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"Don't let Greyflank tell you anything." That's what Bill says when he sees me, right away, first thing after breakfast. He's shaking, shivering all over. I put my hand on 'im an' feel it, up through my arm. "What're yew so scared about, little Bill pony?"
"I've seen it." Bill turns an' stomps an' scrapes on the ground in front a' me with his hoof an' 'is teeth, yellow an' white, hiss-snap down my nose, barely missin' a ac't'al bite. A real bite, from little Bill. I get mad.
"The children listen to him, and they _go away_," Bill moans, rollin' his brown eyes, showin' red an' white.
"Bill, stop it!" I step back, an' feel off balance, for a second. "Knock it off, ye're scarin' me."
"Why? Why does that scare you? Who'd be scared of Old Greyflank? Sure he's odd but that's not scary, Dick. You think about why you're scared."
"It is the dreams! Don't ask him about them, whatever you do, Dick." Then he nuzzles me, an' I'm about t' run, not knowing whether he's bein' more friendly than ever or whether he has gone mad.
"Stop, you're makin' me cough!" I hafta lean over an' cough, an' Bill stops shovin' his nose at me an' looks sorry.
"I wasn't going to ask old Greyflank anything!" I tell Bill, a little mad still.
"Don't _listen_ to him then!" He stamps the sand an' some of it flies up in clumps. Some seagulls come for the clumps. They stab at 'em an' see they ain't food, an' fly into low sun where I cain't see 'em, but I can hear their hollering.
"What do you mean, 'go away'?" I am afraid.
He shivers, an' foam flecks show up aroun' his bits, makin' 'im look like Greyflank with that beard stubble.
"There don't seem t' be any less children on th' beach than when we met." I wave my arm at th' sand. Plenny of folks of all kinds c'n be heard over dunes, an' down in th' watery areas.
"I don't like it." He shakes and jangles his harnesses an' bits.
I'm 'bout t' give up. "Ye're scarin' me an' for what?" Nothin'. I hope. "Let's go on back to th' kitchen an' I'll bring yew up them back steps, an' feed ya, an' we'll make th' kitchen staffers scream, yeah?"
Bill folds 'is ears halfway to 'is neck. "Won't you get fired?"
"Fired? Hell pony, I was never hired."
"But... the quarters?"
I smile, a little, without showin' any stains or teeth. "You are worried, ain'tcha. 'Bout us never seein' each other, if I ain't got money."
Bill hangs his head, a little, an' I reach an' scratch into the short black mane between the ears.
"Don't worry, Billy, don't worry about it. There's nothin' t' worry about."
"Well, okay... If you say so." Bill leans forward and lays his chin in my hand, so I'm s'posed t' take 'is bridle an' lead 'im on up th' dunes, 'cross t' where I'm workin' when people don't hear me coughin' an' look at me funny.
I've never had anyone do anythin' because I say so, before. It's a strange thing.
I think it's the next mornin' when I'm walkin' over th' sand towards Bill's pony cart, but the pony isn't in it, so this's got t' be 'nother dream. I smell sticky soft maple, like in th' alley between th' breakfast houses in ac't'al town. The sky an' the sea are bleached blue. I'm feelin' like I'm in the sky or somewhere else lost, can't see so well, in th' mixed colors. The cart is black, an' two wheeled, an' there's no harness an' it's tipped forward, but only a bit, like it's hit a little hill in the sand, an' I realize it's not so far down on th' beach like we're used to. I come up an' put my hand, with the cigarette, on one side t' climb in, an' I see fur in th' curved cart-back, an' look inside.
I'm not real surprised t' see a furry animal, who's smellin' soft an' sweet an' like alley leftovers, not like I was t' see Dick Powell... or that... other one, with th' gun, which bothers me, I'll admit t' that. I look in an' watch a big furry striped grey an' black an' white blotchy cat stretch out really long like they do, an' show its pink mouth insides, an' make a big fuss about wakin' up. The tiger cat looks aroun', an' makes its eyes real wide, big an' yellow, staring all 'roun'. "Well, oops!" Says the cat, an' I lean on th' cart side an' listen to 'im, not feelin' odd, feelin' th' breeze botherin' my lungs a bit, an' watchin' 'is fur blow in the wind. It changes grey t' black t' silver when it's blown in curlicues.
