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I've played 'horsie' for my daughter, and it's hell on the knees: usually such games last about five minutes and finish with "Daddy tired now!"|
However, this guy apparently likes the game.
Martin was somewhat less than happy when his young daughter, Jennifer, asked him
for a "horsie ride". Not for any of the usual reasons: he always had time to play with
Jennifer, and it didn't embarrass him to get down on all fours and pretend to be a
pony. Far from it: that was just the problem. He enjoyed being
ridden, but felt that whatever fantasies he might play with his wife, they weren't
appropriate for a four year old girl.
Carolyn disagreed. "You're not doing anything indecent, for goodness sake! So you get a rise out of it: be grateful! It's Jennifer's favourite game. If you both enjoy it, go ahead."
So at her insistence, slightly reassured (it couldn't be bad if his wife wasn't concerned could it?) he was once more on all fours. Jennifer was all giggles as usual, going off into helpless fits of laughter whenever he pretended to whinny and paw the ground. "Do it again!" was the constant crow.
"Come on, Sweetheart," Carolyn said at last. "I think the horsie is tired now. One last ride okay?"
She picked Jennifer up and put and placed her on Martin's back.
"Wait, wait!" Jennifer exclaimed. She rummaged furiously in the pockets of her dungarees. "You've got to put this on!" She produced a tangled bundle of silver cord.
"What's that, Jen?" Martin asked over his shoulder.
Carolyn spread the cord between her fingers and sudden let out a whoop of laughter. "It's a string bridle," she said. "Where did you get this from, Sweetheart?"
"The witch gave it to me," Jennifer stated.
"The witch?" Martin asked.
"Mrs Moseby," his wife supplied. "All the kids call her the witch."
"I told her you were a pony," Jennifer explained.
"Uh huh," said Martin. "Who else have you told this?"
"No one. Just Jane and Mary, and Christopher. And Mrs Newman. And Jamie. And Jamie's dad..."
"Just about everyone then," Martin sighed. He was a bit embarrassed but also amused. "Well, if everyone thinks I'm a pony, I'd better wear a bridle, hadn't I?"
"I want to put it on!" cried Jennifer. She proceeded to but the cord bridle over her father's head. It wasn't a proper bridle: more like one of those rope halters - a loop to go around the nose and another that ran around the back of the head. Jennifer fiddled with it and fussed, as serious as only a four-year-old playing make-believe can be. Finally she had it to her satisfaction. Patting her dad on the shoulder and saying, "Good horsie," she slipped the thing on over his head.
Suddenly the world was different.
Martin blinked. What the...? An overpowering sense of difference assailed him. He felt so strange it was difficult to isolate the changes. His vision was strange. He felt strong, but he felt heavy. He was still on all fours but no longer on hands and knees.
"Come on, one more ride and that's it," he heard Carolyn saying, and was shocked to feel his ears move to locate the sound. He tried to speak, to demand an explanation, but something odd happened between brain and larynx and the sound that left his throat was a shrill whinny.
"I'm a horse!" he thought in amazement. Pony, he corrected - very small. A Shetland? He didn't really know a lot about horses. But why hadn't Carolyn reacted?
Completely bemused, he felt Jennifer lifted onto his back and the tug of the halter as Carolyn led him forwards. She seemed completely oblivious to his inexplicable predicament. At first he was too stunned to do anything else but follow, but then he tried to resist: to assert himself somehow. Nothing happened! It was as if his body was obeying another will. He continued to docilely walk in a circle, his daughter happily pounding his withers. "Gee up, horsie!"
"Okay, that's enough for today," Carolyn said at last. "Time to put him away now."
"Okay," Jennifer agreed. She slid down from Martin's back and hugged him quickly, before taking the leading rope from her mother's hand.
"Put me away?" Martin thought. "Put me away where? I belong in the house! And it's not like we've got a... stable..."
At the end of his garden was a low wooden shed that he knew hadn't been there an hour ago. Through the open half-door, a bed of clean straw could be seen. To this he was led. He found he couldn't resist. This body seemed to obey his will only if he wanted to do what might be considered natural to his new form. He could neigh but couldn't talk. He could tug the lead rope but couldn't disobey it.
Once in the stable he turned to face the door. Carolyn was leaning over it: Jennifer was with him. Why was he the only one who seemed aware that anything was amiss?
"Are you going to take his halter off?" suggested Carolyn.
Jennifer nodded. Martin was hard-pressed to conceal his glee! Ah! An end to this unexpected humiliation...
He froze in mid-thought. Jennifer removed a nylon halter from his head that in no way resembled the one she had put on him. Nor did he turn back into a human.
"Good night, horsie," Jennifer said, as her mother held the door open for her. He made to follow - a perfectly natural movement - but the door was firmly closed against him and bolted.
"In we go," Carolyn said. "Time to play with him again tomorrow." She led Jennifer away toward the house.
"Night night, horsie!"
In his pony body, Martin stared after them, unable to quite accept what had happened to him, but with an uncomfortable suspicion he was going to be playing horsie for the rest of his life.