The Pony entered my classroom this afternoon looking a bit glum. There was no need. We had an early out. He should have been prancing with anticipation. I asked him to assist me in a minor task, and he responded grudgingly. Which is quite unusual for The Pony.
I wracked my brain for any real or perceived slights that might have set him off. We were leaving immediately. No hanging around, depriving him of laptop time. I had not chastised him for any minor infractions. He stalked down the long hall to the exit, fifteen paces ahead. Answers to my questions were monosyllabic, tossed over his shoulder.
On the route past the park, around the bustling metropolis of his campus, I deployed my final weapon. "If missing your lunch is going to make you act this way, you will never skip lunch again." Let the record show that The Pony was not totally without sustenance. He had extra Multigrain Pringles. A cereal bar. And ice water in a metal container. But he had run out of his usual lunch entree, a corn dog. He had refused a sandwich, cheese and crackers, or a slice of pizza. Since school was out at 12:45, I let it slide. Until now.
Let the record also show that The Pony is notorious for concealing his wounds. Emotional, physical...since he was a tiny foal, his coping method has been to duck his head and say nothing. Whacks from fellow toddlers at daycare, head split open by his brother, finger smashed by a schoolgirl. Silence. Getting an answer from him is like pulling teeth. From a shark. You can extract chompers until the cows come home, and you won't get any information unless The Pony is good and ready to divulge.
Up past the park we went, curving toward our way home, The Pony sad-eyed in the rearview mirror. Then he spoke. "That's not it at all. I lost my flash drive." He's only had a flash drive for a week. A kid traded it to him for a cereal bar. A kid who forgot his lunch. So it was used. And reportedly didn't light up. The Pony was enamored of it. Because, you see, he is writing a book. Two thousand words a day. With a flash drive, he can write at school when he has free computer time. Last weekend, I bought him another one. He uses one as a backup every evening. So he only lost about two thousand words. But to him, the losing itself was a catastrophe.
The Pony looked like he was going to cry. His bottom lip jutted out. Trembled. "I was going up the stairs, and somebody stepped on the back of my shoe. I had my flash drive in my pocket, holding it in my hand. As I fell, I put my hands out, and my flash drive flipped over the rail. I looked for it, but I couldn't find it."
"Let's go back. We're right here by the turn."
"It's not there. I looked."
"Did you hear it hit?"
"I thought I did. But it wasn't there. I had to go to class. There was only thirty minutes left until the bell. Then I had to get on the bus."
"Well, maybe nobody has seen it yet, with the early out. They were probably in a hurry to go. And if you heard it hit, it must be there somewhere. Not in the big trash can. Or maybe it got turned in to the office."
"It's no use."
"What's the worse that could happen? That you don't find it? It can't get any loster. Let's go. The building will be open. They're setting up for the school carnival. Your dad is supposed to be working. I need to talk to him anyway."
The parking lot was almost empty. Hick had not yet arrived. "Run on in and look. I'll see if anybody is in the office." The Pony jumped out and went in. I found him at the top of the steps, ducking his head. His principal and a teacher walked by.
"Hey, Pony! What are you still doing here?"
"I lost my flash drive. So we came back to look for it."
"What did it look like?"
"Hey! Secretary! You know that red flash drive on your desk? It belongs to The Pony. Get it."
She was already locking up the door when the principal hollered to her. Talk about excellent timing. The Pony trotted over to get it. "Thank you!" He beamed from ear to ear.
"See how happy you've made him? It would have been a long weekend without that flash drive."
The Pony's hooves were floating above the ground all the way to the car. "Thank you for bringing me back. I can't believe they had it!"
If only I could fix all of his future wounds so simply.