Th' cat yaaaaaaaaawns, an' I catch it an' yaaaaaaaaa-- well, yawn as well. Then he sits his whole fat cat furry body on th' narrow side t' the cart. Big yellow blinky eyes look right at my face, an' white whiskers move aroun' a lot. Then he says, "Fell asleep. Oops. Well, I'm off, I suppose... Did you miss your last one, too?"
"I... heh..." I kina get nervous. "I don' know what ye mean, Mr..."
"Greymaulkin." The cat stops, balancing on that narrow edge with half his back legs, an' holds up a big front white paw an' leans down an' licks halfway down 'is ribs. I feel a purr in what's filled up with 'sumption, i' my left dead lung, an' on my palm that's on th' side of my pony's pitch black cart. After doin' th' other side, leanin' th' other way an' liftin' th'other paw, Greymaulkin looks at me 'gain an' licks his pink tongue around 'is lips. "Well, that was three, for me."
"I think I'll be a robot next time!" Greymaulkin's eyes get really wide then, an' I don't feel like it's a good thing not t' know what he's talkin' about. I wait an' he goes on, makin' 'is left paw really big an' flailin' it aroun', with 'is eyes huge an' excited. "A really _big_ robot!" th' cat's paws spread out on either side of 'im an' 'e tries t' balance on 'is back paws an' show how really big whatever it is might be, only it's bigger'n that, I c'n tell by his crazy eyes, an' I only shake my head, not knowin' where my pony is an' wantin' t' get away from this big ol' cat. Greymaulkin's eyes get wider'n ever, showin' sky in 'em even, an' 'e turns 'is head real slow towards me, an' says, low, "You do know a Kieffer. You killed him." Then 'e leaps off the cart with a heavy-cat -Thump- in th' sand, an' dashes under ol' grasses an' int' th' dunes. Th' sand starts t'shift under me, an' I wake up.
"I did not kill anyone! I didn't kill-- not--" I wake up tryin' t' sob, but it's all gone, somethin's all gone an' I don't know what.
"I did not kill " that's where I stop, all th' way t' the beach, trying t' say it out, an' not knowin' what t' say, only knowin' somethin's not right.
Bill is just chewin' his bits, as always. "Good little Billy," I say, reachin' out for his head, an' 'e butts his head in under my hand, nodding 'is neck up an' down.
Greyflank coughs, an' I start t' reach fer my quarters. He stares into my eyes, an' I don' know what it's about; I feel odd, wakin' up with all this upset leftover from a dream, an' now 'e's not actin' right, an' I step back. Bill doesn't notice, 'cept 'e can always tell when I'm feelin' odd. But 'e doesn't see Greyflank staring at me, with 'is eyes partly blinded by his leather flap blinkers.
"Give me your quarter, young man," he says, really slowly an' carefully, 's though 'm claimin' somethin' that's not mine. I'm afraid 'e won't let me rent Bill, but 'e only stares into my eyes a little, hard, an' backs off, an' I put a piece of money into 'is hand, an' he nods, an' lets me have th' pony.
"Let's go, Bill," I slap the lines over 'is hind parts an' he lets out with a good running speed over th' sand, throwin' some up int' the cart, an' nothin' is really better, but I decide it is, 'til I decide we've gotta slow down an' let 'im breathe awhile, an' let my good lung catch up.
I let the wind-coughs die down for awhile, an' joke somethin' about it, "I didn't think I'd be all sickened if _ye're_ the one runnin'."
Bill turns his head back towards me an' chuckles, or whatever that noise is he's doin'. Friendly noise.
Bill is my only friend an' I've decided t' not leave this place until I c'n buy 'im. Maybe with my health improvin', although it doesn't seem t' be gettin' much better I'll admit, I c'd work harder... but t' buy 'im, I may hafta spend more time without 'im, durin' my work times, an' what'd we both do then? I put my arms over 'is harnessed back when we stop.
"Yew already got plenny a' people ye're taking out every mornin'," I lean against 'im an' say.
