Texas, USA, ten days ago…
Fretlock bucked and whinnied as Kansas tried to bring him under control. He was a small horse but ‘My Gaaad, what spirit!’ the seasoned handler mused. “Where d’ya get this ‘un from, Auguss?” he asked his brother, as Fretlock stubbornly stomped dust.
“He was tooken from some place in Englan’, Kansas. The Duke brung him over laass week.”
“The Duke? That feller giives me the heeby jeebies… Whooooaaaah!” Fretlock had bucked again.
“You ain’t wrong, Kansas. But he always got goood produc’. This howss is one uncommon creature. You see that physique? I ain’t never seen anythin’ like it, not in awl mah days.”
“He sure is funny lookin’ alright. Should fetch a faaahn price at stud.” Fretlocked neighed strangely. “Such unusuality.”
Berkshire, England, twelve years ago…
Anxiety wasn’t the word to describe how Freddy felt. Adrenaline and noradrenaline and more adrenaline coursed through his veins till his body was fit to burst and he nearly fell feinted down the stairs. He tried to breathe, to regain his composure. He walked falteringly down and into the sitting room where his unsuspecting parents were reading the papers.
“Mmmum, Dad…” He heroically supressed an impulse to vomit. This was his worst fear; the thing he’d dreaded and put off for the last four years. But this was the time. This time, he’d tell them, no matter what. What was the worst that could happen? ‘A heart attack of my own.’ offered his brain.
“I… I’ve… I’ve got something to tell you.”
Nora and Basil looked up from their sofa and armchair in well-restrained alarm. Having a peculiar teenage son in the house gave them plenty of practice. Delphini, the Drapers’ Persian Blue cat farted awake and looked innocently round for the culprit. “I’m… I’m… I’m… Oh God.” he said, as another wave of nauseating neuro-transmitters coursed around his body.
Freddy’s spikey black hair pointed to the ceiling; his handsome Roman nose to the cat. He clutched the back of the empty armchair to keep his tall, gym-toned frame from wobbling. His beautiful brown eyes were filled with tears as he tried to blub on. “I’m… I’m…”
“Gay, son?” suggested his father, Basil, sympathetically.
Freddy’s tears rolled on down his chiselled face and onto his Rolling Stones T-shirt.
His parents exchanged startled, concerned glances.
“It’s OK, Freddy.” mum, Nora, chimed in. “Really. Oh come on, don’t be silly.” she got up to give him a hug.
“It’s OK, son, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s just a surprise that’s all. We never… I mean, when did you know?” Basil also joined the family embrace. Delphini trotted over and twined herself in and out and around all of their legs.
Freddy let go of them all and took a step back, head hung low, wiping away his tears. “It’s not that, no.” he said.
“Oh.” (and “Meow.”) they said all together.
“Then what?” urged Nora. “You can tell us, son, it’s OK.”
“Shall we do it like Charades, Freddy?” offered his dad with a kindly smile.
Freddy laughed despite himself.
“Thanks dad, I suppose I could do that… OK.” Freddy held two fingers up to show it would be a two-word answer. “Though the first word will be difficult, so we might have to forget that.” He sobbed. “The second’s more important anyway… OK.” He held just one finger up to show it would be a one-word answer after all.
“One word.” said Nora. Freddy nodded, breathed deeply, then mimed a trotting action with his feet and matching movement with his arms.
“A horse?” said Basil doubtfully.
Freddy stopped and looked at them, an expressive blend of sorrow, fear, expectancy, and some slight measure of relief projecting from his eyes and face.
“A horse?” repeated Nora, doubtfully. Again the two exchanged concerned glances.
“A horse?!” they said together.
“Meow.” just out of time.
Freddy looked down at Delphini then up at his parents. “Yes, mum, dad, I’m a horse. A palomino horse to be precise.”
They all stood there.
“You’re a… horse?!” Basil queried again speculatively.
“A palomino, dad. Yes.”
“What the Holy Dickens are you talking about, son?!”
“I mean, I’m a palomino horse, dad. Not a boy, not a man, not gay, not a girl, not a woman, I’m a palomino horse, a wonderful, strong, beautiful, galloping palomino horse.”
“He’s lost his bloody mind, Nora. Is it drugs, Freddy? What are you on?”
“I’m not on anything dad. I’m not. You know I’m not. You know how I feel about drugs… I mean unless you count Creatine, but that’s just for body building.”
“Then what the hell do you mean, you’re a palomino fucking horse?!”
Basil stared at his son as if he had just landed an alien spacecraft in the sitting room. Nora did likewise. Delphini went to sit back by the fire.
And that was that.
From then on, between incredulity and frustration, Freddy was gradually able to explain himself.
He’d first known, he’d told them, when they’d visited their friends’ country house three years ago and seen the daughter, Susannah’s palominos cantering and trotting around in the paddock. He’d immediately felt a powerful instinct to canter and trot along with them, to whinny and neigh with them, to swoosh his long fair mane and tail, to stretch and pound his four splendid legs in perfect rhythms, drumming his hooves along the ground, holding his proud head high aloft his strong muscular neck, and flaring his big warm nostrils.
