The Deluxe Stick Horse, found, strangely enough, in a rack at a 7-11 many years ago, is a work of art. Really it is. It is a fuzzy, completely upholstered version of the traditional stick horse: a fluffy, cute, horse's head at the top of a stick. The idea is, the child straddles the stick like a witch on a broomstick, and gallops around the house, yard, or other space shrieking with glee and yelling, "Giddyup!" or "Hi ho, Silver!" or simply, "WheeeEEEEeeeeeEEE!" in some upper register guaranteed to shatter eardrums at a hundred paces and invoke the envy of many a coloratura soprano.
The stick horse has provided hours of fun for children for generations, and is the closest thing that most kids ever get to an actual pony.
As a side note, a girl named Kim in my elementary school had a pony. At least, she had a pony at her birthday party one year. She also had really long hair that she wore in a French braid. I'm not sure which I was the most jealous over: the hair, the French braid, or the pony, but I still have not forgiven her to this day. Well, okay, my hair is longer than hers was, so I forgive her the hair. And I learned to French braid in Basic Training, so I think I can let that slide. However, Kim, if you're out there, I have this to say: "Hmph. You and your pony. You think you're so big. I know you invited all the rest of us six-year-olds over just to GLOAT. Well, fine then. Check out my HAIR! Nyah!"
So. The stick horse. Hours of fun, and so forth, right? Except this is the 21st century, man. You can't just hand some kid a stick with a horse head on it and expect them to get any fun out of that! We need interactive, dude. We need effects! We need massive cool and, if I may say so, something noisy.
And noisy is, indeed, what we got.
Enter the creators of the Deluxe Stick Horse. This little guy has a hidden button located in one of the horse's ears. When squeezed, the horse begins A) whinnying loudly and B) playing the William Tell Overture. (That's the Lone Ranger theme song, for those of you old enough to remember that stuff, which I'm certainly not, but my dad was and told me about it one day when I was a child and we were practicing carving our runes on stone tablets for school.)
So now, instead of a child shrieking with glee and galloping about the house, you can have a child shrieking with glee and galloping about the house whilst a stick horse makes whinnying noises accompanied by a full orchestra.
Well. You can see the improvement here.
Unless you're a parent, in which case, you're probably cringing in sympathy, or possibly have already run screaming from the room. Or a coloratura soprano, in which case you left awhile ago, weeping over the thought that you can't go "WheeeEEEeeeeEEEE" like a three-year-old with a stick horse. Sorry about that.
I walked out of my office an hour or so later to catch the tail end of Leilani's excited cry, "...e..gin...ning!"
"What's that, Leilani?" I asked her.
Suddenly, from the next room, I heard the strains of the singing frog. Oh, great, here we go again, I thought with a sense of wry amusement. But then, I thought I heard the saxophone intro to "How Sweet it is to be Loved by You."
No, I thought, it couldn't be!
But it could be. Oh yes. It could indeed be. The saxophone was shortly joined by the William Tell Overture and the sounds of an overexcited equine. I stared at Leilani in horror.
"I said," she repeated, raising her arms to the sky like a conductor about to begin, "The Concert is Now Be.....gin....ning!"
And she bowed theatrically while behind us, her brother Albert grinned in satisfaction after having activated all three of the musical toys at the same time.
The children smiled delightedly at me. I stared at them, unable to speak, as the clashing discord of the ... music ... washed over me like a gentle rain of battleaxes.
Let me repeat this in case anyone has forgotten. We had a frog singing Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler," two gorillas and a saxophone singing "How Sweet it is to be Loved by You," and a horse whinnying and playing the "William Tell Overture."
All at the same time.
"Um," I managed, "Why are you playing all the different songs at the same time?"
Leilani looked at me with the pity reserved for grownups and the very stupid and said, "It's a concert!"
(Except she can't really say "r" so it was more like "consoot." Nevertheless, I got the picture.)
I looked at Albert who nodded soberly in agreement. "A concert," he repeated, in case I hadn't caught it the first time.
"Yes," I said after a few more seconds of staring at the children. "I can ... see that. A concert. Well well."
And then I did what anyone would do: I went back to my office, shut the door, and prayed for forgiveness from whoever might be listening (particularly whoever might be in charge of Karma) in the universe. I prayed for forgiveness ... for giving out kazoos to kids that Halloween years ago.
Outside the door, the music stopped temporarily, and I heard, very faintly, "The consoot is now be...gin...ning!"
I shuddered and, I must admit, whimpered a little.
Karma, my friends, is nothing to be trifled with. You have been warned.