"What are you saying?" Bill is tryin' t' eat hard grasses in th' sand clumps. I like th' pull downward of 'is neck from 'is shoulders, an' th' little strip a' shoulder that curves up.
"Nothin'." I put finger lines in th' silver grey fur.
"I love ya," I say finally, just leanin' on his side.
Bill's right ear turns back, an' I see grey fuzzy fur in its lining. "You're scaring me." He makes a pretend "jump" an' kicks 'is back legs in t' show me.
"I'm not scarin' yew." I pat Bill's neck. "Ponypony. Ye're not scared a' little ol' me."
"No. I'm not." He lays his ears flat back. "I said you're scaring me, not that I'm scared of you."
I don't get it. "I just wanted to say I loved yew. I'm scared, Bill. I keep getting-- upset. Tired. Sick. You're _sure_ the green uniform means nothin' to yew?"
"No. It doesn't. An' I've never even seen it, 'cause I was facing the other way." Bill turns around an' faces me with one brown eye, th' other facin' down th' shoreline. I see the first half of his eye before it's partly shielded by the black blinker.
"You weren't _there_!" I stamp into the sand, but it's only sand an' doesn't sound like anythin' other than soft an' damp, an' grainy. "It was only a dream, Bill, you can't have been there. Can't. Please don't argue... I don't know anyone named Kieffer, can I know anyone named Kieffer?"
I see only blinkers again when Bill turns his head. "I don't know anyone named Kieffer either."
"Good. I'm wonderin' what's goin' on, Bill."
"Don't even think it."
"Just to see what he'd say."
"Don't, or I'll never speak to you again."
"Or pull you in the cart, either."
I climb into the cart and fold my arms aroun' myself. Bill folds one back hoof up an' stands perfecly still.
"Was I goin' t' shoot Kieffer, in th' dream? Is that it?" I fold down over myself, feelin' worse'n I felt before I got real sick, before th' times when I lay flat on my back for I'll never know how long. When they'd try t' sit me up I'd not be able t' c'mplain, 't was too much hurt too many places.
"I dunno." Bill shrugs up his shoulders, an' lowers 'em again.
"Did he fall inta th--"
Bill turns around, pony-mad. "Look, Dick, don't ask!"
"Just don't. You don't want to know. I don't know how it happens, but people who know can't stay anymore. They never come back, and nobody knows where they went. I've seen it. Little children, on the sand, stepping away. Sometimes there's light, and sometimes there's nothing. Nothing. Greyflank tells them things. Don't let him tell you anything."
"I don't know why I can't know. I can't have killed... someone who was you. I have to know."
"It wasn't me! It was a dream! Neither of us ever knew a Kieffer and it's bad enough you paid the man already, please don't make it worse."
I sit up, with my shoulders hunched down, still. "Bill, ye're not happy with me... takin' yew out?"
"No. It's not that. It's the only reason to be glad you paid him anything. You're weird, but you're alright."
I decide not t' tell my pony 'bout Greymaulkin. Dick Powell, I figure that was just a regular movie dream. I remembered it, but it's not that strange. It hurts, sometimes, an' I felt weird, with Greyflank lookin' at me so hard. I feel strange. But it's not like the gun an' th' neck an' th' pit. An' that Greymaulkin dream, may it have been a little scare in me, makin' things up.
This night I have Greymaulkin in a dream, rubbing up 'gainst my legs an' purrin', an' lickin' 'is sides like before.
The next day I see it too.
I'm walkin' th' top of a dune out beyond where that tennis or whatyoumaycallit game has been played, only no ladies are out there t'day, an' no white nets, what with it bein' overcast.
There's a young lady on th' rise o' the next dune, not wearing any real clothes, but a long a'most see-through gown, as t' cover 'er bathin' suit, only I only see some kina white sheets or somethin' unnerneath, no bathin' suit. There's mist up from th' ocean 'cause it's overcast, but it's warm, an' the woman's carryin' a tiny baby.
I stop an' look at her, an' she don't notice me, 'though I'm standin' right here, less'n a dune away. She's got 'er nose down t' her baby, an's holdin' th' little baby up by her face in its wrappin's. She's peaceful, like, bein' a mother an' all. Th' wind's only a little wind but it's movin' 'er light gown all around. I c'n hear the baby making baby noises, not cryin' or anythin', just baby sounds.
