Authors: Nancy Springer
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The Great Pony Hassle
For my two girls
my light and that wonderful shadow
D. M. D.
In Which the Incredible Brat Gets Her Way
“You promised!” Paisley McPherson yelled at her father. “You told me if we had to live here, you'd get me a pony. You did!”
The Fontecchio twins, Staci and Toni, gawked at each other. Hardly in their door, this Paisley person was already being an incredible brat.
“Well, I don't remember any of that,” Mr. McPherson said uncertainly.
me,” hollered Paisley, “if I couldn't have a room to myself, you'd at least get me a
The Fontecchio twins turned identical dark-skinned faces to stare, but the McPherson twins ignored them. Stirling McPherson, the other McPherson girl, ignored her father and sister too. She sat down on the arm of the sofa, since the rest of the Fontecchio living room was piled with McPherson boxes and luggage, and she folded her hands in her lap, looking like Princess Di. Stirling had a small pointed face and scads of blond hair and the biggest indigo-blue eyes in the continental United States.
The others remained standing. “First I have to get stuck in that lousy apartment,” Paisley McPherson shouted to the world, “just because my mother wants to go and join the Army, and then I have to get moved to this even lousier house, and now my own
doesn't remember what he
The Fontecchio twins gaped at mouthy Paisley and silent Stirling. So alike themselves, Staci and Toni were not used to seeing twins so different from each other. Paisley had a big round face and dirt-brown hair and eyes. She and Stirling didn't look like twins. They didn't even look like sisters.
But twins they were. Staci and Toni knew they were. In fact, they were sick of hearing about how they were going to be a family with two sets of twins, four girls, all ten years old. Ever since their mother and Bruce McPherson had gotten engaged, it seemed that nobody in their town or their school could talk about anything else. The newspaper had even done an article on them. Two new sisters their own age. Big whoop.
Two new sisters, one of whom was shouting like a monster out of a horror movie maybe called
The Brat That Ate the World
“I guess you're going to tell me there's no place to keep a pony,” Paisley was yelling at her father, “or something like that, but I already looked. There's a big backyard. Plenty of room.”
Great, Staci's eyes signaled Toni, Now she's going to take over our backyard as well as my bedroom. She did not have to say anything. Each of the Fontecchio twins generally knew what the other one was thinking without having to talk.
They knew they didn't think much of Mr. McPherson, who showed signs of giving in to Paisley.
They knew how much they loved ponies themselves, especially palomino ponies.â¦
They knew they would never have asked their mother for anything so big and expensive. Their mom had always worked hard for not enough money.
They knew they already detested Paisley so much that they hoped she didn't get the pony, because it would be her pony and not theirs.
Mr. McPherson looked across the room at Toni and Staci's mother. Bruce McPherson and Cathy Fontecchio seemed to be talking to each other with their eyes much the same way the Fontecchio twins did. All the girls except Stirling watched, and saw Cathy shrug.
“Well,” Mr. McPherson finally said to his loud daughter, “if you're going to have a pony, your sister should have one too.”
Paisley knew her father had given in. “Yee-hah!” She looked around the room for a place to run and jump. There was nowhere, because the place was full of junk and boxes. So she jumped up and down where she stood.
But Stirling said to her own small, quiet hands, without looking up, “I don't want any stupid pony.”
Jeez! Toni signaled Staci with a look. Stirling was not an incredible brat, at least not that they knew of. They wouldn't have minded if Stirling had gotten a pony to maybe share with them.
“Well, something,” said Mr. McPherson awkwardly. “Maybe not a pony, but you should have something.” Then he seemed to think of his fiancÃ©e's girls. He looked at the Fontecchio twins, who looked back at him without letting their brown faces show him anything. They saw him swallow, and try to think what to say, and finally say nothing to them at all. “What about Staci and Toni?” he asked Paisley. “You going to let them ride your pony?”
“Sure!” bragged Paisley, still jumping.
it,” Staci muttered, so low only Toni could hear her.
Paisley stopped jumping up and down and thought of something else to yell.
she demanded. “When are we going to get the pony? Today? Can we go look for one today?”
“Heck, no. Where would we put it? We need to build a pasture and some sort of shed.”
“Okay, let's go do that now!”
Her father looked hard at her. “Paisley,” he said, “I have other things to do this weekend. Like get married. Like go on my honeymoon.”
Paisley looked disappointed for a moment. Then she brightened. “Piece of cake!” she exclaimed, grabbing a box off the floor. “I'll take care of it. Right after I move into my new room.”
When no one was watching, Staci rolled her eyes.
After Paisley veered off down the hallway, the adults went into the kitchen, talking softly and touching hands. Staci and Toni were left looking at Stirling.
“Hi,” Toni said when the silence had stretched awhile.
Stirling looked up with huge eyes and smiled. Her eyes were a blue so dark it made her face and hair look pale as sunshine. She was very pretty.
“You need help with your stuff?” Toni asked. She wanted to see what was in Stirling's suitcase. Maybe a lot of plaid skirts. Bruce McPherson was so Scottish he had named his girls after towns in Scotland.
Stirling said, “Not really. Thanks anyway.”
Staci did not feel like talking with Stirling. “C'mon, Toni.” She pulled her sister away from Stirling, down the hallway. The Fontecchio twins went into what had been Toni's bedroom; now Staci had been moved in there too. Like the rest of the house, the room was crowded and messy. Without saying much the twins kicked clear a space on the oval rug next to their beds so they could play. They made sure the door was shut, then pulled open a bottom dresser drawer and brought out little-girl toys they would lay hands on only in private.
Plastic ponies. Little fat-legged piggy-faced plastic ponies. Blue and pink and purple ponies with dumb stuff printed on their behinds.
“I don't believe it,” Staci said, glum.
“Same way with me,” said Toni.
“I don't believe that brat's getting a pony.”
“Same way with me.”
“In our backyard.”
“As if things aren't rotten enough. Them coming in and taking over.”
“I won't touch it when she gets it.”
“I won't even go near it,” said Toni.
“I won't even
at it,” Staci vowed.
A pause. Then Toni said, “I wonder if it'll be a palomino.”
“Oh, shut up.”
“Shut up yourself.”
They played all afternoon with the silly fake ponies, sweet-smelling ponies, candy-colored ponies, even dressing them up in their silly little clothes. But they thought about real ponies. And they hid the toy ones whenever they had to leave the room or open the door.
In Which the Palomino Pony Is Found
There was no big wedding. Mr. McPherson and Mrs. Fontecchio didn't want all the fuss. They got married in the county courthouse. Their only guests were both sets of twins and Cathy's mother, Mrs. Dill. After a restaurant supper the newlyweds went away on their honeymoon, leaving Grandmother Dill in charge of the girls.