“What is that?”
“That. What is that?”
“I dunno, a plow I suppose.”
“It looks like a horse—like a horse’s hoof.”
“Are we looking at the same thing?”
I can’t see much. It’s dry and that makes the gravel road even dustier.
Suzanne parks the car and retrieves her riding boots from the trunk before walking through the barn doors to get Juliet all saddled up. I decide now’s a good time to call my mom back. The reception out here is pretty good.
Mom tells me that Bailey, the 4 year old German Shorthair’d Pointer she just adopted from a local rescue was up until not too long ago being bred at a puppy-mill—could hardly be said she was living there—and was on her way, that is Bailey was on her way, to a kill shelter somewhere down in Kansas and goddamn’d if she—I’m talking about my mom now— wasn’t just so wonderfully relieved that she’d rescued Bailey from such a terrible fuckin place.
We all do a real good job of not thinking about the ones we can’t rescue.
Suzanne brings Juliet out of the barn, all tacked up and snorting and mare-ish. I’d been just sitting in the car when I was talking to my mom so I hop out and tell Suzanne all about Bailey and the kill shelter and we both agree she’s probably a whole helluva lot better off with my mom.
Suzanne leads Juliet over to the outdoor hunter ring and starts warming her up, stretching out her legs.
I walk over to a set of empty bleachers just on the outside of the ring and crack open this bizarre novel that you have to turn a number of different directions in order to read—which actually proves pretty cumbersome out here due to the steady breeze blowing across the corn fields, then across the hunter ring.
After warming her up, Suzanne mounts Juliet and makes a few laps around the ring at a trot in each direction—to her right and then her left. I read a couple multi-directional pages before I hear Suzanne’s voice trying to get my attention.
“It’s a horse.”
“A horse,” she says. “I told you. It’s a horse.” Suzanne points toward the rear corner of the barn to a particularly muddy area, all cast in shadow, where there’s old farm tractors and other farming stuff sitting around.
I can’t see what she’s pointing at so I close my book and get up and take a closer look.
And sonofabitch if she isn’t right.
The thing I thought was probably just the handle of a plow from the gravel road driving in really was a horse, which I suppose means first off, I shouldn’t second-guess my wife when the two of us are trying to identify objects that may or may not be a horse.
“Is it dead?” I say. Sometimes I’m a real dumbass about these things, but particularly because I’m an expert at being in denial about death and dying and pretty much everything else.
“Yeah,” she says, “it’s dead.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“I mean, I dunno—you think I should go over there and poke it or something, just to see?”
“Daniel, it’s dead. I’m sure.”
“Fuckin sad…” I say.
“It is sad,” she says before trotting Juliet off around the ring again.
Circle of life, I guess.
The deal with the horse really is sad, too—I’m not just saying it.
Rear leg looked like the plow handle like I said it did because the old rigor had already set in and his leg was probably straight out like that when he died.
Poor bastard suffocated himself.
His body just rests there, slung low and halfway to the ground, neck wedged between a small gap between the gate and the barn’s rear wall—but the gap wasn’t small enough though, I guess.
Almost looks like he hung himself on purpose.
His front legs are all cocked out at an odd angle—splayed is the word—like that poor little bastard had himself a few choice second-thoughts once he’d totally committed himself to the whole deal.
Reminds me how once I heard about this guy in San Francisco who decided on performing some personal Harry Carey on himself. He was one of those guys, I heard, who think jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge makes a whole lot of sense since it’s a real dramatic and flashy way to give the world one last fuck you before ending it all.
Going out with a bang they say—or a splat, as it were, in his case.
So of course, some everyday folks refer less than kindly to these types of individuals as assholes and what not. Such as when I’ve heard em say things like:
You hear about that asshole killed himself jumpin off that damn bridge?… Serves him right! …I went down there and yelled at his dumb ass myself; told him to go on and do it, quit wasting my time and tax dollars, since you know those police men got theirselves better things to do than sit around and talk some dummy down off some bridge… Jee-minny Crickets!
I don’t typically condone any kind of talk like that about people I don’t know. Don’t know what they are going home to. Don’t know if they even got a home to go home to.
Maybe jumping in front of a train, or off a bridge, or drowning yourself in Jim Beam might just be a preferable alternative to a given set of circumstances—you just never can tell.
Well so anyway, this particular asshole—now I’m using their words, not mine—was just a kid, all of 19. He went on some TV news program after he became one of the, like, two percent of all people who jump from the Golden Gate and then find themselves in the bay, and alive, having survived that 245-foot fall into the water—in which case I can imagine a certain few choice words one might say, the least of which, just personally speaking, would probably be, Holy shit!
But that’s just me digressing—so this kid went on that TV news program and said he regretted making that jump as soon as his feet left the deck—that very goddamn second. I believe he all of a sudden got religious cause the first thing he said to himself was God, save me.
I have a theory about this and it does end up relating to the dead horse—a stud colt, even—but I do tend to get a little long-winded at times.
People have talked a lot about suicide around me. I don’t particularly understand why someone’d do it, but they say it has to do with those particular people feeling completely out of control of their own lives, and so when they feel like they don’t have anything left they can control in their own lives, they feel like, well shit, at least I can control my contract with the world and my living in it—so to speak.
The problem with jumping off a bridge is that you have all the control in the world—that is until you have that four seconds of freefalling where the universe takes all that control back.
I wonder how many of that 98 percent who didn’t end up in the icy-cold water alive had changed their minds after clearing that whole point of no return?
And what’s the biggest difference here? Between people and animals, that is to say, for me—I’m asking: what’s the difference?
Difference, I suppose, is that I feel bad for the damn horse, really what it all comes down to. I said I don’t condone negatively speaking about people whose conditions I’m not fully privy to; but I never meant to indicate that I felt bad for them, necessarily.
But from everything I know- and I suppose is widely-accepted where horses are concerned- they don’t have all the higher order brain functioning necessary to just off themselves for strictly dramatic, or attention-seeking purposes.
I feel bad because that stud colt was probably just investigating something just a little bit more interesting on the other side of that gate, not entertaining the idea it’d be the death of him.
I guess people sort of do that too—grass is always greener, and so on.
But that sounds to me like a simple case of curiosity, and curiosity was supposed to kill the cat, not the horse. So I guess what I’m saying at this point is is that it sounds like I’m just talking out both sides of my ass.
“Why’d you make me look at that?” I say to Suzanne finally.
“I didn’t make you.”
“Yes you did. You said it was a horse, a dead one, right over there, like fifty feet in the shade. How could I not look?”
“No one said you had to,” and with a shrug, Suzanne trots off on Juliet and I’m left standing there to consider the dead stud colt and why the hell I’m still looking at him.
Suzanne obviously just doesn’t get the whole curiosity thing—either that, or she does get it, and she knows what curiosity’s apt to do in situations like this—whether you’re a cat, or a horse or a…
…and so then maybe she just chooses to ignore all of that.