Hi! Um, yeah, Beyancca here again. ‘er, yeah well Christmas time again ain’t
it. Oh sorry mustn’t get like
Well it’s cold, nippy or bloody freezing, which ever you choose really. The yard’s covered in ice and getting about is proving difficult for those horses with mountain boots and dam near impossible for Confiada, who won’t wear them.
I walked out of my box to be greeted by a blast of wind that was so cold, I withdrew back into the lee of the barn. My breath steamed in the freezing air as I contemplated what I should do next. My instincts were telling me:
“Go back into your box and keep warm Beyancca.” But I knew I must work, hard though it was to come to that decision. I clenched my teeth and forged ahead into the arctic conditions. I made my way carefully towards the indoor riding school. I slipped a few times on the ice and had some hair raising moments when my hind feet slid from under me, and I had to fight for balance on ice. But soon I managed to get to the school. I stumbled in and was greeted by our resident mule. Her name’s muffin, I think she’s been mentioned in passing once before. She’s not a bad sort, a bit green when she works, but she’s trying hard and that’s all anyone can ask.
“Hi Beyancca,” she brayed.
“Morning Muffin,” I replied. She looked me up and down.
“So you’re the horse all the yard’s talking about,” she said.
“Um yeah, if they’ve been talking about Beyancca, then you’re talking to her,” I replied. The mule peered at me closely.
“If you don’t mind me saying, you’re a lot larger than I first thought,” I thought:
“Complement or insult?” I let it go. Muffin took my silence to mean that her comment had either gone unnoticed for it’s possible innuendoes, or had been ignored altogether. As for me, well, I have an almost intrusive fascination with Muffin. I don’t know what triggered it, but I can’t take my gaze off her when we’re working together. Don’t worry, there’s nothing sinister in my interest. I’m just totally mystified that such a creature exists! I mean, Muffin’s not a donkey, nor is she a horse, but she’s, oh how can I put it? Muffin’s a cross between the two. A horse with long ears and a quick temper, a mule in other words. Then I came to another question which had to be answered. I asked Muffin for help:
“I know this might sound stupid Muffin, but why did the humans name you Muffin? After all, muffins are cake like things aren’t they? You’re definitely not one of those!” For answer Muffin collapsed on the peat and rolled about laughing helplessly. The stupid creature thrashed about with all four legs and, well, brayed with laughter.
“What’s so funny?” I asked lamely. Muffin calmed down a little and tried to reply, but her amusement at my mistake got the better of her and I got no reply to my question. I felt like ordering her to pull her socks up and answer me, but I reasoned that this would be an abuse of power. But then I corrected myself:
“Um, hang on a minute B’. Muffin doesn’t ware socks. So how can she pull them up?” Sorry! Crazy thought! Oh dear! I’m going scatty! I wish this bloody human wouldn’t write everything down I say to him! Oh no! He’s written that now! Dam you Human! Phew, that over with. Sorry for that. Now where was I? Ah yes, Muffin’s still rolling on the peat flooring of the small indoor school isn’t she. Well after she’d recovered I tried again.
“Muffin, now calm down dear and tell me what all that carry on was about,” I said. Muffin grinned from ear to ear.
“Muffin was a puppet mule who used to appear on the T.V. didn’t you know that?” She asked. I replied:
“Well no I didn’t.” Muffin yawned and stretched.
“Got to work today,” she observed. Realising that I hadn’t taken a look at my diary for that day, I took my leave of Muffin and walked carefully back to my box. I rifled through the pages on my calendar. I thought:
“Bloody pages have fallen down again, I’m back To January! Have to get the Manageress to put a nail in the used pages someday.” I found December, found the seventh of said month and found that I had an hour working in the riding school with Muffin. I spun round on my right hind foot, and ended up on the concrete! I squealed as I fell! I lay stunned for a few seconds before trying to get up. My sudden meeting with the hard icy concrete of the yard had brought the humans flooding into the barn. I got up almost apologetically, and tried to put a:
“What happened there?” expression on my face. But it didn’t work, never did as a rule. I straightened up and, after the Manageress and my riding instructor friend had examined me anxiously for broken bits, I slithered back to the warmth of my box.
Collapsing on the straw I reflected on what a miserable day it was. The early snow had turned to intermittent rain and now spattered the yard in a most annoying fashion. I cursed the weather in a harsh whisper and tried to get warm. I felt the Manageress stroking me as I drifted off.
When I awoke I saw snow had begun to fall. I opened my door and walked out into the freezing air. It was dark now and the yard was just freezing, no sorry, closing up for the night. I plodded along to the barn where Jinja was spending the winter. Banging on his door I didn’t wait for an answer before busting in. Jinja was eating straw and leapt five feet into the air when he saw me. What he said then, well, the typist wouldn’t print it. He whipped round and stared at me in the half darkness.
“B, Beyancca, is that you dear?” He asked hoarsely. Jinja coughed and spat on the straw in a most disgusting display.
“yuck! Why do you have to do that Jinj’?” I asked.
“Sorry, it was either that or choke on it,” he replied. The wind slammed into the barn door, Jinja grimaced at the weather.
“Horrid situation out there tonight,” he observed.
“yeah, glad I’m not out in that,” I replied. I turned to go back to my box. My hoof was on the handle so to speak, when Jinja stopped me.
“No, B’, Don’t go, please don’t go!” He pleaded. His tone held desperation.
“What is it Jinj’?” I asked. Jinja’s embarrassment was plain, but even that, acute as it was, could not hide his real emotions.
“Please B’, please stay with me tonight. Don’t go, stay here.” His voice cracked. He tried to hide his tears, but I’d seen them already. Jinja sniffed as if he’d got a cold.
“Trying to make out he’s not really close to balling his eyes out,” I thought. Jinja hugged me then. His embrace held desperate sadness and intolerable loneliness. I remembered then our conversation of a month ago.
Jinja rested his head on my shoulder. He was weeping openly now. I didn’t need to ask what was upsetting him, I knew right enough. All I could do was hold him close and try my best to comfort him. Eventually Jinja stopped crying. He dried his eyes and looked at me.
“Sorry about that. I, I didn’t mean,,,”
“There’s no need to apologise Jinj’,” I reassured him. Jinja gulped:
“She left me B’. Rosie left me forever,” he whispered.
“No Jinj’, not forever. You’ll see her again someday. Then you’ll never be apart, never, ever apart. But until then you’ve got to make a go at life. You can’t give up now. Rosie wouldn’t wish you to would she?”
“No B’ she wouldn’t,” he replied softly. I said:
“Try and remember the good times you had with her Jinj’. You have to move on from thinking about the manner of her passing, to the things that were good in your lives together. She loved you Jinja! Don’t ever forget that. In Rosie’s eyes you were the best thing that ever happened to her!” I lay down in the deep straw bedding and Jinja, as best a horse can, curled up beside me and rested his head on my shoulder once more. I said:
“I know it’s hard Jinja, but you have to carry on on your own.” Then I thought:
“Man that sounds crappy,” It did, I knew it did, and so did Jinja! He lost control! Jinja screamed into my ear:
“How can you say that! You have no idea what it’s like! None what so bloody ever Beyancca! Get out! Get out!” I obeyed his commands and rose to leave. I was pushing open the door when he collapsed onto the straw, weeping like a foal. I turned back and saw Jinja for what he really was. A grief stricken horse who wanted his mate by his side at Christmas. I decided to try and remind Jinja of the good times Rosie and he’d had together. I went back to his side, settled down and drew him close to me. Cradling his head on my shoulder, I began to whisper into his ear.
“Hey Jinj’! Remember the time last Christmas when we all got pissed? Rosie led that didn’t she? Yeah, and do you remember how Rosie would play on jingle’s hatred of Merry Christmas Everybody? I think that was Jingle’s only pet hate, but she loathed it and still does. And there was Rosie yelling it’s Christmas! At the top of her voice.” All through this Jinja listened to me. Now and then he would mutter something unintelligible under his breath. But when I got to the part where we all started singing, well, then Jinja really livened up! You know what? He even started singing!
“Be quiet Jinja! You’ll wake every horse in the place!” I warned. Jinja carolled:
“Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmas time!” There was suddenly loud thumping on the door:
“Shut it Jinja!” Confiada bellowed. Suddenly she tore the door open and advanced into Jinja’s territory. Confiada tripped over him in the dark, she landed smack on top of him! As she levered herself off of Jinja’s back Confiada blustered:
“Have you got a good excuse for your behaviour? Why were you singing, no, warbling that disgraceful song!” I said:
“That’s a matter of opinion. Five weeks at number one, made eight million quid for charity.” Confiada’s hoof smashed into my shoulder!
“”Shut your bloody mouth!” She screeched. My squeal of pain brought a deluge of horses into the barn. They beat Confiada senseless! Ruby and Chantilly dragged the unconscious mare out into the freezing night and they closed the door behind them. I shifted slightly and wished fervently that I hadn’t. My shoulder hurt like hell! I swore under my breath and tried to get comfortable. But I couldn’t do it, no matter how I tried, my shoulder still gave me trouble. Jinja watched my discomfort with growing unease.
“You got that because of my stupid actions,” he said. My shoulder was beginning to seize up now. The pain was getting worse and I couldn’t stand it much longer.
“Go, Go and get the Manageress Jinj’, Before I go mad Jinj’,” I gasped. Jinja hesitated:
“But it’s three in the morning Beyancca,” he protested.
“I don’t care! Go now! That’s an order!” I shouted. Jinja fled from the barn.
“Stupid bloody idiot!” I thought angrily. The pain from my shoulder was beginning to affect my vision now. Everything swum in and out of focus and to top it off, the barn started spinning. Round and round, and then with a sickening lurch, upside-down!” I passed out.
When I regained consciousness I found the Manageress preparing an injection for me.
“Stick it in,” I thought. I know I’ve said this before, but I hate needles. But then, as many times before, I have welcomed that sting. For after that, nothing, absolutely nothing. No pain, just sleep, oblivion for a long, long time. I felt the needle’s prick and slowly drifted off into a drug induced sleep. You see, morphine does that sort of thing. I could feel the Manageress stroking me, but it was as if she was very far away. It felt almost as if the nose she was stroking wasn’t mine at all. I felt warm and safe, contentment at last. Jinja lay down beside me. The Manageress, knowing that Jinja would look after me, took her leave closing the door behind her.
Jinja rested his nose on my neck. He thought:
“you look so like Rosie lying there Beyancca. I know you’re not Rosie, but you’re so like her in so many ways that, well, you know something B’? Sometimes In moments of madness, I’ve even got to thinking that you’re Rosie’s double. But you’re not, you’re no relation to her. I have to remember that.” Jinja said:
“You’re wonderful Beyancca,” I thought:
“Thanks Jinj’ dear. But I’m not Rosie.” Jinja nuzzled my shoulder.
“Can you feel that B’?” He asked. Of course I couldn’t answer him. I drifted on the edge of a sleep that I couldn’t really get into properly. Jinja suddenly squealed:
“Don’t die on me B’!” How could I assure him that I wasn’t anywhere near death? I couldn’t really. Jinja tried to sleep. But this led to thinking about Rosie, and then to total breakdown.
“Rosie darling, I miss you so much,” he sobbed. The morphine was wearing off now. I Reached over to him and touched his nose with mine. I tried to form words to tell him that I was fine.
“Not dying Jinj’, just high on drugs,” I murmured. Jinja gulped hard trying for all he was worth to brighten up a little. He turned his tear filled eyes my way.
“Thanks for everything Beyancca,” He sniffed,
“You’ve been a great help,” he said. He nuzzled my aching shoulder as gently as he could.
The stable clock said seven in the morning and the day was freezing! I limped out of Jinja’s barn and stumbled along to the office. I tried to ask where the Manageress had got to, but I fear it sounded nothing like that. My tongue wasn’t responding to my commands. I gabbled out some sort of enquiry and got:
“She’s up at the house.” As a response.
“Sod it!” I thought angrily:
“I can’t walk that far with my shoulder like it is! I curse the day Confiada was born!” But then I felt guilty for even wishing that on her. I asked the instructor to phone through and see if the Manageress would give me another shot of morphine. The Manageress appeared after a short while and nearly had a fit when she saw me.
“What the hell’re you doing standing up Beyancca? Go back to your box now!” I looked at her in some puzzlement.
“I haven’t been told not to walk about,” I thought. The Manageress picked up a lunging whip and virtually drove me back to my box. I flopped on the straw and looked up hopefully at the Manageress to see if she had any more morphine for me.
“No more drugs B’. I can’t give you any more morphine,” she said. I thought:
“Well what am I meant to do then?” Fleur spoke up then:
“take some parasetomol or something.”
“Shut it Fleur!” Misty snapped. I ignored Fleur’s ill advised comment and fixed the Manageress with my best attempt at a sorrowful look.
“You can’t fool me with that,” she said. She fiddled with the whip making the thong slap against the concrete. I watched the whip’s antics and wondered WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT. The Manageress said:
“The vet says you can’t have any more morphine Beyancca,” I held up my right forefoot to stop her:
“Um, Jinja’s missing Rosie, thought I’d better let you know,” I said.
“Oh dear, poor Jinja. He never really came to terms with her death did he.” The Manageress replied. She asked:
“Were you comforting him when you got into a scrape with Confiada?”
“Yeah, I was trying to make him see what good times he’d had with Rosie,” I replied. The Manageress started to say:
“You’re a good girl B’,,,” I stopped her:
“Don’t start that, please don’t start that. It’s embarrassing!” The human started stroking my neck.
“I’m glad Rosie chose you to be leader,” she whispered. I rested my head on the Manageress’s shoulder and let her stroke my cares away.
I was woken by the Manageress gently scratching the soft fur on the inner surface of my ear. I sighed contentedly and straightened up. The Manageress seemed to notice that I had woken.
