You know I think dad’s losing his ears. After I got thrown out of school for dancing ass naked on the roof mom told him I needed a mentor. So next Saturday he barges into my room and squares up like he’s got an announcement to make. “Listen up. Your mother and I have talked it over, and we’ve decided it’s high time you had a centaur.”
“Jesus, Larry.” That’s mom from the other room. Doesn’t sound pleased one bit.
I’m used to her commentaries of course. And at that moment dad’s words were more important, if only because they were more confusing. So I blocked mom out and zeroed in on just what the hell he was talking about. A centaur?
You can imagine I was skeptical, but then he edges out of the jamb and in trots Mr. Horse-man, so there you go. Turns out you can buy the things up on West Saanich Road for like eight hundred bucks.
“Hey little boy,” the centaur said. “My name’s Clive T. Barrington. It’s good to meet you.”
Jesus, if the name didn’t shock me more than the hooves. Clive Barrington the horse-man. This can’t be real, I’m thinking. This can’t be. “Yeah totally,” I said. “Nice to meet you too. I’m Art. You know, I never had a centaur before.”
I reached up to shake his hand but it was too high to reach. Besides, he was looking the other way, staring out the window with a strange look on his face. There was a deep wistfulness in those obsidian eyes. Or maybe a knowingness. Yeah, a knowingness.
“What you looking at?” I asked.
“Hmm? Oh sorry. I was just thinking of the two boys who sold me. Noisy kids with whistles and gaudy fruit-coloured clothing.”
“Oh, well… sorry to hear that I guess.”
Finally he turned to me and smiled. This time it actually was wistfulness on his face. No doubt about it. “Ah forget them, eh? What are you and I going to do together?”
“Well jeez, I was thinking it’d be pretty awesome if we–“
“–take him back to the store?” That was mom chiming in, biting my lines like she does. “He can’t stay, you know. Good god Dan this is not what I had in mind.” There she goes scolding dad some more.
“Oh come on Wilna.”
“It’s a centaur for Christ’s sake,” she said.
“Exactly! That’s exactly what I’m saying! Look how awesome he his!”
Mom sighed and looked nervous. She rubbed her forehead where that shawl hid whatever it was she kept on her head all the time. “No, Dan, I’m sorry. Art, you can’t have a centaur. In case you forgot, you’re still grounded from that stunt you pulled on the roof, of all places.” Then she turns to Clive like she’s being all nice. “I’m really sorry about this, Mr. Barrington, but there’s been a miscommunication.”
Clive’s face hardened. I don’t think it was anger, though. Those were tears he was holding back. “Well,” he said. “Such is the life of a strange creature who is man above the waist and horse below.” With these last words it seemed a light bulb went off in mom’s head. I saw her eyes dart for a peek between Clive’s hind legs.
“Hmm,” she said. “Well you know, Dan, actually… Maybe this centaur would make a good mentor for Art, even if this is a mix-up.”
“That’s what I’m telling you,” he says. “Centaurs are fucking wicked.” Poor dad, he hasn’t caught on yet. Clive smiles like a little boy desperate enough to do anything to get what he needs. The tragic friggin life of a slave I guess.
Well it probably won’t take dad long, and then Clive will be out on his ass or his hooves or whatever. Suppose I’d better enjoy it while it lasts. Mom too.