It’s the relationships in life, which add depth to our existence. In my job as a stable hand my contact with people is limited. My strongest relationships are with the horses that never judge me. They depend on me. I tend to their needs with gentle care, and they return my efforts with trust and affection. People, ahhh people can be bastards. I knew this already, trust is a convenient word to be bent, and sometimes broken on the whims of desire. In this life if you find a loyal human soul— hold them close.
Dick and Tracey sold horses, boarded horses, and participated at horse shows. Clients would come to the stable to view prospective horses to purchase, or board, or both. On this particular day we have clients coming in the morning, and in the afternoon.
I’m in the middle of my morning chores. It’s time to take Jupiter out for his daily exercise. He is the showpiece stud of the stable. I slide the stall door open, and step inside with the halter and lead. Jupiter, the coal black stallion greets me with a lowered head. He loves his morning routine.
The sound of tires on gravel just outside the door announces the arrival of someone. I see the road from the stall, Dick and Tracey pull up in their fancy one-ton horse-hauling truck. Tracey leaps out of the passengers side striding towards the barn. Dick throws his door open. He wiggles out of his seat, it looks like he’s wrestling a grizzly bear. No, it’s all him. He heaves himself out of the truck. He wipes his forehead with his hand, and eyes up the distance to the barn. He turns back to the truck, and clambers inside. The truck roars to life as he starts it up for the air-conditioning.
Tracey comes to a halt in front of Jupiter’s stall, “Morning Deb, how’s it going today?”
I give her a grin and rub Jupiter on the neck; “ It’s going good. I was about to exercise Jupe.” The horse nudges my arm. I gently push him away.
Tracey reaches up and grips the stall railing, “He’s looking good. He seems to like you.”
“I smile down at him, “Yeah, we get along.”
“Do you think you could bring Razor in and give him a quick brush, before you exercise Jupiter. We have clients coming to look at him this morning.”
I nod. “Sure thing.”
“Good stuff,” Tracey says as she heads towards the office. “See you later.”
“For sure.” I reply, sliding the halter off Jupiter’s head, “Sorry Boy. I’ll come back as soon as I can.”
I take two steps out of the stall, and Dick’s horn honks loudly twice. I glance over and see him staring at me.
I stop in my tracks and sigh. I silently curse him in my mind.
He honks again and motions me over. The horn is the invisible shock collar for me. Whenever he needs to talk, he’ll drive to the barn and blow the horn until I come. It makes me feel like a dog. I’m sure he gets off on it. If only I had the powers of an electrician. I could rig up a high voltage jolt to the horn. Press that then sucker!
I put a fake smile on my face and walk over to Dick’s window, “Good Morning, what can I do for you today?”
He lifts the sunglasses off his eyes, “Well, I think you know?” He states lewdly. “But since you won’t do that— I’m checking to see if you have everything in tiptop shape around here. We have clients coming this morning, and this afternoon as well.”
I nod, and flick a fly off my arm. “Everything looks good but I’ll double check.”
A bead of sweat trickles down Dicks jaw line, “I just wanted to make sure. We need to sell some horses. We can’t ride them all.”
“Absolutely,” I reply, thinking of all the work involved in caring for the horses. Which reminds me, I hadn’t seen Owen yet this morning. It wasn’t like him to be late. “Hey Dick, where’s Owen? I haven’t seen him around.”
Dick narrows his eyes, and reaches for a thought. “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. He’s gone back to Idaho. I guess you’ll have to empty the manure spreader yourself from now on.” He said with a snide grin.
I shrug watching the beads of sweat collect on Dick’s brow. “Sure thing. It’s nothing I haven’t done at other stables.”
It’s strange Owen wouldn’t have said goodbye to me. Strange he wouldn’t have given notice either. Maybe Julie, the previous stable-hand would know what happened.They had been good friends.
Dick wipes the sweat of his forehead with the back of his hand, “Yeah,” he grunts. “ I’ll have to start mowing the grass until we find a replacement for Owen.” He pauses, “Actually, I think Zack can do that.”
I look off in the distance toward Razor’s paddock. “Is that everything you needed to see me about?” I ask in a short tone. “I should be getting Razor ready for your clients.”
“Yeah that’s all for now.” He said rolling up his window, effectively dismissing me. Yes sir, King Sloth. I walk away with a stiff back ignoring the feeling of his eyes on me.
The clients arrive, a petite woman, with a large laugh and a well-endowed chest. Her husband is the classic boy-next-door crossed with Barney Rubble. A young man around my age is with them, a good-looking fellow with obvious Italian genetics, dark-hair, and a flashing smile.
Within minutes of the clients arriving Dick ambles down the alleyway towards me.
“Debby,” He said with a puff, “Go to the house and tell Tabby to come down to the barn. Tell her to wear something nice. Every edge you can get in a sale matters.” He shoos me away. “Get going.”
Wow, pimping out your daughter to get a sale. Stellar. Dick Fatterod you have just been awarded the Father of the Year trophy.
