Horseback: A Play
by Jared T. Fischer
Horseback: A Play

MINERVA, friend of Cymba; her family owns horses
CYMBA, friend of Minerva; he is from the city
CINCINNATI, one of Minervaís horses
BLEU, another of Minervaís horses
SUN, the sun


[It is a humble horse farm behind a wooden fence along Joppa Road on the way to Perry Hall in Baltimore County. The enormous sun, arisen, perches at the height of the sky like a black, red, yellow eyeball gazing down with or without the look of judgment. At least two horses, visible from the road, stand lazily in place behind the fence, wiping away buzzing little flies. In front of the fence, a young couple has recently met up, possibly for horseback riding as this is a farm that offers lessons at a decent rate. They are Minerva whose family owns the farm and Cymba from the city. Leaning on the fence and looking at the horses, they presently reach our ears with their voices.]

MINERVA: Donít disrespect my horses. Seriously, do better with your life.

CYMBA: I was just saying that their tails look dirty flipping away flies.

MINERVA: I know but that is life. Life is dirty. And I canít tolerate a grown man saying shit about my horses.

CYMBA: How about I say nothing? [He goes to kiss her. She smacks him very hardóitís kind of dark and sexual.] Well that was corrupt!

MINERVA: You liked it. Canít you still taste my fingers? You know I brushed dirty little Cincinnati. You know you like how she tastes.

CYMBA: Fuck you. I like how you taste if you would give me more.

MINERVA: Youíve had a taste. Iím not inclined to grant permission. Try to take something. Take it or leave it.

CYMBA: You want me to advance on you and get smacked and get brushed and beaten down so you can laugh and hold it back from me?

MINERVA: No other way to get at it. Thatís the way I am. This life of mineóthe love part of it, at least. I ainít one for pity parties or rewards. I am not giving shit away unless the right kind of man or woman fights me. And I mean really fights me. I already hate so much about adult lovemaking: the boring crying of simple shits; fucking grown babies ad infinitum.

CYMBA: So thatís why you get on with horses. Please tell me you ainít fucking them.

MINERVA: Why does it all have to be about sex? I am talking about love. Like when I made the boat with you in the shed and we worked all day and argued. That was love. That was better than any Salt Lake City intercourse or bedroom eyes whatever. People need to do a better job of weaving sex into the main fabric of loveólike a grandmother working on something real: a doily to display at Christmas.

CYMBA: Bringing grandma in!

MINERVA: As a grandmother is a head of power and wisdom, she should rightly be in all things and all considerations. Would you ever not bring wisdom and strength to a consideration of life?

[He does not say anything. He thinks he tastes a weird horse taste on his tongue like salty hair.]

MINERVA: And don't you think it's fucked up that as a society we are so into young girls and young boys and we forget all about the physical life of our elders? Shit, a man who could get aroused by a grandmother would stand up better in my book. That might steam it up for me. But all this obsession with young girls and boys is toxic and boring.

CYMBA: You're right there. You know, they're building up stars so young these days that even late twenty-somethings like us are considered crusty unusable old folks.

MINERVA: It makes me seriously want to riot. But I don't want blood on my hands. I discovered that the real way to riot is just to live your own life so passionately and intensely and by your own set of rules. Like, come here. Touch Cincinnati on her hindquarter and feel how warm she gets. That is blood. I want blood. I want your blood if you will love me.

CYMBA: Can't you talk normal? I know what you mean and it sounds pretty. But it sounds so funny even just between us with no one else here.

MINERVA: Funny but not boring, right?

CYMBA: It could be considered boring too.

MINERVA: Here, then touch me. Right on my neck. Right here. [She squeezes his hand violently and pulls his arm and makes his hand lightly choke her neck.]

CYMBA: Stop that choking shit.

MINERVA: We won't ever really go far into it. It is just that strange best feeling of the start of violence in love. Never to be completed.

CYMBA: Those who complete it have to be out there. But I don't want that sick shit around me.

MINERVA: It's sicker to be afraid. What laws are you afraid of? There is the start of violence in nature and nature loves the earth. There is the start of violence in both the fly that bites the horse and the horse that shoos off the fly.

CYMBA: You started the violence between us for sure.