“Oh, hi B’. You’re awake then,” she remarked. I yawned expansively:
“Yeah, pretty much,” I replied. I shook myself and looked at the human standing beside me. Suddenly all the pressures of the last few weeks came crashing down on me and I couldn’t take it. I felt very tearful and did my best to hide the fact. But the Manageress, human though she undoubtedly was, had a horse’s sixth sense and now it was on red alert. She hugged me and asked:
“What’s troubling you B’?” I took a shuddering breath. I thought:
“How can I tell her of Jinja’s torment, and of my own also? How can I tell her that I, mature as I maybe, am still young enough not to be able to detach myself from the situations of others and lead my own life independently of any influence from them? I mean, Rosie could do it, she had experience and endless confidence. I have very little of either of these. I’m just a young horse, not even in my eighth year yet, and this has happened. Am I destined to do everything before I am properly equipped to attempt those tasks? If this is so, well who’s gonna listen to a virtual foal?” I felt dreadfully sick. I had a horrible knot in the pit of my stomach that wouldn’t go away. I knew the cause of that not, Jinja in the most part, and my feelings of futility and guilt at not being able to do much except speak kind words to him. Jinja wasn’t loved by any horse in the yard. The humans adored him, and he adored them. But after Rosie’s death, of the horses, well, only Ruby had shown him any real affection. But now that was passed also. After Jinja had felt love from another of his own species he wanted more. I say no horse loved Jinja, but I did. I am willing to be a friend to him, to comfort him, listen to his problems, anything in fact. But there was one thing he had to learn and accept. That thing was the plain fact that I am not Rosie! I cannot ever be like her! In ability to work various riding styles, well yes maybe. But I am Beyancca. I might also hold much the same status as Rosie did, you know, leader n’all. But I cannot, and must not ever be seen to replace Rosie! I cannot do this! You can never replace anybody, be they horse or human! I wish Jinja would learn to treasure Rosie’s memory and learn to get on with his life!
I lowered my head onto the Manageress’s shoulder and lost it totally. I sobbed like a foal. I could not express myself in any other way. Those words which exist in the equine language cannot express anything so awful as loneliness, grief or death. We have no such words to describe these things. We have to do the best we can and the humans do the rest. You will have read some terrible stories during these accounts, but it is the humans, and not the horses who put the punch into what you read on the page. Sometimes the typist has to go over an episode with me time and time again to get it right. The Manageress seemed to understand my distress. She whispered into my ear.
“Don’t cry Beyancca. Please don’t cry dear,” she pleaded. I sniffed:
“What else can I do to help Jinja?” I asked. The Manageress said a strange thing then.
“You must take the bit between your teeth and do something to liven up the herd B’. You must take the role of instigator. Your job is not just to sort out squabbles and deal out justice. It is also to set in motion events that cause the rest of the herd to realise that while not forgetting those who have passed away, that this time of year, Christmas, is one to be merry. I know it’s going to be hard to do it Beyancca. But you must try dear. You must try your best to do something to cheer them up.” I thought of the events that took place last Christmas.
“Rosie certainly knew how to pull a stunt off. I haven’t the faintest clue,” I thought. I said:
“I’ll give it a go.” The Manageress patted my nose and left. I started puzzling out what I was going to do for Christmas. I thought back to what Rosie had done. She had annoyed Jingle, unintentionally of course, by singing Merry Christmas Everybody at the top of her voice. But then all the horses had grouped together and joined in the festive spirit. I remember singing till late on in the evening. I remembered also Cleo telling me that I couldn’t sing and would I kindly desist from it. I ignored her and sang ever louder. But now, what was I going to do now? I wished Rosie were still here to give me advice. But I was on my own. I sighed heavily and walked out of the barn.
I walked out of the yard and down the lane to where the hacking trail started. I quickened my pace to a jog, my shod feet making hardly a sound on the frosty grass. I broke into a canter and then a gallop! The wind seemed to lift me off the ground at every stride! I fairly flew across that field, and the next and the next! I slowed reluctantly to a walk and turned the bend to the right.
I stopped dead! A cart lay on the grass verge, it’s driver unconscious on the road and the poor horse struggling to free herself from the harness which was gradually choking her. I sprinted towards the scene and stopped beside the panic stricken mare. I saw she wasn’t from our yard, she couldn’t have been from our place because I would have recognised her instantly, and there was no recognition here.
The poor grey mare looked in a very bad way indeed. Her ribs heaved and she was bathed in sweat. Her eyes when they focused on me were terrified! Her face held an expression of utter desperation. She breathed harshly through what airway she had left. As I watched the poor mare gasped and coughed where there was obviously no room to cough. Her whole body seemed to heave convulsively as she fought for air. I know this description is quite detailed. But in real time all what is described above took a matter of minutes. Two or three, no more than that. The cart’s driver was unconscious on the road, or so I thought. But when I examined him, I
seemed to wake him up. A torrent of abuse came my direction. I left the now conscious cart driver and attended to the mare. The driver wasn’t gonna do it was he! The bastard was too groggy from his tumble and probably, from the look he gave me, wouldn’t have given two sugar lumps about the welfare of his horse. I went over to the mare and took a look at her more closely. I looked the mare straight in her eye.
“Can you hear me?” I asked. The response was angry and full of anguish.
“Yes of course I bloody can!” She gasped. I took a look at the harness that almost throttled the mare. I realised that the harness in itself was not to blame for her condition. Her reigns were wrapped around her neck and tightened their grip with every desperate attempt the mare made to gain her freedom. Now I know what you expect. In a certain book, the name of which I will not mention, the horses are able to thread needles with their pasterns. I am not about to do that or anything remotely like it! Come on, I’m just an ordinary mare, I couldn’t do that in a million years. But I could have a go at trying to lift the cart back onto it’s wheels. It was the cart’s position on the grass verge which was making the mare’s troubles worse. I went behind the cart and found that I could get my shoulder beneath the cart enough to lift it. When I tried however, I found it to be almost too heavy to shift. The Mare began to squeal something about her leg going numb. I ignored her and kept on lifting the cart. Slowly ever so slowly the cart rose into the air. Sweat was now pouring off me! I put all my strength into shifting that cart. When the cart finally rocked back onto it’s wheels I found myself collapsing onto the grass exhausted by my effort. I lay there for a long time waiting for my strained muscles and taught nerves to relax. I felt a nose furiously nuzzling mine.
“The mare’s got up and she’s come to take a look at her rescuer,” I thought. Then a voice I recognised said urgently:
“Josh,” I thought gratefully. I opened my eyes and looked at the foal who was my Son but also a great friend. He stared back wonderingly.
“’ell mum. What’ve you been getting yourself into now?” he teased.
“It’s no laughing matter Josh. There was a cart on it’s side on the verge,,,” I proceeded to tell him the whole thing. Josh nodded:
“yeah, I know ‘er, the mare I mean. She’s currently scoffing grass like it’s going out of fashion. Cor’ mum! She’s got manners like Confiada’s! When I went to ask ‘er if she was all right she told me to, told me to piss off mum!” Josh began to cry.
“I was only trying to ‘elp,” he sobbed.
“I know Josh, I know that my dear,” I said soothingly. Josh buried his head in my shoulder and I felt his tears wetting my fur. I hugged him as best I could.
“Look Josh, some horses are like that. No matter what you do for them, they’ll never even consider what trouble you went to to help them,” I replied.
“But mum, it, it’s wrong, wrong for her not to show gratitude for what you did for her,” he choked. I rubbed his nose hard with mine. The sensation caused Josh to settle down beside me.
“It’s cold out ‘ere mum,” he said. I struggled to my feet and motioned to him to follow me. We approached the mare and I asked her why she’d spoken to Josh in such an insulting way. The mare turned her back on me. Josh lost his cool and yelled at her.
“If it wasn’t for my mum, you’d be dead bitch!” he yelled. The mare whipped round and launched a flying kick at him. Josh jumped for his life and the mare’s hoof missed his head by an inch! I flattened the mare and stood over her.
“you listen to me! I should have let you die! I know now I shouldn’t have let you go free. I should have let the reigns strangle you to death! Because, I’ve heard your language, it’s awful! Not only is it insulting, but you’re talking to my foal! You told him to piss off! No horse tells my foal to piss off and gets away with it!” I bellowed. The mare bared her teeth and lashed out at me with a sharp forefoot. The flying hoof caught me on the nose as I leapt for cover. My nose began to bleed profusely. The mare jumped to her feet and bolted! I watched her go as my blood dripped onto the grass. Josh stared at my bloody nose in horror.
“She gave you quite a kick,” he observed. The cut wasn’t deep, but there are many blood vessels in a horses nose, and it was these which were venting their distress at being disturbed. Soon however the blood dried up and all was fine. Josh looked sad.
“I can’t ‘elp feeling really bad about what ‘appened a few minutes ago. That mare treated you like dirt mum.” Suddenly he shouted:
“I ‘ate ‘er bloody guts!” I tried to soothe my foal’s ruffled fur. Suddenly Josh screamed in terror!
“What’s wrong now?” I asked wearily. The plain truth was that I was growing very sleepy. Josh pointed with his right forefoot at the cart driver.
“’e’s gonna flatten me!” He screeched.
“No Josh darling. The cart driver won’t hurt you dear. He’s angry with his horse, not you love,” I reassured him. The cart driver was stamping about and swearing at the top of his voice.
“The bloody sod! Why didn’t I listen to the owner? He said that horse was no bloody good and he was right! Now I’ve wrecked his cart and his nag has gone AWOL!”
“Who’s fault was that?” I thought unsympathetically. Josh was obviously frightened of the cart driver and made no attempt to hide the fact. I watched the maddened human intently. I didn’t want him approaching my foal unchallenged. I guess I’d picked up a little of Josh’s fear. The cart driver came up close to me and punched me on the nose! Squealing with rage and pain I struck out at him with my forefeet! My right forefoot connected solidly with his ribs and sent him flying into the air! I watched in amazement as the human flew through the air and landed heavily on the smashed cart. He lay unmoving on the battered cart. I walked up to him and yelled into his face!
“Get up there! Go on move it! Come on! Get up you lousy bugger!” The poor human, who’d obviously had a bad day and felt I was making it worse, groaned to his feet and staggered in front of me. I drove him as best I could, across the road and into a field. Josh waited patiently on the other side. I frisked the human for a mobile phone, found one and pulled it out for him.
“Phone your boss and tell him what a bloody ass you’ve been!” I commanded. I indicated the phone.
“I’m not gonna obey a bloody nag!” The man screeched. I snatched the phone and made as if to crush it. I never knew humans were so attached to their toys. The Man yelled incoherent sound at me and snatched the phone back. The aerial got snapped off in the process.
“now look what you’ve done. You’ve busted it!” I whimpered. I stuck the aerial back into the hole with some difficulty and ordered the human to do what I said, or I would crush his precious phone.
“Go on, make that call,” I said quietly. I felt Josh sidling up beside me. The Man made the call and told the human on the other end that he was being held hostage by a huge white mare wearing mountain boots, who was demanding a ransom for his return.
“Rubbish!” I thought angrily. But I let the human have his fantacy. I let the unfortunate human finish his call and then did as I had threatened, I threw the phone on the ground and crushed it with my foot. It made a satisfying “scrunch,” I ground the pieces into the grass with the toe of my boot and when I had finished, looked at the human.
“Now we’re gonna leave you. You will have to make your own way back to wherever you came from,” I said. I would have offered him a lift. But his treatment of me had soured that intention and now I wasn’t even gonna offer him the chance to pet me!
“But my cart’s a goner, my bloody horse has done a bunk also! How the hell am I gonna get back to Woodbridge before dark?” The human asked. He suddenly yelled into my ear at point blank range!
“It was the mare, the mare I tell you! It was her stupid antics that caused the cart to go over and nearly kill both of us! And now all you can bloody do is save the mare, and then when she treats you like shit you let her go! Then, then,,,” The driver realised what he’d done to me also.
“Oh, I’ve stuffed myself haven’t I? I vented my anger at my own horse on you.” Josh said:
“Yeah you did ‘uman. I’d very much doubt if mum will do anything for you after what you’ve done to ‘er.” The human tried to put his arms round me. I shook him off and made signals to him, for he wasn’t up on the intricacies of the equine language, that I did not want him to touch me. The human dropped to his knees and literally begged me to give him a lift to Woodbridge. I knew the route to Woodbridge well enough, but had a disinclination to visit it. I had made some very determined enemies of the local equine population when I’d accidentally strayed into an occupied field during a carnival I was attending. The horses haven’t forgotten my intrusion and have often made spiteful remarks as I passed on my way through the town. I shook my head.
“No, this horse is not going to take you to Woodbridge. Sorry n’all that,” I said. The man looked down at his crushed phone.
“So you’re gonna go and leave me here,” he stated.
“Mmm yeah we’re gonna do that.” Josh replied. But my resolve was cracking. The evening, for that’s what it was now, was cold, and no horse, or human for that matter should be out in weather like that, I relented.
“Look, tell you what. I’ll carry you back to my place and we’ll ask the Manageress if she’ll order a taxi or something for you. I’ll explain the situation,” I suggested. The poor human looked hopeful.
“Would you? That’s wonderful!” He whooped. The stupid fool would have kissed my boots if I hadn’t stopped him!
The human took a running jump and landed on my back with a thud. I then rounded up Josh, who had started to eat grass after getting bored with the whole carry on, and set off at a brisk jog. The Man held on loosely to my mane. My anger at his treatment hadn’t quite abated however and I started loaping! The man squealed much like a horse would and beat his fists on my neck. I knew this was no way to stop a horse, and, although I knew what he wanted, I started acting like any horse would. I squealed and whinnied, making an absolute fool of myself in the process, but I didn’t care. Then I stopped my horseplay, shut my mouth, stretched out my neck and bolted! The human screamed at me:
“Stop! Stop! Please stop! You bugger! Do as I tell you you stupid animal!” I didn’t listen. I concentrated on putting my feet to the ground as fast as I could. I seemed to fly with every stride and it was not long before Josh, myself and the human were back in the yard. I decanted the human at the office and went wearily back to my box. Flopping down on the straw I tried to relax. The adrenaline rush was still making itself felt and I was fired up and couldn’t come down. Josh came and lay beside me. He rested his nose on my neck and closed his eyes, he was tired out.
