Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Eddie the Centaur

On a crowded city sidewalk, I heard someone call my name. I turned and there was a centaur, waving and smiling at me.

Oh my God, I told myself. That must be Eddie the Centaur! And look at him! He’s all grown up. 

“How the hell are ya?” the centaur said. Eddie was one of my fellow inmates at the segregated school for crippled children. Back then he was just a boy/colt. But I figured this had to be him because, well, he's the only centaur I ever met. In those days, any kid who was born a centaur was sure to be banished to the cripple school. That’s where they sent all the freaks.

Eddie gave me a great big hug. I felt deeply embarrassed, not because I was being hugged in public by a centaur but because I remembered how shabbily I treated him. We all shunned Eddie at the cripple school, except to play jokes on him. Like onetime, one of the bully crippled kids pulled a secret switch-a-roo when the lunch trays came up on the cart. Everybody else got baked chicken but when Eddie lifted the lid off his plate all he had was a pile of hay. I laughed real hard like everybody else because I wanted to be cool, even though I knew it was mean.

And the adolescent Eddie of the cripple school days was hardly the huggy type. In fact, he was cocky and arrogant. You’d think that somebody born a centaur would at least be humble about it, but not Eddie. He swore he was going to become a pro football superstar. “And when I give my Hall of Fame speech,” he’d say, “I’m gonna personally name every last one of you and tell you all to kiss my ass!”

Indeed, the only time anybody wanted to be around Eddie was when it was time to play cripple Whiffle football. He was the first one chosen when we chose up sides because with Eddie on your team you couldn’t lose. Just hand Eddie the football and it was a guaranteed touchdown because, being a centaur, he galloped to the end zone and flattened any tackler in his path. I guess Eddie never fulfilled his football dream. I don’t follow football  much but if a centaur was elected to the Hall of Fame I imagine I’d have heard about it. Poor Eddie was probably never given a chance to play football beyond cripple school because people are ignorant and he’s a centaur.

“You’re looking great, Eddie,” I said. “Do you work out?” And then I noticed standing next to him was a gorgeous woman. Eddie said, “This is Deirdre, my wife.” Eddie beamed and put his arm around her. She was supermodel gorgeous. I always felt sorry for Eddie because I figured the only girl that ever would be interested in him would be a female centaur. But there was nothing about Deirdre that was even remotely horse-like.

Another reason I felt sorry for Eddie back in cripple school was because he had a rough childhood. Once, when he was in a melancholy mood, he confided in me that his mother went to her grave blaming herself that he was born a centaur. She wondered if it was due to her reckless behavior in college, like the time she got super wasted and, on a dare, she ate horse meat. Of course researchers have discovered that Eddie’s condition is caused by an extremely rare genetic quirk that turns human fetuses into centaurs. But this knowledge came too late to be of comfort to Eddie’s mom.

I said to Deidre, “Your husband was the greatest cripple school Whiffle football player ever.”

Eddie dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “Aw screw football. I work for Disney now. I pull down seven figures. Ever heard of Outer Space Giraffe?”

“Oh course I have,” I said. “It’s the biggest blockbuster Disney movie hit of all time.”

“Well I’m the voice of the giraffe,” Eddie said. “The producers heard my voiceover demo CD and signed me on the spot. And my agent didn’t tell them I was a centaur until it was too late!” Eddie held up his hand for a high five! I slapped it hard.

“That’s how I met Deidre,” Eddie said. “She’s the voice of Queen Bee.”

I felt so proud of Eddie. I was overcome with a great swell of justice.  But I couldn’t help but notice all the passersby gawking intensely at Eddie. It made me angry. It was all I could do to keep from shouting,” What the hell’s the matter with you people? Haven’t you ever seen a man who pulls down seven figures doing the voice of Outer Space Giraffe, is married to a super model and just happens to be a centaur?”

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