Friday, October 19, 2012

The reality of memoir

One of the many things I remember from one of Judy Reeve's workshops is that she said (paraphrasing here) that what really happens in life is always bent through our personal filters. If I ever wrote a memoir of my own life, I'm certain there would be friends and family popping out of the woodwork to tell people which events happened differently.

But they happened that way to me.

So now I'm writing my horse's memoir. I am giving him a voice, and an inner life. He may indeed have a voice I can't translate and an inner life I am not privy to. Perhaps, if he had opposable thumbs, he'd be writing his own damn memoir. I am not going to debate animal spirits or anthropomorphism or any of those topics.

What I'm going to do is tell a story. This means I'm putting thoughts and words into his head and mouth, and the heads and mouths of other horses. I'm giving him neighbors in the hospital that he converses with. Some of the horses are the ones I know. Some I've made up. Some events I've rearranged to fit with Snoopy's injury timeline. But here are the truths about his story:

1. He really did break his leg and it really did take two years to recuperate.

2. Other events really did happen, even if they didn't happen at that particular date.

3. Snoopy was changed by his experience. Yes, I believe that.

I realize I am treading the line between fiction and non, but I'm loving the writing, and it's kind of cathartic for me to tell the tale, even if it does blur reality.

Here's another  excerpt from the (very) rough draft:

* * * * *

One day, MomToo* came up the hill. I thought she was coming to get me, but she took Holly out of her pen and led her down the hill. Holly was kind of an old horse and walked like every bone in her body was stuck together.

“She moves funny,” I said.

“You will, too, if you live to be as old as her.”

“How old is old?”

“It depends. For horses, humans say we are old at twenty, but humans are still young when they are that age. You are a year old, and very big. A one-year old person is still carried around, unable to walk or talk.”

MomToo came back, leading Holly, who looked very clean and shiny.

“Holly.” I called out to her. “Why are you so clean and shiny.”

“I am leaving tomorrow,” she said. “I am going to the Clover Fields.”

I had never heard of this place.

“But you are not as old as me,” Bonnie said.

“No,” Holly replied, “But you can still walk up and down this hill without much pain. My knees have been aching for a long time. Remember how Tina had to take me out of the pasture because the other horses were bullying me?”

“Yes. My hocks hurt, but at least I could stand my ground out there.”

“Excuse me,” I said. “But where are the Clover Fields?”

They all looked at me. Uncle Snowy tried to explain it.

“The Clover Fields aren’t exactly a where, but a what. It is the place a horse goes when they die.”

I had heard about dying and death from Mom, and had sometimes seen birds and mice with no movement. Mom said everything had a spirit that was for always, but our bodies were only for right now. I didn’t quite understand at the time. As Uncle Snow explained, I tried to understand better.

“In the Clover Fields, we are whole again and may run without pain, and eat the sweet clover, and enjoy who we are. Others we have loved, humans or animals, can find us there. If we are needed, we can return to this place and allow our spirit to be born into a new body.”

“Why would you want to leave a place like that?”

“To help someone we love.”

I always believed Mom and Uncle Snowy, but it was a lot to think about. Something bothered me.

“Holly, how do you know you’re going tomorrow?”

“Your owner told me, while she was bathing me. She didn’t quite get all the details correct. Humans don’t know about the Clover Fields until they get there. But I understood what she was saying.”

Her answer frightened me. “Is my MomToo going to kill you?”

“No. It was sweet of her to clean me up. She thought I should sparkle when I get there. The doctor is coming tomorrow morning. He will give me a shot that will make me sleep so deeply that I will be able to leave this body.” She hung her head. “I will miss you all, but I am actually looking forward to not hurting anymore. And I will have company on my journey, as Uno will be leaving, too.”

Uno was a big sorrel gelding. I had seen him around the ranch.

“Uno?” Now Uncle Snowy sounded surprised. “But he is younger still.”

“Yes, but his front leg is giving out. I have heard them talking. The doctor has been out many times, taking pictures, and showing his heel sinking. He told his owner, Gayle, that she should not wait, or the bones would collapse through his foot.”

“Gayle?” I cried out. “That’s my MomToo.”

 “Do not think badly of your owner,” Bonnie said. “Our humans love us and do not want us to be in any pain that we cannot survive. Some pain we overcome. We heal. But Uno’s foot will never heal. It is on its way from a little pain to a forever pain. Just as Holly’s knees will never heal. Nor my hocks.” She smiled a little as she spoke of herself.

“How do they know a sometime pain from a forever pain?” I asked.

Uncle Snowy scratched my withers to calm me. “They look you all over, they talk to doctors and take pictures of you, and they try everything to heal you first.”

I remembered when I was little and my foot hurt when I walked on it. Every day, MomToo, Auntie Niki, and Hilde came to my pen and made me put my foot in hot water. Then Hilde would pick my foot up, dig around with the hoof pick, then put something black and icky on it and tape it. After forever, it stopped hurting.

Uncle Snowy was right. They tried everything, until I felt better.

Still, we were mostly quiet the rest of the day. Holly stood as usual, with her nose against Bonnie’s at the fence. I thought about the Clover Fields and what that might be like. I didn’t know what clover was, but Uncle Snowy said it was sweet. Apples are sweet, so I imagined a field of apples.

That wouldn’t be too bad, but I’d have no one up there to hang out with me, except Holly, I guessed. Maybe Uno would be my friend.

I also thought about leaving that place to come back here in a new body. Did that mean my spirit was in another body before this one? It was hard to sleep that night. I couldn’t imagine what I might have looked like, or why I couldn’t remember a field full of apples.

It was early the next morning when Hilde came up for Holly. The air was cool, but I could feel the heat would be here soon. The ranch was quieter than I ever heard it before. None of us spoke, until Holly was on her way down the hill.

“Take care,” she called back to us. “I’ll see you all again, one way or another.”

As I watched her walking, I saw another horse at the bottom of the hill. He was a big sorrel gelding, and MomToo was leading him into the big barn. I saw them come out the back. There were more humans there, but there were trees in my way and I couldn’t see what was happening.

Suddenly, I heard a deep voice. “Sorry about the bum leg.”

My MomToo’s thought voice answered. “Just find a new body and get back here.”

After that, there was quiet, then MomToo’s thought voice again.

“Good-bye, Holly. I’ll miss you.”

A loud, rumbling noise made me look away. Something large, with wheels on the ground and walls in the back, rolled into the ranch.

“That’s what the humans call the teal truck,” Uncle Snowy said. “It will pick up the empty bodies and take them away.”

 “Where does it take them?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t care. Holly and Uno don’t live there anymore.”

* * * * *

*After typing "Two-legged Mom" multiple times in this manuscript, I've changed what Snoopy calls me to "MomToo". Sue me. Or thank me.

Marcus on Hollywood Hobby, aka "Holly"

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely excerpt. I look forward to reading the whole book.