“I was walking round the yard and suddenly wondered where you’d got to. Chantilly said she’d seen you walking off down the ‘acking trail, so I went that way. I found you flat on the grass panting for breath and shivering violently. You know the rest,” he said sleepily. I pulled the straw round him and Josh fell asleep soon after. The Manageress came calling then. I sighed heavily and rose to my feet.
“what can I do for you,” I asked blearily. The Manageress held a crop, bridle and reigns. I stared at them in incomprehension.
“Perhaps she’d forgotten to put them away? Or most likely, was just on her way to do that?” I mused. But I was wrong, the Manageress had other ideas, and they did not include putting the tack away.
“Come on Beyancca! We’re going to Woodbridge!”
“What? Oh hell no! Not there! Please, please don’t make me go there,” I pleaded. The Manageress then told me something that made me so angry, I nearly broke my door in two!
“The human you brought back from the wilderness says that you caused his cart to end up on it’s side. Not only did you do that, but you also smashed his phone, so he couldn’t phone for help, held him hostage before that, and, and you also kicked him so hard he was nearly killed. What have you got to say to that!” She shouted. I felt so upset at this news that at first I couldn’t answer her. I recovered a little and replied hoarsely:
“It, it’s not true. I never overturned the cart, all right, I smashed his phone, but that’s all! I told him before that to ring his boss and tell him what he’d done! Then, then I helped him back here. I did nothing to hurt him! Not intentionally!” The Manageress held up a crop to stop me.
“But you did kick him didn’t you,” she stated.
“yeah, but he attacked me! He punched me on the nose! He did! He did I tell you!” The Manageress then noticed the blood on my nose and commented on it.
“That’s from the mare’s attack. She tried to attack me when I told her where to go after she had told Josh where to go,” I replied.
“Mare? What mare?” The human asked. I told her about the grey mare entangled in her harness. I told her also of the rescue I had attempted and of the mare’s ingratitude and of her final assault on me before running off into the distance. The Manageress sighed:
“One of you is liing. I’m inclined to believe the human in this,,,” I kicked the stable door so hard that it splintered in two and pieces of wood showered Candy as she stood in her box!
“Hang about! Hey watch it B’!” Candy complained. I puffed and blew my anger! At that moment I would have killed any human who dared speak to me! My fur was standing on end all along my back and my ears were flat back! In fact all the hairs on my body stood up on end, I was mad! My voice cracked as I asked:
“How can you say that? How can you say that to me? A horse who’s never lied to you in her life and all you can do is say that you believe another human over the word of a horse. I don’t know why I’m working for you human. I’ve done so dam much for you here. I took all Rosie’s work without comment when she passed away. I have been beaten black and blue by Confiada in my efforts to keep this herd afloat, and all you can say to me, after all that! Is that I’m liing to you!” I would never and have never done that! What would be the point? In a horse’s world there’s no such thing as a lie. We don’t tell lies. We might scheme, backchat, throw riders, but we never lie to humans. Between horses, yes then it does go on. But never has a horse lied to a human, never in their existence!” I felt better after that. The Manageress stared at me in utter amazement.
“What’s made you change Beyancca? You used to be so quiet never raised a question to anything. But now you’re in full cry,” I looked over at Candy. She sported bits of wood in her mane from my door. As I watched she shook her head and a cascade of woodchips fluttered to the concrete. I finally replied to the Manageress’s statement.
“I don’t feel you’ve taken into account all the events that took place on the road. You’ve not met the obnoxious mare that nearly killed me, nor have you any idea why I hit the cart driver.”
“Why did you hit the cart driver?” The Manageress asked.
“He took his frustration at losing his horse out on me. He punched me on the nose. It hurt!” The Manageress tried to put her arms round my neck, I shook her off roughly! This seemed to cut deeply, and it was meant to. For a human to brand a horse a liar is a very serious thing indeed. The Manageress had to understand that well. That if you call a horse a liar to his or her face, you aren’t gonna be liked.
“Go and talk this over with the blasted cart driver,” I commanded. The Manageress, as much as a human can, went away with her tail between her legs. I shot a look at Ruby, who had moved in next door to me. Cleo used to be there, I don’t know where she’s got to lately. But Ruby’s there now, have to get used to her won’t I. Ruby was munching on her straw. As far as I could tell, she hadn’t taken any notice of what had just gone on. But I knew Ruby’s tactics. She would wait until everyone was asleep and then quiz the horse involved in the event. Then she had a captive audience and the interrogated horse could not easily escape her questions. But I knew my situation was different. Not only was Ruby questioning or about to question a horse who she had huge respect for, she was also questioning the leader of the yard herd.
“She won’t make it too draining,” I thought. Ruby ripped up another mouthful of straw and turned to me munching slowly. She spoke round the straw.
“So you rescued a mare and she brushed you off then,” she observed.
“yeah, pretty much Ruby,” I replied. Ruby swallowed her straw and stretched out to the water bucket. She slurped the water contentedly.
“can’t you drink quietly?” Fleur complained. Ruby flicked water at Fleur. But she misjudged her aim and the jet soaked Carina instead. Carina squealed with indignation and lashed out with her hind feet in a reflex action. Her boot caught Annie who lived in the box behind hers. Poor Annie cried out with pain and retired to the back of her box. Carina didn’t seem to notice she’d just done Annie damage. She tore open the bolt on her door and flew at Ruby! Carina bit and kicked the unfortunate mare until Ruby pleaded for mercy. I couldn’t react fast enough to stop this attack. Poor Ruby had sustained a torn ear, numerous bite marks on her face and her nose was bleeding. I walked out of my box and floored Carina! When she was lying on the concrete with all the wind knocked out of her, I turned my attention to Ruby’s wounds. I hooked the tea-towel off the wall and dipped it in my water bucket. Then I gently wiped away the blood from Ruby’s nose and ear. She let me perform my ministrations without complaint. When I had finished Ruby looked a lot better. She smiled at me.
“I’d better stay here permanently if that’s how you treat injured horses Beyancca,” she said. Carina had regained her feet by now and was engaging herself in thumping Ruby’s door with her hind feet. Her boots thudded into the wood and did little damage to it. Ruby kept well away from the flying boots. I barked a command to Carina.
“Stop your idiotic behaviour now!” I snapped. Carina whirled round and glared at me. She bared her teeth and stamped her foot in warning.
“You know what Beyancca? You’ve got a lot to learn my dear. You might be leader of the yard herd in status. But you’re not! Not leader! Real leader I mean. You haven’t got the rest of the herd wrapped around your hoof, I have, so I’m leader, right?” She watched for a reaction. I studied Carina carefully. She was quite a bit smaller than me, fat, unfit, a couch potato you might say. If she challenged me to a fight I know who’d win. Carina watched me watching her. Candy voiced my thoughts:
“You’re fat Carina. You’d never beat B’ in a fight. She’s got the upper hoof on you and you dam well know it!” Carina turned on candy! She advanced on the now terrified mare!
“For one, I ain’t fat! For two, I’m leader of the yard herd and always will be! And for three, you’re a stupid insignificant bitch!” Carina snarled. Overcome by fear, Candy opened her mouth and started squealing. Josh had been woken by Annie’s cry of pain and now voiced his thoughts.
“’ere Carina, just shut it and let me get some sleep,” he drawled. Carina spat:
“What did that insignificant scrap say? Did he, no, it, speak to me?” Hearing the loathsome cow refer to Josh as “it” annoyed me intensely. I set about giving Carina a hiding. When I’d finished she was flat on the concrete and I had an audience which consisted of many horses and the majority of the human inhabitants of the yard. Carina snapped her teeth and flailed about with her limbs. Her now bootless hooves scraped and beat against the wooden box door. Josh looked down at the fallen horse in disgust.
“you ain’t worth anything Carina!” He said acidly. Carina lashed out furiously squealing as she did so:
“Bastard!” her hoof smashed into Josh’s head. The poor foal was lifted off his feet by the impact! He hit the wall and slid down it, finishing up sprawled on the concrete. My attention was diverted towards my injured foal.
Josh lay inert on the straw. I prodded him gently with my muzzle and there was no response. I laid my head on his shoulder and wept. I was convinced he was dead. But then he groaned pitifully.
“Mum, is that you mum?” he asked. My relief at hearing his voice was indescribable.
“Yes Josh darling, I’m here,” I replied. Josh seemed to relax a little. His head was resting against the wall, while his legs were, well, crumpled under his body is the only way I can describe their position. They weren’t tucked beneath him in an ordered fashion. More collapsed with his body resting on top. Anyway, he looked a proper mess. I lay down beside him to shield him from any more of Carina’s planned attacks. Carina squealed and whinnied her protestations that:
“Beyancca’s not leader! She’s not! I’m leader! I’ve always been leader, and, you lot know it!” She beat the wall with her forefeet and flailed about with her hind. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jinja passing the barn on his way to the indoor riding school. He noticed Carina’s antics, walked up calmly and stamped hard on her right hind foot! Carina screamed in agony and lashed out with both hind feet! Her flying kick caught Jinja on his nose, making him recoil in shock and fear. Squealing with rage, Carina whirled round and chased Jinja away down the yard. I heard his boots thudding on the concrete as he ran for his life. Carina was running just two feet behind him, her teeth only inches from his tail. As Jinja approached a rise he slowed down. Carina had been waiting for this and quickened her pace.
Carina trampled on Jinja! She ran him down! The poor pony was taken down and driven under Carina’s hooves like a blade of tall grass. Jinja screamed as he fell! Carina flattened poor Jinja into the track.
Hearing Jinja’s scream I told Josh I’d be back in a minute and raced from my box! I charged along the track and caught up with Carina as she was finishing her task. I’m not usually violent, you know that. But all of a sudden I had a cold hatred for that bloody creature! I pulled her off Jinja and threw her down on the track. I stood over Carina and placed my right forefoot on her nose. This made Carina squeal for mercy. But Christmas or no Christmas, Carina had nearly killed Jinja and she was going to pay for her crimes. I stood over Carina and made her squeal with fear by waving my right forefoot at her.
“I can see Josh was right! You’re worth bloody nothing Carina!” I yelled. Carina laid back her ears and snapped viciously at me.
“Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!” She screeched. I laid my boot carefully on Carina’s nose and she stopped insulting me.
“I know Jinja stamped on your foot Carina, but that’s not any excuse for what you did to him! None at all!” I snarled. Carina snapped her teeth and tried to kick me. I just put a little pressure on her nose, that stopped her right enough. Carina gave vent to a wail of pure terror.
Jinja had regained his feet and was now weaving about all over the place. He came eventually to rest his head on my shoulder.
“I’ve got a bloody headache,” he complained. I couldn’t hug him as I would have liked because I still held Carina hostage under my right forefoot. I released her reluctantly and she scampered away down the track squealing unprintable things about me at the top of her voice. I ignored her and turned to Jinja.
Jinja was almost crying.
“I feel awful B’!” he moaned. I felt him trembling violently beside me. Jinja panted desperately and then passed out. His sudden weight on my shoulder caused me to stagger and nearly drop him. But I managed to keep Jinja from flopping onto the track. He came round after a few seconds and levered himself off me. Jinja stared at me for a long minute. I suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to hug him. I don’t know what triggered it. I embraced him tightly, pressing him to me until he realised what was happening.
“Beyancca! Hey! Come on dear, this isn’t right!” I came out of my trance and stared at him. Jinja’s expression was a mixture of shocked disbelief and pleasure, the pleasure was just about winning.
“It’s not right? Why not?” I asked. Jinja shook himself tentatively and obviously wished he hadn’t bothered.
“It, it’s not right because, because of the way you did it. That embrace was not just one of concern. It was full of passion!” Then his voice took on a hardened edge.
“You aren’t in love with me are you Beyancca?” I was shocked!
“No, no Jinja, I, I’m not. Whatever made you think that?” I enquired. But Jinja became angry!
“Look Beyancca! You’re a wonderful mare, yes. But I’m not gonna go out with you! I’m unavailable! That’s what you want isn’t it? You want it, come on! Admit it Beyancca! Go on, let’s have it out of you, now!” I was upset by his tone, in fact I was close to tears.
“No Jinj’. That wasn’t what I meant, not at all. I, I just, just wanted to show you some,,,” I broke down. How could I tell him how I felt about his situation? I could see his need for a mare’s company. But how could I deal with this? Jinja ultimately wanted Rosie, but he couldn’t have her beside him for obvious reasons. And then there’s me, leader of the herd n’all, and, well, I’m supposed to be able to deal with all things like that, but I can’t! I can’t give him what he wants because I’m not Rosie! I could stay with him, yes, that’s easy enough. But he’d feel awkward about that. He obviously wanted equine company but couldn’t admit the fact. Jinja would much rather bottle it all up inside him until it was too dam late, and then nobody would be able to help him! I decided to come out with it straight.
“Are you lonely Jinja? Do you want me to stay with you?” I asked. Jinja’s face told me he did. Jinja turned tail and walked away slowly, his nose just inches from the track. I could see he was crying. I sidled up to him and pressed my nose against his. Jinja’s nose was wet with tears and he made no resistance when I rubbed it.
“I want Rosie,” he sobbed.
“Good job it wasn’t Confiada he broke down in front of. She’d tell him to, “stop crying you big foal! She’s not coming back and never will! So shut up!” but I’m not Confiada.” You see, Jinja was prone to breaking down in front of any horse. He couldn’t control his emotions and came in for a lot of criticism for that. But I knew a little of how he felt for I missed Rosie almost as much as he did, for different reasons of course.
