I have an amazing new friend who this afternoon challenged me to a creative writing face-off. We would give each other a topic, and simultaneously in a ten-minute window of time write to the topic. The one I received from her was a bit unnerving, really: “Write a sweet piece about a little pony, for the age range 6-8 year old girl.” Outside my comfort zone? Yes. For the last few years all I’ve written about are cars and business history. But the name Fred surfaced in my mind, and I started.
Fred was a hairy little pony who hated his name. He took his name from the pizza restaurant, Big Fred’s, where he worked. He was tied all day to the railing on the front porch, and his job was to greet patrons. Children loved him, petting and stroking him. (Some bad little kids tried to give him their medication.) Fred liked his job all right, but whenever a shrill little voice called him–“Hey, Fred! Freddie, Freddie Krueger”–he found himself dancing and tugging at the rope that kept him from running away. One day a toad named Herbert came by to say hello. They were old friends, but it had been a while since Herbert had been around.
“How can I get my name changed?” Fred asked.
“You could work at a different restaurant,” Herbert said.
Fred stamped his front hooves. “That’ll never happen.”
But one day a crew from the sign company showed up in the parking lot. They had a big new sign for the restaurant, which they put into place that day. It had a picture of a pony and the name Winkie. There was a banner, too, that said, “Under New Ownership.”
Once Fred’s tears stopped flowing, he braced himself for his new life.