

Max was shocked at how dirty and dusty the old workshop had become over the years. The last time he had seen it was just after he had been made, it had been tidy and clean then. Now cobwebs festooned the ceiling like garlands and a thick layer of grey dust lay over everything.

“Where do I start?” asked Max.

“Climb down orf the shelf,“ suggested the mouse. “I’ll come wiv you.”

The mouse led the way to the edge of the shelf, from there it was easy to climb down a pile of old cardboard boxes onto the old work bench. Max walked across it remembering the nice lady who had painted him, his tiny hooves made prints in the dust as he walked.

The next step was to get off the work bench onto the floor, Max and the mouse jumped onto the seat of an old wood chair,sending up a cloud of dust that looked like an explosion then down onto a tea chest full of wire and finally sliding down an old picture that was leaning against the tea chest.

When they reached the floor of the workshop Max sneezed furiously, blasting dust away from him like a tiny leaf blower.

“Bless you mate,” said the mouse. “Now, what we ‘ave to do next is get out of ‘ere, get into the building, go up the stairs to the street and you can get out of the old front door by climbing out through the letter box.”

“Thank you,” said Max politely “How can I repay you?”

“Can I ’ave your old box?” asked the mouse “It will make a splendid ‘ome for my Missus and all the nippers, I’ve got sixteen kids!”

“Be my guest, and thank you.” called Max to the mouse who had skittered off back up the pile of boxes and onto the shelf.

Max did as he was told, getting out of the workshop was no problem there was a gap under the door that he could squeeze through, he trotted across the old paved yard, in and out of the weeds that were growing through the cracks in the paving. Max found a rotten bit on the back door that had been gnawed by mice and he was able to walk between the planks.

He found himself in a small hallway, on the floor under the dust was an untidy pile of old photographs and papers. They were faded and curling with the damp. Max pushed the photos and papers with his nose, he saw that the pictures were of ponies, real ponies, some of the photos were old but they were still of real ponies. The letters were all from children, Max couldn’t read but if he could he would have seen that some of the letters were asking for toy ponies to be made to look like the ponies in the photographs.

At the bottom of the pile was a photograph of a pony that looked just like him. It was a black and white picture, but the two white socks and the blaze were exactly like Max’s own, he had found the picture of the real Max.

Max climbed the stairs to the front door, there were only a couple but it took Max a long time since he was so small. By the time he reached the worn out doormat at the front of the entrance hall he was very tired and it had begun to get dark.

“I must keep going,” he thought to himself, “If I can get out of the front door I can go and find Patricia.”

He pushed the letter box open with his muzzle and climbed out into the street.

Max had never been in a city street before, for a while he hid behind and old crisp packet just looking at what was going on. Cars and taxis sped along the road, people bustled past carrying bags of shopping. Max crept out and made his way along the street, he kept in to the side close to the buildings where he was out of the way of people’s feet. Max looked up at the people rushing past, how would he be able to tell which one was Patricia?

He reached the end of the street and found himself at the junction of a much larger main road. Big department stores were lit up with lights, every shop had Christmas trees and decorations in the windows. Max remembered that he was to be a special Christmas present, he felt braver and stepped into the main road determined to find Patricia.

Max ran in and out of the Christmas crowds darting away from boots and shoes. All the time looking up at the faces of any children he saw, He called out Patricia’s name in a shrill whinny, but no one could hear him, maybe because he was too small or maybe because they were just not used to hearing toys speak.

It grew late, There were fewer children around as they were taken home to have their dinners. Max decided to try some of the other streets, he attempted to cross the main road and narrowly missed being squashed by a taxi! Eventually more by luck than judgement he dodged and weaved his way to the other side. He followed a street away from the main road, the shops grew fewer, there were more tall houses and offices.

Max turned another corner and found himself in a park. It was late and there were very few people around. He wandered sadly across the grass. Being a small pony it took him a long time. It began to rain. It was the thin, cold, mean kind of rain that soaks you to the skin and chills you to the bone. There were very few people around. Max found himself by an ornamental lake. He stared at the rain making ripples on the surface of the dark lake lit by the orange sodium street lamps on the nearby road. A large fish came up and blew bubbles on the surface which made Max jump.