“I know you’re missing her Jinja. But you must try and rise above this and think of her as she was. Look, I’ll do all I can to help you out. But you must try and put this into perspective. Rosie tried to acclimatise you to life without her, but she can only do so much! You have to do the rest Jinja! Please Jinja, honour her memory by all means, but don’t chase a dream you can never have. What you want doesn’t happen, if it did we’d have a yard full of equine spirits! What happened four days after Rosie’s death was strange, but it’s not going to happen again Jinj’. Rosie tried to do her best to help you, but you have to help yourself now. I know this might sound harsh. But there’s one thing you must understand Jinja. That is the fact that I’m not Rosie and never could be. You want me to be like her, you admitted it. But I’m not like her! Please don’t ever think of me as her because I’m not! If you do persist in this, and I’ll be quite blunt about it Jinja, you’ll end up losing a friend.” Jinja pulled away suddenly! His eyes were maddened!
“how the hell can you say that! What’s all this shit about perspective! How can you talk about coming to terms with Rosie’s death? You never saw what happened did you! You never went through the torment of seeing someone you love die in front of you did you! You never felt the anger at the vets when they said they could do nothing! And you could never know the feeling of helplessness and futility I felt when all I could do was stand there and watch it happen!” I shot a quick look at Jinja’s hooves, they were unshod, sharp and dangerous! Suddenly Jinja screamed with anger and lashed out! His unshod hoof crashed into my stomach! I screamed in agony and collapsed, hitting my head on the ground as I fell.
I woke to find Jinja nuzzling me furiously!
“Piss off! I don’t want you!” I thought. I shoved him off and thought about his outburst.
“Had I really offended him? Or was it just the heat of the moment that made him act like he had?” I asked myself. Jinja was now crying into my fur. Watching the poor lonely pony lying on the ground, sobbing his heart out with his head resting on my neck, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him.
“I’m sorry B’! I never meant to hurt you! He sobbed. I shifted slightly and took a deep breath. The pain made me squeal shrilly! Sweat began to trickle down my face and into my eyes. The pain was hellish!
“I know how Rosie felt now!” I thought fleetingly. Jinja, seeing the pain I was in, charged off to get help. I seemed to stay like that for a long time. But when help did arrive I quickly knew nothing more.
I woke in the vet’s place. When I attempted to move I found I couldn’t.
“What the bloody hell’s going on here!” I bellowed.
“Shut it!” Another horse shouted back. I knew the reply had come from a male.
“Moody bastard!” I thought angrily. There was a crash and the sound of horse’s hooves on concrete and then he came into view.
A massive shire Stallion stood in front of me. He had a large scar on his right side and he was still groggy from the anaesthetic.
“Colic,” I thought. The stallion’s eyes were maddened!
“now you listen to me. I don’t want none of your squealing! You’ve kept me awake enough!”
“Have I been squealing? Don’t think I have,” I thought. Then a pearcing shriek came from a box off to my right. The stallion whirled round and pounded off towards the sound.
“Got rid of him,” I thought numbly. I tried to move my legs and found they would obey my commands. I got up and went in search of the squealing horse.
I found a mare giving birth to a foal. The foal was half out and the mare was too absorbed in her agony to notice me standing there. The stallion was flat out on the concrete. Like all males he’d fainted as soon as he’d clapped eyes on the straining mare. I tried to comfort the distressed mare. But I knew that all I could do was wait for nature to take it’s course. Eventually after, oh, um, three minutes, no more, the foal was born. The mare’s tortured expression left her and she looked exhausted.
“You all right?” I asked softly. The mare’s gaze sharpened on my face.
“Wha!” She squealed, “I never gave birth to you did I?” I laughed:
“No, of course not,” I watched the foal totter round to it’s mother’s head and collapse beside her. It began nuzzling it’s mother’s cheek.
“Come on mum, I’m hungry,” It whinnied. The mare stared at the foal in horror!
“what’s that!” she whinnied. The foal replied:
“I think I’m your foal, and I’m hungry. After forcing me out of my warm haven the least you can do is get me something to eat! I’m starving! There’s another thing, you made a terrible racket earlier, and there’s me trying to sleep! And then you have the nerve to shove me out here!” the mare stared open mouthed at her offspring for a few seconds. Meanwhile I was rolling on the concrete laughing helplessly.
“I’ve never heard anything so funny in all my life!” I whooped. The foal stared at me.
“That horse’s laughing at you mum,” It observed. The mare struggled to her feet and attacked me!
“Keep away from my foal! Get away! Go!” I fought back and beat her.
“Bitch!” I volunteered. The foal had something to say to it’s mother.
“You know what mum? That was the stupidest thing I’ve seen in my whole life,” I collapsed with laughter once more. The Mare nipped her foal making it squeal!
“That’s for backchatting me!” She snapped. Despite her incorrect use of language I still hated the bloody creature. What she’d done was stupid, the foal was right. The stallion got up after a while and fled back to his box greatly embarrassed by his display of masculine weakness. I watched him go and then turned my attention to the tiny foal. He, for the foal was male, stared back in wonder.
“What’re you here for?” He asked.
“I got attacked by another horse, got kicked in the stomach,” I replied.
“Bet you didn’t make as much noise about it as my mum did.” The foal said. His mother rounded on him savagely!
“Shut your mouth! You haven’t given birth before, you wouldn’t know!” She yelled. The foal sighed:
“There she goes again,” he said under his breath. His mother kicked him hard! The poor chap screamed in agony and lashed out at his mother in self defence!
“I’m not gonna end up fostering him as well as Josh am I?” I asked myself. I hoped not, but the way things were turning out between the foal and his mother, well, anything was possible. The mare suddenly ran at me! I fled out of the yard, along the main road, across a busy junction, where I nearly caused an accident, and finally into a field. Wheeling round as I reached the other side I saw no mare behind me.
“Phew! Outran her. What a test for my body,” I thought. I noticed another horse standing eating grass a few paces from me. She was grey, had the build that suggested Irish Draft, and seemed totally unfazed by the sudden arrival of another mare in her field. Shaking myself hard I approached her.
“Um, sorry to bother you, can you tell me where I’ve ended up please?” I asked pleasantly. The affect my question had on the mare was startling. She leapt five feet in the air, and I’m not joking, whirled round and pounded off down the field, squealing at the top of her voice. I watched her go, perplexed and a little hurt by her apparent fear of me. I walked slowly up to the mare, making sure I made a lot of noise about it. She watched me coming with frightened eyes.
“I’m not gonna hurt you,” I said softly. The mare’s expression didn’t change. The poor mare chewed her tongue for a few seconds and then asked hesitantly:
“Are you, are you real?” This plunged me into total confusion.
“hang on a bit B’. This horse is asking you if you’re real? Is she mad? Or is she just a little stupid?” I thought. I replied:
“yeah I’m real, look, feel,” I stretched my nose out towards her and let her touch it. The mare rubbed my muzzle hard with hers. Then her fear left her and she relaxed visibly.
“It’s just that another horse who looked rather like you died a few weeks back. I thought you were her ghost, you hear of these things you know.” The mare said. I thought about Rosie and the way she’d returned. Then that led to thinking about Jinja, and then to thinking about his outburst which had landed me in the vet’s place, caused me to be present at the birth of a foal, and finally to meet up with this strange mare. I took a deep breath and tried asking my question again. This time I got:
“On the A12 just outside Whickham market.” As a response. That told me a lot didn’t it.
“North or south bound?” I asked. The mare looked mystified.
“What do you mean?” She asked. I gave up in exasperation. The Mare walked up to me and snuffled round me in a most invasive fashion. I beat her off roughly!
“Get out of my space! And stop nuzzling me!” I snapped. The mare fled to the other end of the field and I fled from the field altogether. I pounded along the road, turned left along a lane, then right, then round a bend and into the yard. The Manageress leapt from the horsebox in sudden confused panic!
”Beyancca! What the hell’re you doing back here? I was coming to get you, I don’t understand what,,,” I stopped her.
“Let me explain, but first is Josh all right?” I asked. The Manageress assured me that he was.
“Carina clobbered him didn’t she?” The human asked.
“Yeah she did, now let me explain what happened,” I replied. I told the Manageress everything that had taken place. She laughed when I told her about the stallion’s reaction to the sight of a mare giving birth.
“Typical man,” she observed. I looked up at the sound of horse’s hooves and saw Jinja walking towards me.
“Hi B’,” he said flatly. I thought:
“He’s still upset about what he did to me I’ll bet.” Jinja stared at me for a long time. He was plainly trying to summon up the courage to ask me what happened at the vet’s.
“He’ll come round in his own good time,” I thought. The Manageress stroked my neck as we stood waiting for Jinja to make his move. I rested my head on the Manageress’s shoulder. This was where I wanted to be more than anywhere else. In a yard, with humans and horses I knew, and best of all, being stroked by a human that I could trust with my life. Jinja shook himself and attempted to say something, but no words came out. His eyes screamed at me.
“I’m confused!” They shouted. I explored the sensations I was getting from my body and decided that the visit to the vet’s wasn’t without event. I decided to forgive Jinja’s little outburst and get on with life. I stretched out my nose to him and brushed against his gently. Jinja’s eyes lit up as he felt my touch.
“I’m not Rosie,” I cautioned.
“I know Beyancca, I know that dear.” Jinja said softly. I felt a lump in my throat as I looked at him.
“Jinja’s right you know Beyancca. You don’t know what it’s like to lose a loved one,” I gulped hard. Jinja noticed this but made no comment. The Manageress left us to ourselves. To take my mind off events for a few seconds I watched her disappear into her house. But all too soon the door was closed and my gaze switched back to Jinja.
I seemed to be hit afresh by his distress.
“It’s hard Jinja, but you must try and move on,” I said gently. This was the straw that broke Jinja. He ran to me, rested his head on my shoulder and burst into tears. All I could do was support him literally, try and comfort him as best I could, stroke his ears with my muzzle and just be a friend to him. For so many horses in the yard hated and feared him. Ever since Rosie passed away none of the horses had wanted to know Jinja. All right, perhaps he had mistrusted them for years. But there must have been some reason for that. As he has already said, Rosie turned his life around. But now she’s no longer with us, he felt that his life was going back to the bad old days before Rosie came into his life. After a while Jinja stopped crying.
“Thanks B’, thanks very much,” he said softly.
“Any time Jinja. If you need me, you know where I am. Come any time, I won’t mind,” I replied gently. This almost set Jinja off again but he just about managed to control his emotions. Jinja turned tail and walked away. I watched him go, wondering what he was really going through.
“Was he waking in the mornings expecting Rosie to be there beside him? Or was he set off by little things he saw about the yard, little reminders of her?” I didn’t know and still don’t. But there was something I did know and that was the fact that it was down to me to do something about the Christmas Celebrations, if you could call them that after the events described in the last few pages.
I clomped back to my box feeling drained and inadequate.
“I don’t know if I’m cut out for this leader thing,” I thought. A friendly nudge from Valencia brought me out of my musings.
“You look preoccupied Beyancca,” she observed.
“Yeah pretty much Valencia,” I replied. I could have told her more, but Jinja’s inner most feelings were confidential. I didn’t want any horse to know of his problems. If he wanted to tell them, which I doubted he would, but if he did, well then it was for him and not me to do so. Valencia snatched a mouthful of straw from her net and crunched it slowly. She was obviously waiting for more info, but I wasn’t gonna give her any. In the end she stopped gazing at me piercingly and returned to normal. I shook myself and tried to put the whole thing out of my mind. Rearranging my ears so it looked like I was happy, I don’t think so, I walked up the steps and into my box. I tore the bookings list off the wall, placed it under my boot and ripped it to shreds. Thinking:
“I’m only a horse, they’ll put up a new one,” I ripped it into tiny bits and mixed it with the straw bed. When I’d finished that job I lay down and thought of Christmas. To be quite blunt about it I wasn’t in much of a mood to even contemplate Christmas. All the festive cheer had gone from my life these last few days and it showed no willingness to return. I thought back to last year when everything seemed to be so dam good, it couldn’t get any better! But now, with all the events of the last year n’all. But I can’t think like that. Rosie and Clover would never forgive me, come to think of it now, neither would Domino and Mac. I wondered how they were getting on. I asked myself:
“How are they spending their festive season, Domino and Mac I mean? And then there’s Rosie and Clover. Do they have anything like Christmas where they are?” I puzzled over this for a while but then was brought out of my reverie by a horrendous crash!
Squealing with terror I leapt to my feet and bolted! My feet drummed on the concrete as I fled! I tore up the track, along the main road, onto the hacking trail and half way along that to a field where I felt safe enough to stop. I flopped down on the grass. It crackled under my weight as I lay down. The ground was hard as flint! I laid my cheek on the cold wet grass. I must have lain there for an hour or two, and all through that time I didn’t notice the cold. The weather had turned icy now and the air temperature was near freezing! I lay on the grass letting my thoughts take me where they wanted.
“Rosie, clover, Jinja, Josh, the Manageress, Chantilly, Balugue, Brydy, Jamie, Dominic.” All the names and personalities of the horses and humans, both past and present in the yard ran round and round my mind. I felt a strange calm come over me, as if I were being taken away from my troubles. I floated far, far away from that field. Far from the turbulence of Jinja’s mind, far from the every day work of the yard. I felt a strange elation at being free of myself. I drifted, drifted, drifted,,,,
“Mum! Mum!” I thought:
“What? Who’s that? Just go away and leave me!” The voice came again:
“Mum! Please don’t ignore me! It’s Josh your foal! Don’t you remember me?” I recognised that name, that voice also, where did I remember it from?
“Josh? Josh? Who’s Josh?” I pondered this for a few minutes but gave up. But here was emotion attached to that name. I was feeling it now. This emotion made me sad to be leaving Josh, whoever Josh was. I wished I could take him with me.
` “I’m sorry Josh, but I just can’t take you,” I mumbled. I slipped further and further `away into my safety zone.
I was woken by a squeal of fear and terrible pain!
“Who the hell’s making that racket? Shut up!” I whinnied angrily. A human said:
“She’s coming round.”
“What’s going on?” I asked myself. I forgot that quickly and relaxed totally. I drifted on the edge of sleep. I felt a human hand stroking my ears gently, ever so, ever so gently.
