Dora and I shared a special bond, a love that needed no validation from a marriage certificate. And I had no intention of obtaining one. Two people constantly living under the same roof could only cause turmoil. I cared far too much for Dora to allow that to happen.
Until the arrival of what I now refer to as Terrible Tuesday, fidelity had never been an issue for us. Dora had always been as faithful as a saint. For my part, I strayed from the path of virtue only on those occasions when temptation proved too difficult to resist.
Like any couple, we did have the sporadic tiff. Nothing of consequence, mind you, just the usual little quibble about never going out on any fancy, expensive dates. Or one of us spending all his money at the race track.
Or one of us forgetting to buy her a Christmas present. A lot of nitpicking, really.
After the last such lovers’ quarrel, I thoughtfully waited eight days for Dora to cool off before going to her apartment and knocking on the door. Imagine my shock that Terrible Tuesday when she greeted me with an icy stare and declared, “I never want to see you again, Jervis. I’ve found someone new.”
You could have knocked me over with a toothpick. Then I looked behind her and saw this bare-chested, muscular man with two bushy eyebrows—and the legs and arse of a horse! I said, “What’s that creature behind you?”
She replied, “That’s my new boyfriend. He’s handsome as the devil and hung like a horse.”
“Of course,” I exclaimed, “he is a horse!”
“He’s more man than you’ll ever be,” said Dora. The woman can be terribly cruel sometimes.
“I’m quite sure mating with an animal like that is highly illegal,” I countered. “Not to mention shamefully immoral.”
“You’re a fine one to talk about morals, Jervis. Run along and mind your own business.”
As if some mythical creature stealing my girlfriend isn’t my business. Still, what could I do? She had slammed her door in my face without so much as a you-take-care-now. I lumbered off to Hurley’s Bar to ponder my deep misfortune.
One thing friend and enemy alike have always said about yours truly: Jervis Devonpost is a resilient chap. He bounces back.
And they’re right. The very next day, I pounded on the door of the manager at Dora’s apartment building.
“What do you want,” he demanded, somewhat disrespectfully.
“I’m here to report a serious zoning violation,” I said. “My girlfriend, Dora, is harboring a strange animal up there.”
“I’ve seen him,” the manager replied. “He’s not so strange. At least half of him is human.”
“What about the other half? He has the legs and arse of a horse!”
“If I evicted everyone who had a rear end I didn’t like, I’d throw out half the tenants.”
Can you believe it? What kind of world are we living in when the manager of an apartment building allows free rein to someone clomping through the halls on four hooves?
“I seriously doubt such a beast is capable of properly using a bathroom commode,” I pointed out.
“We’ve had no complaint about foul odors,” he retorted. “Except for the half dozen or so lodged against you and your whiskey breath in the elevator.”
What kind of unfeeling robot of a man would bring up something like that to a poor fellow who just lost his one true love to a freakish man-horse? “Just don’t come running to me for sympathy when the Board of Health closes you down for operating a stable,” I warned and sternly walked away.
That afternoon I sat on my usual stool at Hurley’s Bar, somberly sipping on my Jack Daniels, watching Ned the Bartender pretend to clean the glasses. What do I suddenly see trotting by the front window but that filthy centaur! With my girlfriend riding on his back! The two of them were smiling like they’d just won the steeplechase.
“Say, isn’t that your Dora riding by?” asked Ned the Bartender.
“I…I’m…sure it’s not,” I stammered. Embarrassing me at her apartment door is bad enough, completely shaming me in front of my peers is unforgiveable. That centaur must be killed.
Unfortunately, I’ve had a lifelong aversion to weaponry of any kind. Knives and guns unnerve me something terrible. Ordering another Jack Daniels, I pondered the matter at great length. I would gladly have paid someone to kill the centaur but I lacked the kind of capital that would require. As I saw it, my options were stabbing him or shooting him.
I pictured myself running after him with a knife only to see him gallop away, laughing at me, probably with a good deal of neighing and whinnying. Even if I caught him by surprise, I decided, it would take numerous plunges of the knife to bring him down. I didn’t have the stomach for that kind of savagery. Besides, he looked to be quite strong and might turn the tables and kill me in such close-quarters combat.
I would need to procure a firearm and shoot him, I concluded. A rifle would be best, allowing me to shoot from a far distance. I’d purchase one first thing in the morning.
An entire day of shopping and nothing to show for it. Who would have thought a rifle would be so expensive? I needed a high-powered hunting rifle if I hoped to bring down something as big as a man-horse. It wouldn’t do to inflict some minor wound that would only provoke him and have him charging after me at full gallop.
I decided to round out the day at Hurley’s and give the matter more thought. That’s when the idea struck me.
“Ned,” I asked, after he served my drink, “do you still keep a shotgun behind the bar?”
“I certainly do,” he replied. “With the lowlife scum that hang out in this place, I wouldn’t be without it.”
I was relatively sure he wasn’t including me in that comment. “How close would you say someone needed to be to accurately fire a weapon of that type?”
“You should really be within ten feet of the target for best results,” said Ned.
This was much closer than I wanted to be to my target, but what was I to do? “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to loan me your shotgun for, say, ten dollars?”
“I might loan it to you for one hour for, say, twenty dollars,” said Ned. “As long as you’re not going to use it commit a felony.”
“Nothing that would constitute an actual crime in the strictest sense.” Hunting without a license perhaps, certainly nothing more.
