Novel Beginning: You Can’t Ride A Dead Horse


The horse was dead.  This was certain.  Dr. Slaughter felt for a pulse again, moving stethoscope here and there, mostly for effect.  He knew the obvious.  Rigor mortis had set in already.  His arrival was all theatrics.

“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do Phil,” he said, with just the right tinge of seriousness and resolve in his voice.

“Well, I guess I kind of figured,” Phil said.  “But, how the heck do you think he got into the living room?”

Dr. Slaughter shook his head. “Beats me.  Someone must’ve let him in through the garage, though you’d think there would be hoof-prints in the carpet and your hallways there, even there around the kitchen area – they aren’t but so big.”

Phil scratched at his beard a bit.  “Yeah – that’s what I was thinking.”

The two men stood a second just staring at the animal that lay there on the wall-to-wall carpeting, just shy of touching the couch.  The coffee table was nowhere to be found.

“Well, if there’s anything else I can do for you, you know where to find me,” the doctor said.  The two men shook hands in a kind of perfunctory fashion.  Then, Dr. Slaughter gingerly stepped around the horse’s carcass with just the right amount of authority and tact, and let himself out the back door.

How this thousand-pound beast could end up in his living room was more than perplexing to Phil.  For one, it wasn’t even his horse.  He didn’t even know anyone who owned a horse.  In fact, he had never even been ‘in the saddle’.  Sure, his daughter (Phyllis, about the be introduced in a moment) had taken a ride on a miniature pony or whatever they call those things at the Annual State Fair once, but that was it.  Something completely and utterly insane had happened here but really the mystery of it all was so befuddling all Phil could think was calling the local glue factory to see if they had someone who could just take the thing away.  How this completely and utterly insane thing happened was mostly irrelevant at this stage – not to Phyllis, however.

“How did it happen Daddy?  How did the horse die?”  Phyllis, age six, had been watching the whole time.  When Dr. Slaughter had come in and examined the horse, she was there right alongside, making sure everything went smoothly.  She petted the horse’s coat and felt it’s soft, brown fur.  She was there even when Phil had turned on the kitchen light and noticed something rather larger than should be lying in his living room.

“Well, honey, Daddy doesn’t know, but we’re going to need to get him out of here so we can watch our cartoons on the TV, so be a dear and fetch me that yellow pages over by the phone in the kitchen.”

Phyllis happily obliged.

“Can I ride him?”  Phyllis asked with yellow pages in hand, a book that was almost as big as she was.

“Well, honey, Daddy doesn’t think anyone can ride a dead horse.  What about you?”

“No.  Probably not.”  Phyllis said.

“I think you’re right,” Phil said.

Note:  this novel beginning was inspired by the quote by author Carl T. Smith, regarding the beginnings of novels, “I don’t think you have to have a dead horse in the living room on the first page, but maybe you may need one that’s pretty sick.”

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