[She is quiet, unhearing and involved in examining the horse Cincinnati. Or maybe her mind has recorded the offered weakness of his response. It is not the real ferocity of his spirit. His tight little response just barely covers his interior command like the hide of a horse covering up real blood, muscle and bone.]

MINERVA: Be yourself around me.

CYMBA: Iím not?

MINERVA: When we worked on the boat you were.

CYMBA: Our dreams were locked up together at that moment. I liked that.

MINERVA: We wanted the same thing that life had not given, and we were soon tackling each other to complete the boat the right way for that dream we sharedósailing out and away. Out of the bay and picking up again and hitting the ocean waves.

CYMBA: More than the boat itself we built from scratch that day. You corrected me at every step. You were the expert and I was trying my hardest to learn from you. But I also tried to be important and knowledgeable because I thought you would not like me.

MINERVA: It was whatever. We developed our fighting play like two children in a sandbox.

CYMBA: Oooo. A sandbox. Wish I could be in a sandbox with you. Then I would fight for real. We could not hurt each other and there would be water and wet sand and worms that I could place in your hair like ribbons.

MINERVA: Okay. So Iím going to teach you to ride a horse.

CYMBA: Not me. Iím sorry but I am scared shitless of horseback plus I get motion sickness.

MINERVA: I know when you donít get motion sickness. I actually know when you give motion sickness and it feels good. Trust that.

CYMBA: Youíre a freak. Most other people said I sucked at that.

MINERVA: They must have been corpses that you went into by mistake.

CYMBA: Right. Glad you think so.

MINERVA: But who cares about mistakes when the horses teach you how to fall?

CYMBA: They do? Look at you leaping logically from the bed to bareback. Pure genius.

MINERVA: The physical appropriateness of the associative leap is obvious. A person thinks in the language of her activities.

CYMBA: Okay. . . . Then let me ask how you learned to fall on your feet and be always upright and ready to ride again. Werenít you ever bashed or crushed by an unruly horse?

MINERVA: I was twice. A third time I ran for my life. The third horse was psycho.

CYMBA: Is he still around?

MINERVA: Fuck no. My folks moved him away, and I started fresh with Cincinnati. I like a ride that I can at least trust if not anticipate.

[He takes a moment to examine Cincinnati. He lifts his arm tentatively to pet her, and he is only a bit scared. Cincinnati is not the psycho horse. Minerva obviously adores Cincinnati and takes great pride in brushing and showing her off. What the heckólearning to ride from her on a horse like Cincinnati would not be half bad no matter how dirty her tail looks with its patronizing flies. And motion sickness be damned, he is down for an adventure with her again.]

MINERVA: Here, slip through this fence and letís get you started on Cincinnati.



[The two friends are riding. You see the slow horse heads hobble up like small waves of a stuttering sea. The sun splits green and white, no longer red in its first seconds of dropping. The sky washes itself with emerald foam. The horses start slowly under the human weight. Once their occupation feels more naturalówhen they know the pulls and prodsóthey pick up the pace. They reach a rhythm half originated in the riders and half their own. We find nature thus on nature, but what souls (if souls are natural) ever join in a relationship?]

CYMBA: Cincinnati, dipping left like how she keeps going, scares me. If she collapses and I go under, Iíll probably puke on my broken bones.

MINERVA: My Cin donít dip. Let her do her thing. Mind yourself, donít screw with her or be needlessly afraid on her and youíll be okay.

CYMBA: You sure that sun isnít putting her to sleep? Itís blinding me. All in front of me, the glare burns as green and pink as a watermelon.

MINERVA: We can eat watermelon later if you donít complain too much and persist as a turnoff.

CYMBA: I know! I have to take everything stoically. I have to ride proudly, be militaristic, instinctual and sensual to get on a girlís good side, your good side. To win you!

MINERVA: I am not a girl. And no one ever wins me. Thatís cemented. As I've said, no one ever gets more than he or she takes from me, which is not always what I give. And try to take something I have no desire to give. Brought down and suppressed, youíll never rethink your transgression. You wonít have the capacity. Youíll be a living regret, and I may never have even touched you.

CYMBA: So spooky and dramatic, overconfident of your desirability and your repulsiveness. But thatís not why I donít try. I am not a man. Don't know what I am, but I donít wish to try to take what I wantówhich is so often unattainable, inconceivableófrom another person or from a horse. Realistically, I derive all that I need from inside me, though my insides are painful and full of paranoia. No joyride for me but the internal, personal, self-inflicted ecstasies and agonies. Itís silly what this world expects out of me, and what nature expects is far worse.

