Sunday 27 November 2016

The White Handkerchief

Wednesday 2 November 2016

The White Handkerchief

 by Dorothy Henderson

From the other side of the fence, I could see something white fluttering. Despite the fact there was no breeze, a piece of white fabric was fluttering up and down as if it were being tossed by a cheeky breeze. No trees waved their limbs or leaves in response. The day was unusually calm for a spring day in my part of the world.

Intrigued, I moved towards the movement. Then I realized that the cloth was in the clutches of a hand. Long  fingers grasped the white handkerchief, at least I think that is what it was, and moved it up and down. Frantically. It struck me that the hand with the flapping white cloth was engaged in a pose used by defeated soldiers admitting defeat and seeking mercy from the victors, but maybe I am guilty of watching too much "Horrible Histories" with my children.

Far from signalling retreat, the hand was in fact engaged in a deliberate attention seeking exercise. The body attached to the hand was that of a jean-clad young woman, who was standing behind another person. Hard to tell if it was a male or female as it wore a faded denim baseball cap and had its back turned towards me. The second person was crouched down, almost squatting on the ground, and deeply engrossed in something.

In front of the baseball cap wearer and handkerchief shaker stood a magnificent horse. It was black. True black, not just dark brown with faded brown edge, but rich, blue black from the tip of its muzzle to its hooves and the frayed ends of its flamboyant tail. Attached to a third person by a long line clipped to a plain leather halter, the horse was looking straight at me.

It was a Thoroughbred. I could tell by its shape and its physique. Behind the horse stretched a long line of stables and other horses heads were visible as they watched the same scene from a different perspective. Some were tossing their heads as if jealous that they were not the centre of attention, others simply gazed on as if appreciating the diversion from the monotony that is the life of a constantly stabled horse.

As the person in the grey cap moved to a new position, I was able to see a huge black lens protruding from her face. The photographer was obviously trying to get a photograph of The Horse---and it wasn't obliging.
Despite the frantic hanky waving and whistling of the jeans person, it refused to look in her direction. It watched the birds, it gazed at the sky, it tried to nuzzle the rope holder, who kept pushing its head away and saying "stand up" in a firm and slightly agitated tone of voice.

I watched, transfixed by the beauty of The Horse and amused by the efforts of those trying to get its attention. Then suddenly The Horse arched his beautiful neck, allowing his mane to fall gently along the curve of his muscled crest, and held his gaze on a point somewhere behind the hanky shaker. His eyes glowed with interest, and I followed his gaze to see what had caught his attention.

On the top of the fence that I was looking through there sat a cat. A white cat. With startlingly blue eyes. If ever an animal could be a complete contrast to the horse in front of me, this was it. It was fluffy, petite and elegant and it wrapped its body along the fence as only a cat can do. The Horse was transfixed. He just started at The Cat, his nostrils flared and every muscle in his body quivering in inquisitiveness. If the people hadn't been in the way, he would have been at that fence on a mission of discovery. But he stood.

"Got it! That's the shot!" exclaimed the person at the end of the camera. It sounded like a man's voice, but I still couldn't really tell as the camera was still obscuring his face.

The hanky waver relaxed, and the four left the scene. The Horse was led down the line of stables and disappeared from my sight, his shining raven coloured rump and tail gone from my view. His mission had been accomplished. The perfect pose had been struck.

A week later, as I walked past a newstand in the town I lived in, I saw The Horse again. His eyes caught my attention as he looked out from the cover of the latest edition of the Stud and Stable magazine. I couldn't resist buying a copy so I could find out more about The Horse. When I looked more closely at the glossy image I noticed the reflection of The Cat in the paper horse's eyes. White as snow. Blue eyes locked on the brown eyes that captured it and I couldn't help but wonder if the photographer had even noticed the two animals connecting, or if all of the credit for the pose had been handed to the hanky.

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