The Horses of Marly
by Marie Chapman
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
I opened my eyes to another cloudy day. I looked around the room; the window was open and the print back where it belonged. I suspected this was my reward for deciding to have kinder thoughts about the boy.
I gazed out the window, but it took me a while to realize the change. For that little while I wasn’t troubled at all, and the pain had subsided. I saw Marly Park, in shades of green, and the sun even came out briefly. I knew in that instant that I could live without my wife, that maybe I wouldn’t be happy, but that I could go on and accomplish some things. I’d have to make up with my Marly friends, and then contact the others I had dropped during the mourning. I ate some crackers and an apple that were also from the airport.
That was it — the mourning seemed to be over! I even smiled a bit, sat on the bed, and reached for the phone. But then I saw it out of the corner of my eye — the left horse was gone! That’s why I could see nothing but greenery. With the horse gone — and it had surely run away — it was a beautiful park, where all was in ruins but nature herself, spreading her arms to embrace the hotel.
I didn’t want to think too hard about the horse’s disappearance because I wanted to believe that the mourning was over. But still I knew that the horse should have been there. I managed to stand, with the intent of checking on the right horse. Perhaps it was all a vision trick. As soon as I was up, though, I headed to the toilet to relieve myself. The piss came hard and loud and long.
I turned to the sink and that’s when I saw it in the mirror — I mean, saw my face. Well, not my face, but my eye, the right one. Part of it was now dark red, like velvet. There was a bit of yellowish color floating on the edge of the red. The red was slowly moving down, across my eye from top to bottom. I blinked. It was still there.
I knew enough to hope I was not having a brain hemorrhage, and that’s why I started thinking badly of my friends again — how could they let me die of a brain hemorrhage in this fifth-rate hotel? I remembered their boy had glasses and I wanted to break them by punching him, so that the glass would enter his eyes.
I noticed red drops on my shoulder. My shirt was off. How could the drops be coming from my eye? I realized they were coming from my head wound, which should have healed over by then, at least enough to keep the blood and brains in. But there it was — drip, drip, drip. Like a faucet with a worn-out washer.
I reached up to the wound, which was partially visible through my thinning hair. As I touched it, I found that I could insert fully one third of my forefinger inside without any pain. I did this trick with each of my fingers on that hand. I then ran my hand under warm water.
When I looked back up in the mirror, there was something there. Not in my eye — that hadn’t changed — but in the wound, or rather, coming out of the wound. “Jesus F. Christ,” I said out loud, for the first time in my life. What I saw was moving, so it must have been alive. It was black and shiny, but not wet-shiny. It moved in and out of my wound, and seemed to be a few inches long, maybe as long as my forefinger.
I managed to find a bandage, and when it went back in I closed my hand over it, and covered the wound tightly. My hand felt tickled by the thing. I even laughed a bit.
Back in the room, I went at once to the window. The horse was there; both were. However, there was a new problem: the horses now faced the window and reared up as if to charge the hotel. Luckily, the grooms were able to hold them back.
Then I heard the grooms speak to each other: “Way down yonder, down in the meadow, there’s a poor wee little lamby,” and, “The bees and the butterflies pickin’ at its eyes, the poor wee thing cried for her mammy.” Then that annoying line about the cake.
My wound throbbed. The hoary slug — that’s what I ended up calling it — was moving around in my head between skull and skin. I could feel it making its way around. And a voice: “See, see! What shall I see? A horse’s head where his tail should be.” It was my own voice!
When I looked back out at the cement horses, I saw that the groom on the right was gone! His horse was now positioned a few feet ahead of its partner, a few feet closer to the hotel, to my window. I must have taken a few steps back. I fell onto the bed.
I dreamt about my wife. The wagon broke and she fell. The dog was beating her. The boy, my friends’ boy, was trying to hold back the animal — he seemed a nice enough child, after all — but he wasn’t strong enough.
Hoary bugs were coming out of the soil and crawling on my wife’s wounds. Probably maggots, right? Because by then she was dead. Maybe slugs. “See, see! What shall I see?” I thought to myself, over and over.
I opened my eyes. It was night, the windows and shutters were pulled. There was a reading lamp on over my head that I swear had not been there before. It was attached to the wall above the headboard. In fact, it was one of those small lights meant to illuminate the artwork beneath. You’ve probably guessed. It was the prints, both of them now.
I managed to doze, even with them over me. When I woke up, the sun was rising and there was a bit of light, even with the windows and shutters closed and the reading lamp now off. I stumbled to the toilet and pissed like a horse again. All that from a bit of juice. I put my shirt on, and found myself walking in the street. I was heading to my friends’ place.
When I got back to the hotel, the door to my room — and not just the doorknob — was caved in. Like someone had burst through it. I pulled off my shirt and went to the bathroom mirror. There were blood drops on my shoulder again. All over me, actually, and all over my shirt and pants.
The bandage was gone. That must have been what made all the blood. The hoary slug must have gotten out once and for all while I was in the street. My headache was gone, and I sat down on the bed to finish the juice. I didn’t even bother looking out the window. I knew the horses were back in position.
It’s nice to have an office overlooking the Place de la Concorde, although I’m sure the loud traffic is nerve-wracking.
I wish you wouldn’t interrupt me like that. When the phone rang earlier, you ignored it. Was that the police again? I’ve got to get on that goddamn plane tomorrow. Isn’t that what your Embassy is for? Helping out Americans who need to get home, but find themselves in a spot?
It’s one thing for the hotel to hold me responsible for a door with a faulty doorknob that some uniformed bastards stomped through for no good reason, but it’s quite another to accuse me of murder. I told you earlier that I had reconciled myself to the boy’s nastiness.
It made sense that without my wife around, he would reveal his true colors. I just don’t understand people with children, always defending them, even when they are malicious devils. Don’t you see that it’s he who has injured me? Am I not going to get any medical treatment?
I’m not capable of the forgiveness that my wife gladly handed out. You can’t censor all the bad words and all the bad feelings; that’s what I’m trying to make you see. She said it herself.
Copyright © 2015 by Marie Chapman