Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Coming of Matchbox

The Coming of Matchbox
 from "Boo & Zephyr: The Blind Dragon"

     After bathing her face at the creek, Boo slipped off her smock and waded into the water. Stix amused herself by chasing minnows in the shallows, but she caught only two and got a very muddy face for her trouble.   

     Boo scrubbed her smock as clean as she could without soap, and then she and Stix returned to camp.  The smock was spread to dry on the warm surface of the sunny side of the stone.  Boo clambered up to the top in her damp shift and stood looking at the hills, as the soft breeze dried her hair.
     She could see a herd of horses in the distance, loping along like cloud-shadows.  They ran along a grassy ridge and then passed down into the valley beyond.  Boo stretched her arms above her head and yawned.  Then she slipped down the tawny curve of the rock where Stix waited. She walked around to the fire-pit, picked up her pack and sat down nearby, just outside the shadow of the stone.  

     "Where is Tertiary?" she asked Stix.

     "Gone hunting," replied the little dog.  "He says the mice here are fat and tasty."
Boo rummaged in the knapsack and found her half-apple.  It was a little shriveled and had turned brown on the cut side.  "Tertiary's bird was delicious," she said, "but I'd give three of them for a half-dozen apples."  

     She took a bite from the withered fruit.  "I saw horses, Stix, wild horses.  They were beautiful. I wish we had one.  The only thing I can think of that I'd rather have right now than more apples is a horse to ride. Except, of course to find Zeph--" 

     She did not finish her sentence, however, because her knapsack began to wriggle and shake.  It fell over on its side and things began to fly out of it.  Boo screamed and snatched up Stix, who was barking furiously. She backed away toward the stone and stumbled on the edge of the fire-pit, sitting down hard in the cold ashes.  Up she popped again, still clutching the now silent Stix.  Her damp shift and legs were blotched with gray. But she did not notice, for something amazing was happening!
     Out of her pack rolled her little wooden box.  It came to rest right side up.  But something was wrong with it.  The lid bulged and rippled; the little box fairly danced on the grass.  Then, to Boo's utter astonishment, the little red horse on the top of the box began to kick and flail his legs, tossing his head and whinnying a tiny, tinny, little neigh.  One of his hooves wrenched itself from the cover of the box and stamped down on the grass.  No sooner had it touched the turf, than it began to grow!  It dug into the earth.  

      Another hoof came free, this time a hind one, which kicked madly in the air.  The little red head, complete with flying mane, tore itself free of the box.  Boo could see its minute eye rolling wildly through the hairs of its tossing forelock.  The little horse neighed again, and its voice grew louder and deeper.  All of its four legs were free now, and the gleaming, muscular neck pulled loose.  The whole horse was growing at an alarming rate.  The box had disappeared beneath the thrashing creature.  His tail flowed over the grass, and his shoulders pulled free.  He was at least three feet long now and growing rapidly.  His coat was changing from red to flaming chestnut, and his cascading mane and rippling tail were becoming a creamy flaxen color.  At last, he was completely free of the box.  He rolled on his back, kicking his legs in the air, and then he rolled back, gathering his hooves beneath him.  Already he was the size of a large pony.  He struggled to his feet, neighing shrilly.  He reared and pawed the air; then down went his head as he lashed out behind him with his black hooves.  He swished his tail and leaped about.  His quarters bulged with rippling muscles, and his hooves tore up the grass.   His fiery coat gleamed with sweat.  He continued to whinny, neigh and snort through his large distended nostrils. 

     A sharp pain stabbed Boo in the lower part of her right leg. She tore her eyes from the rampaging stallion and looked down to see Tertiary digging one of his claws into her leg.  He was saying something.
Boo realized he was yowling, "Turn on the word-shaper!"
     Tucking Stix under her left arm, she fumbled for the chain around her neck and pressed the red button on the shaper; whereupon, the neighing of the stallion was replaced with some of the most shocking profanity she had ever heard.  The horse was full size now: a magnificent stallion.  He stopped leaping about and stood shaking his mane and pawing the ground.  His language grew more repeatable as well.
     "Road Apples!" he shouted.  "OH! By the arse of my grey-haired grandsire!  Am I glad to be off that crap-encrusted BOX!"  He paused, tossing his head up and down.

     Tertiary approached him and said, "Ok, Horsefeathers, watch your language, there's a lady present."

     The horse threw up his head and shied, then dashed at Tertiary, who slipped aside like lightning.  

     "Horsefeathers is it? I'll show you, wretched cat!  I'll stomp you into a jelly and piss on the— Oh!  Hello."  

     The stallion had caught sight of Boo, clutching her bristling little dog against her chest.  What could be seen of her face was white as a sheet.  The rest of it was streaked with ashes, as was her smock.  Tertiary was sitting calmly next to her leg.
     Shaking his head once more, the horse moved slowly up to Boo. 

     Stix continued to bristle, and growled a hideous menace.  Boo clamped her hand firmly over the dog's wrinkled muzzle.  The stallion stood in front of her.  He lowered his head and breathed softly through his pink nostrils.  He said, "Matchbox is the name.  

    Sorry for the blue language, but I'll bet you've never been glued to the top of a box for seven years."
Boo was speechless.  Tertiary, peering intently at the line of blood on Boo's leg where he had scratched her, said, "You ought to wash that.  Cat-scratches can get infected easily.”

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