Shelly walks the palomino down the estate at night, after the scratchy kids go to bed and the lights come flickering on. She likes to carry a silver pistol and Merrick – the palomino – wears matching silver harness.
Shelly thinks this is a dream she has each night, after she mumbles through her little ritual of tea, toast and then hot chocolate. If it wasn’t for these things, it would be so much weirder, she thinks. She doesn’t know the half of it.
Out in the gardens, and streets, around the monotonous, uniform pebbledash, she wanders like a shadow. She doesn’t know what she’s wearing. If she did, she’d blush.
The palomino is a consistent friend. Shelly’s not a girly-girl into pink and ponies – she’s never had a thing for horses – but Merrick waits by the gate every night, as dusk falls and the sodium lights fire up, pink and dull. He nickers softly as she hands him some peanuts. She’s not sure where the nuts came from or whether nuts are good for horses (at least they’re not salted), but he scoops them up appreciatively with his wide, rubbery lips; hairy lips that tickle her hand. Afterward, she wipes her hand on her hip, amazed once again, that all her fingers are intact. Clever horse.
They clip-clop along Wavertree Road, the night smelling of laburnum blossom – the trees as enthusiastic as fireworks – warm plants, and humidity. It’s quiet. She never sees other people out here when she walks with Merrick – another reason she thinks this is a dream. “It’s not a very complex dream, is it,” she says, patting the horse. He snorts and rolls an eye in her direction. She snickers.
They clip-clop along a few more garden fences, pass a few more identikit cars and front lawns. I feel like a suburban Indian, she thinks. Then: a suburban Native American, don’t you know?
Out in the darkness a cuckoo or a unicorn calls – Shelly really has no idea about wildlife, apart from the fact that horses like nuts.
Two houses down, a flicker of moving pictures comes from an un-curtained window. Inside, there is no one watching the TV, but a cup of tea sits next to the big fat couch, a couch as bloated as a witchetty grub and as multi-layered as a chocolate pastry. Merrick shakes his head. Shelly cannot but agree – how many more episodes of Red Dwarf can they show on Dave, before everyone in the whole, wide world has seen it twice?
Down at the bus station, Shelly peruses the timetables. Strange – she has never done this during the day. Shelly has no illusions about leaving Crestwood and all the humdrum monotony of her life. I was born here and I’ll die here, she says. If it wasn’t for these flights of fancy, I’d just be like everyone else. That’s what she says; mostly in this dream.
But Merrick found her and now she carries this pistol. That too is an anachronism. Why the gun? It rather implies she has to shoot someone, something, or defend herself, but unless TV can attack in a dream, nothing moves. The gun maintains its mirror shine, Merrick’s harness sparkles, the moon smiles down.
During the day, she could get a return fare to Burton. But that’s just the same as Crestwood. She could take the horse. It occurs she’s never tried riding him, and to do so would be somewhat impolite. Another scratch around horse ears. She thinks Merrick agrees.
Outside the football ground, Shelly considers turnstiles and horses and can see a traffic jam before it happens. They pass on, with Shelly wondering if Merrick might like some of the wide, green lawn that is Crestwood FA. There does seem to be a somewhat resigned plod to his step when they turn away.
Outside the bead shop, Shelly plays with her hair, wondering about how long it would take to braid it and fill it with colourful beads. She also looks speculatively at Merrick and his lovely long mane which flows like ice. Merrick is obviously not impressed.
They return through the ‘big park’, and once more down Wavertree Road.
Shelly tries a few quick draws and ‘howdy partners’ with the gun. There are a few hysterical moments, but it’s not as much fun as doing it in front of the mirror with a hairbrush. She carefully retrieves the gun again from the bushes. It is thankfully undamaged.
A block later, Shelly unlatches the gate to her garden. Merrick has already gone ‘poof’. She leaves a small pile of peanuts on the brick post and smiles happily.
In moments she’s upstairs, asleep once more.