THE WOODEN HORSE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Anil has never met his grandfather but he sees a dream in which the old man is trying to tell him something. Grandfather is no more when Anil and his family reach the ancestral house but Anil does get the letter from grandfather.

Submitted: June 26, 2014

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Submitted: June 26, 2014

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The Wooden Horse

Anil did not really know his grandfather because his family preferred to go to exotic places on holidays than visit their dusty ancestral house in the quiet village. He knew his grandfather to be a recluse who had steadfastly withstood his father’s attempts to draw him out of the old bungalow.

One day Anil’s father received a telegram informing that his ailing father was on his death bed and that he wanted to see the family urgently.

On the eve of the day of the unplanned visit Anil had a strange dream. He felt his grandfather calling out to him feebly but try as much as he would Anil was unable to make it to his bedside. He woke up in the morning with a taste of disappointment after his futile struggle in the dream.

Anil and his parents bundled into the multi utility vehicle they had sent for and set off on their rare visit. Anil found it remotely exciting as they left the city behind and travelled on a desolate road which stretched endlessly across dry yellow earth with a smattering of thorny brambles. After the strange dream he had had, he was very curious to see his grandfather. They reached the sprawling bungalow when shadows grew long and slender and birds flitted about in last minute frenzy. Grandfather’s man servant opened huge rusted gates and as the vehicle drove in along the driveway crunching and swirling golden leaves he informed them that grandfather was no more and had died two hours back.

The body lay on a white cloth on the ground. A few villagers hung around in the shadows.  A curious mixture of odours hung in the air, of marigold flowers, incense sticks and fumes from the solitary oil lamp burning in a corner of the huge room. Anil felt he had stepped into the sets of a serial he had watched on television recently. He knew Grandfather from a few sepia coloured photographs in the family album but he scarcely recognised the stiff body that lay on the floor.  In his dream he had seen a dark figure calling out from his bed his hand pointing vaguely in the direction of the door.

Following the direction of the hand in his dream Anil looked back at the door through which he had come and there beside the door he saw a handsome wooden horse almost as tall as himself. Curly mane tumbled forth from between erect ears. Vacant eyes were framed by bridle straps on the forehead and jaws. Graceful sinewy limbs stood akimbo on a wooden platform. A thick sculpted tail spouted from the back to disappear between the hind legs. A saddle which looked well worn was carved on the body. The horse moved freely on thick little wooden wheels on axles made of wood at the base of the platform.

Anil’s father looked at the horse with disdain. The horse was in the house for as long as he could remember, a mute spectator to the highs and lows of three generations.The large saddle that sat on the horse’s body was actually a lid to the hollow body of the horse. One end of the saddle was secured by wooden hinges while the other was connected to the body with the help of a long wooden pin which fit exactly into latches on the saddle and body. All these years he had consciously kept Anil away to avoid development of childish bonds with the place which could grow deep and strong with time like the roots of a young tree, afraid that the curse of the horse would claim the life of his only child.

But now everything he had strived to do since the death of his brother to whom he was deeply attached seemed to be coming apart. It was love at first sight for Anil as far as the horse was concerned. Anil couldn’t wait to take his trophy home and show off to his friends. Seeing Anil mounted on the horse brought memories of his brother and himself rushing to his mind. He remembered the times when they had taken turns at pulling the horse around while one of them was up there mounted and feeling royal. Helping his son dismount he searched beneath the saddle and came upon the wooden pin. He pulled it out and lifted the heavy seat. He closed his eyes as the smell of exotic herbs and spices that had long ago soaked into the wood grain escaped from the confining space and assailed his senses. Even the sheaf of papers tied up together with a cloth tape and left in the barrel smelt of spices.

Among the property documents was a letter addressed by his father to Anil.

Dear Anil,

I hope you like the horse and take good care of it. I also think that it is time you learnt something about your forefathers and saw things for yourself.  Many many years ago your great grandfather or my father bought this giant horse for a few annas from a homesick trader from Kabul who was disposing off his wares cheaply in his haste to go back home.  Baba, that is your great grandfather took the horse home and discovered the hollow barrel beneath the saddle as you may have done by now. He found it full of little bundles of exotic dry fruits, berries, nuts and spices which generally grow in distant lands beyond the mountains. He also found a camel skin bag of gold coins which must have been accidentally kept there by the trader. The horse changed Baba’s life. With this new found wealth he acquired a wealthy wife, considerable property and became a man of title. It is said that the trader soon came in search of Baba and collapsed on the footsteps of his house pronouncing bitter ends for baba and his male heirs from the next two generations. Your great grandfather, he conducted a lucrative money lending business till his sudden death by falling off the back of his horse. Tragedy struck again when his elder son that is my brother died accidently under the hooves of a horse. I was too young then to remember the incident.

The curse of the hazel eyed trader came true a third time when my dear son and your father’s cherished brother fell off the wooden horse, struck his head on a stone and died immediately.  I lost both my sons when your father made up his mind to leave this place because it reminded him too much of his brother. Left to him he would have got rid of the property by selling it but then child, you came along. I saw you once when you were a year old and you looked the spitting image of your uncle. Probably that is why; you are so precious to your father and more so to me because I lost a son and was gifted a grandson. The trader’s soul will have found peace after all this time now, having avenged the wrong done to him ages ago, so you and your father have nothing to be afraid of.

Take this horse along with you when you leave. When you see him you will think of this place which will welcome you with open arms whenever you decide to come.

My blessings will follow you like your own shadow and protect you wherever you go.

Love, Grandfather

The writing in the letter was that of a steady hand though the sign was the scrawl of a dying man. It was written in the early hours of the day he breathed his last. 


© Copyright 2020 celin jay. All rights reserved.

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