The Carousel Horses



The Carousel Horses


Once upon a time, a carousel horse went round and round.  That was his first memory after leaving thefactory all those years ago, where he had been hand painted, by a shaky handedold man with thick glasses.  However,lately he found himself day dreaming about what it would be like to run.  He knew that it was a seemingly impossibleidea, but he could not help thinking about what it would feel like to let hishooves paw at the ground as new and different scenery sped by.

As the sun rose on another beautiful day near, the oldboardwalk, he waited for the sound of the keys, swinging on the belt loop oftheir operator Jim, who took care of them every day.  He also waited for the familiar sound of thechildren who would run to the gate and wait impatiently for Jim to get themready.  He had long looked forward to thefrequent sound of their feet pounding on the grey wooden decking, but today itdid not come.

He could hear them giggling and running passed them, but theywere not coming toward them.  Jim thecarousel operator, a man who long ago begun to shuffle and his hair once brownhad turned white, appeared without the daily sound of his keys clinking on hiswaist. 

On this morning, instead of his usual greeting and pat, heapproached with a tear in his eye.  Heran his frail hand over the horses faded blue mane.

He spoke softly as he said with a crackle in his voice, “Thisis our last ride my friend. I have to retire, and so do you.”

The horselooked back at him, and tried to process what he had said. 

         “What does that mean, retire, I don’tunderstand,” he thought.

         Jim turned away, running his hand overthe chipping and worn paint on the back of the turtle, the snail, the lion, thetiger and the Zebra.  He lingered amoment longer than the others, when he reached the once favorite pink horsewith gold trim, and sparkling eyes and lashes.  

         “I’m sorry my darling, we won’t begoing around again.  How I wish we couldgo on forever,” he told her with wistful sigh.

Jim with atear in his eye held on one last time to the gold, twisted rod that lined theedge of the platform.  He looked over hiscarousel and then stepped down, pulled off his ticket apron, folding it andsetting it down on the stool where he used to sit and watch them go round forhours.  He did not even look back hewalked away, wiping his tears with a polka dotted handkerchief he pulled fromhis pocket.

         “I don’t understand,” the horse thoughtto himself over and over again.  “Tiger,Turtle, Pink Lady… I don’t understand.”

Only theydid not reply.  The horse could onlystand, frozen in place as the world seemed to move on without them.

         Eventually, when Jim did not return, thecarousel horse became quiet, and he began to just let himself feel the oceanbreeze.  He listened to the sounds oflaughter and the last sounds of summer as the day passed slowly.  He listened to the sounds of the sea gullscaw, as footsteps faded, and squeaky, old gears began to screech to a halt forthe evening. 

A few of the yellowed light crackled to life high above theboardwalk. As he listened to the quieting sounds, he began to hear the chirpingof crickets, and crashing waves as the water hit the pillars below the pier. 

   As he watched the stars come out, shiningbrighter than he had ever seen, and he allowed himself to drift into one of hisdreams, as he imagined himself running along the beach, feeling the watersplashing around his legs.  However, hewas awoken by the sudden flash of a brilliant light.

He blinked his eyes, which was a surprise in itself, but thelight became briefly brighter, before fading, until it looked like the sparksthat shot from the sparklers that the children would run with during the fourthof July celebrations.  He watched as thelight began to swirl around each of the carousel animals, until it hoveredaround his nose, which made it twitch. It then flew around his ears, which madethem tickle.  He shook his head in effortto shoo it away. He was frightened for a moment, and froze where he stood.

He thought, “What just happened?  Did I move my head?”

He triedonce more, first looking to the left and then looking to the right. He wasamazed.  He blinked and then wondered ifany other parts of him could move.  Hetried one hoof and then another, then his ears and his tail, swatting it backand forth.  He was still frightened, butalso very excited.  He was nearlyoblivious to the fact that the sparkling light was hovering close by.  However he did notice that he was not theonly one suddenly free of their frozen state.

The Pink Lady was moving as well, with the same frightenedexpression on her face that he decided he must be wearing too.  She swished her tail, and twitched her ears,and batted her lashes, but she too was hesitant to do anything else. 

She looked around and saw the horse moving and returned hissurprised gaze.

Then she blurted out quite accidentally, “What is happening?”

The horse smiled and replied, “I don’t know.  There was a light, and then this.”  He gestured with his hoof showing her that hecould move as well.

Then a small, high voice spoke.  The horses both looked around to see who itwas, and found that it seemed to be coming from the little sparklinglight. 

“You spoke?” he asked with a stunned expression.

“Yes, I did,” it replied.

“Who are you?” he asked hesitantly.

“I am a wish,” it told them directly.

“I don’t understand,” he replied.

“I know.  You won’t,”it told them.  “I was called here by theold man, the one who cared for you.  Heloved you both very much, and it made him so sad to leave you behind.  So, he made a wish, and here I am.”

“I don’t understand,” the horse repeated.

“It’s okay.  Like Isaid, you won’t,” it replied.  “If youboth will follow me though, I will lead you home.”

The horse looked at the other carousel animals, with rods intheir backs and said, “But we can’t move.”

“I think you will find that you can,” the light replied.

