I Made You Something
September 28, 2011 § 3 Comments
This isn’t what you’re expecting. I’m not sure it’s any good, but I wrote it just for you. Just. For. You.
Enjoy? Maybe? Hopefully? Yes.
A Horror Story
It was Greg’s first date.
It wasn’t, strictly speaking, his first date. There had been several of those, but this was the first that he really wanted to make work. It was with Mandy. She was cute, smart, and funny. Greg, in his infinite youth, thought that they would both appreciate a show at Medieval Times. Greg thought who wouldn’t? You got to wear paper crowns, eat like Lords, and watch men on horses hit each other with great big sticks. While it might not have been the most romantic thing in the world, it would do for two seventeen year-olds out for a fun night. It was certainly expensive enough, for Greg’s minimum wage budget.
The only problem, that Greg was unaware of, was that Mandy was deathly afraid of horses. And not in the way that young girls are often afraid of spiders and young men are afraid of being picked last. Not in the reasonable way that most minor phobias are. This fear was a real, living thing. It accompanied Mandy through her days and nights, always on the lookout for hidden equines and their accomplices, mules and donkeys. Really, Mandy didn’t fully trust anything that walked about on four legs and looked the least bit equine. Even pigs cows were looked at sideways. The constant chewing upset her.
It wasn’t Mandy’s fault. When she was very young, a horse tossed her from its back. She hadn’t even wanted to be there, and had been lifted up by her father. He was a big man, and reassured her that this horse, unlike all the other horses that were out to get her, was nice. He might even have been right, Mandy reasoned, as she was lifted up on its broad, hairy back. Unlike the others, it hadn’t fussed all day. It had barely walked. The rancher suspected that it might have died during the night, but didn’t have the heart to tell Mandy’s father. Ranching didn’t pay as much as it used to, back in the cowboy days.
Mandy was placed on the stallion’s back, and for a moment it looked like her totally normal minor phobia, which was much like how other young girls were scared of spiders or young boys of being picked last, was going to end.
Suddenly Sam, which was the horse’s name, reared up screaming. The rancher would later exclaim he had never seen a horse jump so high so quickly. It was like a coiled thunderbolt trapped inside a spring. In a heartbeat, Mandy went from sitting proudly atop Suddenly Sam to flying through the air. Sometimes, Mandy’s memory liked to play cruel jokes on her and remind her of how glorious it felt to actually soar twenty feet through the air.
And then, of course, it liked to remind her what it felt like to hit the ground.
But that wasn’t what changed her fear. No, the pain, though furious and career-ending, would turn out to be temporary. What ruined horses, and by extent cows, mules, donkeys, burros, llamas, alpacas, and to a lesser extent camels, was that her last memory was Suddenly Sam’s smiling face cracked open in equine laughter directed right at her prone form. He had enjoyed it.
Mandy’s life would never be the same. Everyone she asked, from veterinarians to veteran jockeys with thirty years of experience, assured her that horses could not, would not, could not possibly laugh.
She knew better.
So on that fateful night, Greg surprised Mandy in his father’s car and a kiss on the cheek. It was a beautiful summer night. There was a gentle breeze that discouraged mosquitoes, but a clean warmth untouched by humidity. It was a night that Shakespeare would have written about had he experienced the joy of a perfect summer night in Toronto. Greg knew it in his bones, that this was the night. That tonight, he would kiss Mandy on the lips and they would be boyfriend and girlfriend. Mandy smiled at him from across the stick shift. She felt it too.
And then they pulled into the parking lot at the Canadian National Exhibition and Mandy saw what Greg’s big surprise was. She was terrified because she liked Greg. She really did, and while it may have been the love of one seventeen year-old for another, this one was totally different.
But there were horses.
Greg felt the first pang in his chest when Mandy’s smiled wavered and nearly disappeared completely. It didn’t, but Greg could see that something had shaken her badly.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, concerned.
“Oh me? Nothing!” She said, brightly, and with a little too much enthusiasm. See, enthusiasm is like whipped cream. It’s nice to ladle on thick and, like pumpkin pie, makes the difference between decent and great. But too much, no matter how much a glutton you are, and it makes you feel sick. Greg began to feel very sick indeed.
