THE CROWDS CHEERED AS GLOOM GALLOPED AWAY
Everyone was happier. But where did the sadness go?
People wanted to know. They didn’t want it collecting in their elbows
or knees then popping up later. The girl who thought of the ponies made
a lot of money. Now a month’s supply of pills came in a hard blue
case with a handle. You opened it & found the usual vial plus six
tiny ponies of assorted shapes & sizes, softly breathing in the styrofoam.
Often they had to be pried out & would wobble a little when first
put on the ground. In the beginning the children tried to play with them,
but the sharp hooves nicked their fingers & the ponies refused to
jump over pencil hurdles. The children stopped feeding them sugarwater
& the ponies were left to break their legs on the gardens’ gravel
paths or drown in the gutters. On the first day of the month, rats gathered
on doorsteps & spat out only the bitter manes. Many a pony’s
last sight was a bounding squirrel with its tail hovering over its head
like a halo. Behind the movie theatre the hardier ponies gathered in packs
amongst the cigarette butts, getting their hooves stuck in wads of gum.
They lined the hills at funerals, huddled under folding chairs at weddings.
It became a matter of pride if one of your ponies proved unusually sturdy.
People would smile & say, “this would have been an awful month
for me,” pointing to the glossy palimino trotting energetically
around their ankles. Eventually, the ponies were no longer needed. People
had learned to imagine their sadness trotting away. & when they wanted
something more tangible, they could always go to the racetrack & study
the larger horses’ faces. Gloom, #341, with those big black eyes,
was almost sure to win.