Horses Dream of Money by Angela Buck
196 pages – Amazon
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Buddy’s work was complete. The stadium was immaculate. Even the most critical of racegoers could see that this was as clean as it had ever been. The concessions were stocked with every kind of edible: popcorn and pastries, roast beef and imported chesses, apples for the kids, and just that morning the town brewer had arrived, backing an impossibly large tankard of beer up to the stadium, where Buddy and the brewer were at the moment struggling to attach a long and unwieldy red hose to a nozzle in the stadium taproom.
The racehorses, despite months of neglect, had, under Buddy’s guidance, returned to their former state and even improved upon it in a matter of weeks. They were milling about in the stables, waiting for the race to begin.
Soon enough the stadium was full to capacity, and Buddy had to turn hundreds of people away, directing them to a nearby tavern where they could watch the race on television. The people screamed and cursed, but Buddy held his ground, reminding them that, although they would not be able to tell their children and grandchildren that they had been there on that historic day—the first race of the season! And one featuring a new horse named Bisquit!—still they would save themselves the price of admission and could apply those savings to more drinks at the tavern, where the drinks were half as expensive anyway, and the television was so large and clear that they could actually see more of the race than if they had seats in the front row.
The people were subdued by these words. Soon they dispersed, grumbling to each other, and Buddy went down to the stables to examine his horses. There were twelve in all: Roxie, Diamond, Johnny and Tommy, Helterskelter, Raymond, Princess, Big Dog, Little Dog, Trixie, and Buck. All of the horses looked great, in peak physical condition, and were standing in a circle speaking in inscrutable horselike ways, chanting and whooping it up, to raise their courage and focus their energies for the race.
Buddy looked at his horses. He was so tired, he could barely stand or keep his eyes open and held onto the railing to keep himself from falling forward into a pile of hay or horse manure. He felt so happy but so very, very tired that he almost didn’t notice when his twelfth horse, his most beloved horse, the horse for whom he had risked an entire racing season and public ridicule and disdain, nudged him in the arm. Bisquit entered the stable and joined the other horses, dressed in his blue racing attire.
The other eleven horses turned to look at him. Originally Buddy had planned to mix Bisquit with the other horses prior to race day, gradually and with great care, so as to avoid inciting petty jealousies and feuds, but that had all been forgotten either because he was so absorbed in training the new horse or because—and this was more likely—he wanted the new horse all to himself, unwilling to share him even with other horses, who, he feared, would love and covet Bisquit as much as he did.
Bisquit looked incredible. His daily training regimen, practiced sporadically and with little intensity and purpose, had over time produced an impressive equine specimen, and Buddy found himself falling in love with Bisquit all over again, reaching out like a sleepwalker to touch the center of his sleep, but Bisquit, as elusive as ever, slipped out from underneath his outstretched hand. Instead, he walked past Buddy and the other eleven horses and straight to a pile of hay warmed by a few shafts of light coming through the wooden bridge overhead, where he could hear the footsteps of racegoers land heavily on the wood, and fell asleep. This would have enraged a less patient and sleepy man than Buddy to see his prize horse fall asleep with the race less than a half hour away, but he was not angry. For one, he was too tired to do anything to transform even the vaguest impulse into meaningful action, even if that action was to lie down next to Bisquit and fall asleep, and, secondly, he loved this good though never great racehorse too much to ever lay a hand on him.
The other eleven horses stood in awe. “It’s a challenge,” one of them said.
“A show of dominance,” said another.
“A quiet affront to our abilities,” said a third.
They felt comfortable speaking in this way because Buddy had left the stables, called up to the stands to break up a fight. Not to be outdone, the other eleven horses also went to sleep, some of them standing, a few of them with their legs tucked under them, and one or two leaning against the stable walls. And because they slept so lightly, disturbed by the noise of the stadium and the knowledge that the race was only minutes away, they dreamed, each horse according to his own mental objects, but each a dream of remarkable similitude.
Bisquit dreamed of the forest where the farmer’s wife stood awake and vigilant so long ago. Bisquit stood next to her, and together they watched the traveling salesman hold the farmer’s hand in the gold, urging him to take as much as he wanted, and not letting go even when the farmer pulled away. Bisquit watched this little scene, the two men unmoved, until the sun set and he could no longer see them through the dark foliage of the trees. In the morning, the farmer’s wife was gone, the farmer too, but the traveling salesman was sitting on a rock next to Bisquit. He said he killed the farmer and his wife while Bisquit was asleep, so now he had plenty of money and a horse, too.
“And with money in the pocket one is at home anywhere,” the salesman said, which had never occurred to Bisquit before but seemed quite reasonable. The salesman was as good as any other, and Bisquit rose to meet his new owner. Then he woke up.
The other eleven horses had dreams of their own, similar to each other’s, but unlike human dreams. Humans dream of flying or running in open fields, performing feats of physical grace, but horses do not because those things are commonplace to them. Horses dream of money. They are as enchanted by it, the possibility of counting out a row of bills or setting a stack of coins down on a table, as we are enchanted by magical forests or falling through space. They desire our freedoms just as we desire theirs, and yet ours are as unremarkable to us as theirs are to them.
But that is neither here nor there. For now, the race was on.