Mandy put her hand in his and smiled at him. A little of the sickness disappeared and Greg led her by the arm. She had decided to get over her fear just for him, even if Greg didn’t know it. He was just happy that they looked like they would be having fun now.
For a while, they did. Greg’s minimum-wage tickets put them far enough away from the action that Mandy could just squint a little and imagine the knights rode big black and brown smudges rather than horses, and Greg was having the time of his life waving his chicken bones and cheering as men with big sticks hit each other.
And then, like any great tragedy, there was the finale. The black knight was to ride out and challenge the young, handsome victor to a final duel for the princess’ hand. It was going to be exciting for all involved. Except for Mandy, who was just going to be happy that it would soon be over. Unlike Greg now, she was beginning to feel very, very sick indeed. The chicken leg and apple juice (‘Mead,’ the server had said), were acting up in her stomach as the smudges were beginning to resolve into actual horses.
It was so close to the end, though, that she tried to make it work. In fairness to Mandy and Greg, they both tried.
But in the end, there was no chance. The black knight rode out atop his “charger”, an ancient brown horse, so old that he was having trouble walking in a straight line. He was so old that his legs were permanently bowed and his forelocks dragged on the ground. But he seemed like he was smiling, despite his age.
It couldn’t be, Mandy thought. It could not possibly be. But it was.
Suddenly Sam was, rather suddenly, back in front of Mandy. He was not, as the rancher had promised, turned into glue. He was not, as her father had promised, in horsey hell. He was right there in front of her, smiling.
Looking directly at her.
Greg had never seen someone simultaneously scream, vomit, and cry. It was almost magical in its majesty, almost perfect in its horrible charm. The family in front of them, who been innocently celebrating a tenth birthday, had their night ruined forever. Much like Greg would forever remember the scene, the young birthday boy would forever remember how the girl above them ruined his party.
Needless to say, it brought a quick end to the night’s festivities. The black knight still lost, and the charming winner of the tourney still got the hand of the princess. For everyone there, who was, of course, not a young boy celebrating his tenth-birthday, it was a perfect night.
Mandy apologized profusely, while Greg seemed to float in a gentle haze of impossibility. It wasn’t possible that this could have happened. It was a perfect summer night in Toronto. The breeze still blew, the mosquitoes still stayed away, and the sun was just dipping beneath the horizon. Together, they drifted across the serene and empty Exhibition, Mandy trying to work off her sickness and Greg trying to get back to reality.
After long enough time, Mandy knew that she needed to get on home. Her stomach was finished with its revolt, but her fragile psyche was still recovering. Greg was beginning to come back to reality and realized that his first date, his first date, was an unmitigated disaster. That was it. Game over. The black knight won.
Greg drove her home in silence, his stomach sinking lower and lower into his belly. Mandy stared out the window, feeling ashamed and a little grossed-out, actually.
Greg yanked on the brake in front of her house. The crickets sang, the stars were out, and the raccoons were making a mess of it in the branches above them. It was still, probably just to mock him, a perfect night.
He walked her to her door, his face grey and his mind mush. He put out his hand to shake hers.
“Uhh, thanks, I guess?”
They stood in silence for a second. Neither really knew why they both felt like the night was ruined and the world was two steps away from disaster, but they were both certain it was. I mean, how could you come back from something like that? What could be worse than that?
And, simultaneously, both their subconsciousnesses just happened to mention to their consciousnesses that, maybe, if it couldn’t get any worse, it would have to get better.
Mandy hugged Greg. “It wasn’t a very good night, but let me pick the place we go to next time, ok?”
And Greg was suddenly out of his head again, out of what he thought was reality and into some wonderful fantasy land, where terrible things like this could happen and maybe, just maybe, the world wouldn’t end.
So he walked back to his car, his heart soaring and his mind afire. The breeze was still blowing, the mosquitoes were still staying away, and the sun was just finishing its dip below the horizon.
Greg had to admit that it really was a perfect summer night in Toronto.