On a hilltop faraway, in another time, I had a pony. Papaw tethered her to one of the tall, thin maple trees situated in the dead center of the bright, green acre of clover we called the front yard. And I stood, hypnotized at the picture window, pressing the chubby, pink flesh of my cheeks against the warm plexi-glass. For hours, I watched her lope lazily in wide, steady circles stopping to snap up mouths full of sweet, tender grass. Her long pink tongue tickled me and when she’d stomp her feet and throw up dust, I’d stomp mine, too. Mommy said I was too young for a pony, and at four years old, I was. But she was a gift horse, an unplanned present from the absent father to his bastard daughter. The only thing he’d ever brought me before was a Cabbage Patch Kid without her adoption papers and half of a Reese’s peanut butter cup.
My young busty, bumpkin of a mother couldn’t quite bring herself to refuse when Frankie brought his beat-up, pickup down our long driveway with a sparkle in those blue eyes of his, eyes wide and clear like mine. She had a big heart and he had a palomino pony prancing around the bed of his truck, tethered to a tool box. The loose ends of a big, pink bow tied in a knot around its neck got trampled and tangled in the shit around its feet. A shock of shiny mane fell across her forehead and the chocolate brown splashes of color in her tan coat caught the spring time sunshine. And I called her Sugar.
“Now, sweetie, sugar…” Frankie began when he stepped down out of the dusty, black Ford.
His snake skin boots crunched gravel as he strode toward the two of us with purpose, grinning to reveal a row of small, white, perfectly fake teeth. The stiff collar of his plaid, Western shirt was open wide across his chest and a thin, gold crucifix glinted through the bramble of hair there. Absentmindedly reaching up, with a thick thumb and index finger, he smoothed down his full mustache. It was like a blonde Burt Reynolds had swept down all the way from Hollywood, into the hills and out to the Ridge, especially to visit us. We were both blushing.
Mommy was harder than her curves would lead you to believe. She put her hands on her generous, soft hips and shot him one of her squint-eyed, scathing looks. The kind of look that makes you feel guilty and you‘re not even sure why.
“I know what you’re thinking, sweetheart,” he continued. “But you worry too much! I broke that pony myself, just for my baby girl!”
I seem to remember the pitch of his voice being a little high. But somehow still thick and rich and dripping honey. I definitely remember he was a smooth operator. Confidently sliding one arm around my itty bitty body and the other around my mother’s waist, he lifted me up to run my baby fingers over Sugar’s coat. I buried the other little girl hand in the golden curls at the nape of his neck. When he smiled, we wanted to trust him.
Misty Marie Rae Skaggs, 30, is a two-time college drop-out who currently resides on her Mamaw's couch in a trailer at the end of a gravel road in Eastern Kentucky. Her work has been published here on friedchickenandcoffee.com as well as in print journals such as New Madrid, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Limestone and Inscape. On June 9th, she will be reading her poems on the radio as part of the Seedtime on the Cumberland Festival. When she isn't baking strawberry pies and tending the backyard tomato garden, she spends her time reading and writing damned near obsessively in the back porch "office" space she is currently sharing with ten kittens.