One evening, I returned home to find the preschooler looking slightly despondent.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Where’s Pinky?” he said.
I remembered an exchange that had taken place earlier in the day. “I think she’s gone out, remember?” I replied gently. “You told her this morning that you don’t like her anymore and asked her to go away?”
“Where’s Pinky? Pinkyyy!” he called anyway. But our imaginary tiny pink horse didn’t come galloping the way she usually did.
“She’s not here, darling. She’s gone shopping for apples. Maybe she will come back tonight, when she’s tired.”
“Why did she go away?” the preschooler repeated.
“Because you told her to,” I said.
“No, I didn’t,” he now denied. “Is she coming back?”
“She probably will, any time now,” I replied. “She loves you very much, you know. I think she felt hurt.”
“What a bummer,” the preschooler said loudly, mimicking a phrase I use often.
“Indeed,” I said. “How about learning some horsey words to impress Pinky when she’s back?”
“Yeah,” I said, reaching out and putting him on my lap. “See, when you are riding a horse, she will not listen to you if you don’t know how to ride her, and you’ll just go bounce-bounce-bounce uncomfortably when she moves along, and then fall off the horseback.”
The preschooler pulled my arms around him and waited.
“So what people learn to do when they learn horse riding is first to move in rhythm to the horse,” I explained. “So see, this is a trot, you ride up and down with the horse.” I moved my lap up and down gently.
The preschooler giggled. “Just like that song, Mummy,” he said. “Giddy-up, horsey, go-go-go!”
We continued in this manner for a while, until he said “w-h-o-a-a-a”.
“Now when the horse moves more quickly, we have the fast trot, like this,” I continued. “Giddy-up, horsey!” he went again, enjoying the moment and forgetting that he missed Pinky. Soon, my legs started to feel strained, and I paused to rest.
“Go, horsey, go!” he commanded, just getting warmed up. He had forgotten he had been looking for his playmate. I obliged for several more minutes until I really had to stop.
Fortunately for me, my feeble protests were at this time drowned by an almost inaudible but familiar clip-clop of hooves on the marble flooring. Pinky was home, and the preschooler’s attention shifted immediately. “Pinky! Come here!”
As I went into the kitchen to prepare dinner, I heard the preschooler say “Giddy-up, Pinky! Trot!” Amid his amused excitement came higher-pitched shrills of “I’m not a riding horse!”
Jocelyn Lau is a Singapore-based editor and writer. LIFE OF PINKY is an ongoing series of short fiction about her family’s imaginary pet horse. Visit https://www.kucintabooks.com.