I'm goin' t' wait down the beach fer Bill an' Greyflank, an' as I'm standin' here they drive up, an' Greyflank stops Bill. Bill nods t'me, lettin' me know t' wait in th' usual place, an' 'e's seen me. But th' lady an' old Greyflank don't seem t'notice me atall.
I notice 'e don't take any quarters from 'er, an' 'e waves out 'is arm, an' says, "Welcome, Miss." Now I think that's rude; she's gotta be a Ma'am, even though she's young, an' 'er skin's so smooth. An' I notice th' mother get in, nuzzling into 'er baby's wrappin's, an' just take up th' end of 'er gown, an' get it out o' the way of th' wheels. And I'm wonderin' whether she's ordered th' pony, an' asked t'be picked up 'ere, an' how it's planned out, an' why she's not lookin' up or sayin' anythin'. Greyflank leans forward an' Bill starts out.
I see 'em rollin' over the dunes, and th' cart tippin' side t' side. I'm watchin', feelin' idle. Then I see Greyflank lean over t' th' lady. An' she disappears, no mist or anythin' foggin' my eyes, she an' th' little baby aren't i'th' seat anymore.
Greyflank keeps driving, an' th' black cart's still rolling... I'm havin' trouble breathin' an' just 'bout t' c'lapse on th' sand. I cain't cough, I'm tew shocked. Nothin's right. I gotta be mad i' the head from all th' medicines they made me lick up t' make me well, i' the sanatorium.
"Tell me you saw that," Bill whispers t'me when 'e shows back up at 'is usual waitin' spot, an' Greyflank is checkin' th' cart's shafts, an' whatnot.
I'm sittin' on the sand, an' all my skins's white as that old sanatorium laundry, an' so I don't hafta say anythin'.
"You boys are too s'spicious 'bout something you're confused about," Greyflank rattles. I look mad at 'im, from where I'm sittin' on the gritty sand.
Bill shakes his head up an' down, snortin'. "Oh calm down." Greyflank pats 'im an' e' shivers. "All this s'spicion. Might do you both good to ask a few questions. Might do you some good if I told you a few things, boys."
"Why don't you then?" I frown.
He hacks. "I've been waiting, 'course."
"Huh! Fer what?"
"You're shiverin' down there, thinkin' you've seen someone whisked away for good, and for what? You think they can't come back. Well they can. It's important, though. It's important to go away first. Can't get to Paradise, sittin' around on a beach."
I get to my feet, tryin' t' brush off sand an' balance on my legs that're still wobbly from night, an' chilly. "Ye're talkin' about Paradise-- ye're talkin' about dyin'!" I point my finger close t' the old man's foamy stubble. "Well I don't wanta get anywhere better'n this! I don't wanta go t' any Paradise. Ye're talkin' about dying!"
I have t' cough into my hands, an' my hands're shakin'.
Bill makes his head straps rattle.
"Look." Greyflank hasta cough, also. An' 'e pokes aroun' in 'is pocket an' finds a thick smoke t' calm 'is lungs. 'E takes a long breath of it. "I'm not telling anyone anything they don't already know, young boy."
"Why you keep callin' me a boy? I know I'm a boy."
"Sure!" I a'most, I'm that close, tell 'im 'bout the Margaret dream, but I'm stopped in time, he ought'n't a' know about that. I lean on Bill's shoulder, showin' 'e's my pony, even though Greyflank owns 'im.
"Well, I've been waiting, just because I had to let you two have it your way, if everything was to go smoothly." Greyflank's a lot taller'n me or Bill and 'is eyes go way out over th' tops of us when 'e looks at th' beach line.
"Children and ponies are such brats." 'E almost winks! I don't get any o' this atall.
"Come on Bill, let's go." I take my pony's harness and stomp off.
