Chapter 1 – Everyone Wants a Pony?

On the day the kitchen caught fire, the fire fighters found Bob sitting on the sofa, watching TV.  “Your house is burning down,” said one fire fighter.

“Later,” said Bob.  “I have to see if Gilligan’s going to get off the island.”

On the day the power went out, Bob’s mom told him he should go outside and play, where it was light.

“Later,” said Bob.  “The TV might come back on while I’m gone, and I have to find out who wins in Final Jeopardy.”

On the day Bob’s parents planned to leave on their family vacation to the beach, Bob sat on the sofa watching TV.  “You need to pack, Bob,” his mom said.

“Later,” said Bob.  “I want to see how white Minto-dent with Special Formula K will get my teeth.”

His mom packed his bag for him.  His dad loaded the car.  His dad honked the horn.  His mom grabbed him and tried to pull him off the couch.

Bob held tight.  “Later,” he said.  “Martha Stewart’s about to show me how to make a bouquet of roses from things we have in our bathroom cupboard.”  His mom pulled.  Bob held on.  His dad helped pull.  Bob held on.

Finally they gave up and unloaded the car.

What to do.  What to do.  Bob’s parents were baffled, confounded, puzzled, stumped.  They had to get Bob off that couch.  They had to get him away from that TV.

And then, one day, they had an idea.

They bought Bob a pony.

“You can play cowboy!” said Bob’s dad.

“Later,” said Bob.

“We paid good money for that pony.  Now go outside and ride him right now!” said his mother.

“Later,” said Bob.

Bob’s parents brought the pony in the house.  They sat the pony down on the couch right next to Bob.

Bob ignored the pony and kept watching TV.

“Enough is enough,” said Bob’s Mom and Dad.

Bob’s mom threw the TV into the street where a truck ran over it.

And Bob’s dad tied one end of a rope around the pony, and one end around Bob’s leg, then hit the pony on the rear end.

The pony reared up and raced out the door, dragging Bob off the couch and out into the open air.

“Whoa!” said Bob.  “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!”

Bob’s dad grabbed hold of the pony, and brought him to a halt.  Then he untied the rope from the pony and from Bob, picked up his stunned son and set him on the pony.

“There you go, son!  Have fun.”

“I was having fun watching TV,” who had never ridden a pony before, and had never wanted to ride a pony.  In fact, he was afraid of ponies.  Couches he understood.  TVs he understood.  Ponies he didn’t understand.  Except for the ponies on TV.

Bob’s dad whacked the pony on the rear end.

Off galloped the pony, down the street, sharp right, and into the woods.  Bob held on tight and closed his eyes and screamed.  “Ahhhhhhhhh!  I’m going to die!  I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE!”

“Okay,” said the pony.  And Bob and the pony disappeared.

Chapter 2 – Straight From the Pony’s Mouth

“Stop screaming!” said the pony.  “You’ll pop your lungs.”

Bob stopped screaming.  “What?”

“Thank you,” said the pony, who had stopped galloping and was standing still.  Bob still held on tight.

“Wait a minute,” said Bob.  “Did you talk to me?  DID YOU TALK TO ME?  I knew it!  I’m having a dream!  My mom didn’t throw out my TV.  My dad didn’t buy me a pony.  Because if he did, my pony wouldn’t be talking to me because ponies can’t talk.  Yeah, that’s it, I’m having a dream.  A bad dream.  And I’m going to wake up in front of the TV!  That’s right, I was watching a TV show about a talking horse, and I fell asleep, and I’m going to wake up right…now!”

“I’m not your pony.  My name is Louie and I belong to myself.  Although if you do what I say I’ll give you a lock of my mane.”

“I’m still dreaming!  WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!”

“Bob, let me show you that this is not a dream.”  Louie kicked up his hind legs, throwing Bob up and over his head.

Bob landed flat on the ground.  “OUCH!”

“Hurt, didn’t it,” said Louie.

“Yes it did.”

“If it were a dream it wouldn’t hurt.”

“Maybe I’m just dreaming that I’m hurt.”  He sat up and rubbed his back.

Louie reached down, grabbed a hunk of Bob’s hair in his mouth, and pulled.

“STOP THAT!” yelled Bob, reaching for Louie’s head.

Louie let go.  “Convinced?  Or do I need to bite something else?”

“NO! YES!  DON’T BITE ME!  WAKE UP WAKE UP!  I’M DREAMING ABOUT A TALKING HORSE THAT BITES!  I WANT MY TV!”  Bob ducked low to the ground and covered his head with his arms.

“Bob, you’re not dreaming, and I can talk.”

“I don’t understand,” said Bob, rubbing his head.

“I’ll explain later.  Right now climb back on.  We need to find our way out of these woods and into the next adventure on my list!”

“No,” said Bob.  “I don’t ride ponies.  And I don’t like adventures, unless they’re on TV.  I’m just going to sit here until my Mom and Dad get me and take me home to my sofa and my television.”

“Climb back on or I’ll bite you again,” said Louie.

Bob climbed back on.