“wow! That feels good!” I thought. I concentrated on the sensations my ears were feeding to my brain. Wonderful they were, simply wonderful. I didn’t want to come out of that state, ever! But I knew I had to, and sure enough I did.
Looking round me I saw a very distressed foal, who, now my faculties had returned, I recognised as Josh. To my right stood the Manageress, it had been she who had been gently stroking my ears. Lastly, much to the vet’s annoyance I found out later, Jinja stood in the corner of the room looking at me with wild anxiety.
My mouth was dry and I had to drink a lot of water before I could even attempt to make conversation.
“What the, what the, where,,, what the hell happened?” I gabbled. Josh replied:
“the vet said you were ‘yper ‘yper,,,” Jinja chipped in:
“Don’t try it Josh. Yes B’, the vet said you were hypothermic. Heaven knows what you were doing out there!”
“out where? I don’t understand,” I replied thickly. The Manageress put me out of my pain.
“You were found out in the top field almost frozen! I don’t know what you were doing there. I quizzed all the other horses and found that Valencia had seen you go out around seven thirty. You were in a hurry,” I rested my head back on the rubber matting on the floor. Josh asked:
“Mum’s not gonna die is she Jinj’?” Jinja replied that he didn’t think so, and that Josh should leave me alone to recover. I heard the thudding of small boots as Josh came across to me.
“Can you ‘ear me mum?” he asked softly. I twitched my ears a little, even that was an effort.
“I just wan’a die!” I thought wearily. I must have spoken that thought, although I can’t remember doing so, for Josh whinnied at me:
“Don’t die mum! Don’t die!” The fear in that sound made me decide not to die, didn’t want to anyway, messy business death. I fought the feeling of leaden limbs and the pounding pile-driver in my head, closed my eyes, and managed to struggle after much swearing to my feet. I stood with all four legs spread to take my weight. I feared that if I stood normally I would fall over and that would be the end. I learned later that I was panting and gasping for air throughout the whole episode. I finally summoned the courage to open my eyes. When I did the room turned upside-down and I ended up crashing to the floor once more. Josh squealed as I fell:
“Mum!” I hit the floor hard! The Manageress said something unprintable. I must admit I agreed with her. I tried to get to my feet and failed miserably. Flopping back on the rubber matting I contemplated my actions.
“What drove me to lie in the teeth of a north east wind for two hours? Beyancca, that’s mad!” I thought. I wanted to get warm, very, very warm. I wondered if Rosie would let me use her large thick rug. But then I remembered the time when I’d gone to the rug room and picked it up. Rosie had seen me doing this and had commented.
“She hadn’t minded then, so why should she now?” I asked myself. I made another desperate attempt to stand. Finding it a lot easier this time I eventually stood without assistance. My fight for air had reverted to normal breathing. The Manageress said:
“She looks better already.” The vet sounded a cautionary note, pessimist!
“She’s not out of the woods yet,” I thought angrily:
“Who’s she? The cat’s mother?” I voiced my thoughts:
“Oi! Vet type person! You listen to me! “She” Has a name, my name’s Beyancca and you dam well know it!” I felt better after that. This sent the Manageress into gales of laughter. Once she’d recovered she came up close and stroked my ears once more. I leant on her shoulder enjoying the sensation. The vet watched me intently.
“Can we go ‘ome now mum?” Josh asked. I murmured a reply, but I can’t remember what I said now. The vet seemed to come to a decision.
“I’ll let her go. But make sure she can’t get out of her box.” The Manageress said she would. But she knew that if she chained my door so I was indeed unable to escape, I would go insane.
I won’t bore you with the mundane details of the journey back to the yard. I felt the horsebox jerk to a halt and the door was lowered. I gasped as I stepped from the warmth of the horsebox to the cold outdoors. My breath steamed in the frost laden air. The ground was hard and compacted.
“Heavy on the feet,” I thought. A rug was tossed in my general direction. It was the large one that Rosie used to favour. It landed across my back and the Manageress pulled it around my shoulders and made sure some was covering my neck before she led me back to my box. I slipped a few times on the journey back, but got there safe enough. A deep bed of straw was in evidence on the floor and I could also see someone else in the straw. Josh had buried himself in the straw so only his nose was visible. Because of this I had to be very careful when I walked in. I didn’t want to tread on him. I lay down and rested my head on his shoulder. I wanted to be able to feel his presence, for I felt extremely vulnerable then. Josh shifted a little. He opened his eyes and noticed me.
“’ello mum,” he yawned.
“you all right Josh darling?” I asked. He stretched and replied:
“Yeah, fine thanks,” I pressed my muzzle into his fur. Josh laughed:
“Mum! That tickles!” He whinnied. I shifted slightly, closed my eyes and was soon asleep. Josh watched me sleeping.
“I ‘ave no idea what you’re going through mum, none at all. But I love you, you know that don’t you?” He whispered. He rested his head on his forelegs and fell asleep also.
We woke around six thirty the next morning. Josh stretched and yawned:
“Time to get up. Can’t sleep any more,” he said. He whispered into my ear:
“Mum? You awake yet?” Groaning sleepily I shifted slightly at the sound of his voice.
“Mmmm, yeah Josh, I’m just about here,” I replied drowsily. Josh nuzzled my ear. It felt bloody good! That was just what I needed after recent events. I stretched out my nose towards him and Josh laughed:
“You’re a soppy thing mum, you know that?” I love Josh, I love him more than I can tell you! I know I was hesitant about taking him on, but I’m not now. I wouldn’t give Josh up for anything! He needs me, and, well, I’ve found that I need him. I sighed contentedly. Josh leapt to his feet and opened the box door. His boots thumped on the concrete of the barn and then I heard him yell:
“It’s snowing mum!” At the top of his voice. Fleur was less than impressed by his enthusiasm.
“Shut up! You’re a pain in the bum Josh! What’s so good about a bit of snow? Just go back to sleep,” she whinnied angrily. Jingle, who had recently moved into the box next to Fleur’s, overheard her remarks and made comment.
“Leave the little chap alone Fleur. he’s only young isn’t he. Weren’t you ever excited by snow when you were a foal?” Fleur buried her head in the straw and tried to sleep. Meanwhile Josh was running about the yard, slipping, skidding and rolling in the snow. He was having the time of his life and I wasn’t gonna stop him.
Suddenly I had an uncontrollable urge to join him! I fled from my box and bolted up the track with my foal in hot pursuit. We charged into Jinja’s field where he and silver were grazing peacefully. Silver nearly fell over when she saw us.
“’ey! What? What the ‘ell’re you doing ‘ere at this hour?” she whinnied. For answer Josh knocked Silver off her feet.
“It’s snowing!” he whooped. Silver and Josh rolled on the snow laden grass playing silly foalish games. Jinja and I watched them.
“You all right Beyancca?” Jinja asked.
“Mmm, yeah, think so Jinj’,” I replied. Jinja watched the two youngsters rolling and gambling on the grass.
“It wears me out just watching them,” he remarked. Josh came skidding in on my right and before I knew what was happening, I was rolling on the grass! Josh had taken out my forefeet from under me and made a dam good job of it! As I lay on my back, trying to recover, Josh jumped on top of me! I grunted as the air whistled out of me. I threw him off and stood up.
“Thanks josh darling,” I said breathlessly.
“I didn’t ‘urt you did I?” He asked anxiously.
“No, no Josh. Just winded me that’s all,” I panted. I looked round me at the snow.
“White Christmas,” I thought. My thoughts drifted back to Rosie’s reactions when snow was about. She used to go mad! I remember this eighteen year old mare leaping about like a foal! That year’s celebrations had been totally spontaneous, but this year’s, well, would they be? I thought not. The snow grey sky glowered down on us. I sank into deep contemplation:
“I wonder if Rosie and Clover are watching over us? What must they be thinking now?” I couldn’t really know. Josh noticed my far away expression and sidled up to me. He put his mouth close to my ear and whispered:
“You thinking about Rosie and Clover mum?” he asked. I took a deep breath to steady myself:
“yeah Josh, that’s right,” I replied quietly. I couldn’t believe how observant Josh was!. He was so dam intuitive! I couldn’t and still can’t keep anything from him! Josh then said something that almost reduced me to tears.
“You miss Rosie almost as much as Jinja does, don’t you mum?” All the while I’d tried to be strong. Tried to hide my sense of loss from Josh in the hope that it would somehow get easier and in the end wouldn’t show. But that was a stupid thing to do. Josh knew how I felt, he knew too dam much!
“Yeah Josh, I, I miss her an awful lot dear. I miss Clover also, but I never really knew her,” I choked. Josh rubbed my cheek with his muzzle, trying his best to comfort me.
“Come on mum, they wouldn’t want you to cry would they,” he said softly.
“No, no Josh they wouldn’t. you’re so young, but you talk so much sense my dear. I love you Josh darling!” I hugged him tightly and sobbed into his fur. Josh moved closer to me and returned my embrace.
While all this was going on, Jinja and Silver watched us in silence. When I mentioned Rosie Jinja fought momentarily with his emotions, but managed to keep them under wraps. Silver didn’t know about Jinja’s connection with Rosie, and he was in no mood to tell her about it now. Silver was too busy watching Josh to notice Jinja’s moment of strife. She liked josh, in fact she liked him very,
very much. Josh noticed her watching him and led her into a corner of the field to talk. While they were engaging in conversation Jinja sidled up to me and rested his head on my shoulder.
“B’? Look, I, I’m really sorry for what I did. I just flew off the handle at you. I suppose it all got on top of me, it being Christmas n’all. And my pride, my stupid pride wouldn’t let me admit that I needed another horse’s company!” Jinja’s voice cracked:
“Would, would you stay with me over Christmas Beyancca? I know I brushed you off, I didn’t mean to! Honest I didn’t! Now you’ll say no after what I’ve done. But, but I need you Beyancca!” He pleaded. I looked at him.
“I’m not Rosie Jinja. Don’t ever think of me as her, because I’m not her. If you try to change me in any way, I’m out! I’m sorry Jinja, really I am, but you must accept that Rosie’s no longer with us! Sure, I’ll be a friend to you. But don’t treat me like Rosie. I’m a friend Jinja, and only a friend,” I thought:
“Beyancca! How harsh can you get?” But I had to make it plain to him what I felt. I asked myself:
“Is that harshness brought on by guilt Beyancca? Are you building a wall between you and Jinja to make you feel better? Are you trying to distance yourself where maybe close proximity to Jinja might be better for him and for you? You did come on to him in a big way once! That was wrong! But now it might be right, to a certain extent at least.” But could I? Having seen what I have, could I still proposition Jinja? Something inside me rebelled at the thought.
“He must be a close friend, no more!” I told myself. But that harsh speech haunted me. It seemed awful to tell him so bluntly! But on the other hoof, could I? I mean could I handle his love? Could I give him true love in return? I didn’t know. But there was one thing that had to happen before any of this could. Jinja had to move on from Rosie. If he chose not to and stayed true to her, well so be it. If he was still deeply in love with her, well fine, it’s his choice. But what does he want from a relationship? Does he want a friend? Or a lover? I’m asking this because he won’t tell me in a month of Sundays. I mention Rosie and he goes all funny, he just dissolves inside and becomes a quivering wreck. So from that, Jinja’s still in love with Rosie and I’m only gonna be a friend to him. Phew! Sorted that!
I feel I must apologise to the typist for that long passage. I had to get my thoughts down on paper.
Jinja watched my face. He could almost read the thoughts going through my mind, I was sure of it! He looked up into my eyes.
“you’re right Beyancca. I, I do still love Rosie. I know, I know I’m living in the past B’, but can’t you understand that? I know you’re only a friend, now I do, but I’ll be honest with you shall I? Yes, there was a time when I thought you and I could get together. I selfishly thought it would be like before. I thought of you as Rosie. But you are not her and never could be. I know that now Beyancca. I’m sorry B’! I’ve caused you to go through hell and I’ve treated you badly. But you’ve stuck by me! You’ve been the mature one Beyancca. You’ve made me see what I was doing to you, and to a certain extent to Josh also. I don’t expect you to stay with me. I know I’m just an old nag who can’t let go.” His admissions saddened me. I thought:
“You know what Jinj’? At first you hated horses, you couldn’t stand being in the same field with one. But then Rosie came along and changed all that. You loved and do still love her Jinja. Once you had love you don’t want to give it up,” I desperately wanted to see Jinja happy again. But I knew he was still in love with Rosie. He would think of her, not of the mare he was um, for want of a better word, ah, “dating,” I know horses don’t do that, but it’s a family story and I have to keep the situations clean. Enough of that. Until Jinja could remember Rosie, but move on from her, nothing was going to happen. Josh came back then. I noticed Silver had disappeared. Josh looked scared:
“What’s up Josh?” I asked conversationally. The poor chap was shaking visibly.
“Silver, she, she asked, asked me to, to go out with ‘er, whatever that means.”
“Getting himself a girl friend already,” I thought. Josh tugged at my mane with his teeth.
“you listening mum?” He asked anxiously.
“yeah Josh, go on,” I replied dreamily. The thought of Josh and Silver together was hilarious. Josh continued:
“Well this sounded a bit risky so I told ‘er I couldn’t do it, go out with ‘er I mean. But when I said this Silver ran off in a raging temper mum! I can’t understand why she did it!”
“What? Ask you out or storm off?” I enquired.
“Storm off of course! I might ‘ave ‘urt ‘er feelings by refusing ‘er. But surely she must ‘ave taken that into consideration when she asked me? I know now she never did! So there’s me refusing Silver’s offer and she can’t bloody take it mum! Is that ‘er fault mum? Or is it mine for refusing ‘er?” I couldn’t help laughing at the situation. Josh noticed my amusement and stamped his foot in anger!
“It ain’t bloody funny mum!” he yelled. I replied:
“It isn’t from your point of view, I can see that. But it is Josh. Think of it dear, Silver and you together? Imagine that! You’d dwarf her! When you grow up Josh you’re gonna be a massive horse. Silver’s already fully grown, she won’t get any taller.” This was obviously news to Josh for he was staring at me in wonder.