I decide t' do somethin' real silly so we spend th' afternoon givin' donkeys rides in th' cart, sittin' up on their little haunches, some of 'em hee-hawin' like seagulls, an' children on either sides of 'em, helpin' 'em balance an' laughin' like crazy people. Bill is swishin' 'is tail, an' waitin' fer each set a' people an' donkeys t' have a ride, an' remindin' me Greyflank won't like how I'm treatin' 'is cart, but I don't wanna know. 'E's quiet, but 'e's enjoyin' th' party, or else I'd know. 'Is ears are all pricked an' 'e's chuckling, like, without any noise. Any talkin' though waits until blue lines show over th' sand, an' everyone's runnin' dif'rent directions t' get baths.
"I gotta go get yew back an' get supper," I say t' Bill, rubbin' that white stripe. "Pony? Whaty' been thinkin' about?"
"You know, Dick. You know, an' you're ignoring it."
"I am not! Don't make me cry an' get upset. You think I don't know he's killed people somehow? An' what'm I s'posed t' do, run away? An' what about yew? Leave yew here? Ii'main't gonna do anythin' like that. Anyway, I'm maybe half a body anymore, with this lung dead, an' my legs an' hands all shakin'."
"Don't get heroic. If anything happens, don't try anything on my account, Dick." Bill pushes 'is head 'gainst my sinkin' chest.
"Maybe it doesn't happen t' ponies," I think, an' pat Bill on th' top o' th' head. He shivers all over, an' turns 'is nose down th' beach.
"Donkeys. Donkeys aren't so di'frent than ponies. Are they."
"Oh _sure_, they're lots di'frent. Ponies is cuter." I mess up 'is ears with my no-cigarette hand.
I can't make hides or tails out a' this night's awful terrible kina dream. In some ways it's worse'n th' gun an' th' pit.
I'm sittin' in a chair, an' it's on little ball wheels, an' it spins, an' I spin in it.
I've 'ad tears runnin' down my face for a night, I can tell, it's all dry an' salty unner my chin. An' I'm not cryin' now, an' everythin's all wrong, an' I'm talkin' t' my best friend, only 'e's so tall I cain't see the top of 'im. 'E's standin' by th' wall, an' it's a machine, an' made a' metal, only it's my best friend, an' I'm tryin' to make out how t' say somethin' to 'im.
I've got a cap on an' I take it off an' wrinkle it in my hands. They're big hands, an' hairy, an' I'm in thick trousers an' heavy big boots.
"Well," I'm sayin' in a deep man's voice, "It's time, Charger. I dunno what else t' do. I'm ... sorry..." an' I'm cryin' again, big tears runnin' all down in my rough skin an' around my cheeks.
Then th' big metal machine man gets down by this other metal machine, an' it's a press, with a big lever, like a laundry press, only I'm not thinkin' it's a laundry press, it's some good thing, but it's somethin' awful too.
Th' metal man cain't talk t' me, an' somewhere in my thinkin' I'm sure he used to, before sickness happened, an' everythin' went bad.
Th' metal man can't reach out an' touch me, an' 'e used to, an' joke with me. An' we liked each other, 'e's my best friend. "I can't figure out what else t' say, friend. I know I could talk forever about how we've tried everything, Charger, and I know you'd listen t' me, but I'd be making time for myself, an' I'm going t' stop now. Okay." I feel myself shakin' out, shakin' my shoulders an' gettin' a grip, an' reachin' for th' lever, an' the man gets down-- puts 'is 'ead on th' shiny metal shelf-- kneeling, an' hands behind 'is silver barrel back. An' I'm careful not to touch my friend. I'm th' only one who can touch 'im an' I don't wanta do somethin' he'd wanta give back t' me an' can't.
I'm a big, strong fellow an' th' lever takes alot t' pull back, an' I'm frownin' an' my mouth's all wrinkled, an' I'm thinkin' about pullin' th' lever, an' it's back, before I c'n think too hard, an' there's a terrible scream, all from th' metal, not from Charger. All screamin' an' crunchin'.
