It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and I’d decided to go cruising in my Mustang with no real destination in mind. The poor car sits in the garage most of the week, neglected in favor of a daily driver that accumulates the mileage and the wear and tear instead. But ponies need to gallop, and my Mustang is no exception. I pointed the car in the direction of a nice twisty road not far from home and pushed the pedal down. But not to the floor, there’s no need for that much acceleration in a residential neighborhood. I figured I’d give the car a nice workout, maybe pick up something for lunch while I was out, and then come home and wash my baby before putting her away for the week.
The drive was as pleasant as always. There’s no construction on Saturdays, thankfully. No traffic jams. Just me, my car, and the open road. The way it should be. I coasted to a stop at a T-intersection. Either direction would take me to a town, eventually. But which way did I feel like going? A gurgle from my stomach told me I felt like heading towards the nearest pizzeria.
The ride to town was a short one. Five minutes later and I was on the outskirts. It had been a few months since I last ventured down this way, but towns around here change about as slowly as molasses in January. Everything was the same as it had been the last time I’d been there. I pulled into the pizza shop’s parking lot, taking care to park in an end spot as far from the door as possible to help avoid door dings.
“Long time, no see.”
It had, in fact, been a long time. I sighed – there was a time a few years back when I was a weekly fixture here, sitting in the corner booth with my Grandpa across from me. But he’d since passed on, and with him, my reason for visiting this town. “I know,” I replied, sheepishly. They knew. They also knew it wasn’t easy to come in here anymore thanks to the memories. Still, they made a fantastic pizza and an even better baked ziti. I ordered the latter and took my seat.
The owner’s wife brought out my salad and beverage, remembering my quirks of ‘no tomatoes’ and ‘no ice’ respectively. Their daughter was shadowing her. She’s taller every time I come in. I’ve been coming in since before she was born, and she’s got to be close to double digits by now, if she’s not already into them. Where does the time go?
But time makes you bolder. Even children get older, and I'm getting older too. Fleetwood Mac echoed through my head as I poured the dressing over my salad. I ate my salad in silence, reminiscing about happier times spent eating here.
“We’ll go tomorrow, sweetie.”
I looked up in time to see my baked ziti being delivered. I stirred my fork around the pasta, spreading the mozzarella throughout the piping hot dish. She looked at me apologetically. “A new car wash opened in town and she wants to go see it.”
I nodded at that before my brain caught up with the words. “Okay, I can understand me being excited about a new car wash, but…”
“It has ponies.”
“Like a pony ride?”
“No, the ponies wash the cars!” She was tugging at her mom’s shirt. “And they’re pretty and pink and purple and they fly!”
“Ponies washing cars?” Okay, I admit, I kind of wanted to see this for myself. From a distance, of course. No one washes my Mustang but me. I’ve only broken that rule once, for a charity fundraiser Hardees hosted some years back. And they did such a lousy job I had to wash it again as soon as I got home. I think they actually made the car dirtier, and to this day I’m still not sure how they accomplished that epic fail.
I had nothing better to do with my afternoon. My stomach was in the process of being filled, and my social calendar was empty for the day. Of course I’d seen the news reports about ponies, but I hadn’t seen one in person… er, in pony before. And I was appropriately driving a pastel blue car named after a horse. So why not satisfy my curiosity?
Rather than inquire about where it was, I decided to go cruising to find it. Really, the only logical location was along the main street. Specifically, mixed in with the car dealerships, gas stations, and assorted other automotive-related businesses south of town. I found it tucked in between the world’s largest auto auction and the local farmer’s market. If not for the line of cars I would’ve missed it considering there was no freestanding building. Just a sign, a parking lot, and a long line of cars that wrapped around the parking lot and doubled in on itself, like the queue for a ride at an amusement park.
There was no convenient place to observe, since the auto auction isn’t open to the public, and the farmer’s market is too far away to get a good look. So I hesitantly joined the queue of cars waiting to be washed. I kept reminding myself I could pull out of line as soon as I had a quick peek. I pulled in behind a blue Dodge Caravan with Michigan plates. I really hope the owner hadn’t driven all the way here just for a car wash.
It was then that I saw it. Or rather, I saw her. A white pegasus swooped down and attacked a silver Toyota Celica, then turned around and came back in to strafe it again. It took a few seconds to realize this little pony was holding a brush in each hoof and was effectively using all four legs to dry the car simultaneously. She moved onto the next car in line as a mint green mare started cleaning the Celica’s wheels.
