Little Suzi And Tony The Pony
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A Kylie Anne Story for Grandparents and their Grandchildren
Once upon a time long, long ago—in the 1960's—a little girl named Suzi saved a small part of her lunch every day to feed to her new friend Tony, the pony who lived in a grassy lot between two tall houses on the city block between her school and her happy little house on Azalea Avenue.
At the back of a lot, surrounded completely by a farm fence, exactly as tall as Little Suzi, was a tiny grey barn tucked under a mighty oak, with only two stalls.
For a long time Suzi thought it was an empty barn left over from the olden days when farms dotted the land around her town.
She often imagined the pigs, goats, and chickens that must have lived there years ago.
Little Suzi wished the animals were there still and that she could feed them and take care of them in the barnyard.
But the old barn was dark and still every day when she passed by on her way to school and on her way home, until one warm spring day when she stopped for a moment to gaze at the pasture and let her imagination take her to a place where the sunbeams shown down through cottony clouds, warming the willowy tall grass in the field and the boggy mud hole in the pig sty.
In her mind, Little Suzi saw pigs wallow, baby goats jump up on their mothers' backs, and sheep dogs herding lambs back to the pen. All these things she had seen in books her mother read to her when she was even smaller than she was now.
All these things she saw in her imagination and watched happen in her mind's eye.
While she stood there at the fence beside the sidewalk, Little Suzi absent-mindedly took the red apple from her paper bag, the one from the grocery that her mother packed her lunch in for kindergarten, and began to take small bites.
She didn't have time to finish her lunch at school because Albert, her invisible friend, had wasted too much time putting up their paints and glue and so they were the last two children to take their lunch bag from the shelf next to the teacher's desk and the last to start eating their lunch.
Of course, Albert never actually ate any food.
He kept Little Suzi company while she ate quickly so that she could sit up close in front of the teacher for story time and nap time right after.
That's why she often had an apple left over from her lunch, apples took a long time to eat.
It was the same apple from her lunch on this particular day that Little Suzi was eating when she first met 'Tony' the pony.
Of course, he did not introduce himself to Suzi and Albert when he came walking slowly out of the shadow of the small barn.
It was only a short walk for a pony, so he made the trip in just a minute or two while Suzi and Albert waited excitedly by the fence.
"I wonder what his name is?" Little Suzi said to Albert.
Maybe it's the same as the pony in the book your teacher read to us.
"What was it?"
Tony, Albert remembered, Tony the Pony.
"Oh yeah," Suzi said with delight. "Tony the Pony!"
But then Suzi didn't know what to do, because the pony just stood at the fence with one eye turned toward her.
"What do we do now, Albert?" Little Suzi asked her friend.
Let's ride him! Albert suggested with enthusiasm.
"We can't," Little Suzi whispered. "He's far too old."
How do you know he's old? Albert queried.
"He has short grey hair on his neck, see? And I think he's blind and a little deaf, too."
Blind and deaf? Albert was curious now.
"He only looks at us with one eye, see how his head always turns away when he gets close to the fence?"
"We always have to holler at him before he comes over from the barn to the road."
Oh, Albert said with some amazement, You're pretty smart.
"I know," Little Suzi responded with some pride in her voice. "Mummy always says I hear too much and remember too much."
In the story book, the children go to feed Tony a carrot, Albert recalled for her, maybe he likes apples too.
So Little Suzi offered her apple to 'Tony', who reached far out over the fence, curled back his thick lips from his yellow teeth as long as piano keys and slowly and carefully picked up the rest of Suzi's apple from her outstretched little girl's hand.
He likes it! Albert said with satisfaction, See, he likes it!
After that, Albert and Little Suzi stopped by after school almost every day with an apple for Tony.
"My you really like apples," Suzi's mother exclaimed one morning. "I'll have to buy a lot more from the farmer's market if you eat one every day."
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away," Little Suzi told her mother with a gleaming smile. "That's what teacher says."
"Well, that's right," her mother laughed, "that's what my teacher always said too!"
