The Mane Thing…

I left the house about 6:45 a.m., a little annoyed with myself that I hadn’t left considerably earlier.  The Firestone store in Benton opens at 7:00 a.m.; it was no longer possible to be among the first customers of the day.

As I pulled out of the garage, the light rain began to intensify and the fog, or perhaps it was just clouds up in the hills, restricted visibility.  Benton is a good 40 minutes away on dry roads, but it would take me longer in such weather.

I arrived at the Firestone store just a few minutes after 8:00 a.m., ten minutes later than I would have, had I ignored Google’s map directions, which placed the store more than a mile further west than it actually is.  The place was packed.  I was advised my oil change and tire rotation could take two or more hours because of the jobs ahead of mine.  That was a worst-case estimate, I suppose, inasmuch as I was on my way out the door and into a fierce, driving rain by a quarter after 9:00.

The wind-driven rain got worse as I drove west.  Several times, the rain was pounding so hard and visibility was so poor I considered pulling over to wait it out, but the two-lane road, Arkansas Highway 5, has few places to pull over. About six or seven miles into the return trip, though, the nastiest stuff was behind me.

Most of the rest of the trip home was uneventful until I saw several animals cross the road about a quarter of a mile in front of me.  They looked to be about the size of large goats, I thought, and they were light-colored, like cream adulterated with just a touch of coffee, but their gait was more like that of a horse.  The closer I got, the more of them I saw crossing and the less they looked like goats.  By the time I was twenty yards from them, I had slowed to a crawl.  A large group of the animals that had already crossed the highway huddled together near the road, just beyond a barbed wire fence.  Three others had stopped in the middle of the road and were peering intently in my direction.  I was stunned.  These were not goats.  These were mythical beasts, unicorns.  Their horns were much smaller than others I have seen during previous psychotic episodes; and they were not spiral, they were round and smooth and came to a thin point like a pin.  Their eyes were not the delicate, faintly sky-blue eyes I’d seen before; these eyes were huge and dark brown, with a sheen to them like wet glass.

One of the three standing in the middle of the road was the first to speak to me: “Your car…isn’t that a 2002 Camry?” he asked.  “Yes,” I replied, “but what’s it to you?”  All three of them raised their heads a bit and pulled their necks back at my reply, as if in disbelief at what I’d said, their manes fluttering in the stiff breeze.

“You’re not very friendly, are you?” the same unicorn said.  “What it is to me is this: knowing what we know about you, I would have expected you to be driving either a completely restored 1959 Volvo PV544 or a 2014 Toyota Avalon, modified and customized to serve as a luxury pickup truck.”

“What do you mean ‘knowing what we know about  you’?  What do you know?”

The unicorn, the spokesman, glanced at his two companions and smiled. “You, sir, are living in a dream world if you don’t know what we know about you.  You wrote this, Sport! This IS your reality-adjusted fantasy, right?”

I was confused.  “I wrote nothing of the sort.  I was absent-mindedly driving along when I saw you and your herd crossing the road. What do you mean this is my reality-adjusted fantasy?”

Glancing in the rear-view mirror, I saw that another car was approaching rather fast, so I began to whip the wheel to the right and accelerate around the three unicorns in the road. But as my eyes left the mirror and returned to the road, there was nothing but water in the road.  And I looked to the pasture on the south side of the road and saw nothing but grass.

I pulled off beyond the tiny shoulder onto the wet grass and stopped the car. After sitting for a minute or two, I slowly pulled back onto the roadway, just as a bright red Volvo passed by slowly, heading in the opposite direction.  The man driving it turned his head to stare at me as he passed, his large brown eyes looking like wet marbles.  Just ahead, I saw a white pickup, its cab low and its windshield raked and sleek, pull off the roadway onto a gravel road.  As I passed by the road, I looked at the back of the pickup and saw its Toyota emblem.

It’s rare for unicorns to cross the threshold between fantasy and reality, just as it is rare for me to cross that threshold in the opposite direction.  Rare is like uncooked meat, right?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to The Mane Thing…

  1. Robin, you make me laugh! Pauline, thanks for the encouragement…I like rich…famous, not so much!

  2. robin andrea says:

    So, I’m thinking that the part of this story that is fantasy is the one-hour wait at Firestone.

  3. Riveting. You’ve found your calling. Write fiction like this. Aim for the young market. You’ll be successful – rich and famous.

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