Thursday, 11 September 2014

A Horse With No Name

When I was a boy, an old native Indian gave me a horse's head. A tiny silver charm, that fitted neatly into my palm, and was inscribed with these words on the back: Horse... Give Me Power.
It's long gone now; it disappeared many years ago on the first part of the journey. The sun burnt a hole in my trouser pocket, just wide enough for two of my fingers to wiggle through, and so I imagine the horse's head dropped onto the sand, or bounced off a hill or a rock. Although lost to me now, I've never forgotten the rough feel of it. By touch alone you could make out the horse's head: short jagged points were its mane, a slight bump was its forehead, a round tip was its nose and mouth, a strong curve its powerful neck, and a protruding lump the turquoise stone set in its throat. It was about the size of a standard fifty-pence piece, only thinner.
I thought it was girlish, but I held on to it anyway; I never shown it to anyone, not even my younger sisters. I carried it in my trouser pocket and began to hang about the Indian. He kept a tin shack as a native American shop on a piece of London wasteland, which now I think back was strange in itself, but as a kid you accept these things. He was ancient with braided silver hair and leathery skin - his cheeks were as creased as a parched desert - and he dressed casually in a shell suit with a pair of worn moccasins. He said to call him King, but I've no idea if this was his name or not, and his shop was a mishmash of feather headdresses, toy bows and arrows, dream-catchers and animal skins. He never seemed to have much custom being kinda off the beaten tourist track.
The barren land in front of his shack was like a parking lot. He owned a gold Ford Cortina, a pale orange Avenger and a white imported Mustang, although none of them were taxed or roadworthy. We'd lean against their hoods or sit on the narrow strip of asphalt, he in a hide-upholstered armchair and me on a wooden stool, and pow-wow about all sorts of things from weird dreams we'd had to lessons of survival. I learned a lot in those years, including how to drink and smoke.
Then one day I turned up as randomly as ever and King, and mostly everything about him, had disappeared. His tin shack stood empty and all his cars were gone. I thought perhaps he'd got ill, or died or finally been moved on by the council. I sat in his abandoned armchair, smoking a little weed and knocking back the cans of Foster's I'd brought him. I fumbled the horse's head and must have fallen asleep in my inebriated state as the sun was going down. A hot breath disturbed my comatose. At first I thought it was just a sultry breeze, but then there came another short puff with a snort. I cautiously opened my eyes and found to my surprise a pair of cavernous nostrils flaring at me. In fright, I jumped onto the seat of the armchair to be eye level with 'IT'.
The 'IT' was a dappled grey stallion with a thick platinum blonde mane and tail, and which seemed to me taller than your average equine breed. The horse positioned  itself sideways on and impatiently stamped its front right hoof, Get on! Get on! I hoisted myself against its side and swung my leg over its bare back. I squeezed my thighs and we took off, with me clinging perilously to its strong neck.
The land shimmered ahead as you imagine it would in a desert heat wave. In this dream-like place, it was blisteringly hot and the horse kicked up dust from the ground, but the air was a cornucopia of sound. Birds chirped and insects buzzed all around. I lost track of time as if my body was alive, but had gone underground. Perhaps it was an just for an hour or for days... I threw myself off when the desert turned to sea and let the horse run free. I blacked out as the ocean licked my face, only to find myself slumped, back in the now vacant parking lot, over a rocking horse that resembled my anonymous steed.
*Inspired by song of same title written by Dewey Bunnell and originally recorded by America