This story is by Eliana Israeli, who was part of Write Summer camp for young writers. You can find all the stories by Write Summer writers here. If you’re a young write age 7 to 14 and would like to participate in Write Summer camp, you can find out all the details here.
I’m an outcast. My name is Lydia and I’m an American Paint Horse. I have been training my whole life for races. I live in a barn of my own, without my mom or pop. They both spend all of their time training for races.
Tap tap tap! I hear footsteps in my barn’s rafters. Drop drop drop! Tiny animal droppings land next to one of my fresh hay bales. I stop drinking water and stare at the rafters. My eye catches the star that only comes out when it’s past my bedtime. I walk to my bed, lay down, and stare at the stars. Then I see a silhouette of a bird. Only this bird has pointy wings. Could it be an owl? Pop told me stories about owls when I was a foal. Pop said they ask a lot of questions. “‘Who? Who?’ That’s all they say until you give them an answer!” Pop said.
I close my eyes and try to fall asleep. “Hello,” a little voice said.
“Who’s there?” I asked, startled. Once the pointy-winged bird came into the light, I saw that it wasn’t a bird. It was a bat!
“Don’t worry I’m a fruit bat!” the bat said.
“Okay, good. I’m Lydia,” I said, relieved.
“So you ARE afraid of vampire bats!” the bat yelled.
“Well. Uh- sorry,” I stuttered.
“I’m only joking. If I scared you, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I said
“I’m glad. By the way, my name is Baboon. Want to be friends?” the bat said.
“I was going to ask you the same thing!” I said happily.
Baboon flew around my barn to check everything out. When he was done, I finally got the courage to ask him something personal.
“Are you an outcast like me?” I asked in one breath.
“Well, I am the only bat in history who is afraid of the dark! How are you an outcast anyway?” Baboon yelled.
“I don’t have my right ear,” I said sadly.
“Oh. I’m sorry about your ear. I didn’t even notice!” Baboon said trying to make me feel better
“You didn’t notice? Wow. I guess I shouldn’t be so nervous around new animals.” I said with a smile on my face.
“Even though I’m a bat, I sleep at night. So can I sleep on your lower rafters? You have a tiny crack in your barn’s walls that brings in plenty of light.” Baboon said. I could tell that he was embarrassed about being afraid of the dark.
“Of course you can. It’s past my bedtime anyway! C’mon let’s go to bed,” I said.
“Okay. I’m so tired!” Baboon said while he hung himself upside-down on a low wooden rafter. Wow. I thought. I have a bat in my barn and a new friend!
The next day, I woke up Baboon because I had to go to race practice again. “Lydia, can we hang out?” Baboon asked in a yawn.
“Sorry Baboon, I have race practice for the morning. You can come watch if you want,” I said hoping Baboon wouldn’t be disappointed.
“Okay. I’m happy that you are letting me watch you practice for this race. What is a race?” Baboon asked.
“Trust me, I’m not sure I know either,” I laughed. Baboon giggled as he rode on my back to the practice track.
“Baboon, you are going to have to hide in that crabapple tree over there so the humans and the other horses don’t see you,” I said as I pointed my head toward the tree next to the end of the track. I thought Baboon would be mad, but he smiled.
“As long as I can watch you practice I will be happy!” Baboon said. “Okay see you soon. Feel free to eat some crabapples,” I said.
“Really? I mean see you soon,” Baboon giggled with excitement.
Baboon flew to the tree and helped himself to a hearty breakfast of crabapples.
Just then James, my jockey, walked up to me and put on my saddle. Then he walked me over to the start of the track. As he moved, he talked constantly. “Remember, Lydia, everyday we need to go faster than the day before. Once we win our first Junior Race, then we go on to Junior Regionals, to see who is going to Junior States, to see who is going to Junior Nationals. If you do well today, and we decrease our time, you will get a fresh apple from my family’s orchard. Doesn’t that sound good, Lydia? Okay, let’s start warming up.” James said.
“Boy, he sure does talk a lot!” Baboon whispered from the tree. It’s funny that Baboon thinks James talks a lot, Baboon talks a lot too!
Practice began. As usual, after we warmed up, we did drills: I ran around the track several times even though I didn’t want to. When my track time decreased by a half of a second, I noticed Baboon’s tiny bat jaw drop. I noticed how happy it made me to have a friend at practice to cheer me on. I ran faster than I ever ran before and earned my best time!
James was excited. “Lydia! At this rate we are definitely going to a junior race this year! Maybe one day we will go to a professional race! Last year my dad and your dad competed in a professional race! They won! We could be next!”
On my last practice run, I couldn’t find Baboon. I slowed a little trying to spot him in the tree. James wasn’t pleased so he rubbed my scar where my ear is supposed to be. It hurt a lot and startled me! I flipped James off my back! I was immediately sorry. I wondered if I hurt him. I felt scared. I was flailing around, out of control! I saw the other horses at the track and their horrified expressions. I wanted to run away, but then I saw James’ mom run over to check on him. I started to calm down when I saw he was okay. His mom approached me and spoke softly. She steadied me. James’ mom is a lot nicer than James.
