White Horse


James Claffey

When I was a small boy our neighbors owned a horse paddock without a horse. The grass was lush and green and stopped at a low stone wall, beyond which a pebbled beach led to the water’s edge. The petrol blue ocean stretched into the distance where Oyster Island rose from the cold Atlantic water. Our neighbor said he was waiting for a white horse to break free of the waves and come charging over the fields and into the paddock, where he would feed it oats and brush its sea-foam coat every day. I was too young then to recognize the subtle madness, though the lady who stood at the edge of the sea and screamed for hours was definitely mad in my eyes. The time I tried to record her on my old Philips cassette player was a disaster, because I’d only had one cassette, a Maxell C-60, and the tape had split, so it was held together by Superglue, and I had to wedge a paperclip down on the red record button for it to work. I began working at Larkin’s Printers the same summer the mad woman drowned in the tide pools. We typeset the obituary notice, and when our neighbor came in to collect the mass cards, he cursed the sea and the wild, white horse she rode to her death. His breath was shallow and he said the world was a concrete wall and he had lived in its shadow for too many years. I went home and tried to make out her cries through the hiss of the tape recorder.

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