Three Horses

The snow had started falling again as I walked with my limping horse on the road. Given the cars sliding past us, I decided we’d do better on the sidewalk where others were walking, just to be on higher ground and patted my horse’s blanket-covered back gesturing where we were to go.

A tall man with a cane who had been hobbling ahead of us also made the same move. But when he reached the sidewalk, he took a tumble and fell hard in an undignified heap. “Well, aren’t you going to help him?” my horse looked at me, but I instinctively intuited the man’s independent air as he cursed, struggling slowly to his feet.

My horse indicated she wanted to meet the man who now stood shaking the snow from his cloak. When we got to him, she looked intently at the man, trying to communicate something of their lame similarity and how impressed she was that he had righted himself despite his bad leg. The craggy-faced old man was baffled and laughed heartily at my horse’s perspicacity. “Imagine, identifying with me!”

We then parted and my horse and I reached home only to find a note already waiting for us, inviting us to join a Mr. Steinbeck for an afternoon beverage at his place in the valley. Later when we arrived at his cabin, he was genial and hospitable, now more appreciating the earlier moment of identification between man and horse. As he and I sipped scotches, he fed my horse carrots by hand and remarked that “the third horse had been lame” like mine and him.

It was my turn to be confused. “You know the one” he continued. “The one who fell, but never got up again.” He rubbed my horse’s nape as he said this. “The one we both of us could have been. We were lucky,” he added, his blue eyes twinkling. “Yes, the one who never got up again.”

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