But one day, just before the end of the school year, Tony the pony did not come out from the barn for his apple.
The next day, he didn't come out again.
After a week, Suzi became sad at home and at school.
When her teacher asked, she just said 'nothing' because she didn't know how to explain it to her teacher.
At home she just said 'nothing' because she didn't know how to explain it to her mother.
He must be sick, Albert offered one day.
"But he can't be sick," Little Suzi told her friend, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."
The little girl became sadder and sadder when Tony the pony did not show up again for two more days. Then Albert convinced her to ask her mother about their new friend.
"I left his apple by the fence and it was gone each morning as I passed by, but Tony won't come out to see me any more," Suzi sadly explained to her mummy. "Why doesn't he want to see me? Doesn't he like apples anymore?"
"Well, sweetheart, I don't think Tony is eating the apples you leave by the fence," Suzi's mummy told her. "I think other animals like possums or raccoons may be eating them."
"Oh," Little Suzi replied with a pouty lip, but she felt a little better that Tony might still be her friend.
"Time for your bath and bed," Suzi's mummy told her. "I'll read you a story tonight."
"And Albert too?" Suzi asked.
"Albert too," her mummy agreed. "You both have school tomorrow."
The next day, while Suzi was at school, her mummy visited the tall house next door to the empty lot, on the side where a double gate led into the barnyard. There she met a kind, grey-haired lady who explained that after her husband had died some years ago, she sold or gave away their other animals—all but the pony her children rode when they were young as a reward for helping feed the chickens and pigs and milking the goats.
"But the children's pony was too old to sell and I just couldn't bear to part with him," the kindly lady told Suzi's mummy; "but poor Tony died last week and I hired a man to take him away in a cart."
"Wait," Suzi's mother interrupted. "Did you say his name was 'Tony'?"
"Why, yes. My children named him after a book I used to read to them when they were small," the lady told her. "I think it is still in their bookcase of children's books, I am saving them for my grandchildren."
"That's the same name my daughter calls...called...your pony."
"Well dear, that's how we got the name—from the book I used to read to my little ones. Why don't you bring Little Suzi here to visit after school tomorrow and we'll all read it together and then we can explain to your daughter what has happened to poor old Tony?"
"Yes, that's very kind of you. I will."
The next day, Suzi's mummy said nothing to her about visiting the kindly lady in the house beside the pony barn. Instead, she waited on the sidewalk in front of the house until Little Suzi came up the sidewalk on her way home from school.
"Mummy," Suzi said quizzically, "did you find Tony the pony?"
"I'm afraid not dear, but we are having biscuits and milk with the lady who lives in the house next to Tony's barn," her mummy told her. "I think she knows where Tony is now."
Inside the house, the sweet lady first gave Suzi and her mummy gingerbread biscuits and cider in her cozy sitting room.
I thought we were getting milk with these biscuits, Albert protested.
While Suzi and her mummy enjoyed their biscuits, the sweet lady picked up a thin book with a gold spine and held it up where they could see the cover.
Hey, that's the same exact book your teacher reads to us! Albert exclaimed in Suzi's little ear.
"Tony the Pony!" Little Suzi exclaimed.
"Yes, dear," the lady began. "My children named their pony 'Tony' and he lived in the barn next door until he became too old and blind and sad; so he had to go away to pony heaven to be with all the other animals that children have loved."
"Like Chico?" Suzi asked her mummy.
"Yes, like Chico," her mummy answered and then explained to the lady, "her little dog who was run over by a car last year."
Poor Chico, Albert said.
"I can't bring 'Tony' back for you, dear," the lady continued. "But I have something for you to take home to keep."
As she spoke, the lady raised a picture frame that had been face-down on the table between them. It was a photograph—a photograph of Tony the pony in his younger days, surrounded by excited children feeding him apples and petting his nose and long mane.
He was beautiful.
Little Suzi held the photograph in her lap the whole while that the kind lady read "Tony the Pony" to her, Albert, and her mummy.
How can a little girl understand
When her new friend disappears
Without saying 'goodbye'?
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