He’d snuck into the paddock that first night and felt his first taste of true freedom and belonging. No longer shackled by human social imbecilities, he’d cast his ridiculous inhibition, clothing and physical limitations aside, and cantered freely in the fond fellowship of his equine brothers and sisters, drinking in the moonlight, drinking in the wind about his ears, drinking in the pulsating rhythms of his four-legged gait, drinking in the water trough beside the stables, defecating on his hind legs. More than anything, it was his gorgeous, silken, honey-blonde body hair, which just looked and felt so right and natural to Freddy.
He’d been back there as often as possible ever since, until now, always at night time, always followed by a stop-off to shower and change again at the gym before coming home.
For Basil and Nora, the truth steadily sank in, the generational and conceptual gaps filled in, and the Draper family (except for Delphini), their relatives, friends, and neighbours slowly but surely came to terms with Freddy’s trans-speciesism. Freddy was a palomino horse, who had had the misfortune to be born into the body of a human.
Their rejection and struggle to understand and accept their son’s assertions were painful and arduous, and Freddy also suffered the terrible misery and humiliation of putting them all through it. However, this was just the beginning of their anguish, the first furlong of a 2 mile steeplechase, all of them young and inexperienced, unridden horses. For after these initial mental and emotional hurdles were vaulted, they would eventually fall heavily into the deep, waterlogged ditch of the physical, for stretched out before them was the horror of the prolonged, intensive, progressive medical surgeries Freddy would need to undergo to fully realise his true nature.
Initial consultations with GPs and psychiatrists had simply set back and stalled acceptance. Further consultations into actual procedures had further slammed the entire notion as preposterous. However, championed with mule-like tenacity by Freddy the wonderhorse, the Drapers ploughed on, and the palomino spirit could ultimately not be denied. The case brought about great stirrings in the medical community. Intrigue and wonder were roused, doused then rekindled. The palomino spirit pushed on, urging on any advancements in the idea wherever they were conceived, ushering its lost brother onwards to the plains of his destiny.
One doctor came forth, then another, who actually gave Freddy’s transformation serious consideration. They sought feverishly the glory of such an accomplishment but were ultimately overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task. They also clearly didn’t understand Freddy’s definite emotional bent, asking such questions as, “Wouldn’t you prefer something smaller? A goat perhaps?”
Three years since the first discussion with Dr Harper, the (ex) family GP, the Drapers received a letter on expensive, letterheaded paper from a doctor by the name of Alexandris von Verden. The good doctor bade them greeting and informed them that he was a plastic surgeon of some repute in his fatherland of Germany. He was at the forelock [he must mean ‘forefront’] of experimental veterinary and plastic surgeries, which gave him unique insight into their case. Would they permit him to work with Freddy, eventually at his home near Bremen in Lower Saxony?
After much conversation, consternation, correspondence, emails, Skyping, and one extraordinary visit from Dr Von Verden’s assistant, Dr Gunther Krapps, Freddy was duly dispatched to the Von Verden estate via a Lufthansa flight from London Gatwick.
Chauffeured in an expensive limousine by Dr Krapps, Freddy was delighted and enthused to see a herd of his brethren and sistern carousing around in a vast lush field to the left of the serpentine drive which led to the Von Verden mansion. He was still so excited by the prospect which awaited him of living as a palomino for a full year before his surgeries would begin.
The Von Verden Estate, Germany, 5 years ago…
…The ‘clip-clop, clip….clop’ of faltering hoof beats from behind the door sounded out to Nora the jubilant fanfare of her son’s rebirth; a final resolution to the gruelling, heart-wrenching trauma that had been their struggle for the last six years. The nurse in the white gown re-emerged from the isolation recovery room and trotted over to her with a cautious smile on her face.
“The concluding operation seems to have been a complete success, Mrs Draper. Congratulations, I’m so happy for you both.”
“Oh, thank God!” uttered Nora. “Can I see him?”
“Yes of course, he may be feeling rather groggy, and, well… you know all of this anyway… come on through.”
Nora walked slowly, while her heart beat faster and faster.
‘How would he be?’
Her heels clomped on the sterile linoleum flooring.
The nurse put her hand out and reached towards the porthole-windowed door. It swang open…
Dr Von Verden stood heroically over the bleating, floundering form of his new-born foal.
Although its legs splayed and it teetered and tottered, though it was wrought with stitches at every joint and more of its body, though its honey-coloured hair was smeared with some sort of gruesome antiseptic/amniotic fluid, though temporarily disproportionate in limb and bone and sinew, though clearly a cleverly cut and shut chimeric abomination, Nora intuited immediately such noble magnificence and sheer beauty in this creature that she broke down and wept with joy for her reborn child.
“Ah, Frau Draper. Wilkommen, wilkommen. Meet our offspring. Ze fruit off both our loins; your hussbandts too off course.
Ziss iss young Fretlock.”
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Olivier de Beventine (1979-) was born in Graz, Austria, to Anglo-Austrian aristocratic parents, studied Fine Art and Languages in Florence, Italy, and moved to Bruges, Belgium in 1999, where he was institutionalised for three years due to an acute polymorphic psychosis. During this time, he was encouraged to write as a way to express, record, and externalise his thoughts and delusions. He emerged from treatment a new man and has gone on to practise numerous art forms and find various employment. He was persuaded to publish a collection of writing early in 2013, when ‘One Crawls Beneath the Undercroft and The Spatchclock and the Haybarn: The Nonsense Sallies Forth’ was released. ‘Agapanthus and the Crystal Ornamen’ is his second publication to date. De Beventine currently divides his time between Munich, Vienna, and London. It is hoped that further works will follow.