“Really? I never knew that. Poor Silver. She must feel awkward with all us large ‘orses around ‘er.” Silver came back then. She looked awful! She had been crying, that was obvious. Josh went to her and hugged her tightly. He whispered into her ear:
“Come on Silver dear. You know I could never go out with you, don’t you? Deep down can’t you see it would never work? Look at me, I’m a Shire ‘orse, I’m gonna be massive when I’m fully grown! And you’ve already reached your full ‘eight Silver, you ‘ain’t gonna grow no more.” Silver said:
“Is my ‘eight really that important to you?” Josh heard the pain in her tone and felt wretched!
“You see, we’re two vastly different breeds of ‘orse Silver. it could never work dear, never in a month of Thursdays!”
“That’s in a month of Sundays Josh.” Silver corrected.
“Oh whatever Silver.” Josh replied. Poor Silver, she wanted so much to call Josh her own, but she could not. Silver hugged Josh longingly. He felt her agitation and tried to comfort her.
“Look Silver,” he said soothingly:
“Look dear, let’s talk this out shall we?” His tone reduced Silver to tears.
“I can’t, Well I can, oh Josh dear, don’t leave me!” Silver pleaded. Josh looked towards me, he was clearly out of his depth. His eyes were asking me a question.
“Mum, can you ‘elp?” I shook my head and advised Josh to do what he felt was right. Silver’s squeal of anguish as Josh refused her outright was pitiful. I could see Josh was moved by her distress, but he was adamant.
“I’m sorry Silver dear, friends, just friends, that’s all.” Josh said gently. Silver turned tail and trudged away across the grass. Her boots scraped along the grass as she walked. Josh watched her go, tears streaming down his nose.
“I ‘ated that mum. I never wanted to ‘urt ‘er!” He sobbed. I hugged Josh tightly.
“Don’t cry Josh, please don’t cry love. Silver’ll forget all about it in the morning.” I knew this would happen. Horses never remembered anything of that sort for very long. Betrayal, well then yes maybe, but not this. My certainty on the matter seemed to calm Josh a little. I felt a nose brushing mine. Turning my head a little I saw Brydy standing beside me.
“Hi Brydy, how’s things?” I asked. The Irish mare looked past me towards Josh.
“has Silver been hassling him?” She asked.
“She asked me if I wanted to go out with ‘er if that’s what you mean by ‘assling?” Josh replied. Brydy walked round me and arrived eventually on Josh’s left. She rubbed her nose against his in a reassuring manner. Josh’s reaction to Brydy’s nuzzling was much the same as his reaction to my ministrations. Josh rested his head on Brydy’s shoulder and rubbed her cheek with his muzzle. I watched them in silence, all the while wondering if Brydy’s sudden affection for Josh was born out of a need for a foal of her own. Brydy has a wonderful nature, you couldn’t wish to meet a kinder mare. I am only talking from my own experience here, but Brydy’s constant preoccupation with the situation in her country, perhaps that was heightened by the lack of anything else to take her attention, like a foal for example. Brydy would get in a stew about this or that political development, and she could do nothing about it, but it still troubled her. Josh seemed to be a welcome distraction for Brydy. I watched the two horses enjoying each other’s company. Josh had often asked me about Brydy, she seemed to fascinate him. I supposed he had the same fascination with her as I had, and do still have. Josh gently shook himself free of Brydy’s embrace and looked at me. He came across towards me and hugged me. Josh put his mouth close to my ear and whispered.
“Brydy’s upset, I can feel it,” I looked at my friend. Brydy stared back with the hardened expression that meant she was hiding something inside that was upsetting her greatly. I motioned to her to come closer to me. Brydy hesitated a little but then came forward slowly, her feet almost dragging on the grass. She rested her head on my shoulder, Brydy was shaking violently.
“What’s up?” I asked gently. Brydy looked over towards Jinja. He was eating grass and didn’t notice her looking at him.
“I don’t know how he’s gonna get through Christmas B’. it’s gonna be bloody difficult for him. I know you’ll do all you can to help him, but it’s gonna be hard on both of you,” I hugged her tightly.
“I couldn’t have put it better myself Brydy,” I replied. Brydy straightened up and walked off. Josh watched her go with a hint of fear in his expression. He came up close to me and whispered:
“She scares me mum,” I shot him a “don’t say anything too loud” look and dragged him off to talk some sense into him.
“Look Josh, Brydy’s not strange, nor is she scary. She’s had a lot of problems in the past josh. I’ve got over the shock, and you will also. But don’t put your hoof in it darling,” I warned.
“What have I got to be careful of? Is there anything I mustn’t say?” He asked.
“Don’t talk about the I.R.A, the Irish peace process, and one more thing, no jokes about the Irish people Josh!” I warned. Josh smiled, I think he had an Irish Joke he was dying to tell me.
“Oh right, I’ll remember that,” he said. Just then I heard a whistle from over on my left. Whirling round I saw Chantilly standing on the other side of the field. It was she who had been whistling. Chantilly came galloping across the grass and ploughed into me, making me stagger from the impact.
“hey! Hang on a bit Chantilly!” I yelled.
“’ey B’, Why’re you all depressed round ‘ere today? Man! This place is so down today! What’s got into everyone?” I shot a glance at Jinja and Chantilly seemed to understand.
“Cor’, yeah B’, I know now dear,” she said. Chantilly yanked up a mouthful of grass, munched it, swallowed and then turned to me.
“Poor bugger. ‘e’s gonna find it ‘ell this Christmas B’. But I don’t need to tell you that,” she said. I sighed:
“No, no Chantilly you don’t.” Jinja rubbed his nose against mine making me jump!
“Cor! Bloody hell Jinja! You scared me!” I exclaimed. Jinja looked at me, his eyes telling me more than he would have liked. The tortured look in Jinja’s eyes would have shocked me if I hadn’t seen it many times before. Chantilly wasn’t so experienced as me and whinnied in shock as she caught sight of it.
“Bloody ‘ell! You look awful Jinj’!” She said. Jinja said nothing.
Jinja stared at me with an intensity that frightened me. His eyes were screaming out a message, but that message was so confused I couldn’t make any sense of it.
“Jinja? What’s wrong mate?” I asked. His expression didn’t change. I believe he had no idea there were other horses around him.
“Jinja? Are you in there?” Chantilly asked. Tears began trickling down Jinja’s nose as we watched, Jinja made no attempt to stop them, nor did he try to conceal them from us. Chantilly sighed and gulped hard. I could see she was almost as upset as Jinja.
“You’re missing Rosie aren’t you,” she stated. Chantilly tried to conceal her tears from Jinja.
“It wouldn’t do for me to be crying as well,” she thought. Suddenly someone shouted:
“Oi! Beyancca!” It was Confiada and I ignored her. The next thing I knew I was simultaneously kicked in the stomach and hauled round by my mane! Squealing with indignation and pain I lashed out at Confiada and missed.
“Dam it!” I thought. Of course I paid for my failed attack. Confiada’s hard, sharp hoof smashed into my rib-cage making me crumple squealing onto the grass.! Chantilly watched my demise with shocked surprise.
“What the ‘ell did you do that for!” She demanded. Confiada spat at Chantilly.
“I won’t ‘ave b’ ignoring me,” she replied acidly. Chantilly was incensed! She thought:
“’ow dare Confiada drop ‘er H’s, and ‘ow dare she call Beyancca by ‘er pet name!” She said:
“You’re a bloody disgrace Confiada! I ‘ate you, I bloody ‘ate you! Why do you persist in ‘assling Beyancca? If it’s the leadership you’re after, well then you’re too late! Rosie’s already given that Job to B’, or can’t you remember that? Or do you choose not to remember? I think it’s the latter, don’t you Confiada?” Confiada glared at Chantilly:
“Mmm, yeah now I come to think of it, I think not! ‘ave you thought about what would ‘appen if I killed B’? Tell me Chantilly, and tell me truthfully, ‘ave you thought of that?” Chantilly was furious!
“Don’t drop your H’s Field ‘orse! And don’t call Beyancca by ‘er pet name! I ‘aven’t thought of what would ‘appen because it’s not gonna bloody ‘appen!” she bellowed. Confiada scoffed at Chantilly’s reference to her as “Field ‘orse.”
“Insults will get you nowhere Chantilly. They’ll just make B’s ordeal worse.”
“Don’t call ‘er B’!” Chantilly screeched. Confiada stamped on my left forefoot making me scream in agony. Jinja was the one who saved me. He had watched the drama with growing alarm and now felt it time to act. He lashed out furiously with his forefeet!
Jinja’s attack caught Confiada on the side of her head, knocking her unconscious. The hated mare fell on top of me which did nothing to improve my condition. Chantilly and Jinja levered Confiada off me and dumped her on the grass.
“She can sort ‘erself out.” Chantilly remarked. A voice I knew well said:
“B’! Oh B’ what has she done to you?”
“Brydy,” I thought numbly. When I didn’t answer her, Brydy went wild!
“Beyancca! Talk to me! Talk to me!” She pleaded. I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t have the energy to speak. Chantilly yelled at Brydy:
“Leave the poor thing alone Brydy. Can’t you see she’s not feeling too good?” Brydy showed her distress at being yelled at by whinnying pitifully.
“Shut it!” Chantilly snapped. I thought angrily:
“You might be stressed Chantilly, but you don’t ever talk to Brydy like that!” I laid my ears back to try and communicate my displeasure at Chantilly’s actions. Jinja noticed my display and told Chantilly what it meant.
“You’ve upset Beyancca now Chantilly. She doesn’t like people yelling at her friends you know.” Chantilly should have remembered that. I had got angry when the Farrier yelled at her.
“I’m sorry B’.” Chantilly said lamely. I took a deep breath, which hurt, and tried to speak:
“Try, try telling Brydy that,” I gasped. The pain of taking the air into my lungs finally registered and I cried with pain. Chantilly asked:
“Is it serious B’?”
“how the bloody hell should I know! I’m in a lot of pain, so yes it is!” I squealed.
“Can you get up?” Chantilly asked dumbly. I got furious!
“how stupid can you get Chantilly? Of course I can’t! if I could I would!” I thought. The Manageress arrived then. I knew she had because I heard some choice words being screamed into Confiada’s ear at close range.
“Confiada’s alive then,” I thought. Confiada screeched:
“Jinja hit me, he hit me I tell you! Get him! Burn him! Murder him! Do whatever you have to to get him out of my mane!” The Manageress wasn’t very happy at Confiada’s sentiments. Jinja was her horse, and nobody, absolutely nobody insulted Jinja and got away with it! The Manageress was so shocked at Confiada’s suggestion that it looked as if she was about to get away with it. But it was Jinja who came up with a suitable punishment. He grabbed hold of Confiada’s ear in his teeth and bit down. He then twisted it for good measure.
Confiada’s squeal was deafening!
“Youch! Get him off me! Jinja, just, just piss off! That hurts!” She complained.
“It isn’t meant to be pleasurable.” Chantilly said conversationally. Confiada closed her eyes and clenched her teeth.
“This is awful! This is horrible! No horse does this to me and gets away with it! Jinja! You’re dead! You’re dead when I get up! Do you hear me Jinja? You’re bloody dead!” Jinja released Confiada when she kicked him on the nose! He stood panting for breath, with sweat pouring off him. The Manageress was strangely angry at him.
“You think that’s clever do you Jinja?” She asked acidly. Jinja spat blood onto the grass.
“I’d’ave done a lot more, I’d’ave killed ‘er,” he panted. Jinja raised his right forefoot to deliver the final blow.
“No!” The Manageress yelled.
“But Confiada’s done so much harm to this yard! She’s nearly killed B’ twice! She’s nearly killed Josh on countless occasions! She nearly killed Brydy! And, and, is that a long enough catalogue for you?” Jinja demanded. The Manageress threw herself at him. She took Jinja down with her and lay on top of the startled horse, pinning him to the grass. Jinja whinnied as he fell.
The Manageress lay on top of her horse while Jinja kicked and snapped at the air.
“I wan’a get at ‘er! I wan’a kill ‘er!” he whinnied. The Manageress snapped back:
“You’ll do nothing of the sort Jinja, cos’ I’m not gonna let you!” Jinja began to cry with anger and frustration.
“But, but she’s done so much to us! She’s nearly killed so many horses! You threw Ellen out for that didn’t you! So why can’t you do the same to Confiada? She deserves it just as much as Ellen did,” he sobbed. The Manageress levered herself off Jinja and stood up. Confiada watched her intently. Confiada snapped at the air and swore viciously at everyone. I groaned and got slowly to my feet. Jinja watched me sorrowfully.
“Don’t worry about me Jinj’. I’ll be fine dear,” I said hoarsely. Jinja looked sick. The Manageress dragged Confiada back to her box. Confiada complained that:
“You shouldn’t treat me like this! I deserve better treatment than this!” We ignored her. Josh watched her go, his face registering utter contempt for the loathsome creature.
“I despise ‘er,” he said quietly. I hugged my foal tightly.
“Christmas Eve tomorrow Josh,” I reminded him. Josh sighed heavily.
“Yeah mum, it is. But it ain’t gonna be much of a Christmas for you is it,” he said flatly.
“Don’t say that Josh darling. Please don’t say that,” I replied. Josh rested his head on my shoulder and closed his eyes.
“It’s cold out ‘ere mum. Can you walk enough to get indoors?” he asked. I tried walking and found I could.
“Let’s go,” I coaxed. Josh needed no telling. He followed me into the barn and into my box where a large bed of straw was in evidence. The straw bed was not the only thing in evidence in the box. Rosie’s now famous rug was there also! Josh, not knowing the history of the rug, threw himself under it gratefully. I stood for a while thinking of Rosie. That rug would always remind me of her. Mainly because it was the only one that fitted her. I threw the rug over Josh before lying down and covering myself with what remained. The straw got warmer and warmer, I got sleepier and sleepier.
