Horse Talk

(Setting: In 1870, tens and tens of people are gathered in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, around Ray and Tom, who stand on a soapbox.)

RAY: Hello, and welcome to Horse Talk, from National Public Soapbox with us, Clip and Clop, the Crawford Brothers. Are you ready to field a question?
TOM: I’m ready.
RAY (Cups his hand to his ear): Hello, this is Horse Talk.
(Winifred steps forward from the crowd.)
WINIFRED: Hi, I’m having a problem with my 1856 Spanish Mustang.
TOM: Let me guess. You’ve got an exhaust problem.
WINIFRED: No, not exhaust.
TOM: Then it’s starving!
(Ray laughs.)
RAY: Yeah, what are you feeding it that it doesn’t have an exhaust problem? OK. Go ahead.
WINIFRED: After I set the parking reins and leave for a few minutes, I come back to find my horse parked on the opposite side of the street completely exhausted.
RAY: I see. And does your horse have a smirk on its face?
(Tom Laughs.)
WINIFRED: No, no smirk.
TOM: I know what this is.
RAY: You do?
TOM: I do. I’ve seen this in my stable many times.
RAY: Well, there you go Winifred. I thought maybe you were delusional.
TOM: Nope. But you’re close.
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
RAY: Close, huh?  Well then, what is it?
TOM: The 1856 Spanish Mustang model is known for a poor memory system and bad breaks.
RAY: Really?
TOM: Yep.
RAY: So the horse broke loose, immediately forgot where it was parked, and then spent the next few minutes scrambling to put itself back into a parking space.
TOM: Winifred, you have yourself a nutstang, I guess.
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
TOM: So my suggestion is to get thicker reins.
RAY: Isn’t my brother brilliant? Good luck, Winifred. Now it’s time for a break and even though Italian Trotters rip off their horseshoes to stick in their ears when they hear us say it, this is National Public Soapbox.

(Someone sings “Camptown Races” during the intermission.)

RAY: Hello, this is Horse Talk.

(Douglass steps forward from the crowd.)
DOUGLASS: Hi guys, I come here every Saturday. I just want to say I love your gatherings.
TOM: Thank you.
RAY: Thanks, Douglass, but I specifically told you to mention my new haircut.
(Tom laughs.)
TOM: Don’t worry–you’ll still get your twenty-five cents. How can we help you?
DOUGLASS: I’m hoping you can help me settle a dispute. I ride an 1840 Warmblood.
TOM: There’s your problem right there, Douglass. It’s not alive.
(Ray laughs.)
RAY: Have you noticed that it doesn’t move?
DOUGLASS: It does move.
TOM: Does it make a whining noise like it doesn’t want to move?
DOUGLASS: Well, that’s the problem but not with my horse–it’s my wife’s horse.
RAY: What does your wife ride?
DOUGLASS: An 1839 Warmblood.
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
TOM: You mean she’s riding something older than an 1840 Warmblood?
RAY: Wow. Well, what’s the dispute?
DOUGLASS: There’s this whining noise whenever she starts riding, just like you said.
TOM: I’d imagine. Do you know what that is? That’s the horse saying “Stop! Stop!”
(Ray laughs.)
DOUGLASS: So I told her that it’ll go away after about fifteen minutes and she says that it won’t.
RAY: And have you tried the fifteen-minute test yet?
TOM: In other words, is the horse still alive?
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
DOUGLASS: No, we haven’t tried it.
RAY: Douglass, you’re right about the noise going away.  You keep riding that horse and it’ll be dead in fifteen minutes. 
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
RAY: But good luck, Douglass. OK. It’s time for another break. Even though Clydesdale horses dive head first into equestrian pools when they hear us say it, this is National Public Soapbox.

Someone sings “Old Paint” during the intermission.

RAY: Hello, this is Horse Talk.
(Nathan steps forward from the crowd.)
NATHAN: Hi, I bought an English saddle the other day and–
TOM: And now you’ve decided to buy American?
(Ray laughs.)
NATHAN: Indeed. It’s not comfortable at all. Do you have any suggestions?
TOM: You could carry the horse.
(Ray laughs.)
RAY: Right. How about you give the horse a break and let it ride you for a day?
TOM: Then you can see if that saddle really hurts.
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
RAY: Nathan, seriously, here’s what you do. Put a burlap sack full of grain on it for a few days. That’ll wear it down to a manageable comfort level.
TOM: Or send it back to England with a note saying, “If you are interested in having children, do not ride on this.” 
(Ray and Tom laugh.)
RAY: Well, it’s happened again. You’ve wasted another perfectly good ten minutes listening to Horse Talk. Remember, folks, don’t ride like my brother.
TOM: And don’t ride like my brother!
(Ray and Tom laugh.)

Gregory Mazurek ( has been published in McSweeney’s, Bygone Bureau, Scientific Creative Quarterly, and more.