James dusted himself off and walked over to us. “James! I saw what you did! Lydia has a scar there. When you touch it, it hurts her! Be gentle with her! Treat her the way you’d want to be treated,” James’ mom said. “I think you are overdoing it today, James,” she added. “You and Lydia need a break. Practice ends now.” James nodded at his mother.
“I’m sorry, Lydia,” James said as he stroked my mane. “You were great today, girl. Keep up the good work. I will have a Golden Delicious for you tomorrow!” I felt sorry too. I hadn’t meant to throw James off my back. I was even more sorry when I walked past the other horses at the track and heard their mean comments.
“Nice job, Outcast!”
“You could have killed him!”
“You’ll never be a racer if you act like that!”
Ordinarily, their words would have made me cry, but I was focused on finding Baboon. I wanted to tell him about the apple we would share tomorrow.
Once I got back to my barn, I realized that Baboon wasn’t there. I was tired, so I yelled out “Baboon! Where are you?” Baboon flew into the barn.
“I must have fallen asleep! Those crab apples were so good!” he said.
“Guess what?” I said. James is bringing me an apple tomorrow and you can have half!”
“I’m so happy I could faint!” Baboon said. We talked the rest of the day away. I told him about everything he missed when he fell asleep at the track, including the part about the other horses.
“Don’t worry about them,” said Baboon. “Didn’t you say you had your best time ever? I bet they were jealous!”
“You think so, Baboon?” I said. I hadn’t thought of that. Wow! Baboon made me think about the day in an entirely different way. Instead of feeling sad about what went wrong, I felt happy about what went right.
The next morning, James woke me up. “Lydia, here is your Golden Delicious. I have some good news! Next week we are competing in our first race at a track across town!” I was excited, but a little sad. I didn’t want to travel away from my barn without Baboon. I can’t believe James didn’t notice Baboon. He was hanging right next to him the whole time.
After James’ visit, Baboon said, “I can’t wait to see your race!”
“Are you going to come?” I asked.
“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss it!” said Baboon.
We spent every day of the next week preparing for the race. Eat, sleep, practice, hang out with Baboon, share an apple, repeat. It was the same until the day of the competition. As planned, Baboon snuck into my horse trailer with me and we rode to a neighboring farm. On the way, Baboon and I finished the Granny Smith that James gave to me that morning. James’ dad unloaded us from the trailer. When we got to the track, I instructed Baboon to fly through the trees during the race so he could watch. James and I warmed up together until the announcer called out on a megaphone: “Junior Jockeys, ready your horses!”
“Lydia, we have to win!” James whispered.
“Oh no!” I thought nervously, “It’s race time.”
“You got this!” Baboon whispered to me.
James readied me. Then the announcer called on his megaphone: “Three! Two! One! GO!” We were off! I smiled as I saw Baboon flying through the trees managing to keep our pace. Surprisingly, James and I were easily in third place. I decided to give it my all, and we inched up to second. “Second place is respectable,” I thought to myself, but I pressed on because I knew Baboon was watching. We eventually caught up with the leading horse.
“Lydia, there’s the finish line! Faster girl!” James said.
I crossed the finish line and heard the announcer say “Lydia and James win!” I couldn’t believe it!
Baboon came over to congratulate me, but the other horses beat him to it. I heard shocked whispers and mumbles from the other horses. They gave me hugs and high hoofs. I searched for Baboon, but he was flying away and crying! I ran after him.
“Lydia? Help! My horse is running away!” James screamed, but I had to get to Baboon.
“Go away Lydia. You have other friends. You don’t need me,” Baboon said as I caught up to him.
“Of course I need you! You are my very best friend. The other horses only like me now because I won the race.” I said. Baboon looked sad. Then, after a minute of silence, Baboon’s expression changed.
“Let’s go back to the trailer,” Baboon said happily. “James will surely give you an apple for winning the race!” We giggled and walked back toward the track.
“Lydia! What happened to you?” James said upon my return.
“James you will need to put in extra training so Lydia doesn’t run away after winning a race again.” said James’ father.
When we got back to the barn, Baboon fell asleep instantly. I started to write a poem by scratching the words into the barn floor’s dust with my hoof. “Lydia, what are you writing?” Baboon asked sleepily as he woke up.
“It is a poem,” I said. “It’s called ‘My Best Friend.’ It’s about you! Can you help me with it?” I asked.
“Sure! Read it to me,” Baboon said.
“Okay, here it goes, ‘To me Baboon will always be…’”
“The bat in the barn,” Baboon said.
“Thanks Baboon, I really like it!” I said.
“No problem!” Baboon said. “You are a great friend.”
“You too,” I said. Then we giggled and shared a Gala apple. I’m glad Baboon moved into my barn.