“I could stay like this forever,” I thought dreamily. I felt Josh rest his nose on my neck.
“Good night mum,” he whispered.
“Sweet dreams Josh love,” I mumbled. That was the last I knew for a very long time.
When I woke the evening was coming in. Looking round me I noticed Josh had disappeared. I yawned, stretched and settled back onto the straw.
“This is the life,” I thought. I closed my eyes and drifted a while. A soft muzzle brushing mine brought me out of my reverie. A voice whispered:
“Mum? Mum are you awake?”
“Josh,” I thought dimly. I tried to gather him to me. Josh worked himself closer to me and only stopped when our bodies were touching.
“it’s Christmas Eve mum. You slept for at least a hundred hours!” I smiled at his foalish exaggeration of the truth. I heard the door open and another horse enter.
“it’s only Jinja mum.” Josh said. Jinja settled down beside me in the straw. He rested his head on my shoulder and closed his eyes. I felt the warmth of his breath against my ear as I lay there. Close proximity to Jinja felt very good indeed! I relaxed and let my mind empty of all my fears and anxieties about Jinja’s state. Jinja whispered:
“Rosie, I love you so much Rosie dear,” I ignored him, thinking he was reliving his times with her. Even so, Josh overheard his words and told him rather too sharply that:
“Mum’s not Rosie, and you know it Jinja!” Jinja nearly flew at him! I saw the pain in Jinja’s eyes as he stared into the darkness, unable to say or do anything in case his anger boiled over into full blooded assault! Poor Jinja was almost sobbing. He said:
“Can’t I grieve for my mate in peace? Why does everyone insist on reminding me that Beyancca isn’t Rosie twenty four hours a day? I know that now, I ain’t stupid Josh! Just, just let me deal with it in my own way will you!” He yelled. Conscious he’d put his hoof in it, Josh slunk away. Jinja broke down then. He lay down, rested his head on my shoulder and burst into tears.
“Hey Jinj’, don’t cry dear, please don’t cry,” I said gently. Jinja sniffed, he said:
“It’s quite natural to grieve for a loved one isn’t it? If it is, then why can’t I be left to it? I wan’a grieve for Rosie, but, but the bugger won’t let me!” By “the bugger” I knew Jinja was referring to Josh. I didn’t like that!
“Jinja! All right mate, Josh might have put his hoof in it, yeah I can see how his comment might have upset you. But if you refer to my foal in those terms ever again I’ll bust every bone in your body! You hear me Jinja!” I snapped.
“yeah, yeah B’, all right. But he’s got’a learn he can’t say things like that!” Jinja wailed. The fire died then. Jinja became a sad lonely horse who wanted his mate once more. He flopped onto the straw, exhausted by his outburst. I hugged Jinja until he fell asleep. I thought about what Josh had said.
“He might be anxious about me. Perhaps he feels that Jinja’s confusion might hurt me? That’s it, probably,” I thought disjointedly. Josh slunk back fearfully. He lay down as far from me as he could.
“I put my ‘oof in it didn’t I,” he said quietly.
“yeah Josh, you did that. But you mustn’t worry about me love,” I replied.
“But I do mum, I do worry!” He whinnied. I moved towards him and hugged him tightly.
“Josh darling, listen to me love. You have to stop worrying about me so often. I know you’ve been hurt time and time again. But I’m not gonna leave you love, never, ever will I leave you dear!” I said gently. Josh gulped and worked closer to me.
“I love you mum,” he choked.
“I love you too Josh, don’t ever forget that,” I said. Josh looked over towards Jinja. He said:
“’e’s ‘ad an ‘ard time of it ‘’asn’t ‘e mum,” I replied:
“You could say that.
The day was coming in now. Christmas day was gonna be a freezer. I could tell that even now as the sun came up, watery and cold over the yard. The wind slammed into the yard, whistling and screaming round the buildings and finding its way into my box! I cried out loud and tried to bury myself under the rug. Jinja woke then.
“Merry Christmas,” I volunteered. Jinja just grunted in reply. I moveed across to him and lay down. Jinja watched me coming.
“yeah and wha’du’want?” He asked flatly. Jinja was clearly in no mood for conversation so I forced him to talk. He had to get out of the dumps sometime! I know people have to do it in their own time. But Jinja didn’t seem to be making an effort to progress. I started:
“Rosie loved Christmas didn’t she Jinj’.” Jinja flinched at the mention of his mate.
“Yeah, she did.” Was all he said in reply.
“Rosie’s reaction to snow was extreme, Cor’ Jinj’ you remember that? She used to go mad, leaping about all over the place! That was a sight I can tell you!” Jinja actually smiled then. The memory I’d stirred in him actually pleased him rather than depressed him. I playfully nuzzled Jinja’s cheek. This brought tears to his eyes.
“B’, Beyancca,” he choked. Then Jinja buried his head in my shoulder and wept. Jinja sobbed for a very long time, but then, all of a sudden, he jumped to his feet, dried his eyes and looked down at me lying on the straw, stunned at the change in him.
“Wha’? Jinja? What’s come over you?” I gabbled. Jinja sighed heavily.
“I’ve come to the conclusion Beyancca, that it’s not worth me moping about the place spoiling Christmas for everyone else. I’m gonna try and enjoy it, if not for myself, I’ll do it for Rosie,” he laughed slightly:
“She’d shoot me for not having a good time at Christmas,” he said. I got up, shook myself hard and booted my door open. Remembering Jingle was stabled only four doors away I yelled:
“It’s Christmas!” At the top of my voice. Jingle’s reaction was instant!
“Beyancca! You know I hate Slade! Don’t you remember when Rosie did that? I complained at her also, and you’re no different!” I turned away as an involuntary smile touched my lips. I walked towards the main yard, down the steps, turned right and was stopped by Chantilly.
“’appy Christmas B’,” she said.
“Same to you Chantilly,” I replied. She wiffled her nose at the weather.
“’ere, it’s bloody cold.” “it is that,” I replied. Ellie came past then. She was rugged up and was still shivering.
“Cold Ellie?” I asked. She replied through clenched teeth:
“Don’t be so bloody sarcastic! What Ellie said then shocked me to the core!
“It’s Confiada, she came into my street distraught like. At first I thought she was playing about, worse even, but then, there was something in her manner that made me stop and think. I don’t mean this disrespectfully B’, but it’s you she has the problem with, not me. So when she came to me, almost crying she was B’, I had to listen to her.”
“persistent was she?” I asked sharply. The thought of Confiada harassing Ellie was not a pleasant one. Hearing the sharpness in my tone, Ellie stamped her foot in rage!
“I’m serious Beyancca! Confiada’s got reasons for her behaviour! Part of it anyway! She was mistreated before she came to the yard, humans used to stroke her and then thump her. That’s why she snaps at them, because she believes they’re gonna hit her!” Ellie was nearly crying.
“I wonder how long it took Confiada to dream up that one?” I asked noone in particular. Ellie screamed!
“It’s not a story! It’s true, every word of it is true! She’s in a hell of a state over it Beyancca! I wouldn’t lie to you would I?”
“No Ellie, I hope not,” I replied. Ellie beckoned to me.
“Come, come and take a look for yourself B’,” she coaxed.
“I ain’t forgiving her for anything Ellie,” I said.
“I don’t expect you too. I want you to listen to her story that’s all.” Ellie replied.
Ellie led me back to her street and along that to her box. The shock of seeing Confiada standing dispiritedly in Ellie’s box was almost too much for me! When Confiada’s eyes met mine she seemed to stare straight through me as if I weren’t there. Suddenly she focused on my face, and instead of the sharp objection to my presence that was her usual opening line, Confiada said quite affably:
“Hello Beyancca.” This shocked me so much I had to bite my tongue to make sure I wasn’t asleep and dreaming what I was hearing.
“No, I’m not dreaming,” I thought. Taking a closer look at Confiada, I saw she was very tired. Her neck lacked it’s usual arched splendour, in fact I would say Confiada looked a proper mess.
“You were right Ellie, sorry about that,” I said quietly. Ellie heard my apology but made no sign of it.
Confiada stared into my face, her eyes suddenly filling with tears.
“Confiada’s genuinely upset! This is a first!” I thought uncharitably. Confiada’s tears ran down her nose and dripped onto the straw. I glanced quickly at Cleo. She was staring open mouthed in wonder at the sight of Confiada actually crying real tears.
“I never knew she could!” She thought. Then Confiada did a very strange thing, for her I mean. She actually grabbed hold of me, as well as a horse can do so, and clung to me as if I were the last horse on Earth! Confiada sobbed into my fur.
I saw then the mare behind the tough shell. yes, by nature Confiada is impatient and pushy, but her dislike of being petted is something else entirely. And now something, I didn’t know what, had triggered in her a startling reaction. I asked Ellie about it.
“Search me B’. I can’t help you there dear,” she replied. I made a mental note to ask Confiada, when she was able to face questions.
Confiada calmed down after a while and her tears dried up.
“Wha’s matter Confiada?” I asked gently. Confiada replied:
“What? Oh nothing! Nothing at all to do with you anyway Beyancca!” her tone angered me.
“Why the bloody hell did I bother? Save your breath next time Beyancca.” I told myself. I said:
“If you don’t want me to help you then that’s fine by me.” Confiada glared at me.
“You wouldn’t understand if I did want to tell you Beyancca.”
“Understand what?” I inquired. Confiada took a shuddering breath.
“Cracking under the strain.” I thought. She blinked hard, trying to conceal tears I guess. Confiada gave up the struggle with her emotions and let it all hang out. The mare’s embrace was so powerful that I nearly cried out! Confiada wept openly now, not caring who saw her crying like a foal.
“Beyancca? Would you help me? I know I don’t deserve it after what I’ve done to you and the rest of the herd. But there is a reason for my behaviour, no excuse for it, none at all, but a reason there certainly is,” Confiada sobbed. A part of me still didn’t believe her, I asked as neutrally as I could:
“What reason? Go on, I’m listening.” Confiada sniffed:
“Before I came to the yard I lived with a family of humans. There were two fully grown humans, a male and female one, and two very young humans also, they were the same sex as the elder humans, one male the other female. I, I was bought, hate that term but I have to use it. Well, I was bought for the female fully grown human. It wasn’t her that was the problem, no, on the contrary, she was gentle. But those younger humans, Beyancca they wouldn’t listen when their mother told them not to hit me! The elder of the two younger humans used to delight in leading me into a false sense of security by stroking me, and then, then he would hit me B’! This carried on for a few weeks until I became too unmanageable for the grown female human. She sold me to a horsefair and the rest is history.”
To say I was appalled by Confiada’s story wouldn’t be doing justice to my emotions! I knew then that my theory was correct, too correct for my liking! I stared at my old enemy in total disbelief.
“Can you try and change your ways? Can you learn that not all humans are gonna hit you? Or is it too late for that Confiada?” I asked.
“No Beyancca, I’m sorry, no can do.” Was her reply. With that she walked round me and out of the driving yard. Ellie watched her go with a hint of sadness in her eyes.
“I really thought you were on to something there B’, she said sadly. Ellie cuddled up close to me and rested her head on my shoulder. She trembled slightly as she stood there and I felt my fur getting wet.
“You crying Ellie dear?” I asked. Ellie sniffed and said:
“Oh B’! I thought you really could’ve done something for her!”
“hey Ellie, don’t cry dear, don’t cry.” I coaxed gently. I added:
“If she doesn’t want my help I can’t force it on her can I.”
“I suppose not.” Ellie choked. I hugged her tightly, this seemed to calm her down a bit. Suddenly Ellie pulled away, shook herself hard and looked out at the falling snow.
“It’s Christmas day B’,” she said. To be quite honest, I’d forgotten about it.”
“Oh yeah, yeah it is Ellie,” I replied quickly.
“You’d forgotten all about it hadn’t you B’,” she stated.
“I suppose I had,” I admitted shamefully. Ellie walked out into the snow and clomped along towards the barn. She entered and was stopped by Silver.
“Hi’ya Ellie! ‘appy Christmas!” Silver whooped.
“And the same to you Silver dear,” Ellie replied. I strolled into the barn then. It was plain that Silver hadn’t expected anyone else to arrive with Ellie for she jumped a mile when she saw me.
“Beyancca! Don’t, don’t do that! You scared me,” she exclaimed. I replied:
“Sorry about that.”
“Oh that’s all right, it was a bit of a shock that’s all B’,” Silver replied. I looked round for Josh but couldn’t see him anywhere. Ellie asked the question I could not.
“Where’s Josh Silver? Frightened him away have you?” This last part was meant as a joke, but Silver turned indignant!
“Yeah I ‘ave as a matter of fact! ‘e couldn’t face me I suppose, and when I came round to see ‘im ‘e buggered off! I never wanted to talk to ‘im anyway Ellie! ‘es worth nothing, I ‘ate ‘im!” I was furious!
“But why? Why should you hate Josh?” Ellie asked pleasantly.
“’e wouldn’t accept my proposition to ‘im!” Silver yelled. I watched incredulously as Josh appeared as of from thin air, crept up on silver and yelled into her ear:
“And I’m never gonna accept it, ever!” Silver leapt a mile!
“Wha! Josh! I never saw you there!” She screeched. Josh replied:
“That was the idea Silver. Now get your lousy carcass out of my barn before I really lose my temper!” He snapped. Silver fled as fast as her short legs would carry her. Josh remarked to noone in particular:
“Can’t be doing with ‘orses like that.” I looked at my foal. He wasn’t small any more, no, quite large really. Josh sidled up to me and whispered:
“Silver’s been really ‘acking me off lately.”
“What? About your refusal you mean?” I asked.
“Yeah, she talks about little else mum,” Josh replied. I suggested:
“Tell her to get lost, I would.” Josh said:
“But mum, I don’t wan’a offend ‘er. She’s a friend,” I replied:
“She’s not much of a friend if she keeps treating you like that Josh.” Josh’s ears drooped as he considered this.