MINERVA: Then run nature into the ground. Stomp on your snakes and ride your horse. Everything is just as natural as unnatural. Be a fool on a horse in the sundown farm of love.

CYMBA: That is so good. Ha! That is great. The sundown farm ofó

MINERVA: What kind of love did you make before you knew me?

CYMBA: I think I must have been a mirror in a hallway, caught by a thoughtless world of suns that reached through windows to find me with their fingers. I hung myself against a wall to reflect the light and heat enlarged by my disorder. But washing white and yellow under the influence of incident rays, I cast off all of them. In my anxiety of incoming warmth, I threw away the suns at different angles against the opposite walls. Never alone, I made myself lonely.

MINERVA: You are a strange little obscurity man. I mean how and why did you kiss, who did you go with?

CYMBA: There was my friend Laure. We got close at a campsite. Our high school had gone camping at Echo Hill. While on the beach with the group, she and I both got in trouble for drinking and talking loudly past bedtime. Our supervisor sent us away from the group down to a far end of the beach, intended to be lonely, to make us regret our behavior. We had red ticks crawling under us all night and they attacked our legs and made us miserable. But Laure and I decided to hold each other without even really talking about it. We looked at each other and the heat of the alcohol was in our eyes. It felt necessary to be in each other's arms, it felt as necessary as pitching a tent or starting a fire to cook food in the wild. But we also did not have a tent as part of our punishment. The supervisor just gave us towels to sleep on.

MINERVA: What was Laure like?

CYMBA: She literally was not like anything or anyone. It is really strange for me. When I am very close to another person, all I can sense is me. My brain, my embarrassment, my nerve endings. I go so very far away as I want more and more from the experience of the other person. The alcohol helped out so much. It made me very emotional and easy like mud slipping down a hill or a community forgetting about an old woman dying.

MINERVA: The old woman dies on the cross for the sins of amateurs. Did you do anything to Laure then and there?

CYMBA: Laure grabbed absolute hold of me. There came this watery fire in her eyes. She came on top of me and took what she needed from me, which was very little. And then she waited, not in a mean-spirited fashion. But she was certainly careless. She did not say anything but kept breathing close to me and she tried to sleep. It was then this stupid thing I felt like she expected me to take revenge, but she hoped I would not.

MINERVA: You were slow with her? You thought all around first?

CYMBA: I questioned why I could not feel anything. It felt lazy to even desire a single additional touch or intensity. I asked, in my mind, Is the whole world boring? She was close to my body and the inactivity was perfect enough like a pink cloud above a city. It was a queer living photograph and I did not want a stupid cinema to impose drama on our night of punishment.

MINERVA: Shut up! Night of punishment. What was Laure like when she was taking what she wanted from you?

CYMBA: I could hardly pay attention. She was different from the biting ticks. She was kind of like the sun. She kept me alive, kept me conscious of small details, like the subtle burns on the top of your head during a warm day outside. She was present, but her smallest, most active part was alienated and alienating. She went on and I was so happy for her. It felt good to be this desired tool, and yet I felt crazy scared and embarrassed to want anything from her. It felt like a store wall of stupid clocks going in an established but unsatisfactory direction. The time of any life is near enough to death.

MINERVA: Funny. With me you lick the platter clean.

CYMBA: I kissed Laure so much that night, all over. I cried without crying as I went over her resting body. What did she feel with each imprint? The embarrassing consciousness made me desire a gun to blast my brains out. I drank more and went over her body. The moon dropped behind the bay. I heard other people talking from the far away tents, from which we were banished. Her body tested me, her quiet breathing did as well. Did I deserve to live? I had no complete satisfaction from myself, though I ended what I started. Her closeness asked a foreign thing of me or maybe nothing at all. It hurt me more.

MINERVA: That is no test. The psycho babble, the paranoid penitentiary of your romance is exactly why I take you riding. You need legitimately to shake this shit off. You should be able to ride recklessly, responsibly, dead, alive, a zombie, or whatever. If passion is a poison in your blood, live until you fucking die. Go in and lick her, lick your life, like you have licked me and don't think about it so much. If at your nerve endings await pleasure and pain and uncertainty, then horse around with the brutal stupidity of human life. Have at least something feel decent for a short or long time. This whole magic stupidity of life is a ticking time-bomb. And no one is waiting for you to explode. It is all do it yourself. Ride when it is your time. Nature and non-nature have more than one kind of relationship.

