The Horse

So I’m running along the path in front of me, minding my own business, enjoying the day, and all of a sudden –

HHHeeeyyy!!!” – I yelled with all my might.

A damn sheep dog runs in front of me, a white- and brown-spotted “fly-in-your-ear” dog named Clifford.

Hey yourself, pal! Just what do you think you’re doing running out here?

It’s MY field, Cliff! Do you know where you are right now? Go bother someone else” –

And I hopped over him. Cliff couldn’t catch me if he tried, and he did try for a moment. He never knows where he is, as long as there’s some kind of action going on. He’s a common annoyance around where I live… I see him and his friends a lot unfortunately.

Off I go, racing to catch up with the wind that passed me when I stopped. Ah Woah!! An electric pole is down! I can see little sparks coming from the toasted end, so I run around it and away. I jolt in a new direction now, away from the road and into the country. I see the wind lick the high grass in front of me, and I now know where my opponent is.

I stop, moments from the high grass. I have a slight feeling I’m being followed. I wait a minute to prove my feeling.

I hear something. A sound I never like to hear. It sounds like rocks grinding against each other. It was the farmer’s truck, coming to get me. My owner found out I ran away and tracked me down.

I know what’s going to happen. It’s not fun, and the ride home is scary. There’s always a lot of riff-raff trying to keep me still, and when they finally get me in the wagon, they haul me back to the farm. I don’t want to go back there, not on such a wonderful day.

I take off into the field, a long stretch of sun-cooked high grass that feels like a thousand feathers brushing my face. I don’t blend into the grass, unfortunately, and the farmers can keep after me like a bird in the sky. The tree line on my right connects up ahead to a river that runs alongside my left. The valley begins to widen up over the horizon, and if I really wanted to get away, I would have the next few miles to do it. I’ll either turn myself in or venture into the woods I’ve never been in before.

I look forward, watching the field and the road quickly run alongside me, covered in warm summer sun. It feels great to run at long stretches like this. It’s like… it’s like I’m flying. I am flying, really, on the wings of my feet across the ever-moving ground. The last time I had a chance to run like this, I was a lot younger… I grew up with my family in the open country. I don’t know if the other horses got to know about the world beyond the wall; the world I’m running away from right now. Where I came from, I was used to open fields as far as my eyes could see. I would run for a long time, and still see my friends and family on the horizon. There were no walls. There was nothing to hold us back.

They came for me then like they come for me now. I laugh to myself because we both get what we want in the end. They get to put me in races, and I get to keeping running. It’s never the same as this countryside, though. Out here, there’s no competition, no desperation, and no fury in my heart. Out here, I don’t hate what I love. That all changes when I get on the race track…

***

I overheard some horses talking in the den one time before the race, my first race ever. They were huddled around each other, talking about the races they won and how fast they won them in. They threw out names of places I had never heard of before, like Churchill Downs and Pimlico. One of them said, “I’m the fastest in the world! I ran the Aqueduct in a minute-fifty flat!” I laughed and thought he was kidding because to me, that seemed like a long race time. Nobody else laughed. He didn’t know me, or my talent, I thought. “It’s time to put your title to the test,” I said to him, “because you’re looking at the fastest horse in the world!” They all looked back at me with stupid faces. Then… they all started laughing. Their heads bucked high with teeth showing, making me feel worse with every chuckle. “Heeeyeeah right, Rookie! Watch me whip you in this race, and then I’ll whop you in your face.” They all resumed laughing, and my heart was hot with rage.

I took the first chance I had to get out of there and get onto the track. I needed to let out this anger as soon as possible. Luckily for me, the race was about to begin. I took my place in spot #9, all the way on the far edge of the starting line. The track looked constricted and animated, but there didn’t seem to be an ending. People were watching from every angle. Beyond the arena I could see a land filled with giant buildings that touched the sky in ways I cannot explain. It was beautiful, and frightening at the same time. The world beneath us must be holding a great weight on its back.

~ ! B A N G ! ~

Off I go, Oh my God, this is nuts! Go Go Go! Gal-lop Gal-lop Gal-lop! This is kind of fun! I can make a beat in my head from the sound of my steps. I relax to the groove, take in the scenery and the world dissolves around me.

Oh Crap!” The next thing I knew, I was in last place. I take off like the wind, after the other racers and after the prize. All the running I’ve done before this moment would bring me strength today.

~ CaTcHiNg uP WiTh tHeM ! ~

My teeth are literally coming out of my head here, I’m breathing so incredibly hard, my tongue is getting dry and thick. I see my opponents in front of me. There was a turn in the opposite direction after a few more seconds, and a great turn in the track that seemed to have no end.

The other half of the lap ended horribly.

I got up to that big shot who was laughing at me earlier, and he saw me and I could see he was pretty impressed that I came back. He fell back a little bit after noticing me, obviously too shocked by my–

Yeeeheeeaaaaaa!

He hit me in the eyes with his tail and I lost my balance. I fell behind so far that the last thing I could see before coming to a crashing halt was him, smiling back at me, with his tongue sticking out. I didn’t give it a second try. I gave it everything I had and I lost it. I decided to give it up and run like I am used to. I spent the last lap running gracefully around the track, hearing shouts like “Come on!” and “For God’s sake!” yelled at me from all the people watching. I didn’t notice or understand most of their taunts, but I still liked what I was doing. In that moment, I found the joy of running again.

***

So now I’m here, in the field, running for the thrill of it, running from that life of pressure and cruelty. The open prairie is being consumed by the forest ahead and I can either run into the woods, or go back to the racetrack. I know I have to go back, so I turn around by the river, stay for a drink, and let them catch me several minutes later.

If I could be anywhere, I would be out here, like this… without borders.