Chapter 3 – The Ring is not so Rosy

“Take me home!” said Bob, for the fortieth time, as Louie carried him down the street of the small town they’d found at the edge of the woods.

“Nope,” said Louie, for the fortieth time.

“NOW!” said Bob.  “TAKE ME HOME!”

“Nope,” said Louie.  “Look, let’s save some time here.  Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.  That makes fifty nopes today.  That’s all you’re allowed to have.”

“Then stop and let me off.  I’ll walk home by myself.”

“You’d have a long walk,” said Louie.  “Your home is in another universe.”

“WHAT!”

“I travel between universes, Bob, looking for adventure,” said Louie.  “That’s what I do.  This universe was next on my list.  And when I travel I like to take someone with me.  It’s more fun that way.  I’m from another universe, one where ponies talk.  I visited your universe and hooked up with you.  And you need to stay with me until I’ve had my adventure, or you’ll never get home.”

“Why me?  Why did my parents do this?” Bob muttered.  “If they wanted me to go outside they could have got me a portable TV.  Why’d they have to choose a pony.”

“Your parents didn’t choose me.  I chose them,” said Louie, “and made them think they were buying me.  I could see they were desperate, and I wanted to meet the kid that could make them so desperate.  He’d be a challenge, and I like challenges!”

“I hate challenges,” said Bob.  “I want my sofa.  I want my TV.”  He sat and sulked as Louie clopped on.

“I hear something,” said Louie.  He stopped and held his ears straight up.  “Maybe it’s our adventure.”

“All I hear is a crazy pony that had better take me home,” said Bob.

“It’s this way,” said Louie, turning left and heading down an alley.

The alley opened into a large town square.  A crowd of people was watching something in the center of the square.  From time to time the crowd applauded and cheered.

Louie pushed his way through the crowd.

In the center a tall man was standing on one leg.  A short man was linking his thumbs together and flapping his hands like a bird.  A skinny lady was breaking thin sticks, then bowing.  A sign behind them read, “Irving’s Circus.”

“Some circus,” said Louie.  “I can do better than this in my sleep.”  And with an unhappy Bob on his back, Louie headed into the center.

Chapter 4 – Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

When Louie and Bob entered the performing area, the tall man put his foot down and stared.  The short man unlinked his thumbs and stared.  The skinny lady dropped her stick and stared.

And the people in the crowd opened their mouths wide and stared.

“Look, he’s riding a pony!”

“How does he keep from falling off?”

“How did he even get on?”

“That’s impossible!”

Louie walked to the center, then stopped.

“What are you doing?” said Bob.  “Let’s get out of here.”

“It’s SHOWTIME!” said Louie.

Louie did a little dance step, crossing his front legs back and forth in front of each other.

Then he spun around on his four legs, faster and faster and faster.  Bob was getting dizzy. “Louie, Stop!  I’m going to throw up!”

And then Louie raised his front legs high in the air, and began to dance on his hind legs.  And he sang:

 

 

“Oh, I’m a famous pony,

The famous pony Louie.

We don’t know any ponies

As fine as I am, do we?”

 

 

“What beautiful singing!” said a voice in the crowd.

“And that dancing.  I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“From a pony even!”

“And look at that green boy hold on!”

“He was probably born on that horse.”

When Louie finished singing, he put his front legs down, and lowered himself into a bow.  Bob lay flat on Louie’s back, feeling very sick.

The crowd clapped and screamed.

“They love us, Bob!” said Louie.

“They love you,” groaned Bob.  “But I don’t.  Take me home.  I think I’m going to die.”

“No, they love you too,” said Louie.  “Listen!”

Bob raised his head just a bit and listened to the crowd.

“Hooray for the pony!  Hooray for the boy!”

Bob smiled, just a little.  No one had ever said hooray for him before.

“BRAVO! BRAVO!”

“Again! Again! Do it again!”

“Please, Louie,” said Bob.  “Don’t do it again.”

 

* * * * *

 

Not everyone clapped and screamed, though.  The tall man didn’t clap.  The short man didn’t clap.  The skinny lady didn’t clap.  They were standing with a lady in green, a man in blue, and a man in brown next to the “Irving’s Circus” sign.  They all had their arms crossed and were glaring at Bob and Louie.

Chapter 5 – To Join or Not to Join

“That was INCREDIBLE!  UNBELIEVABLE!” said a short round man with a long mustache who ran up and hugged Louie.

The man let go, backed up, and held out his hand.  “Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Irving R. Irving, greatest circusmaster in the universe.  I have never seen such art, such showmanship, such skill, such entertainment anywhere on this planet!  You WILL join my show.  No, you will BE my show!  We’ll make signs.  Millions of signs saying, ‘Irving’s Circus presents…’ uh, excuse me, I didn’t catch your names.”

“We didn’t throw them,” said Louie.  “This is Bob, and my name is Louie.”

“‘Irving’s Circus presents…BOB AND LOUIE!’  We’ll travel the whole world!  We’ll appear before kings and queens!  We’ll make millions!  Billions!  You’ll be the biggest stars ever!  How does that sound?”

“Sounds awful,” said Bob.  “Take me home and you can join a circus there.  Any circus there would want a talking horse.”

