Flash Fiction: The Tiny Horse by Ronni Shalev

We found him one morning in my wardrobe. He was standing on a pile of t-shirts and socks that Jonas liked to keep at my place. “He belongs to you,” I said, “because he is on your stuff.”

“No,” Jonas said. “He is yours, because he is in your wardrobe.”

We took the tiny horse out of the wardrobe, taking turns to cradle him in our cupped hands. His body was smooth and pleasant to touch. When he turned this way and that, his coat had a lavender-colored sheen. When we put him in the sink, he swam gracefully from one edge to the other. He seemed to be enjoying himself. In fact, he seemed to enjoy whatever we did with him.

The tiny horse liked to take his breakfast with us in the mornings. Our mornings, those days, were long and had no beginning nor end. We liked to lap up the passing minutes of the day together, feasting on the abundance of time that was so clearly ours for the taking.

He ate what we ate, in tiny crumb-sized portions. We liked to arrange his breakfast in a neat row: cornflake after cornflake, a bottle cap of coffee.

I was enthralled by the tiny horse in the same manner that I was enthralled by Jonas. I had not known him for very long, yet at no point had Jonas ever felt like a stranger. Each new part to him was like the next stretch of a panorama view I saw from a curving cliff path, revealing itself in a slow unwind. This landscape was beautiful and vast, and yet I felt that it was not unknown to me, as though I had encountered it already in a dream or in a painting I had seen as small child.

The tiny horse, too, felt familiar in my surroundings. I did not question his place nor his presence, and neither did Jonas (at least not to my knowledge). There were many things that were obvious to me: that he was rare, that he belonged to us, that he was ours to enjoy.

Jonas slept at my place every night and so did the tiny horse, on the windowsill just above my bed. At least we thought he did – we never actually saw him sleeping. But that was where he sat when we turned the light off and where we found him in the morning when we woke up. Jonas and I had a game that we played at night in the moments before falling asleep. We played this game face-to-back. One would write a message on the other’s back, tracing capital letters on the skin with a fingertip. “T… I… N… Y. Next word. H… O… R… S… E.” The message was always the same. We played for our pleasure and for the pleasure of our joke, but also for the benefit of the tiny horse, who watched us, his silhouette illuminated by the streetlamp outside my window.

“What is he waiting for?” Jonas asked one morning.

I looked at him over my cup. His face was still soft from sleep and there was a pillow crease underneath his eye.

“The tiny horse. Don’t you think that he looks like he’s waiting for something?”

The tiny horse made eye contact with us as we peered at him. Sometimes it looked like he was smiling a tiny invisible smile.

“Yes Jonas,” I said. “You are right. Perhaps he is waiting.”

We asked each other what kinds of things a tiny horse could be waiting for.

“He’s waiting to meet our friends,” I suggested.

“He’s waiting for us to take him to a family function,” Jonas said.

Jonas had to go visit his father and I had to get to work. It took me a long time to leave the house, as usual. I lost my keys and then found them again, then went back inside to use the bathroom. At the last minute I remembered to take my lunch from the fridge. Jonas stood outside the door, teasing me gently. I knew that he was patient because he liked everything I did. I wondered when this patience would wear off.

Every time I turned my key in the door after work, I half expected to catch the tiny horse in the middle of something. Perhaps I’d find him snacking in the pantry or looking through my notebooks. Jonas told me that sometimes he imagined returning to my place only to find the tiny horse had grown into a cat-sized horse, or maybe even a small pony.

“We could give him something to do, since he’s been waiting so long.” I said one night.

“Maybe he’s waiting for us to give him a key to the house,” Jonas said.

“Oh but really, Jonas. Not as a joke this time. We’ve forgotten that he is, after all, a horse. Maybe he needs to do horse things.”

“He’s a horse with horse desires.”

“A horse with horsey needs.”

We were silent for a moment. Neither of us really believed that our tiny horse had anything to do with those massive, neighing creatures from the countryside. No, he was a separate being, a delicate and tiny horse, who liked to march in place on our shoulders and observe us cooking dinner.

“Perhaps he needs some horseshoes,” I tried.

“We could build a tiny plough for him,” Jonas continued, “and let him plough your houseplants.

We laughed. The tiny horse smiled.

“T… I… N… Y…” In the dark.

I stretched each stroke of the letters between Jonas’s beauty spots. By now I recognized their placement on his back. A galaxy of freckles. The tiny horse constellation.

This was how we spent the springtime together. Me, Jonas, and the tiny horse. Sometimes Jonas would be gone for a few days, and I would be alone at my place with the tiny horse. In these times I let him join me in the bathtub and watched him float with ease, maneuvering his way through my legs and in between my soap bubbles.

The days became very long, and sunsets splashed across the sky in daring shades of reds and purples. We sat on my bed, looking out of the open window at the sun which had started to sink at the end of my street.

“Yeehaw,” Jonas told the tiny horse. “It’s your time to shine, cowboy.” “This is the wild wild west!” I exclaimed.

Jonas laughed and pulled my shirt over my head. But when I pulled my head out of the fabric, I saw his expression and immediately turned to see what he was looking at.

The tiny horse had moved away from us, making his way out of my window. He had started galloping away towards the sunset.

“Hey,” I said, still joking, “we didn’t mean it. It’s not really the wild west here.”

“Let him.” Jonas said.

The tiny horse galloped down the rafters underneath my window. Because he was so tiny, he moved very slowly, even though he was galloping fast. His fine white mane flew behind him as he sprinted along. I wanted to stop him running, but I also knew that there was no way that he would catch that sunset.

“Bye, tiny horse,” I called out of the window.

“Come back!” Jonas said in a high-pitched voice.

He had almost reached the end of the rafters. We were curious how he would get down into the garden. He ran into the gutter. We heard the pitter-patter of his tiny feet echoing on its tin structure.

“It’ll take him years,” Jonas told me. “We’ll check up on him in half an hour or so.”

By then the sun had almost set. What were we checking up on, exactly? We couldn’t make out anything in the garden. He was too tiny to be seen from my first-story apartment. Jonas pointed out a trail of grass that made a slight ripple in the yard.

“It’s him,” he said.

I told myself that I could see yellow flashes light, glints of the last rays of sun reflecting on the tiny horse’s eyes.

Jonas turned away from the window and held my cheek.

“So,” he said, “here we are. Just the two of us.” I continued the game.

“Here we are, sailor,” I said. “It’s us against the world.”

We laughed and closed the window. We went to brush our teeth.

That night we played a different game. I had to choose a character and answer Jonas’s questions as that character until he guessed who I was. I could feel him guessing questions that would lead to the tiny horse. He asked about my breakfast, he asked about the place where I liked to sleep. Whether I was a good swimmer. But I had chosen to be the lion from the Wizard of Oz, and Jonas never guessed who I was. Anyway, we were tired, and we both fell asleep before the game had ended.

Ronni Shalev (she/her) is an animation director and screenwriter based in Brussels, Belgium. You can see more of her work here: www.ronnishalev.myportfolio.com

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