Thursday, 28 July 2011

Michael is a beautiful horse, a dangerous horse

Michael is a beautiful horse, a dangerous horse.

He will smash in your jockey face. Michael will not be beaten.

You lean into his field, lifting your cardiganed arm clear of the fencing, and hold out a sugar lump with a trembling hand. You make shushy cat sounds because you could never do a clicking noise when all the other kids could. It's the only noise you know.

Michael grabs your hair. He rakes your forehead on the barbed wire. Side to side, tearing your skin, one way across then DING! back again.

You wipe the blood from your eyebrows. You are grateful for the attention.

A furry, spectacled Radio Five news man asks you about the race. His recording equipment looks dirty. He thinks you will come third. You know he's wrong. You answer his questions. Drift off. Think about your childhood.

You look again and the radio presenter is a tooth-bitten skeleton in a sheepskin coat stained with his own brains and you think 'Michael has been here.'

You lick the microphone, craving vanilla. Tell the corpse everything is going to be okay.

Michael is a gangster horse, he runs a gangster farm. He extorts money from sheep, but only because he is bigger and they are scared of him. If he had a pig, he would steal its hay. Then kill the pig in a plough-by shooting. He rampages vegicide across the furrows, shooting cabbages with the joy of a six-year-old playing cowboys with his shadow. West Side Story with a nose bag.

Distracted by his beauty, you trip into a bullet-ridden scarecrow. Michael puff-blows the end of his horse-pistol and in a deep voice says, 'You have been harvested.'

Michael is better looking than the other racehorses. A divine equine, he will wear a bandana at an angle. Roll up two trouser legs at opposing corners. He is not black beauty: he is black belt. Michael knows karate, but he will pronounce it ‘carroty’ because it’s the only horse joke he knows. And even then, it’s about carrots and not horses.

Michael has absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever.

The radio presenter starts to smell. Michael will not be beaten.

You canter around the circuit before the big race. Flat-capped fat men exchange money for paper slips, counting hastily in the bustle. Hats spiral into the wind and a woman yelps with laughter. Her teeth are like disarrayed tombstones.

You smile at the race day crowd, amiable, talkative, lonely. You wave, but you are afraid. Michael has been bedding your wife for months. You are more ashamed at your failings than the bestiality of their relationship. Your jockey colours are creased and greyed from under-washing. It never used to be like this.

Michael is not intimidated by the whip. He likes it. You clench your thighs as you walk him into the starting stall. Blood dries on your forehead.

The starting stall, ten feet wide, thin slats pull sunlight across deep shadows. You hear the whinnys of the neighbouring booths, the mosquito whine of a tannoy announcer, but you are alone. You and Michael the horse. No-one can see. And Michael will not be beaten.

You run a hand along his shoulder. Rub against the pelt. Feel the muscles press into the ball of your hand. You don't know if what you are experiencing is elation or shame.

The gate cracks open and Michael gallops his fierce gallop, slaying everyone else in the field. But you are not on his back. Not anymore. Michael rides free, laughing in triumph, high-hoofing his competitors then punching them in the ribs. You are not on his back. Where are you?

Michael knows.

There is freshly disturbed turf on the floor of the stall. Neat rectangle, a handsome plot. And a spade. A spade against the side of the stall. Freshly disturbed turf on the floor of the stall, a spade against the side of the stall, and trying to interrupt the darkened quiet, muffled by two metres of earth, shushy cat noises: desperate; pointless; bursting with love.

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