I'm not wanting t' get up this mornin'. Everyone's dead, that's what I'm feeling. I'm not even gettin' up when people walk by me an' look at me, an' one taps me on th' shoulder. I'll look at 'er, an' I'm not movin', an' she sets 'er lipsticks in a straight line an' moves on, in 'er 'igh heels. I feel sorry, I'm not bein' too nice, an' she stopped an' all an' she's all dressed up t' go somewhere, an' I'm just layin' on a bench an' cat-dragged-in lookin'. I'm just not up t' sittin' up, an' gettin' my legs warmed up, an' goin' down th' beach, or anythin', an' I feel like everythin's terrible, an' like Bill'd never wanta see me again.
'Course, that's a silly thought, an' I know that, an' I feel it anyway, like I've done somethin' terrible to 'im. An' it's pretty silly lookin' of me when 'e comes lookin' fer me, bringin' along Greyflank.
"I could tell you a few things," that old man says, handin' me the lines.
I say, "Shut up."
"I had a dream, that's all," I lean forward from the cart seat t' tell Bill.
"That's all! That's all," Greyflank's laughin' an' makin' me pretty damn mad. "Huh, I knew if we didn't see you, that that'd be 'all'. 'Just had a dream.' Wait and see, young m--"
I'm rattlin' away i'th' cart an' make sure not t' hear 'im.
On th' sand th' cart's quiet, put t'gether so tight an' well like it is, an' Bill has a good jog 'bout.
"Well, I'm feelin' hot," I say, liftin' up that curly sweaty line a' hair on my forehead I oughta get trimmed if I wanned ta spend a quarter. "Go inta th' pavin's with me." They liked Bill up by those steps last time. I didn't get int' any trouble atall.
I settle down on th' steps an' I don't know how t' take off Bill's harness an' get it back on, t' rest 'im from th' heat, but 'e says 'e doesn't mind, at least not if 'e can have some ice. So I get int' th' kitchen an' have some shaved ice with maple syrup poured over it spooned inta two tulip glasses.
"I'm not supposed to ask you things I don't want you asking me..." Bill starts talkin'.
"Hey! That ain't my rule, silly pony." An' I feel silly when I say it, Bill ain't th' one thought things were all mixed 'round when 'e woke up this morning.
My pony comes up a step an' butts 'is spit-covered nose 'gainst my arm, an' I grin. 'E looks at me with 'is brown baby-eyes, like 'e's sayin', why didnt' yew come for me this mornin'?
"Well, I'm glad yew came for me, Bill-pony, an' I'm feelin' a lot better, after thinkin' ye'd never wanta see me again."
I look down at th' steps. "I dunno. Somethin' in the dreams, I s'pose, an' it doesn't make any sense. I'm sure, like, somethin's happenin' wrong, only I'm too stupid t' put a finger on it. Like all these dreams are real, an' I gotta do somethin' about 'em, an' I cain't because I don't _know_ any Kieffer, or Charger, or anythin' else, anything you've said from your dreams, an' mine. These dreams make less an' less common sense."
"Why wouldn't I want to see you again?"
"I don't know. I felt like I did somethin' so terrible, just so goshdamn awful, I'd never 'spect you ta see me th' same way 'gain."
"What, did you kill someone?" 'E perks 'is ears forward, an' it's s'posed t' be funny, an' it's not.
"I don't _know_!"
"Hrmph. In the dreams, death isn't real, it's just dreams, Dick."
"No it's _not!_" I stand up an' spill a little syrup on my toe, an' 'e starts chewin' on my shoe. 'E's in a good mood, an' I'm not, today.
I give up, an' sit down, an' put my chin inta my hand. "I give up. Here, have your own syrup an' ice." I pour some from his glass inta my hand, an' like the way it mixes with warm feelin' when 'e licks it off, an' I drink some of mine.
"Look, I'm only trying to say these things because there's nothing we know how to do about Greyflank, and if he's doing frightening things to people, there's nothing you can do, and I worry about you, Dick."
"Don't be worried about me."
"But I am, I'm worried, and I'm afraid if you get more upset, I'll never see you again, like if this morning you hadn't been where I could find you. I'm not going to shout at you anymore about Greyflank, and I'm not going to tell you not to ask him things, as long as you'll feel better, and not get so upset and sick; I'm afraid I'll make you cry and then you'll be mad at me."
"I don't trust 'im. Don' worry, you're the only person I'd go to now. What if 'e uses th' dreams somehow?"