CYMBA: You got me. What's up ahead if we keep on riding?

MINERVA: A breakaway of the hill and a view of the sun. Let's hurry there before it is completely down.



[In this scene, the play ignores the human banter and attempts to use lyrics and actions to give a narrative of the horses under the sun, as they arrive at the hillside, witnessing the full glory of exposure to the dropping sun. White, green, then touches of dead red. Minerva and Cymba are riding for the first time in the play without their totally obnoxious mental conversation. They are apparently still speaking, but less about themselves and more simply about the sights and sounds and the experience leading to the edge, to the great sun. The audience at this point, intentionally, as directed by the playwright, has the IQ of a horse or one fleck of the sunlight. So the human voices sound like occasional, impenetrably watery mumbling. You see the horses, mounted by humans, riding up to the sun at the hill's edge. Phony thought voices, all we really have left, issue from the horses to account for the experience.]

CINCINNATI: Hammers nailing in the wood. Fixing it, getting it in place for the sun.

BLEU: Building a home under the sun. Working together.

CINCINNATI: Showing up on time. A man and a woman or two men or two women, animals building the thing, the one thing in time and it outlives or does not outlive them. They have sex and children and whatever else and breathe, and they say the very stupid things.

SUN: They say the very stupid things because they are my temporal magic of love like the strings of me and the stings of human-thought gods and the stupid washing and scrubbing up and galloping to bed and being happy once.

[The horses, close together and slowly progressing, trot past the circle of dirt road and the tractor near the barn, heading toward the corn licked by the lowering sun's slathering gold tongue. It is so funny, both like a panic and a picnic.]

BLEU: Who knows that I will ever care for gods or whatever, such stupid manmade shit, but really a great life far away from the events of this sun, what would that be? Imagine aliens far away somewhere or in our senses making puppets anywhere, anytime and having that kind of artwork have sex, and all the perversions and deaths and murders and the very optimism of short life and great lives lived successfully and business men, like poison in a shared river, or an emerald that is life for the tribe.

[Separating, growing a little farther apart in their concentrated, variously accelerating and stammering pacing, the horses hop into a queer near gallop, leaving the corn in the dust. Their strong bellies and necks soon crest the ancient hill that faces the pure but regimented and routine-trapped beast, the one wheat sun these simple planet dancers whirl round. A sun sad or happy like a clown on display, day after day.]

CINCINNATI: Yeah. Wonderful business women under the sun in the great coats of life and like the temples and hieroglyphs and the expensive educations, vacations, and also the stupidities, the lack of food, the spilling of the oil everywhere and the score war. Love is merely two or a few or on a good day of rest many people loving each other before they all lapse out (sun gone to rest), or a family loving an entire community: the ideal government of the family before the sun goes down on that animal family of monkeys and horses, and all the sex that merely goes into sustaining a farce (or is it a constitution or creed), and the crops cropping up.

[Horses, humans on the edge. And look, the sun.]

SUN: See me, a time for you, all brainless, to shut up and shut off. In my heat alone a great mystery of one small world, spinning, this universe in relation to or absent from other universes, no matter what powers are beyond, I have you little ones and the great whales in my care and space, I warm you in your animal minds, I care for you in my own fashion, give or take. Who knows? Who cares? Where is the wild world going? And into several great confusions, like little photographs being developed in a darkroom to please an eye or make lonely Minerva and Cymba cry and come together and laugh and play the memorized games. And then the horses turn up on the edge, see me wholly, and fall over. I am still burning lovelessly: clocks forward, imagined clocks backward. Gross stupid weather powers and falling asleep, burning out. Simple loves and simple love talks. Magnetized love of bad horses cognitively leaping down. Amen to my simple entranced spirit, sun on sun, horses, of course. Inhuman kiss on kiss, bathing, in sun just for fun.

Posted by: Jared T. Fischer

Prose (August 12th, 2012)

Tags: play, Horseback, theater, writing, Baltimore, Jared T. Fischer