Black Horse – Short Story
By: Kailash Srinivasan
He’s trying to paint, but the wife just won’t shut up. She starts again with how she wants to be a mother, cradle a child in her arms. That he should start looking for a real job. There will be an extra mouth to feed. Money, money, money, she chants like a mantra. He wants to capture the expression of the old man he saw at a Shinto shrine a day ago, the way he removed his hat and bowed in complete surrender. Later, he stood reading the wishes scribbled by visitors on wooden plates. One said, ‘I want puppy, not baby brother.’ He laughs at this, and the wife goes, ‘What’s so funny?’
A white pigeon with patches of grey on its wings flies onto the ledge outside the window, on the 42nd floor. He imagines plunging through the air and landing on the concrete below, the shocked faces of the passers-by. Someone should paint that, he thinks, image of a man with his skull smashed, immersed in a puddle of black blood.
I want a child, you hear me? The wife says.
The man removes the broken vinyl umbrella from under his desk and violently strikes with it on the window, startling the pigeon, which flutters away in panic. He watches the bird fly into the purple-blue sky, as it dissolves into the summery night. Take me with you. His eyes fall on the screaming neon lights, the faraway skyscrapers, each trying to get its neck above the other.
In the building across, a party is underway in one of the flats. People are streaming in: a pink-haired girl in a short frock with striped socks; a lanky boy in a top hat and tux jacket. He watches these young girls and boys posing with their stupid peace signs, struggling to fit in and smiles sardonically at the desperateness of their effort.
Don’t make me beg, she yells.
He closes his eyes and yearns to go back to Roppongi, to Black Horse, where he had met Shai, in her short-sleeved dress that fell just above her knees, a blood-red silk with a motif of coal-black petals. He smiled at her and from across the bar she returned him a smile full of rapture. The first flush of Ecstasy was kicking in, and he found himself swaying to the frantic rhythms. They moved to the dance floor amid the other jerking bodies. Sweat trickled down his armpits towards his hips. She was sweating, too, her black curls sticking at the nape of her neck. There was euphoria, a wild thudding in his chest, and he was not a husband, a painter, but someone else. He stopped thinking about his wife, or morals, or right or wrong. He kissed her full on the lips, and then they had taken up a room at a hotel nearby.
‘Let’s have a baby,’ the wife whispers.
He thinks of that night. He was inside her.
I already have one, he says.