I tip toe into the house, and I peer into the kitchen. Tabby is hunched over a bowl of cereal reading a magazine.
I sneak up behind her, “Boo!” I shout.
“Eek!” She jumps up throwing her spoon across the kitchen.
I laugh uncontrollably.
She smacks me on the shoulder, “That’s not funny!”
I chortle, “Oh my God! Sooo funny!”
I put a hand out, “Ok. I’m sorry. Your Dad wants you to come to the barn and entertain a young man. The family is looking at buying Razor.”
Tabby exhales heavily, “Oh crap.” Then she gives an almost imperceptible nod, and her features soften. “Okay, I’ll change and be right down.”
I make my way over to the other side of the table and pick up her spoon. I freeze for a second, and then give her a questioning look, “He said to wear something nice.”
Tabby nods, “Of course.”
I furrow my brow, “Why?”
“Why do you have to wear something nice?” I ask, just wanting her to say it aloud. Maybe it will change something?
“So the guy will like me. It will help with the sale.”
I raise my eyebrows at her and roll my eyes, ”Oh,” I said.
Tabby sneers at me, “Don’t judge me.”
I hold up my hands, “I’m not.”
I am. But I shouldn’t— people do what they are taught to do. Until they question it.
I throw the spoon in the sink and wipe the table.
Tabby stomps out of the room towards her bedroom.
I shake my head, well at least my parents didn’t try to pimp me out.
I didn’t get an introduction to those clients that day. We met later on. We even became good friends, and when my job with the Fatterods came to a heated end— they had a place for me to lay my head.
The clients that arrive in the afternoon seem nice— awkwardly nice— not cool nice like Canadians. They’re a middle-aged couple with two little girls. Ralph, the husband, is enthusiastic. When he talks, his jaw works so hard his spikey brown hair vibrates. When he shakes my hand, my cheeks jiggle and I’m certain he will dislocate my arm. Vanessa is the opposite of her husband; her hair is a smooth flowing mane of gold. Her manner is calm and collected. When Vanessa shakes my hand it’s like a wet paper towel, no substance to it at all. Their two little girls hover behind their parents and peek out at me.
Vanessa catches my eye and gestures behind her, “The tall one is Lauryl, and the little one is Beth. They adore horses. Hopefully we can find the right horse for them.”
I smile and nod, “I’m sure Tracey will help you find what you are looking for.” I bow a subtle bow, I’m not sure why. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all,” I offer. “But I need to get back to work. Maybe we’ll see you again sometime.”
Ralph bobs his head and chuckles, “Oh absolutely!” He chirps.
I walk away feeling relieved at being done with people today.
Then I hear giggles, and the patter of tiny feet behind me.
I ignore the girls and begin to bring the horses in for the night.
The two little girls continue to trail me. They stick close to each other like they are Private Investigators hired to follow each other as well.
I smile at Beth, the youngest girl, as she pokes her head out from a bush.
This is a dilemma for me, how friendly should I get? I like kids, but only in the first two stages of becoming friends. There are three stages when you meet little humans. During the first stage of friendship they are on their best behaviour, a little shy, but they want to be your friends. The second stage is when they get to know you— just a little— suddenly they’re funny, and silly. The third stage is when they are very familiar with you—now they want to be in charge. They become bossy. And if they don’t get their own way? Well Holy Mother Of Martha’ s Muff. They whine, and pout, and cry. You try to run away, but they follow you everywhere you go. They stick to you like a bad smell.
When I was in my early teens, my parents would inevitably saddle me with the visitors kids. Eventually I took to hiding out in the potato bin; at least the eyes on the spuds were less needy. But that was then and this is now. As a working adult there is no potato bin. Plus, there is an unwritten rule that implies I must not run away from client’s children.
The kids and I became stage two friends. I put them to work filling water buckets, sweeping the alleyway, or whatever other little job I could find. It’s amazing what kids think is fun, if you do it with a song and dance. I convince them I am the stable version of Cinderella and they are my mice.
Dick, Tracey, Vanessa and Ralph finally arrive to collect the girls.
Beth is bouncing on her toes, “Debby let me brush a horse!” She squeals.
“She let me brush a horse too!” Lauryl crows, giving Beth a cross look.
Vanessa waves her hands faintly, “Okay, okay girls. Say thank you. We have to go home now.”
“Awww.” Beth, and Lauryl chorus with pouty faces.
Ralph scoops up Beth in one arm, and scoops up Lauryl in the other, “No awww’s here. Say thank you, we have to go now.”
The girls wave and grin, “Thank you.” They said in unison.
“Your welcome,” I offer with a smile. “Thank you— for all your help.”
Ralph puts the kids down and they run after Vanessa and Tracey towards the car.
Dick lumbers along beside Ralph. It looks as though they have formed a relationship.
Like I said in the beginning, people can be bastards, trust is a convenient word to be bent, and sometimes broken on the whims of desire. Ralph and his whole family would find this out the hard way— as would I.