Rays of Hope: Chapter 5

Are you still in a hermit-like state? I am. My State is on target for Phase 3 of the Governor’s Restore plan. I can garden. I can go for a bike rideI can talk to friends and Zoom or FaceTime. I miss that face-to-face, bear-hug time.

So I continue on with the story of Marla and Ray. Marla remembers a more carefree time.

If you’re interested in starting at Chapter 1, click here.

Chapter 5

Marla pulled Ray onto her lap and looked out into a distance that wasn’t there.

“Come on,” said Ray.  “Please.”

She pulled what she thought was her best pleading face. She laid her palm on Marla’s face and pulled it toward her.  

“Please tell me the story about how you rode like the wind.”

“You know that doesn’t work with me,”

Marla smiled down at the girl. The hand on cheeks gesture was exactly how she used to gain her charge’s undivided attention.  

“When I was a little girl,” Marla began. “Things were different. For one thing, I had a sister.”

“My mother?”


“What was she like?”

“Do you want to hear the story or not?”

Ray twisted an imaginary key over over her lips and tossed it over her shoulder.

“When I was a little girl, my sister, your mother, loved horses. For as long as I can remember, she wanted a horse. She had such a good imagination. Sometimes she imagined things so vividly, she believed they were real.

Once a week, your mom and I hopped on our bikes and pedaled over to Mr. Robinson’s.”

“You had your own bikes?”

Marla nodded and Ray made the locking lips gesture again.  This time, Marla took the imaginary key and put it in her back pocket.

“Mr. Robinson lived on a horse farm about three miles down a dirt road out in the countryside. Somehow my mother convinced Mr. Robinson to let us ride his horses. Not many people lived on that dirt road, one or two houses on each side of the road every mile, most with dogs.  I hated those dogs.

The first house was the Johnsons’.  All five kids in that house had teeth looking like tiny pieces of new, sweet corn.  My friend Betty told me her mom said the Johnson kids had something wrong with their teeth so they never lost their baby teeth.  Betty’s mom knew a lot of stuff about people.

Your grandmother never told me stuff about people, except that I had to think about what people said and use my head, ’cause it might be true and it might not be true, and there was something in between called opinion.  I was supposed to keep my opinions to myself unless somebody asked, but I hardly every did. A little bit like you.” Marla gave her niece a tight hug.

“Did my mother keep her opinions to herself?

She was much better than I.

The Johnson’s had two dogs that came running out at the last minute, just when I thought we were clear, and chased after us, snarling and barking, showing their big white fangs with slobber-drops blowing off their lips in the wind.

My mother, your Grandma said dogs just like to chase the shiny bike spokes; they wouldn’t hurt me.  Still, I got up a good speed as I approached the Johnsons’, then coasted with my feet on the handle bars as long as I could, until the dogs gave up and went home.  Then I built up speed once more, so I could put my feet up again, ’cause almost every house had a dog that liked to chase bikes.

“Did you ever fall?”

“I fell plenty of times. My knees were scraped all summer long. But I never fell when the dogs chased me. I suppose, I was scared stiff, and that helped me keep my balance.

Mr. Robinson spent his whole day just feeding and brushing horses, riding them; then just for kicks, he taught little foals how to be led around and behave themselves.”

“What are foals?”

“Baby horses.” Marla checked her back pocket and took the imaginary key out. “I better give that lock another twist.”

a girl and her horse

“Mr. Robinson was in cowboy heaven:  just roaming around outside all day, being with the horses.  He got to just suck in the smell of all that good alfalfa hay,  and watch the flowers and birds tweeting in all the trees.” “

Is this a for real story?” Ray said. “Or make-believe?”

“It’s for real, Sweet Pea. It only seems pretend because now those things are gone and I hardly remember what alfalfa smells like because the only thing fresh I smell is you.”

Ray threaded her fingers together at the nape of Marla’s neck.

“Mr. Robinson said we had to learn to ride bare-back before he’d let us on a saddle; that included getting on the horse without the stirrups.  Your mom put on her sad-looking cow-eyes, all big and round, the kind you make that forever makes me see your mom.

Mr. Robinson slipped right up on his horse, Abou.”

“Abou Ben Adhem?” chimed in Ray.  “May his tribe increase.”

“Yup, just like that poem I recite to you.  You know, now that I think of it, I guess Mr. Robinson liked the same kind of poetry I did. 

Abou was all brownish-red in front with all kinds of colors, white, and tan, and red, speckled across his rump. Your mom rode Comanche Chief’s Jill.  Jill was kind of ugly in Mr. Robinson’s eyes, but not to your mom. Jill was pretty much one color, light reddish-orange, with lots of white spots all over.

I rode Big Joe.  There was no way I would ever be able to get on Big Joe, with or without a saddle unless somebody boosted me up.  I could just touch the top of Big Joe’s back if I stood on my tippiest tip-toes.  I took Big Joe over to the fence, climbed up, and took a leap over onto Big Joe.  Tall wasn’t the only thing that made Big Joe, big.  He was so wide that only my feet went over the side of his back, which made it impossible to hang on tight with my legs.

When Big Joe got to trotting around, he sweat something fierce.  Big Joe’s sweat came out of him in big frothy foam: all over his chest, between his legs, and between me and him.  By the time I got off, Big Joe’s smelly horse sweat sopped the whole  inside legs of my peddle-pushers.  

“What are pedal-pushers?”

Marla laughed. “You have so many questions. No key can lock those lips of yours.”

Ray clamped her lips tight. Still, her eyes danced in delight.

“They are pants that stop about mid-calf, so the hem doesn’t get caught in the bike chain.”

“What’s a bike chain?”

“Do you want to hear this story or not?” Marla kissed the top of Ray’s head.

“I pedaled home hard standing up, except for when I  put my feet on the handlebars to avoid the dogs. I hoped that all Big Red’s sweat would dry off my pants.  That made your mom laugh her guts out.”

“Did my mom get Jill?” Ray already knew the answer.

Marla nodded.”You’ve heard this story a million times.”

“I know, but when you tell it, I can almost smell the horse sweat and I can see the big wet stain in my mind’s eye.” Ray laughed the full, from her toes laugh.

Just like her mom. Marla wiped away a tear before she replaced it with a smile. Not a bit of it is left, she thought. Not a bit.

“When will we go out again?” Ray hopped off of Marla’s lap and headed for the Visual Dictionary. “Can we see the bicycle chain?”

“Okay.” Marla said, aware that she only answered one of Ray’s questions.

I hope you’ll continue to join me for the ride.

I‘m sure these two will be on an outside adventure soon. But where?