“Hello,” glooped the fish, “What are you doing out this time of night?”

“I’m looking for Patricia,” mumbled Max sadly, “But I’m lost and I don’t know where to look for her. I am meant to be her Christmas present. I look like a real pony.”

“I don’t know any Patricia,” replied the fish, “But I do know that it is getting cold, I am going to go down to the bottom of the pond. You look cold, do you want to come with me?”

“No thank you,” said Max, “I had better carry on looking” With that he turned and set off along the path by the side of the lake.

It got colder and colder, the rain stopped and the clouds cleared giving Max a view of the night sky with Winter stars burning blue white. A frost was starting to form, Max could see the path sparkling ahead of him in the moon light.

Just them Max heard footsteps. Behind him two figures were walking arm in arm along the path. Max scuttled under a park bench as they approached. It was an elderly lady wrapped up in a big overcoat and several scarves, she was arm in arm with a little girl who wore a red anorak over her Brownie uniform.

“That was a beautiful carol service,” the lady said to the child, “How long had you and the other girls been practising?”

“Four weeks Grandma,” the girl replied “and I had to do extra practising because Brown Owl chose me to lean the recorder part too.”

“Well it sounded beautiful, but it is way past your bedtime, and we have to get back to the station to go home.”

The little girl stumbled and shuffled a bit, she paused then said “ Grandma, wait, my shoe is undone.” She sat down on the bench to re tie her laces. As she did so, Max, who was by then very cold and still wet from the rain, sneezed.

Most people would not have heard a toy pony sneeze, some people do not have the right kind of mind to hear things like that, (people who don’t believe in the tooth fairy or Father Christmas,) some people would have dismissed it as traffic noise or their ears popping, but a few people can hear things like that for what they really are. The child looked under the bench and saw Max shivering in the dark.

“Look Grandma,” whispered the little girl, “a toy pony, poor thing I think he is lost.” She reached out her hand, Max shut his eyes and prepared for the worst. He felt her hand gently pick him up, and carefully smooth his soaking wet mane away from his face. He was handled delicately. The girl wrapped Max in a handkerchief and put him in the deep pocket of her anorak. It was warm and dark. Exhausted, Max drifted off to sleep.

Much later Max was woken up by a bright light. The old lady, the one the little girl had called Grandma, had taken him out of the pocket and unwrapped him.

He found himself standing on a work top in a kitchen. Grandma and another lady who was a bit younger were looking at him,

“Ellen found it when we were coming home through the park, ” Grandma explained to the other lady, “It is filthy but she insisted on bringing it home.” Max was indeed filthy, he was covered in dust, he had black city grime all over him, his legs were covered in mud from the park and you couldn’t see his two white socks.

“I’ll give it a wash,” said the younger lady. She filled a bowl with warm soapy water and dunked Max in. She wiped away the mud and the dust, she rinsed his mane and combed it. Max was dried with a paper towel and stood on the draining board in the kitchen to dry. The two ladies went away, leaving Max in the dark kitchen.

“At least I am in the warm,” he thought to himself and he decided not to wander around until he had a better idea of what was going on.

The next morning Max found himself being carried into another room by Grandma. Max noticed that the house was decorated for Christmas with a Christmas tree not unlike the ones he had seen in the shop windows the night before.

The little girl appeared in pink pyjamas and a mauve dressing gown.

“Look Ellen,” said Grandma, “your Mummy washed that toy pony you found, come and have a look at him.” Ellen skipped over to the table that Max had been put on. She looked at him carefully for a long time, then she picked him up. “He’s beautiful Grandma, so pretty. Look at his white socks.”

Grandma gazed at Max with a far away look on her face.

“He reminds me of the pony I had when I was your age” she said after a while, “He was a dark bay just like that and he had two socks and a blaze.

“What was he called?” Ellen asked.

“He was called Max.”

Then Max knew that he had found Patricia, just like the mouse had said, she had grown up, but her granddaughter Ellen would play with him and look after him.

He was a special early Christmas present, He looked like a real pony.

The last pony had finally found his home. Text Stories.

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