“Talking horse?” said Irving R. Irving.  “Who cares about a talking horse.  Nothing new about that.  But a horse that dances!  And a boy that rides!  Join me.”

“We’ll do it,” said Louie.

“NO WE WON’T!” said Bob.

“YES WE WILL!  Don’t be boring, Bob,” said Louie.  “If you knew how fun the universes are you’d never sit on your couch watching TV again.”

“I don’t want fun.  I want my sofa and my TV.  And I want to go home,” said Bob quietly.

Louie turned his head and looked at Bob.  “Okay Bob, I’ll take you home.”

Bob smiled.

“After we’ve had some fun here,” said Louie.  “Sign us up, Irving R. Irving, and let’s get this show on the road!”

“AAAAARRGGHH!” said Bob as he grabbed his head.

Chapter 6 – Every Crowd has a Silver Lining

Irving R. Irving was as good as his word.  Within hours there were posters all over town announcing:

“The most incredible!

Amazing!!

Wonderful!!!

Show on the Planet!!!!

You won’t believe your eyes!!!!!

A pony who dances!!!!!!

A boy who rides!!!!!!!

Come see it tonight or you’ll be sorry!!!!!!!!”

 

And that night in the town square there was a HUGE crowd.  People were hanging out of windows, and sitting on rooftops.  Hot air balloons floated overhead.

Irving R. Irving clapped his hands with glee.  “And all of them are paying to see you, Bob and Louie.  We’ll be rich!”

Bob just stared.  All these people wanted to see him and Louie?  Were they nuts?

When it was time for the show to begin, Irving R. Irving strode to the center of the square and shouted, “Welcome ladies and gentlemen!  You’ve heard about them.  You’ve dreamed about them.  And now you’ll see them with your very own eyes.  The incredible, the amazing, the unbelievable…BOB AND LOUIE!”

The town square exploded in applause and cheers.  Bob smiled.  He was surprised to find himself just a bit excited.  No one had ever wanted to watch him before.  He knew how the actors on TV must feel.

“It’s SHOWTIME!” said Louie, and he trotted to the center of the square, with Bob holding on tight.

Louie danced.  He sang.  He bowed.

Then he picked up three stones and juggled them.

The people in the crowd were in shock.

“Can you believe it!”

“Look what he’s doing!”

“It must be magic!”

“And look how that boy holds on!”

Bob was impressed.  “That’s pretty good, Louie.”

“You bet it’s pretty good,” said Louie.  “You try juggling without fingers.”

When the show was over everyone rushed to pat Louie’s head and shake Bob’s hand.  Bob had never had so much attention paid to him.  He kind of liked it.

Chapter 7 – A Star is Born

News spread quickly.  At each town where Bob and Louie performed, thousands came to watch and cheer.

The first few shows were a lot alike.  Louie would come out with Bob on his back.  Louie would dance and sing a bit, and then he’d do a little trick.  Sometimes he’d juggle.  Sometimes he’d pull a coin out of a child’s ear.  Sometimes he’d make birdcalls.  And all the while Bob just held on.

But soon Bob wanted more.  “Let me do something, Louie,” said Bob.

Louie was quiet for a moment, then he said, “Okay, Bob.  I’m going to make you a star.”

And from then on Bob did more than just sit and hold on.

At first he just smiled and waved his arms while Louie carried him around the square.

The next show he knelt on Louie’s back as Louie walked around the square.

And then he grew brave.  He stood up on Louie’s back.  He wobbled a bit, but Louie walked very carefully.

The crowd went wild.  It was one thing for a boy to ride a horse.  But for a boy to stand on a horse!  He might as well have grown wings and flown around the square.

Bob jumped off Louie and took a bow.  Then another.  Everyone clapped and cheered.  “Thank you, thank you,” said Bob to his fans.  “Thank you very much.  You are oh, too kind.  Thank you, thank you.  I thank my family, I think you, my adoring public, I thank the academy, I thank all the little people who made this possible, I thank…”

Louie dragged him off.  “That’s enough thanking, Bob.  I think I’ve created a monster.”

And this was just the beginning.  In the next show Bob and Louie sang a duet:

“Oh, we’re a boy and pony,

Our names are Bob and Louie.

We don’t know anybody

As fine as we are, do we.”

 

And the show after that they sang the song while Bob danced on Louie’s back.

The whole planet was suffering from BOB AND LOUIE MANIA!  There were Bob and Louie stuffed animals.  There were Bob and Louie cereals.  There were even fake Bob and Louie shows, where boys calling themselves Bob tried to ride talking ponies.  But the boys kept falling off.  And the ponies couldn’t dance and were awful singers.

There were Bob and Louie fan clubs.  And all the nations had got together and declared a planet-wide “Bob and Louie Year!”

Bob suggested that they have their own television show.  But Irving R. Irving had just said, “TV? What’s that?”

Bob was stunned.  No TV?  For a moment he once again missed his TV and his sofa.

But only for a moment, because he and Louie were treated like kings in every city they visited.  And Bob liked that.

But not everyone was happy.