'The Horse' by Martin Day
The horses galloped at speed around the field, jostling with each other, manes flowing across their shoulders.
"Out of our way, donkey" they shouted as they swept past.
The donkey stepped back obediently and continued to watch from by the hedge. These were important horses; race horses. The light was starting to fade and the clouds glowed brightly on the horizon.
"It's time to go back now," the donkey called as he turned back through the gate.
He started to trundle down the stony lane that led back to the stables. Moments later the others clattered up behind him.
"Hurry up Plodding-Donkey." panted ‘Up-with-the-Joneses’ breathlessly.
"Let us go first," added Silver-Spoon. "Remember your place."
They all had fancy names, like race horses do. But at least they talked to the donkey. He may not have been important like them, but he'd rather be on the fringe of their social circle than alone.
They soon arrived at the stables. Each door had a brass plaque above it with a horse's name on. As they passed each horse turned into his own private stable: ‘Proud-Heart’, ‘Silver-Spoon’, ‘Up-With-The-Joneses’, ‘Shame-On-You’, ‘Top-Marks’, ‘Guilt-Trip’. Finally at the end of the block was the door to an unnamed stable. The donkey had to share with whichever horses were passing through. He trotted in thinking that he would have the place to himself tonight, but to his surprise, at the back of the stable, was a large pure white horse munching on some hay. The donkey gasped! He had never seen a white horse before. It was beautiful. Its legs were long and slender, its muscles perfectly defined, its mane rich and full. Although the stable was dark this new visitor seemed to glow in the half light.
"I'm sorry," said the donkey. "I didn't know you were here."
He could see straight away that this powerful presence was built for racing. He knew that race horses were prized animals and always had their own stables. ‘Shame-on-you’ had often told him that he didn’t deserve his own stable. So even though this was his home he felt uncomfortable, like he shouldn't really be here. Maybe this stable now belonged to the white horse and no one had told him. ‘Guilt-Trip’ always said that if he stepped out of line he would be punished. He politely retreated back out of the door.
"Don't go! I hope you don't mind me sharing with you."
The donkey was more startled still. This beautiful racehorse even seemed considerate of his feelings. He wasn't sure how to respond.
"Please join me. I've been waiting to talk to you."
This was very different from how the other horses treated the donkey.
"Why would you want to talk to me?" asked the donkey curiously. He plodded confidently back into the stable. He was becoming more at ease without even noticing.
"I have good news for you: There’s racing tomorrow,” said the White Horse with a sparkle.
“Is there?” said the Donkey. “The other horses will be pleased. They live for racing.”
“But this isn’t just a run around the paddock,” said the White Horse, “this is the race of your life!”
He looked directly at Plodding-Donkey.
The Donkey was suddenly embarrassed by the misunderstanding.
“But, I'm not a horse,” he declared.
“Really?” the White Horse looked doubtful. “What's your name then?”
“Is it really? Who gave you that name?”
The Donkey was speechless. This was quite the hardest conversation he'd ever had.
“The other horses did, didn't they?” suggested the White Horse. “And you believed them.”
“But I am a donkey.”
He was confused now. Although he had always longed to run with the other horses, this was surely a case of mistaken identity.
“You are a horse and you will run tomorrow.”
There was a long silence whilst the words sank in. The Donkey was gripped by conflicting emotions: first, excitement and hope. This was all he’d ever wanted to hear. But then, fear and dread. He had never run in his life. He had always accepted the scorn of the other horses, but if he dared to believe the White Horse he would just humiliate himself.
“Would you call the others? I want to speak to all you horses,” requested the White Horse.
“Yes sir, of course.”
The Donkey took off immediately, galloping the length of the stables, shouting excitedly to the other horses about the visitor.
“There must be a mistake,” said Proud-Heart. “I can’t believe that anyone important would visit Donkey.”
But he came anyway when he heard there was to be racing.
When all of the horses were assembled, the White Horse explained about the race. There were some questions from the horses. There was much to take in for them. One thing they all recognised was that the White Horse spoke with authority. He was clearly a race winner. None of them had ever met a horse who had actually won a race before. The White Horse had a bright blood-red rosette in his mane with the word 'First' across the centre, so there was no doubt.
... to be continued!
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© M Day 12-July-2007