The horse

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The horse

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Jul 12, 2005 8:51 pm

Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman called Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and that evening too they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither of them is seeing anybody else. And then, late one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and without really thinking, she speaks it aloud: "Do you realize that as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

And there is silence in the car.

To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence; a long silence. She is now aware that her heartbeat has speeded up a little since she spoke. She thinks to herself: Gee, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; or maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want or that he's not sure about.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward... well, toward what? I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Children? A lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking: So that means it was... let's see... February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means... lemme check the odometer... Oh! Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here!

And Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment. Maybe he has sensed, even before I sensed it, that I was feeling some reservations. -- Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings; he's afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they'd better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is still shifting like a stinking garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600!

And Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry too. I feel so guilty putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty... yes, that's exactly what they're gonna say!

And Elaine is thinking: Or maybe I'm being much too idealistic, waiting for a knight in shining armour to come riding up on his white horse, when all the time I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I really do care about, a person who also truly seems to care about me... a person who is also in pain because of my damn self-centered romantic schoolgirl fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a worthless goddamn warranty of my own! I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their...

"Roger!" Elaine says aloud.

"What?" says Roger, startled.

"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have... Oh, I feel so... so..." She breaks down, sobbing.

"What?" says Roger.

"I'm such a fool!" wails Elaine. "I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that! It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."

"There's no horse?" says Roger.

"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" sniffles Elaine.

"No!" says Roger, glad to finally be able to identify something that seems like it might be the right answer.

"It's just that... It's that I... I need some time," Elaine says.

There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, comes up with something that he thinks might work.

"Er... yeah," he says cautiously.

Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.

"Oh, Roger, do you -- do you really feel that way?" she says.

"What way?" says Roger.

"That way... you know, about time," says Elaine.

"Oh," says Roger. He stares into the steering wheel for some moments while he gathers the courage to look at her again. "Yes... I guess."

Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if she's going to start talking about horses again.

At last Elaine speaks.

"Thank you, Roger," she says, in a low, trembling voice.

"No, honey... thank YOU," Roger replies, wondering what on earth he is being so grateful for.

By now they are now only a couple of blocks from her home; and the moment she has closed the front door behind her after waving her man goodnight with a limp Kleenex until he has disappeared behind a tree, Elaine collapses onto her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul who soaks her pillow with her tears until the dawn has already begun to lighten the eastern sky.

When Roger gets back to his place from dropping off Elaine, he rips open a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply engrossed in the rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he had never heard of before tonight. A tiny voice in the hindmost recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he could ever understand what it was all about, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't even think about it. (This is also Roger's policy concerning world hunger.)

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours.

In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything that she said and everything that he said, going over it over and over again, examining every word, expression and gesture for nuances of meaning, and considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss the subject on and off for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting tired of it either.

Meanwhile, Roger, playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: "Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?"
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The horse

Post by Miia » Wed Jul 13, 2005 12:56 am

This is so true it hurts sometimes...
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The horse

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Jul 13, 2005 3:44 pm

Classic piece of writing Erik, I think I have driven that horse, I mean ridden that car.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

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