Ned the Bartender demonstrated how the shotgun worked while I finished my drink. I asked him if I could put the twenty dollars on my tab and he assured me I could not. So I forked over the money and took the weapon.
People look at you differently when you’re walking down the street carrying a shotgun. A mixture of fear and respect that’s not altogether unpleasant. I headed straight for Dora’s apartment.
“Where do you think you’re going with that?” demanded the apartment building manager. Centaurs trotting about the hallways he had no problem with, but a man with a shotgun was suddenly a big concern.
“I’m returning it to Dora,” I said. “Now that we’ve broken up, we’re returning each other’s items. She has two CDs of mine that I need to pick up and I figured I’d drop off this old relic she’s been wanting back.”
He looked unconvinced. “You’ll have to come back. They went out about thirty minutes ago.”
“How the hell would I know? Next time, call ahead.”
This would not do at all. I only had the shotgun rented for an hour. I rushed back to Hurley’s. “Ned,” I said, “I’m returning your shotgun within thirty minutes. I’d like to borrow it for my remaining thirty minutes at a later time and date.”
Shaking his head in disapproval, Ned took the gun and poured me a drink. And eventually two or three more drinks. Liquor affects you more acutely on an empty stomach, and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.
I thought perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me when I spotted Dora walking by Hurley’s front window with her centaur in tow. The centaur appeared to be wearing a shirt, tie, and sport coat. And a fedora on his head, cocked at a rakish angle as if he were about to sing old Frank Sinatra songs at some nightclub. If you didn’t know the centaur couldn’t possibly be wearing pants, you might think they were just an average couple out for a night on the town.
I stumbled off my barstool and rushed out the door. Confirming it really was my love and the creature who had ensnared her, I hurried back inside and demanded the shotgun.
Ned refused to oblige. “You’re in no condition to be handling a weapon of this sort, Jervis. Go home and sober up.”
“Fine,” I said reluctantly. “Let me just finish up my drink and I’ll head out.”
That probably would have been the end of it, for that night at least. However, Ned the Bartender, two minutes later, decided to slip off to the men’s room for a whiz. I immediately leaped into action and retrieved the shotgun from behind the bar. Before any of the other patrons could say or do anything, I was racing down the street toward Dora’s apartment like a soldier of fortune in one of those action videos.
Just as my prey came into sight half a block from the apartment building, I tripped on an uneven break in the sidewalk. The gun fired as I fell and the blast sheared the side of my head. I screamed, other people screamed. Dora turned, and seeing me, she screamed. Blood ran freely down the side of my face.
Dora and her date rushed over to me. She wrapped her scarf around my head to stanch the bleeding. “We have to get him to the hospital!” she cried.
I was on the verge of feigning unconsciousness to avoid further embarrassment when I heard the centaur say, “Put him on my back, Dora. I’ll get him there.”
Dora helped me off the sidewalk, and seconds later, I had my arms wrapped around the human half of the centaur as we galloped twelve blocks to the hospital emergency room. I groggily managed to dismount and he helped me inside, where I collapsed in the caring arms of a tall, overweight nurse.
“He saved your life, Jervis.” Dora sat next to my bed in the hospital, staring down at me with a combination of concern and disapproval.
“Possibly,” I said, “although I found the ride to the hospital too bumpy for my liking. He wouldn’t be my first choice for a pack animal, I’ll tell you that.”
“You’re such an ungrateful jerk, Jervis Devonpost! We should have left you on the sidewalk to bleed to death.”
I decided a change of subject might be in order. “Did you happen to pick up the shotgun I dropped?”
Dora glared at me. “Yes, and you can’t have it back.”
“I don’t want it back. Could you just return it to Ned the Bartender at Hurley’s. It’s costing me twenty dollars an hour in rental fees.”
“You’re a complete idiot.”
“You almost killed yourself. You could have killed others.”
“Losing you to that centaur drove me insane.”
“You’ve always hated guns.”
“I know. I hate them even more now. Are you going to stay with him?”
“No. I must say, it was all quite exciting for a while. He’s so attentive and has such a zest for life. And he’s an absolute stallion in bed.”
“Sorry, Jervis. It wasn’t all perfect. I found myself embarrassed when we went to the park and he began eating the grass and defecating. Plus, it’s been difficult finding proper seating accommodations in nice restaurants because of his…unique physique.”
“At least he took you to nice restaurants,” I said, in a rare moment of humility and candor. “That’s more than I did.”
“Well, you brought take-out over to my place many times. I liked eating with you while we watched a movie.”
I began to weep. “I’m so sorry, Dora. I should have treated you better.”
“There, there, Jervis. I’m sure you’ll do better the next time around.”
“The next time?”
“Cyrus—that’s his name, by the way—Cyrus is going back to the science foundation where they’ll be studying him and taking him on various science exhibitions.”
“Is that where he’s been getting all his money to wine and dine you?” I asked. “I didn’t imagine there’d be much demand in the job market for a centaur.”
“Yes, he insisted they give him six weeks of freedom and the money to enjoy it before he would allow them to begin their research. He’s going back to them tomorrow.”
“And you’ll take me back after he leaves?”
“If you promise to try harder and improve.”
“I will, Dora.” And Jervis Devonpost is a man of his word. At least I plan to be from here on out.
Let this be a lesson to men everywhere to remain vigilant. Take your sweetheart for granted, and you just may find yourself tossed aside for the likes of Cyrus the Centaur. All right, the odds of an actual centaur stealing your woman might be pretty minute, but there are plenty of two-legged rivals out there just waiting to gallop into the picture the second you falter.
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