Mother always loved her horses. And as with her sons, she always had a clear favorite among them. Having a favorite, however, didn’t preclude her from buying new horses whenever the mood struck her, as it often did.
An acquisitive person by nature, Mother was fortunate in that she had married early to a man of considerable wealth. That he met his end while out riding in the country one day didn’t hinder her horse-purchasing habit one bit. It did put a crimp in her son-siring habit, though.
From a young age, I understood that as a mere bipedal creature -- even if I were her favorite bipedal creature -- I would never hold the same place in her heart as her ever-growing stable of horses. That’s why I took to animal cruelty so readily.
My brothers didn’t join me in my exploits, but they knew of them and since they never told Mother I always took that as a sign that they tacitly approved, that they too tired of taking second place to our equine siblings.
Yes, Mother referred to her horses as our siblings, much as a matron of more modest means would refer to the family cat or dog. In one sense it unnerved me, but in another it galvanized me as I conjured up petty tortures and arcane acts of cruelty. After all, one has to expect a little sibling rivalry in a family as large as ours.
I reserved the most vicious attacks for Mother’s favorite, however. His name was Charles. I once asked the stable master how old Charles was and was struck to the core by the answer. In all my years I had thought the horse had been named after me, but it turned out to be the other way around. This revelation made me hate it all the more.
I would recount all of the suffering that I visited upon my namesake, but I realize there are laws and the statute of limitations probably hasn’t run out on some of my crimes, even if the beast itself has passed on. That wasn’t my fault, though, much as I would like it to have been.
I was away at college when Charles was put down. A broken leg, I heard. I also heard that Mother insisted on shooting Charles herself. If I had known about it, I would have had one of my brothers videotape it for me. As it is, I have to imagine the agonized thrashing, the deafening gunshot, the dull thud as Charles laid his head down on the ground for the last time.
Everyone but me predicted that the death of her beloved would turn Mother away from horses, that she would sell the stables and its occupants. I knew better. In fact, I’ve heard that she recently purchased a young stallion that she has taken to calling Charles II. The next time I’m home for break, we shall have to get better acquainted.