He looked anxious, but took a step forward, and then anotheruntil he was suddenly walking away from the spot he had occupied his entirelife.  Once he was sure that he was notstill stuck, he nodded toward the Pink Lady, reassuring her that it wassafe.  She was a little more hesitantthan he, but she eventually did step away from her once anchored spot.

“If you will follow me then,” the light prompted.

The two horses looked back with a twinge of sadness at theirlifelong companions who remained on the deck of the carousel, but were sooneager to try out their new freedom.

They each amazed at the way their skin felt, how their breathlooked against the chill evening air.  Theymarveled as their mains and tails blew in the wind, and they wondered at thesound their hooves made as they walked on the decking as they walked away fromthe carousel.

They stayed close to each other, but also marveled at thesights of the fair, the ones that were only a distant memory from when they hadfirst arrived at the boardwalk.  Theyfollowed the light passing attraction after attraction, until it finally ledthem down a ramp that ended on the beach.

At first, when they saw the sand, they were frightened.  They had never felt such soft ground beneaththem before.  They both hesitated andpawed at the ground, testing it to see if it could support them.  The horse even stumbled back after a bravemoment when he stepped out onto the sand, which made his foot sink deeply.

“It’s alright, I promise you,” the light reassured them, butit took quite a few minutes before he felt brave enough to try it again.  Once he did though, he felt suchfreedom.  He pranced around on the sand,enjoying the way it felt on his hooves, after having stood so long on the hardmetal disk that was beneath them.

It took a little more for the Pink Lady to find her courage,but soon she too was stepping out, anxiously enjoying the feel of the sandunder her feet.

“If you will follow me,” the light again prompted.

The horses both gave each other an anxious, but excitedglance and then slowly walked forward, following the light onto the sand, untilthey were walking right next to the water. The horse delighted at the way the water felt on his legs, it felt betterthan he had dreamed it could, and he suddenly felt the undeniable andoverpowering urge to run. 

He took off, running harder and faster than he imaginedpossible.  He ran until his lungsstrained and his newly tried muscles began to ache.  After a little while he realized that he hadleft the Pink Lady behind.  He hurriedback to her side as quickly as he could; apologizing for leaving her, but hersmile soon reassured him that she was in fact delighted to see him run sofreely.

“I’m sorry my lady.  Idid not mean to leave you behind,” he sputtered.

She shook her head and replied, “It’s okay, besides, you cameback.”

She smiledwarmly and he saw a familiar twinkle in her eye, the one he saw when thesunlight hit her just right, only now it seemed to express so much more.  She nuzzled her nose on his neck and togetherthey giggled as they continued to follow the light.

As they walked on they talked about their time on thecarousel, and the countless children who had rode on their backs, chucklingover some of the ones who were sticky, or sleepy, or had to be rushed off bytheir parent, because they suddenly felt sick.  The children they loved the most were the onesthat liked to kick them, pretending they were in a big race.  However, as they walked, they got lost intalking about their day dreams and the moments they imagined were once believedwere impossible. They could barely believe that they were living even one ofthem.

They got lost in conversation as they walked, until they soonrealized that the sun was beginning to come up. Only as they looked around, nothing looked familiar.  The sand had gone and they now stepped onsoft, young, green grass, and the buildings around the city had become snowcapped mountains.  Trees taller than theamusement park rides they used to watch from their carousel, stood like giantsin the distance. 

“Where are we?” the horse asked.  

“We are home,” the light explained. 

The Pink Lady looked at him with a slightly hopeful, butslightly frightened expression.

“I don’t understand,” the horse replied.

“You are home, the magical home where wishes reside,” itexplained.

The Pink Lady suddenly looked concerned and began to askfrantically, “What about Jim?  What willhe do without us?  What about theothers?”  The light stopped and thenfloated toward her swirling briefly before hovering just in front of her. 

“I know that you are concerned, but I want you to know thatJim wished this with his whole heart.  Hewished it with all the love that he had for you both.  He wanted you to have your freedom.  As for the others, you won’t have toworry.  Just turn around.”

The horse and the Pink Lady turned at the same time, amazedto see their friends, tiger, lion, zebra, turtle and snail all making their wayover the edge of the meadow, each with an amazed expression on theirfaces.  Together they rushed to greetthem, eager to see if they were okay.

When they were sure that they were alright, they all began tolaugh and looked around in awe of what they were told was their new home. Thefriends, together since their creation, laughed, rolled in the grass, swam inthe beautiful lake, smelled the flowers for the first time, and by the sun hadset, they had settled into their new life, grateful to have each other as theysettled in for the night. 

As they gathered their unusual little family, the light beganto distance itself, swirling up into the sky leaving them to adjust to theirnew home.  

As it disappeared into the sunlight, it whispered, “I wishyou joy.”

Only thePink Lady and the horse noticed at the light withdrew, but as they looked outover their friends, the meadow, the glassy lake, and all of the flowers thatsmelled so sweet and they felt happy, happier than they had ever dreamedpossible.  They stood side by side,shoulder to shoulder, and smiled. 

         “So this is what it feels like tolive,” the horse commented quietly.

The PinkLady just smiled and nuzzled her nose on his neck and together they slowlywalked toward their friends, ready for a happily ever after. 

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Children's Stories
Ages 4-8
writing bigred7
Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.
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Short story, inspired by the many stories I read as a little girl and continue to read to my children.