There was Del Magnifico le
Noir. If you didn't know better, you migh have mistaken him for a
dark blue Norco bike, but to six-year-old Alex Ford, Magnifico was a
three-year-old Thoroughbred, reminiscent of the Black Stallion.
Like the Black Stallion, Magnifico was given to bursts of thrilling
speed, which is why Alex kept a red dog leash tied to his handlebars.
Alex rode Magnifico around his rural
neighborhood, whispering "whoa" at stop signs and using an assortment
of what he imagined were horsey noises, such as clucks and peculiar
trills, to urge the bike through puddles and over small
obstacles. Using a Pony Club-approved slip knot, he tied
Magnifico outside the school each day and each night brought the bike
into the garage for a brisk rubdown, and covered it with an old
blanket, fastened with a leather-like belt he'd take from one of his
mother's old pantsuits. Alex kept a dog dish filled with water in
front of the bike and hung an aluminum fishnet full of dried grass
clippings just over Magnifico's handlebars.
Once, when Alex's teenage cousins were
visiting, they stole Magnifico and rode him to the store to purchase
cheese-flavored snacks. Upon their return, they left the bike on
the lawn. When Alex found Magnifico lying in the rain, his
deflated front tire spinning helplessly, his red leash muddy and
sodden, Alex burst into tears. This was just like the time when
the drunken stableman ruined Black Beauty's knees by galloping him with
a rock in his shoe.