Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A horse in the street (1)

This incident happened when I was practising as an acupuncturist in the West End of London. It is the first of two blogs about horses in the street.

13 January 2004. An injured horse isn’t something you expect to see at 9.30 in the morning in the city, but it is why police have cordoned off the road linking Judd to Marchmont Street. A murmuring crowd, four deep, have gathered. I overhear someone say one police horse has kicked another. I am grateful I can see nothing because there is obviously something to see. Shaken, I hurry to work, hoping the wounded horse is only injured and can be saved. I pray, too, that if the animal does not recover, it will be gone after my last patient of the morning.

I am greeting the first of my clients when a white POLICE HORSES van flashes past the window of the clinic. Relief. Nothing too bad.

When I go to lunch three hours later, Hastings Street is still cordoned off, a policeman at either end. Pedestrians, but not traffic, are being let through. I hurry past, refusing to look, thinking of what the Crow chief, Plenty Coups, said: ‘My horse fights with me and fasts with me . . . if he is to carry me in battle he must know my heart and I must know his or we shall never become brothers. I have been told that the white man who is almost a god, and yet a great fool, does not believe that the horse has a spirit. This cannot be true. I have many times seen my horse’s soul in his eyes.’

All through lunch I pray that, by the time I return, the horse will be gone. I walk slowly back to the clinic. Then for the first time I see it. Lying on its side is a huge black horse wearing a blanket: front legs running, its head covered in a white bag. I am shocked to see that it is not some makeshift covering, but a custom-made horse-head shroud.

On the opposite side of the pavement I feel the hovering, frightened spirit of this fallen animal and want to help send it on its way to run with its ghost horse ancestors. It is important, so important I do not care if the policemen on duty think I am a lunatic. I walk up to the uniformed officers and ask if they know the horse’s name. I ask if I might pray for its soul. Their eyebrows raise, but they tell me his name, motion me forward. They lift the yellow tape cordoning its body that makes a rectangular coffin in the air.

I duck under the police tape, kneel, stroke Eno’s still-warm neck as tears run down my face. On the bricks near the kerb, a pile of cold manure and liquid the colour of a pillarbox. This animal who had no thought of dying when it set out for work this morning, now lies in Hastings Street in its own shit and blood.

Stay tuned . . .

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