As my eyes scanned the cars behind the Celica, things only got weirder. A light pink pegasus with a bright pink mane and tail was jumping on a cloud over a Ford Flex, releasing a torrent of rain. Rain. The natural enemy of car guys. A pastel purple pegasus was placing clouds over the cars in line one at a time. Two really little ponies were dashing underneath some of the cars for some unknown reason.
I’d seen enough. It was time to get out of line. I just needed enough of a gap between myself and the Caravan in front of me. As soon as the line crept forward I’d make a U-turn. At least so I thought until the silver Celica drove by, absolutely shining. It was spotless. I was on the fence until the Flex drove past. It too looked as clean as when it was delivered to the dealership. The white station wagon and bright red pickup following them sealed the deal. They were all shiny enough to line up at a car show. I would wait my turn after all. Apparently I wasn’t the only car guy to take notice of the quality of their work, as a white C5 Corvette lined up behind me.
A steady stream of freshly washed cars passed by in the opposite direction, at least until I entered the zigzag part of the queue. Then it was just the other cars waiting to be cleaned. The same ones, each time we zigged or zagged. There was the family in the Toyota Venza about a dozen cars ahead of me. Three young girls and a boy all jumping all around the vehicle trying to find the best view of the ponies. I felt bad for their mother, though she seemed to be weathering their rambunctiousness in stride. Behind them was an older gentleman in a black pickup that kept pretending not to be looking at the ponies, but I could see him stealing glances now and again. The next in line was a decade-old sedan full of college students ogling the ponies. The back window of their car had some strange decals: a rainbow lightning bolt and a trio of diamonds. I didn’t get the reference, whatever it was. Unless they’re about cars, memes and pop culture references are usually lost on me.
Looking out the other window, toward the cars that had joined the line after me, there was a green ‘80s Mercedes-Benz wagon with the tailgate plastered with bumper stickers. I amused myself reading them until the car was obscured from my view by an SUV. I sighed at the lack of interesting cars in the line. Aside from my Mustang and the Corvette behind me, I’d spied a bright yellow Dodge Challenger, an art car covered completely in Lego bricks, and three other Mustangs. I spent at least ten minutes unsuccessfully trying to guess what was under the Legos. Sadly, the Mercedes station wagon remained the oldest car I’d seen so far. It was to be expected. It was representative of what I saw on the roads every day. Occasional glimpses of classics, and a sea of modern cars I could barely identify from one another.
A few hours passed in line, and I worried if my iPod would have enough battery life to make it all the way home. For now, Poco’s Call It Love was playing, but for how much longer before I’d have to switch over to the local classic rock stations and their endless replays of Bohemian Rhapsody and Don’t Stop Believing? Relief was in sight, though, as I watched the pink pony jump on a cloud above the blue Caravan in front of me. I couldn’t say for sure without getting out, but judging from how much darker it was over my car than it had been a few minutes earlier, I assumed the purple pegasus had already covered my car with a cloud too. A glance in the rearview mirror confirmed she was now placing a cloud over a van half a dozen cars behind me.
With a dainty leap I watched the pink mare hop off the Caravan’s cloud and out of my sight. Seconds later foaming soap rained down on my car. I hadn’t noticed the soap coming down on the cars ahead of me. I’d have to watch the mirror to see how they did that. Then the rain started, washing the soap off. The white pegasus appeared out of nowhere and suddenly she was dancing around my car, wiping it with brushes attached to each of her hooves. Unlike my neighbor who needs a stepstool to reach the roof of his SUV, reaching the roofs of even the tallest vehicles would be no problem for her.
I watched her work, though I had a hard time envisioning this pony considering it ‘work’ with as much fun as she was having. She moved rapidly, not staying in any one space for any length of time. She spun around, pirouetted, and glided across my Mustang’s hood as if she were a four-legged Olympic figure skater. Surely she must be leaving streaks…
Her shaking upside-down head popped into my field of vision. “No streaks. And stop calling me Shirley.” My jaw moved open and shut a few times. I hadn’t said that out loud. How did she know what I was thinking? And did she just reference Airplane? That was one pop culture reference old enough for me to get. She just smiled and winked at me, and then she was gone.
The pony cleaning my wheels tapped a hoof gently on the side window to get my attention. She motioned for me to get out of the car, so I followed her. She pointed to the driver’s side front rim. “There’s a pesky build-up of brake dust I can’t get out.” The pony had a thick accent, with a musical quality to it. The words ‘harmonious horsey’ would be the most apt way to describe it. Melodic, with pronounced neighs and whinnies on words with similar sounds. As silly as it sounds, I would’ve listened to her read the phone book just to hear her keep talking.
