Dreams of a Dancing Horse

Dreams of a Dancing Horse by Dandi Daley Mackall

Book: Dreams of a Dancing Horse by Dandi Daley Mackall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dandi Daley Mackall
helping set up the circus tents. That elephant is so smart and personable that I think she could do a lot of other jobs.
    â€œFanny, if you don’t mind my asking, and since you did ask me, haven’t you ever thought about doing something else with your life?”
    Fanny snorts. “Mercy, no! I would miss the circus life. The thrill of it all when the lights go on.”
    As if they’ve been listening to Fanny the Elephant, the lights do go on all across the midway. They twinkle from strings hung crisscross over the main aisle. Torches of fire hang at each tent’s entrance.
    We stand on a hill and look down on the scene. “What else would you miss, Fanny?”
    â€œSo many things, sweetie. The squeals of the children when they first see the big tent. The shouts of the barker, calling folks to come inside and take a peek. The midway smells of corn on the cob, popcorn, hot dogs, and peanuts, of course.”
    Fanny’s eyes look misty. She sighs. “No, Fred. I was born to be a circus elephant. That must be why I’m so happy here. I couldn’t stand it if I stopped seeing the joy on those children’s faces. Circus joy, that’s what it is. And I got it too, in my veins.”
    As we watch the grounds swell with humans, I try to work things out in my head. What about this feeling of being born to do something? Do some plow horses feel born to plow? It had never occurred to me that for some horses, plowing was their dream. Maybe plowing made them feel worthwhile, the way Fanny feels about her work. I do remember one old mare at the first farm I ever worked. Every morning, she headed for the field with a smile on her face. And in the evening, she and a big bay gelding used to talk about their straight rows and how much of the field they’d been able to finish. They seemed happy to me.
    It’s all so confusing. If I were born to be a plow horse, wouldn’t I have been content and happy plowing?
    Why wasn’t I? Why was I happiest when I was dancing?
    The circus grows louder and louder. I can see what Fanny means about the barkers. Their cries can be heard all over the circus: “Come see the five-hundred-pound fat lady!” “Ladies and gentlemen! In this tent is the world’s strongest man!” “Tickets! Tickets! Tickets!”
    I have to admit it’s rather exciting. Children dart from place to place, laughing, while grown-ups stroll the midway arm in arm.
    I’ve almost forgotten about Fanny, when she taps my shoulder with her trunk.
    â€œAre you all right, Fred?” she asks.
    I nod. “Just a lot on my mind, I suppose.”
    A breeze kicks up, and with it comes the sound of music. I hold my breath and find I have to swallow tears.
    â€œYou hear the music?” Fanny asks.
    I manage a nod.
    â€œIt’s heavenly, isn’t it?” she says.
    â€œWhere’s it coming from?” There’s something familiar about the slow, classical melody floating over the circus grounds. I feel as if I’m being washed by the music. It covers the red dust of an Oklahoma field, the black dirt of the cattle drive, the splintery floor of that old shed, and the rocky ground of the marketplace.
    â€œIt’s coming from the main tent, dear,” Fanny says. “The horses must be about to perform.”
    â€œThe horses?” I ask.
    â€œAnd their riders. Queenie and Princess and the others. The dancing horse act. You should go, Fred,” Fanny urges. “Wouldn’t you like to see the horses dance?”
    Would I? Do I want to see other horses doing what I used to dream about?… What I still dream about?
    â€œCome on. I’ll show you.” Fanny nudges me with her trunk, then guides me right up the midway. Tiny flags wave in the breeze as we pass tent after tent.
    When we reach the biggest tent, Fanny says, “Well, this is it.” She motions toward the entrance, where a tent flap is pinned back.
    I try to

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