“No, mum you’re right, she’s not! ‘ell she’s being unreasonable!” Josh kicked my door in sudden anger.
“Josh!” I remonstrated. He tore open the bolt with his teeth and stormed into my box, throwing himself forcefully onto the straw. My attention was diverted from Josh when one of the Lads started stroking me gently. Knowing that this often meant they wished to tell me something, I cocked an ear to catch the human’s words.
“Um, B’, I don’t know how to put this. But the plain fact is you’re moving boxes dear. Calman can’t stand the doves in hers so she’s moving into yours. A house swap you might say. All right with you?”
“Tough luck on my part if it isn’t. You’re gonna do it anyway, no matter what I have to say about it,” I replied.
So Josh and I were moved to another box. On the way we met Calman coming the other way. She had obviously heard of my situation and was greatly embarrassed and ashamed by it.
“Um, B’, let me apologise for turfing you out of your box. It, It’s stupid, Irrational even, but I can’t stand the doves that flap around in my old box. They scare me so much I can’t eat anything! They flap about, banging into things, including me I hasten to add! They’re an inconsiderate bunch. I hoped you could do something to teach them some manners.” I sighed heavily at the thought of spending my nights with those repulsive creatures.
“yeah Calman, whatever dear,” I replied distractedly. My tone upset her. Calman whinnied pitifully:
“I’ll go back B’. I’ll stay where I was, I never meant to offend you!”
“No Calman you haven’t dear. I’m sorry, but I hate those doves as much as you do. They’re inconsiderate, unclean creatures.” Josh spoke up then:
“’ell no. Why the ‘ell do we ‘ave to go and suffer those ‘orrable flappy things mum?” He groaned. I thought:
“Rosie was right when she said the doves had no laws and no respect for others.” I replied to Josh’s question:
“I don’know Josh darling.” Calman disappeared. I stomped into my new home and surveyed it listlessly. I thought:
“A bed of straw, good, a full haynet, better, water bucket, yeah that’s there, and finally, well, doves. Oh hell! Not so good.” I heard a flapping sound and then Josh complaining:
”ere! Get off me! Youch! Mum, them bloody flappy things are pecking me!” I beat the offensive birds off him and rounded one up into a corner to have a chat.
“You interfere with our lives in any way, I’ll crush you! Tell your disgusting tribe that! Make sure every member knows it and knows it well!” The dove gave me a contemptuous stare and told me where to go. I promptly lost my temper and made as if to crush the scrawny sod. The dove pleaded with me not to crush him and flew away into the rafters. Josh watched it go with a mixture of fear and loathing in his eyes.
“Don’t like those flappy things mum,” he whispered. I noticed that Josh never referred to the doves as doves, always “flappy things.”
The evening was drawing in now. Stable Lads went about their business with lethargy showing in their body language. I shot a look to my right to see what Josh’s loathsome flappy things were doing. The doves were cooing away in the rafters. I thought:
“They’re probably gloating over the fact that they’ve got two new horses to drive insane.” I felt Josh sidling up to me.
“Those flappy things scare me mum,” he whimpered. Chantilly overheard this and looked over the half wall that separated her box from mine. Our eyes met and there was a single thought transmitted between us. The affect was that Chantilly ended up spending the night in my box.
Chantilly lay down beside Josh so he was sandwiched between her body and mine. This arrangement suited all three of us, not just Josh. For the night was a cold one, and rugs were all right as far as they went, but, it was still freezing. I got up and drew the top half of the door across. This plunged the whole box into inky darkness. Returning to Josh’s side, I lay down beside him once more. The doves were quiet now.
“Peace at last,” I thought disjointedly. Josh and Chantilly were asleep, Josh’s breathing was deep and regular, while Chantilly snored loudly. I’d got used to her doing this and it no longer bothered me, but the doves were not so accommodating.
“Shut it!” One bellowed. The dove, finding his words fell on deaf ears, proceeded to do something so horrible to Chantilly that it makes me sick to think of it! The flappy thing flew down from his lofty perch, landed between Chantilly’s ears and nipped her right one in his beak! Chantilly squealed with rage and pain!
“Get off me!” She shook her head, sending the dove spinning through the air until he smashed into the wall on the other side of the box. I watched the pathetic creature slide down the wall and end up in a crumpled heap on the straw. Chantilly shouted:
“I hope he’s bloody dead!”
“You might be right Chantilly.” I replied. I took a look at Chantilly’s ear. Blood welled from the place where the dove had nipped it.
“That’s gonna be sore Chantilly,” I remarked. Chantilly grimaced:
“Yeah don’t remind me B’,” she said. Josh worked closer to me. He asked:
“Flappy thing get Chantilly did it mum?” I replied that it had and that thanks to the flappy thing, Chantilly now had a sore and bleeding ear. Josh opened his eyes and took a look at the affected ear.
“The bugger made a dam good job of it didn’t it,” he said. Chantilly snorted:
“Yeah ‘e did. Bloody ‘urts it does!” Josh yawned, shook himself and got to his feet.
“I can see it’s giving you ‘ell Chantilly. I’ll go and get the Manageress.” Chantilly replied:
“Thanks for the thought Josh dear. But it’s the middle of the night! The Manageress won’t like you waking ‘er up at this hour.” Josh looked at her with real concern in his eyes.
“All right, but the minute it gets too bad, you tell me and I’m gonna go straight to the Manageress Chantilly,” he said firmly.
“That told me didn’t it,” Chantilly remarked.
I suddenly had a flash of inspiration.
“How about it Chantilly, if I get some clean straw, dip it in the water bucket and then put that on your ear? Maybe that’d do the trick until morning?” Chantilly thought about this for a minute or so before telling me to:
“’ave a go B’. Anything’s better than this.” I had a go. I found some clean straw and applied my plan to it. Then I applied the sodden mass to Chantilly’s ear, making sure it covered the affected bit.
“How’s that?” I asked hopefully.
“Better than it was B’, thanks for that,” Chantilly replied. Josh looked at the clumsy patch up job I’d performed.
“Them bloody flappy things aren’t worth anything mum. They’re scum all of them,” he said. Chantilly stretched out on the straw and closed her eyes.
“Would it be at all possible for me to ‘ave some sleep now?” She asked. Josh replied:
“We’re not stopping you Chantilly.” Chantilly was soon snoring her head off. I lay down beside Josh and drifted off myself.
Boxing day arrived cold and wet. I woke to the sound and smell of rain.
“Lovely weather ain’t it.” Chantilly complained. Josh Replied:
“yeah Chantilly, and that’s gonna get icy, and then we’ll be slipping about, and then it’s gonna get bloody dangerous.” The Manageress appeared seemingly from nowhere. She spotted Chantilly but didn’t ask what she thought she was doing in my box. The Manageress had stopped asking long ago. She’d come to terms with the unpredictability of horses ages ago, and it seemed that she thought anything possible now. She asked:
“How’s the first night in your new box been?” Josh got his uncensored version in before I could stop him.
“Bloody awful if you want the truth. Them bloody flappy things wouldn’t let us get any sleep!” The Manageress was mystified.
“Flappy things?” I replied:
“Flappy things is Josh’s name for the doves. He hates them.”
“And you don’t?” Josh reminded me. I thumped him hard!
“Youch! What was that for?” Josh whimpered. I ignored him and tried to gloss over what he’d just said. I said quickly:
“yeah the night was fine, couldn’t have had any better.” Chantilly snorted with indignation.
“Yeah right! I’ve never ‘eard so much crap in all my life! My first night was ‘ell, pure ‘ell I tell you! Them doves made my life ‘ell and I ain’t gonna make out it was anything else but ‘ell! Do you know what one of them buggers did? It perched on my ear and nipped it! Bled like crazy it did.” Chantilly twitched the affected ear.
“You see Now? These doves aren’t so innocent after all!” She snapped. The Manageress looked up at the doves cooing pleasantly in the rafters.
“Are you sure?” She asked. Chantilly suddenly leapt to her feet and charged at the Manageress!
“Chantilly!” I yelled. Chantilly nearly knocked the Manageress flying! She put her mouth close to the human’s ear and screamed:
“My ear is bloody, yes? I’ve ‘ad a bloody awful night, and I’m sic to the back teeth of them doves! Chantilly’s fur stood up on end. The Manageress looked at her enraged horse and smiled in her most disarming manner. This was usually enough to placate most horses, but not Chantilly. Oh no, Chantilly was furious!
“You listen to me ‘uman. My nights ‘ave been ‘ell and last night was worse! If them doves don’t go I’ll make sure I get ‘old of each one in turn and squash them! I can’t get no sleep, nor can B’ or Josh. So you be a good ‘uman and get them doves out of ‘ere, or I will,” she warned.
The Manageress was so shocked by Chantilly’s up front manner towards her that she couldn’t say anything for five minutes or so. When she finally recovered she tried to plead with Chantilly to lift the death sentence meted out to all doves who crossed her path.
“No ‘uman, I’m not gonna do what you ask. Them doves are a menace and I ain’t gonna let a single one get away,” Chantilly said firmly. The Manageress used her last card.
“Look, Chantilly, my daughter owns those doves,,,” Chantilly stopped her:
“Well tell ‘er to teach them some manners then!” She shouted. The Manageress fled into the office and slammed the door hard!
“Manage to ‘ack the Manageress off did you Chantilly?” Josh asked.
“Yeah, ‘ave an ‘orrable feeling I did. It’s not that I wan’a ‘urt ‘er, I don’t. But them doves need to be taught who’s boss round ‘ere, and it ain’t them I can tell you,” Chantilly replied. I got to my feet and shook myself. Josh then asked me why I’d hit him.
“Look Josh, I’m sorry for that love. It’s inexcusable what I did. The reason was this. Those doves are owned by the Manageress’s daughter, she thinks the world of them. You don’t say things like that, well not in the way you did,” I replied. I moved closer to him.
“Come ‘ere josh,” I coaxed. He sidled up to me, and I hugged him tightly.
“I’m sorry for hitting you Josh. I shouldn’t have done it,” I admitted shamefully. Josh sighed:
“yeah, well I suppose what I did was a bit wrong as well. Per’aps it was a bit out of place,” he replied. I watched as a huge grin traced it’s way across Chantilly’s face.
“Are we all ‘appy families now?” She asked. Josh smiled:
“Shut it Chantilly,” he said. I stretched and looked out at the day. The yard was swimming in rainwater, and this, along with all the recent strife, made me wish I still had Rosie for support. don’t ask me what started me off. But now I think of it, perhaps it was partly the realisation of my position in the yard, a sort of coming to terms with it if you like. I remembered the day when Rosie had first felt anxiety after those men had come prowling round her box. You know? Before the fire n’all that? Now I was leader, and it still seemed impossible. To be truthful about it, I try not to think of it. If I do it makes me feel sick.
Josh noticed my preoccupied expression and commented:
“what’s up mum? You all right?” I felt a rush of emotion that I couldn’t explain. I wanted to cry, don’t ask me why, but I fought back the tears and tried to focus on something, anything to keep my mind away from whatever it was that was upsetting me. I wandered aimlessly about my box for a while and then stumbled outside into the open air. I wandered into the barn, straight into a full blown row between Brydy and Fleur.
“I don’t believe any peace will come from this so called Process Brydy.”
“But at least they’re trying!”
“Oh yeah right. And what do you call it when you’ve got humans getting,,,” I got bored of it then. Yeah Politics is all right in very small doses. But Brydy and Fleur had made it a way of life lately, the arguing about it I mean. Fleur’s innate need to challenge anything said to her was fed amply by Brydy’s convictions. Fleur could argue any point, without really understanding a word of what she was saying. There was no real harm in that. Brydy could leave Fleur out of it and often did. It was Misty who Brydy had to be careful of. Misty wasn’t ignorant of politics, no quite the opposite. But she never kept up to date. This meant that Misty’s knowledge of the goings on in her country, let alone Brydy’s was patchy, if not seriously out dated. Fleur and Brydy stopped their heated discussion when they saw me approaching.
“Hi B’!” Brydy Welcomed. She scampered towards me and hugged me tightly. To say I was a little shocked by her manner would not be understating it. I wondered what had brought this on. Perhaps she was feeling a bit insecure about our friendship after the leadership thing n’all? I didn’t know and still have very little idea.
Ellie came sprinting round the corner, her fur standing up on end and her ears flat back! She skidded to a halt and yelled at me:
“What the bloody hell’s this I hear about me being moved to the farm! I come in here after a hack to be told by Jamie that I’m being shifted! I’ve not been consulted about this!” I was confused.
“Hang on a bit Ellie. You’re saying that the humans are gonna move you? Today?” Ellie nearly danced with rage.
“yes they are! I’m furious!” She screeched.
“I can see that Ellie,” I replied calmly. Ellie stamped her foot in anger!
“How the hell can they do that?” She asked.
“Quite easily,” I thought as rain began to fall on the roof of the barn. Ellie looked up at the sound.
“Fitting isn’t it,” she said flatly. Ellie rested her head on my shoulder.
“I’m gonna miss you B’,” she said sadly. I replied:
“What? No Ellie, the farm’s only a short distance away.” Ellie sighed:
“But there’s a road I have to cross. I can’t cross roads.” I saw her point. Cars came haring down the road at a rate of notts and it was dangerous for humans, let alone horses to cross. Ellie released me and trudged off out of sight. I was turning away when I felt someone nuzzling my shoulder. I turned my head to see Muffin standing behind me.
“Hi Beyancca. Um, Can I talk to you for a bit?” She asked. I nodded:
“yeah of course, fire away.” I replied.
Well that’s that. After narrating forty pages I’m shattered! I’ve heard that the human who writes this stuff is sending this
over the Internet, whatever that is. Rosie did tell me once, but noone else seems to know. Ah well, I’m going to sleep. That’s if I can get any, with them doves flapping about my ears and Josh doing his best to crush them. See ya sometime in the future!
I, MARTIN WILSHER, here by assert and give notice of my right under section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of the foregoing article.
© Copyright Martin Wilsher 1998-2000
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