Bill's worried, an' shufflin' aroun' an' lookin' down the paving, an' we're smilin' an' prickin' ears at th' hot people comin' down th' paving an' wavin' at us on their ways t' other places, indoors. Some of 'em pat Bill's grey-sweaty hind end. 'E's so cute.
"My folks is from Michigan. I'll bet it's not so hot up there, this time a' year, an' they're all cool in the pine trees. An' stuff. Whatyoumaycallit trees they got up in that Michigan. I never been, an' they moved back, after O-hi-o. I oughta put more thought inta seein' 'em. And I'll take yew with me, when I go." I reach out an' pat th' pony's front legs.
Bill snorts an' jerks 'is 'ead up an' down. This time 'cause 'e's happy about me. "Will we take a car?"
"Sure, yeah," I laugh, "If I got enough quarters t' take yew with me, I got enough fer us t' ride in a automobile, like we said, we'd like t' do that, right?"
Bill nods an' bites at 'is front leg like it's got bugs, only ain't anythin' like bugs 'ere right now, an' I'm lickin' th' last of my icy syrup offa my finger after gettin' out the very bottom o' the glass, an' I ask 'im, "Hey Bill, why d'ye wanta ride in a car? Ye're a nice little pony-cart type."
My pony doesn't answer fer a long time, an' when I ask 'gain 'e won't look at me. "You had a dream. So what was in it?"
"Well you found me out. Dick, it's... odd. I'm thinking you probably won't like to hear me talk about it."
Th' pony turns so 'is eyes are where I c'n see 'em.
"D'yew... d'yew not like me... 'm I not good enough... 'f I've never been in a car?"
'E looks at me, an' 'is nose holes curl in an' out. "Is that why you lied and said you've been?"
I think about that. "No." I'm lickin' watery maple syrup drips from my hand. "I just-- did. Then I got upset. I dunno, it seemed... Right."
"Like you did ride in a car?"
"No... yeah, I dunno..." I couldn't've been in a car, anyway I c'n think 'bout it. An' I was just lyin', an' I don't know what t' say about that without gettin' all embarrassed.
"I was just lyin', Bill. But what about your dream 'bout the automobile?"
The pony wrinkles 'is lip, an' lifts one hoof.
"Oh come now Bill."
"Well, it was like... you wer--"
"Me?" I point t' my chest.
"Yeah," Bill nods 'is curving neck. "You. It was like you were driving me. But not like this," he quickly 'splains, flickin' 'is tail an' stampin' one back hoof t' jangle 'is harness.
I watch 'im, an' I feel weird, like I've heard it before, an' haven't at th' one same time. I'm feelin' odd 'bout it bein' me in the dream, he could tell it was me. What if it really wasn't just strange names in th' other dreams? What if I've forgot all those people, from medicines an' such? What if I've done somethin' really bad? But then I'm thinkin', why'd I look so dif'rent in all a' them dreams.
Bill's sayin' to me, "It was dif'rent. I was me, inside, but your hands made me do things. Instead of askin', and me goin' where you say, like we do all the time. Instead of you askin' me, I could really only go where your hands pressed me to go, an' you made everything go, everything about me, an' there were no harnesses." And he looks at me, closely.
"How did that work? You mean you were you, without harnesses? How did that work?"
"I mean I was the car, an' you got inside. Everything burned, everything about you was leaning on me, not just your back or arms or the feeling of you holding the lines."
"You're making me hot, now, Bill."
"Well." 'E soft-shoe steps one time on the block sidewalk, sand makin' noises between 'is hoofs an' the blocks. "I wanted that, not to do things to you, but what I said, to be driven like that, in the dream. And to get into an automobile would be a great thing, I think.
"Why do you want to ride in a car?"
I'm puttin' my sticky glass down on th' pavings. Sand's all over th' bottom of it. "Movie stars do it. It's glam-o-rous."
"Oh." 'E looks at th' ground, blinkin' black, long lady lashes.
"Oh come now. Movie stars ain't more import'nt 'n you." I get up an' 'ug 'im aroun' 'is neck an' 'is boney cheeks. "I'd never give yew up for any old car, anytime. An' I'll kiss you now, between th' ears."