“Yeah, it gets stuck between the spokes. It’s impossible to reach in there all the way.” If my fingers weren’t small enough, there was no way she was squeezing her hooves in there.
The mint green mare waved a hoof, dismissively. “We can get it; I just have to call in the boss. Many apologies for the delay.”
A few minutes later a purple unicorn with paper lanterns adorning her flank trotted over to my car. She scrutinized one of the wheels for a minute and a soft pinkish glow enveloped her horn. Magic. I was really watching magic. The rational part of my brain reminded me that telekinesis was just a natural ability of their species. But they referred to it as magic, and so did the press. As such, so would I. In seconds the caked-on grime I’d tried and failed to remove so many times disappeared from the rim. This magical miracle was repeated three additional times, leaving the rims looking better than they had at any point since my car left the production line.
It was then that the pair of young ponies wriggled under my car. “Uh?” I motioned to the two fillies.
The unicorn giggled. “Toola Roola and Coconut Cream are cleaning the undercarriage. They’ll get those hard to reach spots other car washes can’t.” Her accent seemed even thicker than the other pony’s had been, with just a hint of sophistication. There was an eloquence there the other mare didn’t have. I suppose the pony’s homeland is likely as diverse as our own, with their own versions of regional dialects. An observant pony would easily notice a Texan and New Yorker sounded very different despite speaking the same language.
That immediately brought up a concern in my mind. “Aren’t you worried they might get run over by an inattentive motorist?”
She shook her head and I followed her gaze to the rear wheels of my car. A pinkish haze enveloped them, freezing the car in place, as a security caution. “But for the really low cars, like yours, we do this.” The pinkish glow spread from the wheels to the whole car, and it hovered in the air as she lifted 3,525 pounds of Detroit steel. The two fillies dashed under the car, quickly detailing my Mustang’s chassis. The pink filly nodded to the unicorn, and my car returned to the ground, landing gently on the tarmac as if it had never gone for a flight. It was an incredible, not to mention slightly terrifying, display of power and finesse.
The mental image of an army of unicorns marching on a city, flinging cars, trucks, and even tanks out of the way as if they were Matchbox cars dissipated when the green mare shouted, “Do it again!”
I turned my attention to the Corvette behind me. The mint green pony and the two fillies were mesmerized by the car’s pop-up headlights, repeatedly asking the car’s owner to turn them on and off. It brought back memories of my first car, an old Toyota Supra that also had flip-up lights. One of my co-workers refused to get into the car until the lights were turned on just so she could watch. It’s a design feature sadly lacking in modern cars. An entire generation has grown up without knowing the joys of spotting a Firebird or Fiero winking at you.
“Surprise! Flitter! Bifröst! You’ve got to see this!” The three pegasus ponies stopped what they were doing to land next to the first pony. They ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the car’s neat feature, then returned to their respective tasks. I watched as the pink one unfurled her wings, leaping into the air and soaring back to a raincloud hovering over a Honda Accord. By all rational logic, her wingspan should be inadequate to lift a being of her weight. Even if her bones were hollow, it wouldn’t save enough weight to lift her to the sky. The purple one, meanwhile, darted back and forth like the dragonflies decorating her flank. It was pretty easy to guess she was the one named Flitter. As if the purple party balloon symbol wasn’t enough of a giveaway to guess the white mare was Surprise, the way she never seemed to be in the same place the instant you looked back after turning away, or opened your eyes after blinking, confirmed that suspicion. Leaving the pink one jumping on clouds as Bifröst. I hadn’t gotten the name of the mint mare or the boss unicorn, nor did I know which of the adorable little fillies was Toola Roola and which was Coconut Cream. Oh well, maybe I’d figure all that out on my next visit.
I finally conceded there was going to be a next visit. My car had never looked cleaner. My mind was made up: from now on only ponies were washing this pony car. I paid the mares, and then parked my car and walked up to the unicorn, who was now concentrating her efforts on a purple AMC Gremlin. When had that shown up? It’s not exactly easy to miss a Gremlin in a lot filled with modern cars. I slipped her a $50 bill and told her to buy her staff pizza when their shift was over, on me. They’d earned it. I was especially happy to recommend a good place to try. I know at least one girl there will be delighted to see them.
I noticed the mint mare point towards my car as I was leaving. I chuckled as I realized she was probably as intrigued by the sequential lights as she had been by the pop-up headlights on the Corvette. I ignored a few gaps in traffic, only pulling out of the parking lot once the pony’s attention was elsewhere. I left with a clean car and a smile on my face.