My Metaphorical Writer Horse Drew First Blood
July 11, 2012 § 11 Comments
As I’ve mentioned, my writer brain is a horse named Clyde. He’s been hanging out in his stall all spring watching Judge Judy, and he’s in no mood for a new novel.
But dragging Clyde out of his stall is an essential task that must be done before a single word comes into being.
Sure enough, there he is, riveted by a Judge Judy episode that involves two idiots and a loan. I open the door and close it behind me.
Clyde, it’s time to start a new novel.
He does not acknowledge me.
Clyde, come on, I say.
He still doesn’t look at me. But his hoof begins to tap out all the familiar excuses. (Clyde communicates by tapping the alphabet. It’s a long and boring process to endure. Waiting for “Z” is an eternity.)
N-o o-n-e r-e-a-d-s a-n-y-m-o-r-e, taps Clyde.
I- a-m t-i-r-e-d, he adds.
L-e-t-s j-u-s-t t-w-e-e-t.
I grab the remote and freeze Judge Judy’s face just as she is screaming the first syllable of her signature word, Idiot. The cords stand out on her neck. Her eyes blaze. Her teeth are bared as though she were about to bite down on someone’s jugular for a deep siphon of the idiot blood that gives her eternal middle age.
Clyde blinks, then realizes what I’ve done. He glowers at me. His hoof begins to tap, landing on an F.
Quickly he cycles through the alphabet again and lands hard on the U.
Clyde, I warn him, do not tell me to –
But it’s too late. He’s got two hooves engaged now, flailing and tapping ferociously as he spells out exactly what I, the writer who gave him birth, can do to myself.
My face burns. The cord of my patience stretches and pulls out of the wall.
Maybe you’re just a lazy bastard, Clyde, I say. I know I shouldn’t have said that word, for Clyde is very sensitive about the fact that though he is sleek as any thoroughbred, he never got his papers.
His hoof shoots out in an elegant roundhouse kick that catches me in the mouth. I taste blood.
My own return kick lands hard in his right flank and then the battle is on, both of us biting, kicking, butting, clawing as the frozen face of Judge Judy looks on, still trying to spell that first outraged syllable.
It’s just a sad fact of writing. Sometimes a beautiful novel must begin with a dirty fight.
I kick Clyde in a place I should have long ago had removed. He breaks a chair over my head. I sweep the legs. He shanks me with a broken bottle.
Finally, we disengage and glare at each other, breathing hard and bleeding, from opposite corners of the stall.
The fight is over, and I have won.
I open his door and he heads into the main stable hall and out toward the pasture. I trail behind him, conciliatory.
I’ve suffered too, Clyde, I say. Kirkus Reviews called House of Gentle Men “misguided and disturbing.” Remember that? Huh?
He pauses and lifts his tail, but I suppose his answer is trapped for the moment in his upper colon. He lowers his tail and plods toward sunlight.
It is the walk of shame we are taking. Every writer in the stable knows what’s just happened.
My friend, Doug, hangs on the swinging door of the stall he shares with his own writer horse.
I smell the distinct odor of cannabis as we approach him. Doug’s eyes are blood red. His horse, Aunt Mary, sticks her head out of the stall, too. Aunt Mary’s eyes are also blood red.
Have a fight with your horse? Doug asks sympathetically.
I pause but do not answer.
Aunt Mary nuzzles Doug’s ear and he throws a companionable arm around her neck.
My horse and I never fight, Doug says. We get along awesomely.
Aunt Mary nods and then both Doug and his horse start to laugh. I’m not sure what they are laughing about – the fact that they never fight? Or that Clyde and I do? Maybe they are laughing at what I will discover later, that a stream of blood has dried in a downward curve from the right corner of my mouth, giving me a half frown that seems to go on forever.
They lean on each other, still laughing. Their shoulders shake. Tears stream from their eyes.
Doug has started 117 novels.
Fight the good fight, writer friends.